River City Ransom
Technos Japan practically set the foundation for future video game brawlers. They are credited as developers of the Double Dragon games, as well as Super Dodge Ball, which isn't exactly a brawler but may make you want to beat up your opponent when you lose to them during a two-player match. Among their limited library of games is River City Ransom, Technos' very own blend combining the elements of RPGs, brawlers, and mini-malls.
"I hold your city captive & Ryan's girlfriend hostage. With my gangs of students & evil bosses, nobody can stop me now. Meet my demands - or else! ... P.S. Alex & Ryan if you interfere, you'll be in for the fight of your lives! ... SLICK." Ouch, sounds like quite a tough guy. It seems that this "Slick" has taken over River City High School and imprisoned the students. Luckily, Alex and Ryan didn't go to school that day, so they are the only ones with a fighting chance to rescue the school -- and the town, for that matter -- from the ruthless gangs roaming the streets.
After choosing which character you wish to control, you'll be in command as you begin to punch and kick your way through the small town of River City. There will be several areas you will have to pass through, most areas bearing a small army of thugs trying to stop you in your tracks. Some enemies will come at you with nothing but their fists, but others may have items like boxes and trash cans that they can use as weapons.
You'll start the game with no other weapon but your fists and feet, but you will be able to pick up and use items you find to hit or throw at your enemies. Every time you successfully beat up a thug, he'll emit a quote such as "Barf!" and drop a coin for you to collect. At various times, you'll have to beat a boss, a thug that looks exactly like any other character in the game, but is tougher and says nastier things to you. Once a boss is defeated, you are no longer required to beat him again, even if he should appear to you later on in his turf. And just like any other enemy, bosses will also drop coins when you defeat them.
These coins that I speak of are used to purchase foods and other goodies as you progress through the city. You will occasionally enter a mini-mall filled with several stores you can check out. Most stores will be restaurants of some sort, where you can buy and eat foods, as well as the plate that comes with them, in order to raise certain aspects of your strength, such as your kicking ability, your punching ability, or your stamina. Other stores you'll find will offer things like vitamins, books, or toys that can raise your strength or even teach you special fighting techniques.
One interesting aspect of the game which I must mention is it's unique password system. In River City Ransom, each player will have a password of their own, covering each one's strength levels, bosses beaten, and objects in his supply. If two players decide to participate in an optional two-player mode, where each player participates simultaneously, each player will have a password of their own that they will be allowed to use in a later one-player game, if they so choose. In the same way, a password obtained from a one-player game can be used for a particular player in a two-player game.
River City Ransom normally runs very smoothly during gameplay, but it has a tendency to slow down occasionally during a one-player game due to the large number of sprites on the screen at a time. If playing two-player mode, the game has a tendency to slow-down quite often, sometimes hampering player performance, play control, and overall enjoyment. Control works very well besides, with a wealth of different moves and techniques to take advantage of. Of course, with the limited amount of buttons on the standard NES controller, you may have to get used to certain button combinations that aren't usually used in other games, such as pressing 'A' and 'B' at the same time to jump, but these small inconveniences can be quite simple to overcome.
Just like so many other aspects or RCR, the graphics this game are very unique in their own way. The play field is split in half, with the backgrounds resting on the top half of the field while the streets where all the action takes place lay on the bottom half of the play field, which gives you much freedom of character movement. With the exception of only a few areas, each background is totally different from any other, offering colorful sceneries that simulate the look and feel of a real city while still maintaining a cartoonish subtlety about them. The characters don't offer as much variety, each having the same short and stocky body but with varying-colored t-shirts and different heads. But this lack of variety works for the good of the game as it also adds to the cartoonish subtlety of the graphics, especially as you watch the humorous facial expressions of characters as they get pounded.
The music of River City Ransom is mainly based on one catchy, fast-paced, action-stimulating tune that plays for almost two minutes before looping around again. A few other songs will meet your ears as you play through the game, almost every one carrying the proper style and beat needed for each situation met, including the softer tune you hear while browsing through a store or restaurant. Most sound effects used are swishing sounds heard when a character kicks or punches. One other notable sound effect would be the very good clinking sound heard as a coin bounces up and down on the street.
The challenge you will meet as you play is somewhat based on the challenge level you choose at the beginning of the game, whether it be Novice or Advanced. In Novice mode, finishing the game should be fairly easy. Considering that enemies will reappear each time you visit a particular area, all you'd have to do is to keep fighting easier enemies until you've gained so much money, items, and special techniques that you really don't have much reason to worry about what lies ahead. Advanced mode will be similar to Novice mode, but enemies will have more strength than before. It all balances out to offer anywhere from an easy to hard challenge to anyone willing to fight their own way.
Altogether, River City Ransom makes for quite a fun game and quite an entertaining experience. Through the very first play, you'll probably very rarely get bored with the game, and its unique gameplay offers quite a bit of incentive to go at it again. No matter how you look at it, RCR offers a gaming opportunity quite unlike any other. It's a great game to own and a great game to place right beside your Double Dragon series.
...And if you don't have any Double Dragon games, then you can just place the River City Ransom cartridge in a nice, dusted place free of filth, germs, disease, and little flies that like to swim in other people's soup.
- Story (6/10):
- Gameplay (9/10):
- Control (8/10):
- Graphics (8/10):
- Sound (8/10):
- Challenge: Varies from Easy to Hard
- Longevity (8/10):
- Replay (6/10):
- Overall (8/10):
Barf-O-Meter (20/10): - Well, yes... it has some great quotes! :)
My Score: 8/10