REVIEW: River City Girls Zero

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River City Girls Zero | Box Art
Title River City Girls Zero
Developer Almanic, Limited Run Games
Publisher WayForward, Arc System Works, Limited Run Games
Release Date February 14th, 2022
Genre Beat ’em up
Platform PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Age Rating T: Teen
Official Website

They actually did it. Shin Nekketsu Kouha: Kunio-tachi no Banka has received an official English localization as River City Girls Zero! If you had asked me even two years ago if I thought I’d see the day when this would happen, I would have told you you were crazy for even suggesting it. WayForward, along with Arc System Works and Limited Run Games, made it happen. It is a bit ironic that this game is being released as River City Girls Zero and even being advertised as the origin story for the two protagonists from River City Girls, considering the true ending in that game implied this game wasn’t canon, but that’s a whole other story for another day that I have already gone over in my review for River City Girls. It’s also a bit odd for them to advertise it as such considering this game’s story is more about Kunio and Riki than it is Kyoko and Misako.

River City Girls Zero | cutscene

River City Girls Zero starts off with a new intro featuring some brand new art and animation, and when the game begins you are given multiple language options. Perhaps most interesting about this is that there are two options for English text: a “New” translation that is more in line with River City Girls‘ feel and a “Literal” translation that is meant to be closer to the original script. The fact that it was called Literal was somewhat controversial online and as a result, WayForward have announced that they will rename the modes to “RCG” and “Original” respectively in a future update. It’s also worth noting that the two script options are only available in English, and the localized script for every other language featured here is going to be based on the “Literal” translation. The story follows Kunio and Riki as they are framed for a hit and run accident and, as a result, are sent to prison. They then break out and set out to, not only figure out who the true culprit is, but also clear their name.

River City Girls Zero | school

The game will have you traverse a series of levels, punching and kicking your way across wave after wave of enemies. At first, Kunio and Riki’s moveset is rather limited to a couple punch and kick combos. You also have a useful back attack button for crowd control and can even attack enemies on the ground by stomping on them or getting on top to pummel them into submission. Pressing R or L will also allow you to block, but the timing for the block is pretty strict, so you will want to use this carefully, or else you will leave yourself open for attacks. Eventually, you will unlock some special moves which can be performed by pressing R/L and then a face button. These moves can be devastating, but tricky to pull off in the heat of battle and can leave you vulnerable to counterattacks. The enemies and bosses in this game are relentless and can deal a lot of damage to your character very quickly.

Thankfully, you will recruit other characters such as the heroines from River City Girls, and they play similarly to Kunio and Riki, but do not have the ability to grab and throw enemies. All four playable characters have their own life bar, and you can switch between them on the fly with the select button. Unfortunately, if one character bites the dust, it’s game over and you are sent to the continue screen. Fortunately, this game is very forgiving with checkpoints, and nearly every single screen/area in the game has a password which you can find by pausing the game. So while a game over will never set you back too far, it is very easy to lose one of your character’s health and because of this, you will want play in a very methodical manner, taking your time to pick off enemies and knock them down one by one. This may make the game come off as slow at times, however, those of you willing to learn it and get used to the flow will find a game that can be very satisfying to play.

River City Girls Zero also looks really good with big detailed characters that are incredibly expressive, and the sound design does a great job at making every hit sound like it hurts. The music is also excellent, featuring some nice fast paced tunes to get you pumped for combat. To break up the flow, there are some sections of the game where you ride a bike and have to attack other bikers while avoiding the edges of the road. If you so much as touch them, you will fall off your bike and be brought to the continue screen, regardless of the amount of health you have. So, like the normal stages, you want to play it very safe here and not rush.

River City Girls Zero | motorcycle

As for extras, there aren’t too many here for you to enjoy after you’ve spent 2-4 hours trying to beat the main mode. You can view some scans of the original instruction manual along with 3D models of the original box and cartridge. Like a lot of retro game re-releases, you can opt to play the game with different borders if you don’t like the black bars. However, the only options available are some designs that feature the Limited Run Games logo, and I have to be honest, I find that incredibly disappointing. It would have been nice to have some artwork of the game here, instead of the LRG logo being thrown in your face like this. Hopefully, some more border designs will be added in an update, but for now, I will play this with the black bars.

At $14.99, River City Girls Zero is a nice curiosity for those of you that have never played this game before. But, I wonder if modern audiences, especially those used to River City Girls, will enjoy this one considering it plays very differently, and the relatively high difficulty and lack of QOL can put players off. An optional difficulty mode that re-balances some of the damage values and boss health would have been a welcome addition to this. I can definitely enjoy the game for what it is personally, but I can see this being a tough one for modern audiences to get into.

Review Score

Review copy provided by the publisher.

About Justin Guillou

Justin joined Operation Rainfall to share his passion and knowledge for some of the more obscure video games out there.