River City Girls 2 might be a while longer before we can ora ora ora our way, but beat-em-up fans can savor their hunger by time-warping into a much older game from the 1990s, now known as River City Girls Zero. It's now available on all platforms, including PC and Switch.
Shin Nekketsu Koha: Kunio-tachi no Banka, developed by Almanic, is now playable in the West for the first time ever. Instead of rushing into brawls as the sukeban girlfriends Misako and Kyoko (dont worry, theyre playable later in the game), you get back in the saddle as their beaus, Riki and Kunio.
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Riki and Kunio are put in jail after being framed for a crime they did not commit. They beat up the toughest guys in the slammer, escape, and begin their warpath to uncover the jerk who framed Riki and Kunio. While the preservation of Shin Nekketsu Kohas' graphics and music is appreciated, its 94-era gameplay proved to be a hindrance to my enjoyment of the game.
RCG Zero has a limited arsenal of attacks, unlike RCG's many combo strings and bizarre special moves. These tools include a punch, a kick, a special punch and kick, and the tried-and-true jump punch or kick attack. In practice, these are extremely limitless.
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RCG: Zero allows for a much smaller error margin on both sides, so if you don't execute correctly nine times out 10, the enemy's attack will land first, causing a sloppy playthrough.
A simple punch or kick would send your planned assaults crashing down. Whether it was cheeseing enemies with jump kicks or getting lucky by blocking one of their attacks in the narrow window of time. Both strategies worked for a pyrrhic victory.
This changed the gameplay from a fast-paced beat em up to a methodical game of teetering and micromanaging enemies at a chess players pace. Your punches and kicks are often futile in comparison to enemies because, unlike you, they do not stagger when on the receiving end of a combo. A game being this difficult is just a waste of time.
RCG Zero does not include RCGs that restore the K.O.d body's healing power, nor item pickups. Instead, four playable characters serve as your extra health bars to complete stages. For example, if Kunio is dehydrated, you can swap to Riki, Kyoko, or Misako and utilize their full health bars to complete stages. But fighting bosses became a ritual of swapping between characters and praying that my punches would land first.
The RCG Zeros gameplay was jarring, but everything else was fantastic. Right off the bat, the game spends no time evoking the vibe of a Saturday morning anime with its catchy theme song by returning Girls composer Megan McDuffie. Its opening cinematic was also masterfully accompanied by David Liu's slick and profound throwback anime style.
RCG Zero is also capable of many tweaks. From the pause screen, you can change a CRT (old-school TV) filter, and you can change the background art and screen size. I preferred the RCG-style localization because of its side-splittingly funny language and because the more I played RCG Zero, the more I missed RCG.
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RCG Zero is in no way averse to its own fun beat em up sections, its just that some of the action segments became tiresome rather than entertaining after a while. Sometimes, though, having to repeat the stunt an odd number of times later made the creative setpiece feel like padding for the game's runtime.
RCG Zero is a fresh coat of paint on top of Shin Nekketsu Koha: Kunio-tachi no Banka, but the game's rote preservation of the old-school beat-em-ups gameplay is a disservice to the franchise. Instead of injecting a modernized version of the franchise through lavish new cutscenes and text, I wish WayForward had invested some time into polishing its combat.