|River City Ransom|
Ever since Technos released the original Double Dragon, many companies have tried their hands at the side-scrolling beat-em-up genre with varying degrees of success. Most were pretty generic, but some companies have tried several different way to innovate the gameplay style. One of those games is River City Ransom, the third of Technos' Kunio games to be brought to the U.S. after Renegade and Super Dodge Ball, which adds some RPG elements to the carnage. While it didn't set the world on fire, it still became a cult classic, and it's not hard to see why.
The story in this cart is that a mysterious gang lord called Slick has taken over River City High School and is holding all the students captive, demanding total control of the city. Two martial artists who weren't in school that day, Alex and Ryan, set out to resuce their fellow students, especially since Ryan's girlfriend is one of the captives. However Slick's various gangs prowl the city looking for trouble, so the two of know they have to battle their way through a gauntlet of thugs standing in their way before they can face Slick himself.
This game supports one or two players simultaneous, and a solo gamer can choose either Alex or Ryan, though there's no difference between the two. The object is to fight your way through the various parts of River City to reach the high school and defeat Slick. Each area is patrolled by a different gang, each one wearing a different-colored shirt to distinguish themselves. Alex and Ryan can take them out with punches and kicks, but can also find various weapons lying around to use against them. Each tugh you defeat drops money you can collect, and the tougher the foe the bigger the payout. As you make your way through the areas, you often arrive at one of the town's stripmalls which contains several shops. You use the money you collect from beatingbad guys to buy various items in the shops. Some restore your energy, others increase your attributes such as your punching power, kicking power, defense and so on. You can also purchase items to learn new fighting techniques, such as Dragon Feet, Stone Hands, Acro Circus and others. However as to try to reach River City H.S., you have to defeat Slick's bosses and sub-bosses that pop in from time to time to challenge you. However some bosses won't appear unless you defeat certain sub-bosses who will reveal their location once they fall. You can't enter the high school until all the bosses are defeated, and even if you do make it in, you still have to deal with Slick's lieutenants before you take on the big man himself in a fight to the finish.
The graphics are pretty good with vibrant colors throughout the game. Although all the characters have the same squated no-neck look, they're well animated and have some nice expressions when you connect with a shot on them. The different areas also look good with well-done backgrounds and layouts. The sounds aren't as impressive. There's only a few background tunes but they work well to signfy certain events and are pretty catchy, while the sound effects are your standard brawler fare but are still crisp and clear.
The gameplay of River City Ransom itself is spot-on. It's easy to get into this game pretty quickly without much learning involved, and the two-button layout is very responsive and simple to use; B button punches, A button kicks, and you push both of them to jump. Beating the crud out of anyone stading in your way never gets old and the the addictiveness will keep you coming back for more. Plus it charms you with its cheesy humor, especially when you defeat an enemy and they spout such infamous lines like 'BARF!' before they perish. The different ways you can customize your character also makes it so you don't play the same away twice. You'll also need to invest several hours to beat this title from start to finish. The difficulty may seem easy at first, but even on the Novice setting many of the foes will give you a workout, and the bosses will really put your skills to the test. At the same time you never get a Game Over; if you lose all your power, you restart at the last mall you passed through, just with half your money. The two player simultaneous mode is fun and it's nice to have someone watch your back, but the game action slows down quite a bit in spots and there's no way to turn off the 'friendly fire' damage; you could accidentally take out your buddy if you're not careful. Also the save system leaves a lot to be desired; you can get a password at anytime to record your progress but it is very long, with six lines to fill out.
So anyway you look at it, River City Ransom is another NES cart worthy of it's cult status. Its mixture of excellent brawling and RPG customization works like a charm, and its funny and addictive gameplay makes this a fighting title you'll be playing many times over. This is definetly a game worth adding to your collection.
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