River City Girls 2
Genre(s): Adventure, Arcade, Fighting, Multiplayer
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on Steam, PlayStation and Xbox)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 15/12/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Now Entering: River City Review
River City Girls 2 is a traditional beat-em-up where I played as two high school girls taking on the grand task of defeating a yakuza gang. While I did not play the first title in the River City series, I have played other titles published by Way Forward such as Dawn of the Monsters and was excited to give this game a shot. Was the game any good? Find out in this Rapid Review.
Story of Their Lives
When I booted up the game for the first time, I was introduced to the characters and taught a little bit about the world around me. Having not played the first title, I was a bit confused, as the story directly relates to the first campaign. Regardless, the story was fairly interesting and they had some simple yet charming relationship dynamics. I specifically liked how many characters would text me on my cell phone. Sometimes, they would mention different things to do without requiring that I trekked all the way over to their in-person location. It saved me a lot of time and it made the system fit the lore as well. Even apart from that though, there were cute pop-culture references and clever puns. I thought the comedy in the game was solid, especially because it was not even listed as a main component of the game.
I genuinely appreciated the supplemental aspects of the story. In fact, the story is wholly voice acted too. This was excellent. I thought the pacing of the voice-over was almost perfect. It was fast enough that I did not read much faster than it and it was not too fast where I got lost. The voices selected for the actors were also fitting. While I cannot compare whether the voice actors are the same or like the ones used in the previous title, I was more than satisfied with the voice actors selected this time around. The story content was solid, and I appreciated it, but it was not the major selling point of the game. Thus, while I liked the story, I cannot recommend it for the story alone.
The true draw of the game, at least for me, was the fighting. Even though I have played a couple of beat-em-up games before, I would not say they are my niche. Despite that, I was impressed and entirely hooked by the combat in this game. I usually find this style of game a bit overwhelming and complex. However, I never felt that way when playing River City Girls 2. The developers do an excellent job slowly introducing new mechanics over time. Specifically, I unlocked different moves for my main character throughout my journey as I levelled up my character. This made the game incredibly digestible and fun, especially for someone who is not overly familiar with the genre.
The moves themselves were fun to leverage too. While there were plenty of stereotypical kicks and punches, there were also more stylized moves. I chose from a roster of six different characters, all of which had unique attacks. The roster incentivized revisiting the title, even after completing it. In fact, I liked experimenting with each character. The character I ended up choosing had a lot of volleyball and cheerleading-centric attacks which both helped her stand out from the characters and meshed with the style of the game. In addition to the visual designs behind each move, I appreciated how satisfying each move was to land. When I barraged enemies with a chain of attacks, it felt good. Even when I was simply completing the standard jab combination attack, each hit gushed with special effects. I liked it, and constantly felt rewarded for taking on enemies.
I even liked how many of the enemies could be recruited to work alongside me. These closely resembled assist characters in fighting games, doing a brief move once charged. I liked this part of River City Girls too. It made me care more about the enemies I was facing and I tried to collect every enemy throughout my experience playing. I think it helped give the enemies a lot more personality and charm.
Unfortunately, while each assist was an excellent implementation and it did help differentiate the enemies, there was not that much enemy variety. Though the enemies have many distinct moves and stand out from the other enemies in the game, I was constantly fighting hordes of the same enemies. This is not a large deal, as I was having fun while I fought, but it was noticeable, especially at the end of the game. Despite this, the enemies were designed incredibly well. Each had considerable start-up before a new attack which meant I could amply prepare for their onslaughts. Still, they were not laughably easy, and I often found myself in challenging spots fighting for my life. It was a good balance. There are even additional difficulty modes and a new game plus to truly tailor the experience. I was happy with the enemies, even if there were some issues with repetition.
The main reason I think I spent so much time facing the same enemies was that I killed every enemy in each room. Having never really played a beat-em-up before, I was not sure how many enemies I should be killing, so I always killed all of them. As a result, I was very likely over-levelled by the end of the campaign, and some of the challenges were not as intense. This game features rooms with enemies but I did not always need to slaughter them all. Sometimes, the room would lock, but other times I was free to pass without fighting. This helped keep me interested in the game, as some challenges differed from others.
Alternatively, I enjoyed how some areas did not involve fighting in the traditional sense. There were side quests and even main story objectives that altered the gameplay loop. Some had me moving furniture throughout different locations, avoiding enemies along the way and others had me unstrapping explosives from close friends. I enjoyed playing through the different styles and enjoyed them even more because they never lost that core beat-em-up core. They never felt like filler and were unique and interesting challenges to consider within the limits of River City Girls 2.
Waiting on the World to Change
The world was also made a lot easier to traverse because of the in-game map. It highlighted key destinations with a red exclamation point, coloured areas of the map that still feature objects of interest, and provided a detailed summary of how each room connected with the others. It was solid, but it was not perfect. Sometimes, it was hard to see how different areas of the map connected. While the map was colour-coded, the key at the top was not. This made the colour coding far less effective than it could have been. Overall, though, the map was great, and I liked how detailed and thorough it was.
Unfortunately, despite being filled with action-packed gameplay, there are slow loading times between each stage. Of course, initially, it took a long time to load the game from the home screen, but this was never a large issue for me. Alternatively, the loading times in-between screens of a map were far less justifiable. I always felt like I was waiting for so long, which genuinely took me out of the experience, especially since I was constantly loading new areas. I would even stop sometimes to check my phone in the loading screens since I knew it would take a while. It was disappointing but by no means a dealbreaker. Largely, the game ran well, and I have no complaints about the performance.
Finally, to fully flesh out the experience, the developers included a lovely soundtrack and charming visuals. I specifically liked the soundtrack because the game integrated lyrics into the background music without detracting from the game or my focus. I think the sound design is very commendable.
Similarly, the visuals are incredibly charming. The enemy designs are aesthetically pleasing, the visual effects are clear, and all of the attacks are clearly displayed. There are some areas that intentionally impeded the visibility of the locales, but since this was used sparingly, I had no issues and ended up enjoying this too. River City Girls 2 looks great.
Overall, I really did like this game. Having little experience with beat-em-up titles, I was immediately welcomed to a world where I could perform interesting attacks but also learn new things slowly. I was not overwhelmed, but I was adequately challenged. I was even further impressed with the amount of content, as the game boasts six playable characters, multiple difficulty modes, and plenty of optional side quests. The game is fun, and I can recommend it.
4 out of 5
You can purchase River City Girls 2 on the Nintendo eShop here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.