Developed and Published By: WayForward, Almanac Corp. (Original) Categories: Beatemup, Retro Release Date: 02.14.22
I was a big fan of River City Girls back when Wayforward released it in 2019. I swear it wasn’t just because of the cute girls…it just partly was. I was pretty excited when Wayforward announced a sequel at Limited Run Game’s E3 show, but it wasn’t the only thing they revealed. Enter: River City Girls 0! A prequel?
Sort of, known in Japan as “Shin Nekketsu Koha: Kunio-tachi no Banka. This is the game that inspired River City Girls and it’s leads Misako and Kyoko, who also star in this game to an extent. This was one of the many Kunio-Kun games back in the day to not get localized unfortunately, and I can definitely say we missed out. Nearly 30 years later, we finally have this long lost Super Famicom beatemup, and one of the last traditional beatemups in the series until only recently.
Lost in Japan
This isn’t exactly a game about Misako and Kyoko, they’re in it, but this is definitely a Kunio and Riki game. The title starts as Kunio and Riki are wrongfully imprisoned, framed for a hit and run they didn’t commit…by someone who looks like them. They soon break out, deal with some punks, meet back up with their girlfriends, and our story begins.
It makes a lot of sense as to why this never got localized back in the day. There is a *lot* of dialog in River City Girls 0. Meet a new character, plenty of talking. A shocking moment in the story, dialog. This is as much of an adventure game as it is a beatemup. Causing perhaps the absolute dumbest controversy I’ve seen in some time, River City Girls 0 has two translation choices. One is closer to how the game probably should be translated, a bit more literally, no real spicing up. The other is something that fits in line with the River City localization.
I like that you get a choice. Big localization changes like how the Kunio Kun series got back in the 80’s and 90’s have no place. They were caused by a general xenophobic opinion on “Is this too Japanese?” and trying too hard to push to Americans. A game from 1994 finally getting translated is fantastic and it deserves to be properly translated. I don’t particularly want older games newly getting translated to have stay juxtaposed to a localization that really shouldn’t exist in the first place. It’s like if we never got a proper translation of Gatchaman and were stuck with Battle of the Planets for decades, name changes and all.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the writing in River City Girls. But I don’t particularly like the retroactive branding that River City Girls 0 got for a game that is only tangentially related. It’s honestly rather dis-ingenuous to title the game as if it’s a prequel to River City Girls…when it really isn’t. That said, the River City naming is most like a brand recognition thing at this point.
All that aside, both translations are pretty good. The “Literal/Original” might be a little more stilted and crude (there’s much more swearing), but it’s a good translation. The “New/River City” translation is good too, probably flowing a bit smoother and yes, fitting more in with newer games. There is absolutely ZERO reason anyone should have felt threatened by there being two options, especially when the Yakuza games and many anime have been offering two sets of subs for years. One to be more in line with a dub, the other to be more in line with the original Japanese work.
Ok, rant done. Lets get into game proper. A more linear kind of beatemup than what people expect, especially compared to the more open-ness of River City Girls, or Ransom for that matter. Action should come familiar. Punch, Kick, Back Punch, Jump. If you have played any game in this series, or by Technos of old, you should know what to do. You can play as Kunio, Riki, Misako, and Kyoko. Standard moves, they all work the same, with their own animations, but I noticed that I was pulling off grabs more as the boys, and especially beat downs on a down enemy, as opposed to just stomps.
Did I mention blocking? You might not ever really use it, but there’s reason to at least use the button. This comes in the form on some nice special attacks. Again, these are all character unique, and some like Kunio’s Block+Back Hit is so satisfying to use.
The sound effects, especially by the girls make hitting the other delinquents super satisfying. However, you may feel that some enemies take quite a bit, if not too much punishment. There’s no real indication on if an enemy is close to being taken out, so they can somewhat feel like fights drag on. A health bar or some indication would be great. Each of your four characters has a heath bar, so maybe just consolidate those bars and put something for the enemy at the bottom.
With each life bar for each character, it’s more or less four life bars worth of life, but if one empties out, you have to restart from a checkpoint. If you’re playing co-op however, both players need to drop. The game is a tad challenging, so this can and will very much help, especially in tricky boss fights.
This should be of no surprise to anyone considering this is a later Super Famicom game, but this is a fantastic looking and sounding game. The sprites aren’t those stubby ones you probably remember, but the style is still there. It’s incredibly colorful, especially the hair. Music reminds me of stuff from Mega Man X, also release around that time. Makes me really wish the game’s composer Kazunaka Yamane did more music, especially outside of Double Dragon and Kunio stuff. Also of no surprise, considering the series’ pedigree, facial animations are always great.
Here Comes my Favorite Part
So what makes this release any better than those random SNES ports to the eShop in an emulator? Glad you asked. First thing you’ll be greeted to is a new animated intro and a new theme song by Megan McDuffee, who composed River City Girls. Then as you start the game, you’ll have a little manga introduction with Misako and Kyoko, fully voiced (in the manga cutscenes) finding an old Super Famicom and game. Some fawning over their loves, some talk on Misako’s hair being blue, and then we dive in. These bookend the SuFami game.
Outside of that, we have a feature I am ALWAYS going to love. The original Japanese manual fully scanned. On top of that, there’s 3D Models of the old SuFami box and cartridge! Please keep doing this! This is the fastest way to get my interest and adoration for retro-rereleases.
I am so happy we can finally get this long lost Kunio game in the west, issues with how it’s named aside. Play this. Wayforward and their team of people working on the emulator side deserve some praise and I hope to see more releases like this. Also, when given the option totally ride the roller coaster. Trust me.
Buy Now: $14.99
*Game Download Code graciously supplied for the purpose of review