Friday, December 30, 2022

River City Girls 2 Review

Developer: WayForward
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, XBO, XBSX, NS
Multiplayer: 2 Players Online, 4 Players Local
Price: $40
Version Played: PC

The River City Girls series stands out from the pack by doing something different. Like the River City Ransom games it's inspired by, River City Girls is basically a Beat 'em Up RPG. It has a big focus on characters and story, and it's full of classic RPG elements, like quests, stats, and even branching paths. I wouldn't say RCG2 is quite an Open World Beat 'em Up yet, but it's kind of leaning in that direction.

River City Girls 2 picks up right where the first game left off. Like, literally with Sabuko flying out the window. They go with the revised “happy” ending, by the way. What about River City Girls Zero? I guess it's not canon. The events of that game are never mentioned, and Misako and Kyoko don't seem to recognize anyone from it. I guess it's just there to give us a little backstory and introduce Sabuko's brother and father, Ken and Sabu, who are the main villains of RCG2. They're out to get revenge on Kyoko and Misako for throwing Sabuko out a window in the first game by taking over the city.
The game still takes place in River City, so you'll see a lot of the same places, but a lot has changed. There are new paths, new sections within old areas, and completely new environments. It's a huge map, too. I think it's maybe 50% bigger than the first game's. Don't quote me on that. Thankfully, there's plenty of bus stops, so you don't have to spend too much time going from one area to another on foot. The map is also really good at marking places where there are secrets and quest objectives, which really cuts down on aimless exploration. I love the new spooky forest area and how they've expanded on the old areas. For example, the neighborhood around the school now has a training dojo, new streets, and you can even go inside Kyoko's house, which acts as one of your bases in the game. I didn't know she lived so close to River City High. Why doesn't she go there then?
If you're a fan of Kunio and Double Dragon, you're in for a treat. This game is packed with references to those series and other Technos classics, like The Combatribes. There’s lots of WayForward game references in there, too. I never saw Shantae, though. Pretty much every NPC you meet is someone you might know. Of course, Abobo is here, Billy and Jimmy, Skullmageddon, and even the lowliest Double Dragon enemy, Williams. It's not just guest characters; though, you might see some familiar places, too. They even put a little dodgeball minigame in. Something I personally requested. I like to think the devs listened to me.
The combat in RCG2 feels very familiar, but at the same time, vastly improved. The controls are the same, and the animations look similar, but there's been a bunch of little changes that make everything faster, flashier, and much easier to control. The biggest being the changes to juggling. The timing is much more lenient, and the enemy hitboxes are bigger now, so it's much easier to keep enemies up in the air. There's also new moves that will scoop up downed enemies off the ground so you can continue your combo, like Kyoko's dive kick, along with a launcher and chaser combo you can do by pressing the jump button in the middle of a quick attack combo, and new mid-air quick attack combos. Combine all this stuff with assist characters, wall bounces, and maybe a co-op partner or 3, and you have a recipe for incredibly fun and spectacular combat. The one complaint I have about it is that it's still really hard to parry.
All 4 characters from the first game have gotten new moves and tweaks to their old ones, but Riki feels the most different. I never saw this come up in the game, since Misako and Kyoko still take up most of the screen time, but I think he's been practicing the "Dark Arts". Maybe it's time for an intervention. Many of his moves have a purple shadow effect, and he has a shadow ball projectile special, too. It's not exactly a Hadoken, it's more like Menat's traps from SF5. It hangs in the air and you can push it around and throw enemies onto it. It completely changes a large portion of his fighting style.
There's also 2 new characters in the game, Provie and Marian. They're both introduced during the story, so you don't start the game with them, but you can get them in the 2nd or 3rd chapter. Thankfully, all characters get XP from bosses and quests, so characters sitting on the bench never fall too far behind the characters you're playing. They also get their own money, so you'll always be able to buy moves and food for them when you switch.
Provie is a character from River City Ransom Underground, which was directed by Bannon Rudis, the director of RCG1 and 2. She's a break dancer with a lot of glowing acrobatic moves. Neon lights actually come off her as she fights. She's really fast and flashy, but takes a lot of damage. I really didn't get too into her because she feels like such a glass cannon.
Marian is Billy and/or Jimmy's girlfriend from the old Double Dragon games. She has a lot of strong MMA and Pro Wrestling inspired moves. She's kind of like a mix of Roman Reigns and Cesaro. She has the Superman Punch, Giant Swing, Meeting of the Minds, and a Piledriver. She's the slowest character in the game, but she's really powerful and fun to use. She also has a very funny intro cutscene. I just love her. She's definitely my favorite character after Misako and Kyoko.
The UI in the first game was pretty bad. Everything was on your phone, which didn't even cover the whole screen from top to bottom, so everything was confined to a small rectangle. Good thing it's gotten a big overhaul. Everything is still on your phone, but it's a little bigger now, so everything is easier to see. The phone's OS looks more like a real phone's OS now, too. The map also opens up to a full screen window now, and as I mentioned earlier, it's really good at highlighting objectives. The quest log is now a Twitter-like app called Honkr in which characters um… Honk quests and other story related stuff. It's a clever idea, but the text is way too small. I saw Honks pop up on screen, but I couldn't read them, so I always had to go to the app and get closer to the screen to read them. I guess this wouldn't be an issue while playing handheld on Switch or Steam Deck, but I was playing on PC sitting about 10 feet away from a 50 inch TV most of the time.
RCG2's soundtrack is even better than the first game's. Yeah, a lot of the music from the first game is also in this one, but the new tracks are really good, too. There's a lot of retro-inspired stuff, music from the old Kunio and Double Dragon games, and of course, awesome new tracks by Megan McDuffee. It wouldn't be RCG without her music. Her new tracks bring that same poppy electronic sound everyone loved in the first game.

The voice acting is just as witty and funny as in the first game, and I really enjoyed it, but I was disappointed to see that the characters don't have unique lines. You can pick the other character you talk to during dialogue sequences, but everyone just says the same thing Misako and Kyoko say. It gets especially silly when they start talking about themselves in third person.
The graphics are still awesome in RCG2. Sure, there's a lot of reused sprites from the first game, but there's a lot more detail in the environments, and the characters have more animations, too. There's even a day and night cycle, so we get to see some of the environments under different lighting. There's also a bunch of new Street Fighter-like special effects in the game now. Some of the accessories you can equip add effects like electric shock, fire, and poison to certain attacks. There's also a bunch of new store art and manga cutscenes, which also look great. I heard the console versions were running at 30 FPS when the game launched, and I don't know if that has been fixed . I've been playing on PC, and the game has been running at 60 on my TV and at 165 on my monitor the whole time.
I think this game is great. I think it's even better than the first game. I love the improved combat, the story is still witty and funny, it has great music and graphics, and I love playing as Marian. It hits different, though. It's just not going to have the same kind of impact as the first game when so much of the game feels so similar. It's still a lot of fun, though. I can't wait to see what's next for the series. I'd love to see Billy and Jimmy get in on the action. WayForward obviously has a lot of love for Double Dragon as well.