River City Girls Zero Review thumbnail

River City Girls Zero Review

A classic SNES brawler comes west

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a Nintendo Switch on 👊

River City Girls Zero is also available for PS5, PS4, and Xbox One

River City Girls Zero is rated Teen by the ESRB

Kunio-kun fans have been blessed recently with many ports and sequels to the classic beat 'em up franchise and here's yet another one.

River City Girls Zero screenshot 1
These scantily clad ladies aren't afraid of a couple escaped convicts

A few years back, I played and had a great time with River City Girls so when I saw that River City Girls Zero was available, I just had to give it a go. However, I wasn't expecting it to merely be a port of a classic Kunio game but it is and that's pretty cool, especially considering fans in the west have never had an official release of this 16-bit story-based sequel. Specifically, River City Girls Zero is a port of the 1994 SNES game Shin Nekketsu Kōha: Kunio-tachi no Banka which the original River City Girls clearly took much inspiration from as both games allow you to play as Kunio's and Riki's girlfriends Misako and Kyoko. That being said, this is not a straight port as it features an awesome opening cinematic with vocal theme song, a funny comic intro, and translated dialogue sequences. Pretty cool, right? v1d30chumz 18-232-59-38

Anyway, River City Girls Zero has you initially play as Kunio and Riki after they're wrongfully imprisoned and soon into their journey to find out who framed them, they're joined by Misako and Kyoko. At any time, you can swap between the 4 characters and they each have their own health meter but as soon as you bite the dust, you'll have to restart at the previous checkpoint. You can also play cooperatively with a friend which is fantastic. Meanwhile, the core controls have you jump, punch, kick, and back-attack but you can experiment with these basics in order to discover special moves. Each character has their own skills and a couple of my favourite moves are slapping folks with Misako and sitting on downed opponents as Kunio then continually punching them in the head. It's satisfying stuff for sure. 😄

River City Girls Zero screenshot 2
Kunio doesn't need a helmet but he should wear one anyway

The simple controls combine with the aspect of improvisation to make for a solid brawler formula that anyone can enjoy. Plus, River City Girls Zero features some stand-out sections such as brutally tough boss fights, motorcycle segments, and parts that'll have you climbing on a Ferris wheel and fighting hoodlums on a rickety bridge. In other words, there are a lot of memorable moments.

With that in mind, the campaign within River City Girls Zero is super-linear as you merely play through scenarios then read dialogue scenes which range from dramatic to funny. Thankfully, the overall story is surprisingly engaging but the campaign setup still pales in comparison to something like the open-world River City Ransom which released 5 years prior. There are also loads of frustrating moments throughout such as boss fights that act more like endurance tests than feats of skill. It's certainly a roller coaster ride, that's for sure. 🎢

Another aspect of River City Girls Zero that falls flat is the fact that there isn't any character progression or items. Whereas other games in the series feature clever and rewarding stat boosts, level-up systems, equipment, and unlockables; you simply just go through the motions here. You also won't pick up found objects and throw them into your foes which is a significant missed opportunity. I guess the developers tried to make a more serious interpretation of the Kunio-kun universe and ditched a lot of the less realistic gameplay elements in the process. However, that decision made the general experience substantially less fun even though it's still solid overall.

River City Girls Zero screenshot 3
Cool, the last boss just stands there and shoots you in the face...

I'm quite happy that we finally have an official port of this 16-bit beat 'em up gem. Although River City Girls Zero isn't as fun as River City Ransom or its modern sequels, it's still an exciting brawler with a rather engaging story to boot.

  • + Solid beat 'em up gameplay with plenty of cool moves to experiment with
  • + Clever cinematics and cool story
  • + Features some nifty stand-out moments
  • - Virtually no items or character progression can make the gameplay feel flat
  • - Campaign is extremely linear
  • - Some parts can be quite tedious
7.0 out of 10
Gameplay video for River City Girls Zero thumbnail
Watch A.J. play River City Girls Zero
Kunio-kun Trivia

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