Whether he's chucking dodge balls or taking it to the streets, Kunio sure is one busy dude. Now that he's found himself in a medieval fantasy, let's see if he still knows how to kick ass.
If you've ever played a River City beat 'em up before then Knights of Justice will feel right at home with its simplistic yet satisfying fighting gameplay. This time around, Kunio and gang have transformed into ancient warriors complete with different names. Although he may be referred to as Alexander, he's still the same old Kunio albeit much less talkative. To go along with this setting, the gameplay has transformed as well. Now, you'll take on hordes of enemies and monsters as you complete many quests that award you with sweet gold and nifty new trinkets. The core gameplay is mostly unchanged although you can now equip magic-infused weapons in order to cast spells that use MP. You also have an inventory where you can carry along up to 9 weapons simultaneously. Considering you can store unneeded ones, it's great fun amassing a collection of weaponry that you find laying around, steal from enemies, and buy from shops.
Although the gameplay has these cool new twists, the unique sense of humour that Kunio-kun fans have become accustomed to over the years is back in all of its goofy glory. Knights of Justice has such a self-aware and quirky story that you're sure to at least crack a smile every now and then as you watch characters awkwardly interact and read the inevitable "BARF!" on the bottom of the screen. The graphics are familiar, too, with a cast of classic River City characters all dressed to fit the novel setting. The environments look pretty cool and have a well-done 3D effect although many areas are repeated throughout the campaign which makes it less varied than you'd hope. Finally, you'll hear many classic music tracks but with a fresh RPG-like spin on them.
River City: Knights of Justice features an impressive amount of content to discover. First of all, there are about 100 quests to master that range from finding items for the locals to beating up super-tough enemies. On top of this, there are a ton of items to collect. You'll find everything from swords, rocks, wands, consumables, accessories (rings, scrolls, charms), jewels, and gloves and boots to give "Alexander" some stat boosts. Last but certainly not least, you can recruit characters to join your party. Considering there are a bunch to find throughout the towns but you can only have two tag along at any given time, choosing who will join can be a tough decision.
Unfortunately, there isn't as much character progression as there is in other River City games which is especially disappointing considering the RPG-like setting of Knights of Justice. All you do is optimize Kunio's equipment and that's about it. There is no levelling up or anything. As a result, there's very little sense of accomplishment for beating up random foes. Along the same lines, this is one of the easiest games that I've played in a long time. The only occasions where I bit the dust were a result of forgetting to rest at an inn to recover my HP. It's such an unchallenging game that you'll start to get bored with both the mandatory and random encounters quite early on.
Finally, River City games are best enjoyed with a friend but there is no multiplayer option available here. I would have loved to see either Local Play or Download Play functionality but neither of those modes are available. There is also a lack of extra content. It would have been great to play mini-games and such but all you get is the main single player campaign.
Although it's not the best Kunio-kun game, River City: Knights of Justice features enough crazy beat 'em up gameplay and classic humour to satisfy any fan of the series. Here's hoping we see Kunio take on more fantastical settings down the road.
- + Retro beat 'em up gameplay with a few twists
- + Distinct River City humour and presentation
- + Plenty of items and weapons to collect, quests to take on, and allies to recruit
- - Very limited character progression
- - No multiplayer or extra modes
- - Lack of difficulty results in a mostly unchallenging campaign