Nekketsu High School is back in session to teach rival schools how to kick ass. River City Melee: Battle Royal Special takes the River City formula and turns it into a competitive fighter so let's see if Kunio and gang have what it takes.
A couple years back, a compilation of mini-games known as River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special released. One of the included modes was Battle Royal which had four competitors duke it out in order to see who the last man standing is. River City Melee: Battle Royal Special is basically just an expanded version of this mode. Thankfully, the classic Kunio-kun combat translates to a competitive arena fighter quite well. You'll unleash a fury of punches, kicks, character-specific moves, and throws. Also, the ability to pick up items and either use them as melee weapons or throw them always makes for a fun time. You may even find drinks that you can gulp down and bombs that have the potential to harm all of your enemies. It's chaotic fun in its simplest form and each battle is full of goofy moments that'll surely make you crack a smile.
One thing that River City Melee does differently is provide a selection of stages that feature their own gimmicks. The first stage is the one from Super Sports Challenge except it has four variations: small, medium, large, and Fight Destruction. The latter variant has quarters of the arena gradually fall apart and if you find yourself in that quadrant then you'll unfortunately fall to your demise. The other three stages include a soccer field, a factory, and a wharf. In the soccer field, you can kick a ball into a net that's guarded by a goalie and if you manage to score; all of your opponents take damage. The factory stage features a slot machine that produces random items and the wharf has motorcycles that you can ride to run over your foes. These gimmicks are a ton of fun to take advantage of but unfortunately, there are still only four stages. For a fighting game, this makes the experience get repetitive much sooner than you'd hope.
On the plus side, there are a whopping 150 characters to play as. That's right; you can choose from 25 different teams and each one includes 6 distinct characters. Of course, some of these are variations such as Kunio in his Dodge Ball uniform, historical drama getup, and magic story outfit. However, it's still an impressive collection of chums and most of them have distinct abilities (67 in total) that you can try and master to gain the upper-hand. Speaking of battles, you can play either local or online multiplayer with up to four players. The only players I managed to match with were either from Korea or Japan so I got my ass kicked severely. The local matches feature a wealth of options to customize each battle such as the punishment for falling out of the arena and even the background music.
When it comes to single player content, the only modes are free battle and a story mode which allows you to play through a tournament as each of the 25 available teams. Although it would take a long time to go through every single team's story, it's still generally the same experience over and over again which gets repetitive fast. That's River City Melee's biggest downside in a nutshell: lack of variety. Although there are loads of characters and abilities to master, the fact that the core gameplay is so basic and there are only four stages makes it become quite monotonous after a while. After all is said and done, this is merely an expanded version of a mini-game that was featured in Super Sports Challenge so you can't really expect much but that game had four enjoyable modes so this is a less fulfilling experience in comparison. In other words, the gameplay is solid but you won't find yourself enjoying it for hours at a time.
River City Melee: Battle Royal Special contains a ton of characters to battle with in fun gimmick-filled stages. However, it doesn't manage to grow past the fact that it's merely an expanded version of a middle-of-the-road mini-game.
- + Classic Kunio-kun combat
- + Stage gimmicks are pretty cool
- + Loads of characters that you can play as with up to 4 local or online players
- - Only four stages to battle within
- - Gets stale with its lack of variety
- - It's essentially just an expanded version of one mode from Super Sports Challenge