Kunio-kun fans outside of Japan sure have been lucky over the past few years. River City: Rival Showdown is the latest portable beat 'em up starring everyone's favourite badass high school student so try not to barf and let's take it to the streets!
If you've played any River City beat 'em up before then Rival Showdown will feel right at home. Although it's a reimagining of River City Ransom in that the basic story is the same, the campaign is very different. Basically, you explore the city while completing quests and beating up hoodlums. Meanwhile, time keeps ticking and once 3 days are up, it's time for the final battle so you better be prepared! Before that point, there are many story and dialogue sequences where you can choose different options. Considering my "Events" menu didn't seem even half completed after my first playthrough, I imagine that I missed a lot of stuff. There are multiple endings so I assume that you can play through the campaign in many different ways in order to see and do everything. Thankfully, there's a new game plus option so diving back into the story once you finish it will let you easily explore new routes.
River City: Rival Showdown is an ultimately familiar game yet the beat 'em up gameplay feels very refined. There's a ton of special moves that you can equip. Some can even replace your basic punches and kicks and stringing together a series of attacks in order to take down a horde of thugs just feels awesome. As you beat on your enemies, the visuals and sound are sure to satisfy. For starters, the classic 2D sprites are as expressive as always and they really pop with the 3D effect. That being said, they look kind of grainy whenever the camera zooms in. Anyway, the music is a mix of classic yet redone Kunio-kun tracks that will delight long-time fans such as myself. I'm glad that I get to experience yet another one of Kunio's crazy adventures and it plays, looks, and sounds fantastic.
Wandering around River City while completing quests, levelling up, and purchasing all sorts of goodies from the wide selection of stores makes for a rather enjoyable open-world campaign. Becoming the strongest Kunio you can be is extremely rewarding, especially if you manage to work your way past the final encounter after day 3 while emerging victorious. However, the city itself is disappointingly small and I'm pretty sure the one in River City Ransom is larger or at least it feels that way. Additionally, you may find yourself not knowing exactly what to do from time to time. There are usually marks on the map to indicate events but occasionally, there aren't any so you'll merely wander around aimlessly while picking fights with random hooligans. These parts can be quite boring and when you factor in the uneven difficulty, they can be downright tedious. For example, running into a gang that beats you to a pulp in a matter of seconds can be frustrating while encountering horde after horde of weak foes will likely put you to sleep.
Campaign aside; there is a decent amount of extras in River City: Rival Showdown. For starters, there's a fighting mini-game based on Double Dragon called Double Dragon Duel. You can play it against the computer or multiplayer via either Local or Download Play. Speaking of which, you can even play the story campaign with another player although they need a copy of Rival Showdown, too. Finally, you'll unlock an encyclopedia mode upon beating the campaign that you can try to fill out as you replay the story. Even though these are some cool extras, I wish there were more classic Kunio-kun modes such as dodgeball. As it is, all you essentially get is a story mode set in a small city and an extra fighting game which adds up to a satisfying amount of content but it still feels like something is missing.
River City: Rival Showdown is definitely one of the best entries in the long-running Kunio-kun series. Although Tokyo Rumble offers a bit more of a robust package, what's here is sure to provide hours of beat 'em up fun.
- + Refined beat 'em up gameplay with very cool new moves and abilities
- + Satisfying open-world campaign
- + Cool extras and local multiplayer
- - Even though the city is small, it's difficult to figure out what to do at times
- - Uneven challenge can become tedious
- - Could use more modes such as dodgeball