The original River City Girls was known for it’s easy-to-dive-into beat-‘em-up action mixed with an appealing blend of pixel graphics and humor. And River City Girls 2 returns with all the above, plus a bit more.
This action-brawler sequelpicks up where the 2019 original left off. Sabuko, an organized-crime bigwig and the first game’s final boss, is launched out a window by the game’s heroes—schoolgirls Misako and Kyoko—and she ends up face down in the muck of a dirty alley.
Her reputation is in as much of a mess as she is. Sabuko’s stepbrother, Ken, wants to take advantage of that failure and move up in their crime family empire. But instead, their disappointed crime boss dad decides to simply smash his way out of prison and personally take charge of River City.
That takeover includes the local school, and Misako and Kyoko are quickly expelled. But instead of worrying about getting the boot from class, the girls welcome the vacation and spend the next two months playing video games. Which … explains why Misako and Kyoko are so sorely out of practice and lose all their previous fighting skills.
Soon after, the girls put down their controllers and chip bags to recognize how bad things have gotten in River City during their absence. It’s time for the River City Girls to start from scratch and take down the evil yakuza syndicate, one battering street fight at a time.
Gameplay wise, the focus here is, of course, lots and lots of 2-D, side-scroll brawling. Gamers can play solo (gamers can ultimately choose among six playable characters) or they can team up with friends (four locally or two online). The hard-fisted heroes make their way through multiple city environments on a large map, frenetically battling scores of respawning thugs, costumed attackers, heavily muscled wrestlers, cheerleaders, punk rockers, zombies and the like.
A character’s health, strength and other stats improve with repeated battle, and the girls also learn new kicking and punching combos to fight and defend themselves with. That makes the skirmishes more choice-filled and rewarding as the game progresses. Victories win cash as well, which can be used to purchase new moves at a local dojo, buy stat-boosting food, etc. Players can also enter into side quests and mini games that earn experience, money and other rewards. Levels lead to tough big boss battles.
Misako and Kyoko can hire heavy-hitting characters they meet along the way to jump in and deliver a needed special attack at key moments. And they can retreat to a hideout, where players can swap fighters, change up assist characters and grab needed items from storage. When bested, players have the option of jumping back into battle in exchange for some in-game cash or respawning at their hideout for free.
For those who dig arcade-style fighting games, this title packs a great deal of appeal. It’s very active and colorful and filled with quippy cool-gamer-girl humor (and songs) that doesn’t wander into nasty areas. And the progressively more complicated fighting combos and moves help keep the game from becoming a one-dimensional button-masher.
River City Girls 2 also includes creative cutscenes that are a combination of colorful cartoony animation and black-and-white manga panels. Blend that into pixelated 2-D battles and the whole package is very appealing to the eye.
This is a fighting game. So that’s what players will be predominantly doing for the 10-to-20-hour duration: using their characters to slam and pound other characters. The battlers throw dynamic punch and kick combos and pick up battering objects such as wrenches, shovels, fish, magic wands, bikes, swords and park benches to pummel foes with. That said, there’s no bloody mess. The bested enemies just wince from the flash-impact blows.
We do hear some light angry language in the mix, including uses of “h—,” “a–,” “da-mit,” “geez,” “crap,” “dang” and “p-ss off.” And while there are no sexual situations, we do hear some winks in the dialogue at the appeal or creepiness of other characters. One fit, bare-midriffed female character, for instance, is repeatedly called out for having “legendary abs.” Some other young women wear bathing suits and the like. And some muscular male characters appear with no shirt. There is a cartoony witch—along with ghosts, zombies and Tarot cards—in part of the play.
One other thing worth mentioning for younger players: The game’s big bosses can be frustratingly difficult at times. Less experienced gamers may well need some older help to make it through.
As combat games go, this is a pretty colorful and fun one—with only a few content punches to be wary of.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.