Stick With It
Over the last few years, 3DS owners have been blessed with original River City games. I still think River City: Tokyo Rumble is one of the best games on the 3DS eShop and River City: Knights of Justice also should please any fan of the beat’em up genre. Rival Showdown separates itself from previous entries by incorporating a three-day time limit with a New Game+ option that gives this game a subtle whiff of Majora’s Mask and Chrono Trigger.
When I started playing River City: Rival Showroom, the latest entry in the long running series by Technos Japan and Natsume, I was seconds away from rage quitting and never playing this game again. Saying this statement is actually very painful for me as I am a big River City fan so when I kept getting my ass completely handed to me from the absurd difficulty, I was majorly disappointment. During my first play through, I maybe beat up a handful of thugs, didn’t purchase a single item from any store as I didn’t earn any money, and only leveled up a few times. The severe unbalancing of the first play through is so extreme that I wouldn’t be surprised if players rage quit, like how I wanted to, after only struggling through the game’s first hour.
After the three days expired and I received the worst ending I wanted to give the game another shot in case I missed something. Boy, I am glad I did because my second play through was way more enjoyable than the first as I was actually able to hold my ground against the random thugs, story battles, and even the in-game spoof on Fight Club. Negatively, the game never actually informs the player of a New Game+ option when the time limit expires. It just asks if you want to save, cuts back to the main menu, and that is it. Only after you start up a new game will the player realize that stats, equipment, and items have remained from the previous play through.
Rival Showdown puts players back in the shoes of Kunio, a high school delinquent with a knack for beating the snot out of punks. This time, the player has three days to save a girl and defeat a special set of twins that I do not want to spoil here in this review. The three days might only take a couple of real life hours to complete but the day/night cycle and quests demand multiple play throughs. Specific events only happen during certain times during the day, complete with a new day/night cycle. Regardless of where the player is, the day is over at 11pm even if fighting in the middle of a battle. It is an interesting mechanic that is a little confusing at first but understandably becomes the major focal point of the narrative. The only way for the player to fulfill every event is to play through the game multiple times. Thankfully, the player unlocks a worthwhile encyclopedia after the end game that checks off which events were completed, which were not, along with a database of terms, unlockable fighting moves, and even a sound test that allows for both modern and classic themes. Combine this with the special characters found throughout the campaign, there is enough fan service here to cool off a MLB stadium.
River City just wouldn’t be quite the same without co-op. If two local players each own a copy of the game, the entire campaign can be played cooperatively. There is also an optional mini game called Double Dragon Dual (or DDD for short) that also can also be played wirelessly. This 2D fighting game can even be played using download play so only person needs a copy of the game. Although not as entertaining as Dodge Ball as certain moves can be spammed to cheat the opponent AI, DDD is still a creative addition that the developers did not need to include but they did anyway. Again, plenty of fan service here (including a certain special unlockable character).
The same nostalgic visual style that made this series stand out back in the NES era is prevalent here only with a bit more flare. Characters are animated in more detail and display emotion and are even bigger than they have ever been. There soundtrack has also been expanded and are filled with the same exact sound effects found in the NES version. The cross-over into the Double Dragon series is also here; the clinking sound effect of the pipe attack will instantly bring anyone back to the late 80s. Stereoscopic 3D is also supported here for non-2DS players. In the options menu, the player can even select to play the entire campaign using the same control scheme as the original NES version.
In addition to the unbalanced first play through, my other major criticism is the amount of dialog the player must go through to get anyway. Far and away, this game has the most dialog in any River City game. In fact, I would guess there is more text in this game than all the other River City games combined. Especially on the first play through, the player will spend more time talking to NPCs than actually fighting. Granted, much of this dialog is optional but is required if the player wants to complete events. The transition text between days is also strange as words get split between two lines, often with a single letter. Not sure if this is a translation error or a bug with the wordwrap.
The good news is there are tons of items to buy throughout the campaign that increases fighting capabilities. Like in previous games, books can be bought to unlock classic abilities like Acro Circus and Javelin Man. Restaurants are also spread out throughout the campaign’s smaller overall map size. The difference here is that everything takes time. Ordering a dish might revive your health but you could miss that important event during the 30 minutes it takes to eat. There is also a taxi service that can be accessed through the menu screen that can instantly warp Kunio to any part of the map but carries a cost and a bit of time as well. There are also many different types of armor that can be equipped but does not necessarily make the player better, just different. Most armor will increase a certain stat, like kicking for example, but decrease punching. This forces the player to essentially choose a play style and stick with it. Upon leveling up, the player can also choose which stats to increase by allocating points to certain categories. Maxing out Kunio’s stats will take at least three play throughs depending on how much grinding the player performs between events.
River City: Rival Showdown has some flaws with its initially balancing and wordy dialog but winds up being a retro RPG beat’em action that fans crave. The humorous plot, the confidence of Kunio, the new timing cycle with multiple ending, and the fan service cover up the majority of blemishes found in this eShop digital download and will make fans happily scream, “barf!”
Limited physical copies are also available and ship with a special keychain.
Not As Good As: River City: Tokyo Rumble
Better Than: Double Dragon III
Also Try: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World