River City Girls Zero | Review | Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Arc System Works/Technos
  • Publisher: WayForward
  • Release Date: 14/2/2022
  • Price: $14.99 / £12.09
  • Review code provided by WayForward

Introducing: River City Girls Zero Switch Review

Nostalgia is such a powerful selling tool. Whole segments of the video game industry are devoted to nostalgia for games and systems of yesteryear. Many games use elements, or aspects, that were prominent in classic titles to bring us neo-retro games. Yet, there is an idea I am struggling with. Can you have nostalgia for a game that is retro even though you never played it when it was originally released?

Enter River City Girls Zero, a Super Famicom game never released in the West until it was released on the Switch in 2022. It is a game that I would have loved as a kid had it known about it back then. Now, I must figure out if this addition to the River City Girls (RCG) saga is a worthy one or if it should have stayed in the history books.

Hot Blooded Action

The beginning of the game sees our heroes, Kunio and Riki, imprisoned for a crime they did not commit. Instead of laying down and accepting their fate, these hot blooded youngsters gain the respect of their fellow prisoners and eventually bust out. Twists and turns lead them back to school where they are joined by River City Girls’ Misako and Kyoko. The group forges on, looking for who to blame and how to clear the names of Kunio and Riki.

The story has plenty of twists, turns, and nods to the Kunio series. Many characters that were present in RCG, either as villains or shop owners, show up and it was nice seeing the long history of these characters represented. Seeing the terrifying Misuzu again was both a high and low for me. I can understand why WayForward finally wanted to bring this title to the west, as it plays a vital role in connecting to the overarching story found in RCG and its sequel.

What’s Old is Still Old?

Playing beat-em up games that have been released within the past few years has shown how much the genre has grown. So many mechanics have been added to make these games more appealing to the masses. Adding intense combos, stage select, pick up and play options have all made most of the genre better for us all. RCG Zero has added some whistles to this 1994 relic. The option to have save states is one that I am very appreciative of. Not much else was added on the gameplay side though. This is the same game from 1994 but translated from its native Japanese.

The early stages give you a fighting chance to become acquainted with the controls. Like many early beat-em ups, there is a punch, kick, and jump button. There is also a designated guard and back attack button. The guard button can also be used in conjunction with punches or kicks to access special moves.

What makes Zero special is the ability to switch between all four characters. They all have their own health bar, which allows you to change when one gets low health. The downside is that if one character dies, then it’s game over. I saw the game over screen one too many times as some of the later boss fights felt extremely unfair or luck based.

A motorcycle minigame was added and it plays like a very basic Road Rash. This was fun to begin with, but if you hit the edges of the stage, you die instantly and have to restart the level. This aspect took all the fun out of these sections as I ended up driving extremely slow so as not to wreck. Another optional scene allowed you to ride a rollercoaster. It served no purpose, but it was a funny distraction to see Kunio and the crew having fun with all the dark events going on.

Golden Oldies

The SNES/Super Famicom has some of the absolute best music in all of video games. River City Girls Zero is no slouch and packs quite a punch in the audio department. While writing this review, I was listening to the music, and I forgot how much I truly enjoyed it. The new song that Megan McDuffee did is quite humorous and fits the early 90s vibe perfectly.

The pixel art is a perfect representation of the era this game originated from, and it suits it perfectly. If you are looking for more additions to the game graphically, then you will be sorely disappointed. An extra intro and ending were added in the black and white manga style, but nothing during the gameplay sections and I am fine with that.

Solid Bones

I took my time with River City Girls Zero and ended up playing it about half on the big screen and half in handheld mode. It never had any kind of issues, bugs, glitches, errors or anything like that. I preferred playing it in handheld mode, as it didn’t stretch the pixels as far and the screen looked quite crisp, especially when playing on an OLED.

Final Thoughts

River City Girls Zero is such an interesting game. It operates as both a new game to the western audience and a resurrection of an older title to diehard fans of the Kunio series. Since it is offered at a budget price, I think it works quite well since it was given a new coat of paint. But if you are someone who only got into this series with River City Girls, it may be hard coming into this as it is extremely stripped down in comparison. Either way, there are way worse games out there for the price, so why not see how the River City Girls got their start!

Pros

  • Unreleased Japanese game finally comes west
  • SNES soundtrack with certified bangers
  • Rollercoasters!

Cons

  • Difficulty spikes
  • One character dies, they all die
  • Motorcycle Minigame

Verdict

River City Girls Zero is an interesting oddity as some will love to delve into a previously untouched piece of gaming history, while others may wonder if it holds up without the bonus of nostalgia. Fans of Kunio and SNES brawlers should give this one a shot!