River City Ransom. Part brawler, part RPG. This game worked (and works...) on so many levels it occupies its own specialized genre. The story concerns young Alex. A resident of River City with good intentions and love in his heart. When the troublesome sounding "Slick" decides to abduct the love of Alex's life, you know there is gonna be hell to pay. Alex goes on a frenzied mission to cause pain, learn new skills and explore River City to liberate his damsel in distress, Cyndi. Alex does have friends to assist him on this noble mission. His equally rage filled bud, Ryan, can join the fray and contribute to the rescue of Cyndi, ensuring Alex can some day get some. When two players game-on you can do combo moves which are exciting to pull off and cause destruction to the gang members that attempt to deny Alex his heroic quest. The game is simple enough indeed, but along the journey you will encounter shops, secret bookstores and floppish bosses and sub-bosses that are in need of retribution. The mission can be lengthy if one decides to explore River City from top to bottom and acquire all the skills offered by books and products that must be purchased. Money is received after one of the many gang members is beat down and sent to the "other" plane. Some baddies give more money than others and bosses really give up the goods. The gangs that await our heroes are legion and the titles vary from the "Squids" to the "Frat Boys". All gangs are not equal. Some are far more aggressive than others, while some will flee from your presence. Learning the gang dynamics is a crucial part of playing the game. Following the action like buzz on a fly, is the banter in text form on the bottom of the screen. Enemies can taunt you, drop hints or even scream in pain as they meet their maker. Constantly ticking away on the lower screen and usually humorous, the dialogue is an important part of the game as well. Scattered throughout River City are Shop areas where no fighting occurs. It is filled with peaceful city folk that only wish you the best and want your money. Doorways lead to a variety of shops from Bookstores to Desert Cafes. All items add to the players stats in varying degrees. Some items increase agility, speed, strength, to name a few; while other shops sell items that give Alex(or Ryan) new skills. The learned skill of Dragon Feet is always a pleasure to greet charging gang members with, and it is a must to pick up these tricks to combat the increasingly tough opponents that come your way. All these layers combine with little touches like naming your character , password saving, interacting with the inhabitants of the city and using any items lying around as weapons, giving River City Ransom a broad and deep foundation to play on. You can even pick up a dazed enemy and use him as a weapon. The humour of the story and the complete wackiness of the entire game give it personality and flavour that separate it from anything else out there.
The look and feel of River City Ransom may ring some bells. Developed by Technos, this is the same team behind Super Dodge Ball, the original Double Dragon and the old school arcade fighting game Karate Champ. Their uncanny ability to meld violence and humour are real standouts in the industry and give anything they develop a distinct Technos identity. River City Ransom was released in North America in 1990, and while not taking the gaming world by storm, it has achieved a strong cult status and is respected internationally. The blend of outrageous fighting and ability building make this game multifaceted and garner it quite a broad fan base. A GameBoy version was released, minus the Technos crew. Developed by Million and released by Atlus, this updated version got favourable reviews and may be of interest to former River City dwellers. The original has been re-released on the Wii through the Virtual Console and is highly recommended to anyone able to access it. The story is silly, the moves ridiculous and the characters are mental. That said, it is a perfect distraction and an oddly complex beat-em 'up that works. Tight control, simple yet effective NES sounds and clean, crisp graphics combine to create a pleasurable gaming experience.
My urban explorer friend and I played River City Ransom non-stop in the Summer of 1990(the late charges must have been in the triple digits...) and it has left such an impression that every so often the adventures of Alex jump into my mind like an Acro Circus spin. Anyone mentions a gang, I think of the Generic Dudes instantly. I see an older metal garbage can, I envision Ryan smashing a Frat Boy in the melon. A great game stays with you for a long time. An amazing game stays with you forever. I am sure I can use the brain cells designated with River City Ransom info for something else, but why would I. In my youth I spent a summer in River City and love to go back every so often in my mind to that wacky place, with a giggle and a smile and a fond memory of gaming on in the past.
Joystick 'n' Hand