One of the best beat'em ups of the NES era is back! Many years after vanquishing Slick on the school rooftop, Alex and Ryan must take to the streets again. Help a new crop of fighters defeat the hordes of River City, and clear their name in a sinister kidnapping plot. You'll earn money, unlock moves, and upgrade your skills in a sprawling city on the brink of total chaos.
This modern take on an old classic features over 500 unique street fighting moves, dozens of weapons, secrets galore, and a bonus arena fighting mode.
As a huge fan of the original, I loved it, especially once the devs got some issues patched in the first few weeks. I do want to list a few things that might be helpful to know for people who are new to this game:
- It's more "action RPG" than "beat em up". Building stats and unlocking new moves are extremely important, and frankly some of the characters are quite hard to play until you've bought a few key moves for them. Don't expect to casually pick this up from the beginning and be wrecking huge numbers of enemies instantly (that comes later, but it definitely does come)
- As in other RPG's, don't be afraid to run away from fights. There are infinite enemies and they respawn regularly, so pick your battles and get used to the fact that sometimes you just want to run to your destination.
- Some characters are much easier to play than others. Striking-focused characters like Glen and Ryan are quite easy. Rudy and Bruno less so. It's not that the latter are bad, it just takes a bit more skill (and unlocked moves) to use them to their full potential. The upside here is that there's huge gameplay variety between the characters, and lots of scope for fun PvP fighting.
- You'll want to do some grinding for money/XP/moves early on to get your character off and running. Look up an online guide for how to do this, it will save you a lot of headaches. I also recommend referring to a guide to figure out what stats the different foods give you, it saves a ton of time.
- Multiplayer is most fun once all the players have access to characters with a decent baseline set of moves. Ironically it's best to do some solo grinding to achieve that before you set out as a group.
- Once you've done a bit of grinding and have gotten used to your character's moveset, this game really sings. Definitely worth the effort to get to that point so you can make your way through the hilarious storyline, beautiful retro graphics/music, and impressively deep combat system.
Updating my earlier review to reflect more time with the game and the fact that the dev team has listened to feedback and aggressively patched some of the launch issues:
- If you were looking for a fun, funny, and lovingly crafted update to the classic RCR, this is it. The art design, music, and dialogue are all superb and laden with affectionate nostalgia. In particular I love how the main character deadpans their way through so many wacky situations, but that's just one of the many touches that makes the game charming (1-on-1 showdown on the back of a Harrier jet, anyone?)
- The core gameplay mechanic is combat, and good combat needs 3 things: 1) A fair, balanced level of difficulty, 2) To encourage tactical variety from both you and the enemies, and 3) To look cool. I could make minor quibbles here and there about some of the characters, but in the main RCRU achieves all 3 of these goals with flying colors. There are few things more satisfying than unleashing an epic juggle combo on a late-game enemy and feeling like the baddest dude in the park
- Now that certain bugs have been fixed, local and online multiplayer work great and are tons of fun
- The move/stat upgrade systems work reasonably well and give a real sense of progression, which you will definitely need as the enemies also get significantly tougher over time
- Hard to call this a true criticism, but I'm not sure I'd call this a casual game. Maybe they'll add an easier difficulty mode at some point, but as it stands it has a fair bit of challenge right off the bat, and seems pitched towards people who are not afraid of that. People who are just looking for a mindless beat-em-up that lets you spam one combo repeatedly and doesn't get hard until the last level may want to look elsewhere. That said, with the patches in the challenge doesn't really come from cheese, but rather legitimately tough and aggressive enemies.
- I still don't love the fact that you can't see what the stuff you buy at the store will do for you until after you buy it. Seems obnoxious to withhold this information. Also it would be great to have an in-game screen clearly spelling out what each stat does.
- Not a huge deal, but I don't love the police system. Too many times you accidentally bump into a pedestrian or parking meter and start getting swarmed with cops while you were trying to do something else. That said, it's pretty hilarious the way they run over gang members. It would be neat if they sometimes also attacked gang members too.
- Turning off friendly fire is a necessity for co-op play, but the fact that flying enemy bodies can still knock you down means you still mess each other up a lot. Not a huge issue but occasionally gets annoying.
If you like beat em ups and level up, this game is for you. The gameplay is really fun and the animation and pixel art grafics are outstanding. Just grab some friends and play this game now!
River City Ransom: Underground is fantastic in how it truly captures the feel of retro games, and it’s clear from the experience that Conatus Creative provides the desire and requisite talent. On top of the original beat-em-up feel, additional features round out the title quite nicely, such as RPG leveling aspects and a fighting engine that packs a punch. The art style, sound, and humor capture the look, feel, and nostalgia of the franchise. Though River City may not have enough to warrant many hours on the game, it’s worth a playthrough, and all but guarantees enjoyment to newcomers and fond memories to franchise veterans.
A really good entry for the beat 'em up franchise, and a great choice for both newcomers and old fans.
Let's get to the good stuff quickly... The controls are tight and responsive, the combo system is intuitive and enjoyable. The graphic style is on point, and the animations are genuinely excellent. The soundtrack is strong, and there is a fair amount of variety in the game (a large roster of interesting, fun playable characters, is the highlight of this). There are many interesting places to go, and unique characters to fight. Lastly, the script works well, even if it is very simple; more specifically, the humor generally hits. This is a game that does an excellent job of following-up on the original.
I wanted to give this game a perfect 10. I really did. On the whole, this is an excellent beat 'em up, maybe one of the best ever made, but it is, unfortunately, an unfinished excellent beat 'em up. If I am being honest, the experience is rough enough at times that it maybe should have gotten a score a little lower than the 9 I gave it. It sorta represents all the fiddling and troubleshooting that keeps me away from PC games. However, the developers are quickly addressing the issues and feel confident that it will be worth a higher score than that 9 in a month or so (so I am splitting the difference).
A few more quibbles... the tutorial text is awfully implemented, you will likely accidentally skip it every time. Also, the explanation of some of the moves you purchase are unnecessarily vague.
I don't want to leave this review on a down note, so I wanted to mention, once again, that the meat of the experience is pretty close to perfect. A great purchase if you love the genre.
A beyond solid beat-em-up experience with an attention to detail and humor fitting of this legendary series, and this is coming from a superfan of the series (I wrote multiple rom hacks for the original NES game)
River City Ransom: Underground was worth the wait, and hopefully we don't have to wait nearly three decades for the next one. The look, feel, and humor of the original is here with a new in-depth fighting system that feels fresh yet familiar while being deeper than basically every other game in the genre. I can't say for sure that Underground is the best beat 'em up of all time, but it deserves its place at the table with RCR, Golden Axe, Final Fight, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.