As an otaku, wrestling mark, and a gamer, my disparate interests rarely align neatly into one medium. While I’ve seen games, wrestlers, and anime cheekily reference one another, the overlap usually ends there without fully committing to crafting the perfect gumbo chock full of the high-octane action from anime, the over-the-top theatrics of professional wrestling, and the satisfying skill-based combat in video games. That is, until River City Girls answered my prayers in 2019.
River City Girls, developed by Wayforward, is a spin-off to the classic beat ‘em up series Kunio-Kun. But instead of playing as the series’ rough-and-tumble heroes Kunio and Riki, River City Girls turned the series’ formula on its head by having you play as their rambunctious girlfriends Misako and Kyoko as they lay the smackdown on the mean streets of River City in search of their kidnapped boyfriends.
River City Girls was hands-down one of my top-three favorite games of 2019. What enthralled me from the jump with RCG were its hybrid beat ‘em up and RPG battles. Being able to pull off a Stone Cold stunner with Misako and unleashing a powerful dab followed by a rainbow trail after wombo comboing waves of enemies as Kyoko was immensely satisfying. If you or a friend who happens to be on the receiving end of a beatdown are in need of a revival, RCG hilariously went the extra mile by having you stomp the angel floating out of Kyoko and Misako back into their bodies so you can finish fighting the good fight.
Outside of the smooth combat animations of its heroines, RCG’s cool art direction deftly utilized anime and manga styles in cutscenes. RCG cutscenes were gorgeously animated with poppy colors and fluid motion. During fully-voiced flashbacks, RCG features black and white manga panels, often depicting Misako and Kyoko’s budding friendship or providing context as to why bosses have an insatiable desire to beat the pair into the dirt.
Its catchy synth pop soundtrack by Megan McDuffee was the glue that held everything together. Each song, especially those from in-game musician Noize, effortlessly matched both the frenetic energy in combat and the lackadaisical exploration in River City.
Since Wayforward’s announcement of River City Girls 2, I’ve experienced a mix of hype and worry whether the sequel would live up to the high expectations set by its predecessor. Those fears were tempered after director Adam Tierney, project lead Bannon Rudis, and RCG2 producer Colleen Fannin shared new information on the upcoming release that set the game up to be a vast improvement to its predecessor.
In an interview with Co-Optimus, the Wayforward team revealed RCG2’s story takes place immediately after the events of the first game and will have Riki, Kunio, Misako, and Kyoko playable from the start. RCG2 also features Double Dragon heroine and RCG1’s shopkeeper with abs of steel, Marian, and River City Ransom: Underground’s Provie as playable characters.
In addition to overhauled accessories that improve weapons, RCG2 has couch and online co-op, something RCG1 didn’t offer despite fans’ demand for it.
“You’ll gain money and XP, keeping whatever accessories and items you buy, but none of the main storyline items are awarded to guest players,” Rudis told Co-Optimus. “That way, you don’t suddenly jump past story progression in your own game.”
But what of the music? According to Rudis, the soundtrack will receive an improvement as well, being “a lot more thought out to really capture the mood of each area players will visit.” Knowing composer Duffee will not only return to the sequel but also that players can listen to music while chilling at hideouts in RCG2 is a mondo-cool addition to the sequel in itself.
Overall, I’m optimistic about the trajectory the River City Girls series is taking and am especially curious about the saxophone weapon Rudis teased during the interview. One can only hope you’ll be able to serenade enemies with a powerful, and legally-distinct, soundwave of Careless Whisper.
River City Girls 2 is slated to release later this summer on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and PC.