River City Girls Zero review (PS4)

After enjoying River City Girls so much when it launched about three years ago, we were happy to see WarForward coming out with another brawler in the franchise. Here’s our review of River City Girls Zero, which is available for all major systems right now after an earlier launch on the Nintendo Switch. Our thougts are based on the PS4 version.

It’s been a good couple of years for fans of the retro beat ’em up experience, with both ports and new releases in franchises like Streets of Rage, Battletoads and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. WayForward’s own River City Girls also contributed, as a great new spin-off entry in the Kunio-kun franchise. River City Girls Zero sounds like a prequel designed to follow in the footsteps of that game, but it’s actually a relaunch of a game that originally launched on the SNES back in 1994, and was only localized to English-speaking territories recently.

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As per the norm for this genre, there’s a short premise to help set up the action, which this time involves long time veterans of the series Kunio and Riki being wrongfully imprisoned. They decide to break out of prison when their girlfriends get kidnapped, and after getting rid of some guards they start on their road to redemption.

Of course this isn’t much more than a prelude to a familiar concept, with side scrolling stages in which bad guys need to be taught a lesson. You’ll have all the usual moves available to you as well, so expect to be punching, kicking and jumping when you’re not blocking incoming attacks. What’s nice is that you can switch between characters whenever you want, and the moment you rescue your girlfriends that includes them, giving you access to four characters with unique special moves.

River City Girls Zero suffers from something that many games from that time period had though – somewhat clunky gameplay. Consoles and home computers of the time were limited in what they could do, and games that rivaled what arcades could deliver were the exception rather than the rule. This one is no exception, and isn’t as good as the fantastic Streets of Rage games for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, which were released in the same period.

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It’s not a generic game in the genre though, as it does a few things that are quite novel. There’s the ability to switch between characters at any time, and there are even some Road Rash-inspired racing sequences. It’s not as refined as other combat racers, but it makes for an interesting touch that elevates the game to being more than just a brawler. It’s all very “16-bit console” in terms of how refined it is, but it does make for an interesting twist.

Coming from River City Girls, the visuals in Zero are quite basic, from the design to the quality of the animations. There were better looking examples in the genre on the SNES, but at least the music is excellent. Combined with the rather basic combat, however, there isn’t too much that’ll sway you in this game’s direction if you’re already playing River City Girls or another recent (and better) brawler. Fun for those nostalgic about the series, but don’t expect too much.

Score: 6.2/10

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