River City Ransom GBA Review

River City Ransom is undoubtedly one of the most under appreciated video games of all time. Premiering on the NES, this classic Techno's beat-em-up was revolutionary for its time, adding RPG-like elements to what could have been yet another clone of Double Dragon. Now an entirely new generation of gamers has a chance to experience the game in a new form and on a new console. It's not without faults, but this is a great way to experience this cult favorite.
Seems that some guy named Slick has decided he wanted River City High for his own evil doing. As any decent video game villain would, he has also captured Cindy (along with the rest of school's students), girlfriend of Ryan and one of the playable characters. Joining in the fight to return order is Alex, a close personal friend to Ryan also looking to take back the high school. You'll traverse through the city, battling various gangs of teenage thugs in some of the most humorous ways possible. The same beat-em-up aspects that made the original game famous are back. Unlike the original, you'll start with one of the maneuvers that needed to be earned in the first edition. It will either be a rapid-fire kick or punch depending on your character choice. This does make things a bit easier and it's almost a shame since the amount of normal moves has been increased. Roundhouse kicks, foot sweeps, backhands, and a kick to the shins have all been added. New, much more powerful moves can be added to your arsenal by purchasing books at one of the various shops around the city. There is a much larger inventory in this game and getting all the moves will take some time. Controlling them is a bit of a problem since the game never uses the L and R trigger buttons. Trying to cram 20+ moves onto two buttons can be a problem later in the game. Moves, of course, are not the only thing that can be purchased at the various strip malls. There's food to keep up your energy, will power, and to increase the countless other aspects of your character. You can buy magazines that don't just serve as entertainment value (though buying the video game magazine early on is recommended for maximum humor), head into a sauna, and grab some take out food for later during those extended battles. There is seemingly no end to how powered up you can make your character. It really depends on how much time your willing to put into the game. You'll notice some new weapons strewn across the game as well. There is a new longer chain that gives the game a cool Castlevania feel and now garbage cans can now be tossed onto the enemyís head, cutting off their vision. Of course, the same thing can happen to you if your not careful. The classic text dialogue that followed each character as he got beat down has also returned, updated to appeal to the more modern audience. Pay close attention when your fighting the "Gamers" gang. There's some great stuff in there. This update also crams in a few new features, but loses some in the process. The 2-player co-op the game is so famous for is completely gone. A computer AI controlled character who can join in on the action has replaced it. This might have been a decent replacement but the AI simply isn't up to the task. You can actually play around in the countless menus and adjust certain aspects of his behavior, but it really never makes a difference. Completely new to the game is the ally system. Along the way, defeated enemy characters will offer to join you on your quest (up to 4), but they have the same problems as mentioned above. The way this game can be tweaked is quite stunning, from the number of characters on screen at once, how many enemies you'll face in one section, and how they fight once they join the battle. Later in the game you'll have the ability to edit your characters look as well. There are plenty of other tweaks to be made as well but the instruction booklet doesn't explain anything. I turned "obstacles" all the way up but have yet to figure out what it does exactly. The menus system isn't very clear either so you'll go through a lot of guesswork before finding the balance that appeals to you. There's a real cool feature that tracks every move you make as well (percentage of punches landed, etc.). Thankfully, the insane password system from the NES game is gone. Ask anyone who has ever had to type in one of those 40+ character passwords and see if they got it right on the first try. It's almost a guaranteed no. Everything you've accomplished in this game is saved, but no matter where you are when you save, you'll end up all the way back to the beginning of the game. While it sounds bad, you can run through the game to the hijacked school in a matter of minutes if you don't stop. Should you die, you'll lose half your cash and be sent back to the closest mall. The graphics have received a pleasant facelift but not a total overhaul. Fans of the original will recognize all the locals and characters. There is certainly more detail on the sprites and animation has been significantly improved. Any flicker or slowdown that crept its way into the initial game has been completely removed, a definite improvement. All of the music has returned in remixed form (yes, even the Double Dragon theme). The music here is just classic stuff and some of the best tunes to ever grace the NES. It's even better here on the portable. The sound of someone getting beaned in the back of the head by a rock sounds even more painful than it did before. Die-hard fans will be in heaven and those new to the game will enjoy this soundtrack for the first time. The lack of any real 2-player action will most likely be a huge downer for a large group of people. Whether or not you can accept this major change will likely decide on how much enjoyment you'll get out of the cart. If it's not too big of problem, you'll find the same amount of enjoyment here that you did back when you first discovered the game. Very little has been changed in the gameplay area. If by some chance you've never been given the opportunity to play through the original, this is a great way to start.

Comments (2)

River City Ransom was a killer game on the NES, and I really might have to save up for a GBA so I can play this game again. Does that hidden shop in that tunnel with all the weird potions and items and other wacky stuff still exist in this game?

Oh, it's there. Plenty of new stuff too. You can buy lottery tickets this time around for $10. I've won a grand a few times, but top prize is $100,000. That will take you through the entire game. I've been trying all week but the bext I could do is a grand. Sadly, I just noticed the free smile is gone from Merv Burger. :-/

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