NES – #11 – River City Ransom


I know, blasphemy, but I’ve definitely never played this game. In fact, I only heard about it recently in the wake of a possible remake of the game for the 3DS!


I don’t like beat ’em ups. I didn’t care for Double Dragon II, or Ninja Turtles II, and I don’t dream of anthropomorphic toads when I sleep… which is probably healthy. Still, I’ve heard nothing but praise for this game so I’m hoping this will be the game that might change my outlook on the genre.

Day 1:


See that? That’s how I knew I was going to love this game.

The first thing I found when starting the game, well aside from how great it looked, was how badly playing Double Dragon had damaged me. Throughout my entire play session with RCR I would catch myself trying to push B to attack left and A to attack right. This was mostly not an issue as I’d naturally press the D-pad in the corresponding direction at the same time, but it’s still something I wish my brain would just stop doing!

The style of the game was amazing, it had me hooked from the start. I can’t say the game’s deep at all but the beatings are just SO satisfying, especially how they added the little blocking mechanic to make your brawls more exciting. I also couldn’t help but mentally replace Alex and Ryan with Yusuke and Kuwabara though…


The towns are a bit odd for me, in the sense that while I find them extremely charming, I don’t understand them. That is to say, I get that I eat food to gain stats, but aside from the really obvious ones I don’t quite understand the stats I’m gaining. I kind of would prefer a more direct leveling system, maybe EXP based, rather than buying your stats. Still, these breaks only add to the game, and I love it.


Did I mention this game’s style gives me a huge case of the happy’s? It does. It only got crazier when I had my wife join in. She was able to pick up on the game immediately and we spent most of the night laughing and yelling at each other. This was mostly because the game has friendly fire… and it’s hilarious…

“Okay I’m throwing a rock!”
“You hit me with a rock!”
“Yeah well you bashed me over the head with a hubcap like four times!”

It’s going to be an interesting meeting with the divorce lawyer…

Not everthing is awesome though. Adding a second player cranked the lag up to 11, and there was already some decent lag playing solo. Also, the game doesn’t seem to be very good with direction. Bosses seem to spawn randomly, and at different locations, and at the very least a map would have been very helpful. We eventually got lost and beaten repeatedly, and decided to call it.

In bed I fired up a speedrun which shed a lot of light on my points of confusion. Certain requirements need to be met for bosses to appear, what items are worth taking, and giving me a general sense of where to go. I’m pretty sure I can beat this game next time I play now.


In the meantime I’m going to enjoy a tasty Merv Burger…

Day 2:


You can’t see it in the screenshot, ’cause I’m too fast, but I just kicked this dude three times!

So yeah, turns out this game gets a lot easier when I actually buy those upgrade abilities. I came up with the money for the triple kick pretty quickly, then farmed for just a little bit for the triple punch.

After reading into it, and noticing that the bosses often give clues as to where I need to go next, I was able to wrap my head around how the game worked and it really wasn’t so bad. The map is actually fairly small and the random gang system was actually pretty neat! I was eventually able to afford the triple weapon attack upgrade which, frankly, felt like it trivialized the rest of the game.


I finally reached River City High School where I proceeded to get lost for a good 20 minutes. I know the school’s small, but I didn’t realize there was a boss in the gym… Once he was taken care of I saved my girlfriend who didn’t even stick around long enough for me to get a picture, so, that was cool.


Ha! Check it out, it’s the Lee brothers, Ug and Home!

…That was from a really bad move…

Anyway the Dragon Twins took two tries after they got me in a corner and stun-locked me the first go around. After a successful attempt, it was off to take down Slick once and for all.




I really liked this game! I was a bit concerned at first about not being able to figure out where to go or what to do but it was all actually fairly simple. The controls felt really good, though more than a couple deaths came from me sprinting into a wall. The music was forgettable, but the art style was fantastic.

The one issue I can think of was the addition of RPG elements. This feature is something that people widely praise about this game, but I personally found it superfluous. I didn’t get a single stat aside from Max HP over 18, and all that really mattered was me saving enough money for the three “correct” upgrades. The shop scenes were great, but it ultimately felt like a distraction rather than a key element of the game.

All that said, easily my favorite beat ‘am for the console, and possible my favorite console beat ’em up period!


– Tight controls and fun weapons made combat a blast.
– Art and animation was fantastic.
– The game was short enough to never feel like it was droning on for too long, but long enough to be satisfying.
– The story was simple, but the context made it a lot of fun.
– Co-op play leads to hilarious situations, and often violence.
– Merv Burger.


– Solo play lagged occasionally, and co-op play lagged badly.
– Music was fine but forgettable.
– RPG elements were great in concept, but could have been executed better.
– Case in point: Buy Grand Slam for $57, find a pipe or chain, proceed to faceroll game.

River City Ransom

One comment on “NES – #11 – River City Ransom

  1. Pingback: NES Retrospective 20 – 11 | 600 Games

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