River City Ransom
Box Shot
River City Ransom
Platform: NES
Publisher: American Technos
Designer: Technos
Genre: Beat-em-up
Players: 2 (Simultaneous)
Published Date 1989
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

The combining of genres is often a difficult task. Although it seem to make sense to combine action and RPG elements (Castlevania 2) but if you were to mention a Double Dragon-like game with statistics measuring your strength, you'd probably get odd looks all around. River City Ransom not only tries this apporach, but it succeeds, and pass the quality of all of the Double Dragon games to boot!

Plots in the games like these don't matter, but it seems that Ryan's girlfriend has been kidnapped and thugs have overrun the town and schools. Well, since Ryan has got nothing better to do now that his high school has been overrun, he enlists the help of his friend Alex, and it's off on a madcap quest to River City High, where his girlfriend is being held.

Each of the two buttons are used for punching and kicking, and both buttons at the same time will jump. Additionally, you can run by double tapping a direction. Every enemy you defeat will give you some amount of cash (like most RPGs, the more powerful the bad guy, the benefits you reap.) In turn, money can be used to buy things (as one would also expect. What else would you do with it?) Some things simply increase your life...others extend your life meter, make your stats go up (more powerful punches/kicks, better throwing power, better defense, etc.), but no doubt the coolest things are the techniques. The most basic are Stone Hands and Dragon Feet, which allow you to kick several times rapidly with only one button press. There are other like Acro Circus (you spin when you jump), Javelin Man (throw bad guys like a spear), and several others that will keep you nice and happy.

Of course, there are many different weapons you find in the game, like the usual assortment of bats, pipes, trash cans, and brass knuckles. But you can also pick up an enemy that's lying on the floor and use them to bash in the skulls of other gang members! However, most guys go down with only a few hits...unless you set it on Advanced mode. The game is generally path is generally linear, although there are a few spots that break off. Most of your time will be spent in one area, building up cash and maxing out your stats. There is one point in the game that you will have to backtrack, so make sure to kill all the enemies in each screen and see if there's a boss (who have a tendency to give info once you kill them.)

Some of the play mechanics are neat...for instance, if you punch an enemy at the same time you do, you'll block (instead of both of you inflicting damage, like in Double Dragon.) Also, when you die, you go back to the last town you went to, with half of the money. Essentially, there is no Game Over unless you declare it yourself. Most of the enemies are fairly easy to beat, until you get farther in the game, where you need more powerful defense and offense ratings to stand a chance against the baddies. Once you are strong enough, most enemies are cake...even most of the bosses (except for the Dragon Twins near the end of the game...kinda spooky how they play the Double Dragon when you fight them, isn't it?)

The graphics are decent, but the real treat is the way everyone looks. Although all characters have the same chubby, stub legged body, most of the guys have different or different colors. This brings on a lot less repetition than most games of this type. The music's okay, a tune that will stick in your head without getting too annoying. It is very easy to control your characters, and even though it's simplicity itself to beat up someone, it sure is fun! The only thing wrong is when you have to jump on boxes at one point the games...it's very difficult to do without falling off. Two player mode is a blast, except for major slowdown at most part, and there's no way to make your companion invincible to your attacks (so you could end up killing them!)

This game is a lost gem...it's easy to get into the game, due to the sheer fun and ease off beating crud out of everyone, without constantly getting knocked down or hurt. Yeah, it may be kinda easy. So what? It'll take at least two hours for most players to get through the game, and it's so fun you'll wanna play it again. This game is definitely worthy of being in any Nintendo fan's collection, and still resides in my heart as the best beat-em-up game in existence.