In the late 80′s and early 90′s game developers were producing a unique mix of genres for the NES. This game, for one, is a clever blend of a Side-Scrolling Beat’Em’Up with many aspects of an Adventure-RPG (such as skills, stores and items). It’s non-linear, meaning you can backtrack through the world and get items and fight bosses that you may have previously missed. River City is swarming with gangs, each with different colored clothes and distinct fighting patterns. The story follows two brothers, Ryan and Alex, who must trek across River City, beating up gangs with lead pipes, brass knuckles and steel chains, throwing garbage cans, tires and rocks, all while trying to save Ryan’s girlfriend who was captured by a villain named Slick who is hanging out on the River City High School roof.
There were many games for the NES that shared the same fighting style and stage layouts but before you start bickering that Double Dragon was a superior game, let’s look at some of the things that make River City Ransom the game that it is! First of all you’ll notice that you get money from beating up gang members that you can use in stores throughout the game to buy various types of food and drinks, stat enhancing items and even skill books! The story is a little basic at first, you know, the whole save the princess deal done in an urban setting, but in fact the guys you beat up always say things that scroll across the bottom of the screen, mostly nonsensical babble but sometimes you’ll find helpful clues and locations of gang leaders.
NES only supported two buttons besides start & select and those are assigned to punch and kick, press both of them at the same time for jump and While you’re holding a weapon, the punch button enables you to strike with it & kick is to throw it. Double tapping on the control pad makes you run in that direction. It’s pretty deep for just a couple buttons and a control pad but it gives the player a little something to keep them on their toes and before you know it you’ll be hopping from opponent to opponent with ease. The backgrounds are stunning for an 8 bit game as they really give depth to River City. You’ll find yourself on the streets, in marketplaces, parks, construction sites, inside factory’s and so on which can easily be done on a linear game where you leave the previous stage behind but being non-linear really gives the game style.
The sound effects are a bit high pitched at times but for fans of retro games it has that special ring that is to be expected, even the storekeepers scrolling words have their own special tone. The music tracks for different scenes are memorable and comforting, giving River City the diversity in audio that it has in visuals. After going through a long list of terrible titles in my NES collection, this game is really a treat for the eyes and ears as well as providing hours of entertainment! With or without a second player, you’ll still find yourself pulling this one off the shelf for another go! To conclude, you won’t find many games on the NES that are quite as much fun as this one!