River City Girls 2 does everything the first one did with a bigger world, more enemies, more songs, and more technical issues.
- Title: River City Girls 2
- Release Date: December 15, 2022
- Price: $39.99
- Suggested Audience Age: Rated Everyone 10+ by the ESRB
- Availability: Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, Steam
- Recommended for fans of: Punching Jerks, Gaining XP, and Female Protagonists
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
I adored playing through River City Girls on the Nintendo Switch a few years back. Even in single-player, a good brawler can be a ton of fun, and that game went to great lengths to make an experience that took the arcade formula and translated it into a sprawling, open-world, beat 'em up RPG.
While I wasn’t as pumped about Rivery City Girls Zero (a western release of the 1994 Super Famicom game that inspired the modern versions), River City Girls 2 has stayed at the top of my wishlist. I got to play just a tiny bit of it back at PAX, and from that demo and a chat with the team, it sounded like RCG2 was going to be a very faithful sequel that did more of the same. A lot more.
I have spent several hours back in River City with this sequel, and I love everything about the expanded experience. The story is a fun build on the first and there are more side missions and more rewards to make exploring the open world fun. Unfortunately, at least on the Switch, there are some stark performance issues that literally slow things down.
Return to River City
The previous game ended with Misako and Kyoko rescuing their boyfriends, Kunio and Riki, after kicking loads of Yakuza butt. River City Girls 2 picks up immediately where the first one left off, with the four heroes going back to school. Unfortunately, the father of the big boss from the previous game decides it's time for him to bust out of jail and take control of River City, a nefarious plan that starts, naturally, with expelling the four kids from school.
This is all told in the same mix of manga-style animatic cutscenes with full voice acting as the first game, and it's a pretty funny start to things. On the downside, it's a whole lot of plot that gets dumped on you before you take control.
After getting expelled, your crew spends the next two months sitting on the couch playing video games. During this time, two critical things happen. First of all, they get lazy and complacent, completely forgetting all the cool fighting abilities they learned in the first game, and second, the Yakuza have fully taken over the town. It's only the draw of a new video game that pulls them off the couch and onto the streets, where they promptly start throwing punches.
Bigger and More
Mechanically, there aren't a lot of big, obvious changes from the first game to River City Girls 2. You can choose between four characters from the start of the game, all with similar but slightly distinct move sets. As you move through the massive open world that's even more massive than before, you bash through a constant flow of enemies gaining experience and cash.
As you gain XP, you level up to get stat boosts and unlock new moves. Cash can be spent at stores throughout the world to purchase healing items, stat boosts, and gear you can equip to augment your play style. You can also stop by a dojo to drop some coins on even more combat moves and combos.
Playing River City Girls 2 after spending time with Shredder's Revenge earlier this year has helped me clarify what makes this series feel different from other brawlers. It's got all the same basic mechanics at the moment-to-moment gameplay level, but structurally it's not a beat 'em up at all. Instead of just bashing your way from left to right, this game is about moving through the world and completing tasks. You have the main quest line that you can follow to explore more of the world, along with little side quests that you are given by NPCs. You even have a quest log in the form of a Twitter-like app on your cell phone.
See, River City Girls 2 isn't a brawler, it's an RPG with brawler mechanics— in the exact same way that Soccer Story is an RPG with soccer mechanics.
I'm about a quarter of the way through the game, and I've stopped gangsters from laundry cash, competed for the high score on a DDR machine, saved the local dodgeball court, and repaired the electrical grid for an entire sector of town. Those aren't beat 'em up tasks, they are RPG tasks… which I just happened to solve with lots and lots of punching.
I'm playing through River City Girls 2 on the Nintendo Switch, which is the same place I played the first game. Within the first few minutes of playing the game, something just didn't feel right. I actually went back and installed the original again to compare, and realized that the problem is that RCG2 has an abysmal framerate compared to the first game.
I don't normally gripe on frames much, but it is super noticeable here. The first game was buttery smooth and the amazing pixel art looked fantastic in motion. In this game, everything feels like it's got just a bit of a stutter all the time, which makes it kind of unpleasant to look at. I know that the world has an expanded scope, but each area that you are in is basically the same size as areas in the first game, so I'm not sure why this is happening.
With small screens to fight on – and loading screens between each and every area – the framerate really feels bad. It's not game-breaking, but it's a massive step down from the feeling of visual polish in the first game. I'm not sure if this is just an issue on the Switch, but I sure hope it gets fixed soon.
I adored the first River City Girls, and I think I'm well on my way to liking River City Girls 2 just as much. It still feels great to play and has a wonderful sense of humor and playfulness, but the loading screens and framerate are getting in the way a bit.
If you played the first game, there's no reason to think you wouldn't love the sequel. However, if you haven't played River City Girls, you might do well to pick that up for now since it's more stable, cheaper, and there are a lot of references back in RCG2 that you'll appreciate more after you play the first.