Review: River City Girls 2

Misako and Kyoko are back for another round of GBH

The girls had their work cut out for them, no? Topping a game like the original River City Girls isn't just difficult, it's folly. While I wasn't hugely excited about the game prior to release, it turned out to be a very solid brawl-'em-up, probably the best modern take on the genre until Streets of Rage 4 happened. Now we've recently had the likes of the rather good Final Vendetta to tide us over, but it's about time for a new River City rampage with Misako and Kyoko. But wait, who's this? Kunio and Riki are now playable too (amongst others), for a full-on four-player punch-fest  (local only) that's far crazier than the first game ever got.

Presentation is pretty much impeccable, showcasing beautifully drawn manga cutscenes with full voice acting as well as full animation. Original songs are everywhere, too, a tradition of WayForward's since... I want to say Double Dragon Neon, but someone can correct me. Menus are slick, with accessories that can be equipped for different effects - I rocked a bra and some bottoms that made most objects I threw explode, as well as granting health when I picked up money. You only get two accessory slots, though, so you won't be able to use all your favourites.

Fighting in the original River City Girls was a lot of fun, but it could feel a lot of the time that the enemies were damage sponges; it wasn't egregious, but you could sometimes get the sort of "is this motherf&$*er ever gonna die?!" blue after knocked-down baddies would get up again. And again. And again. Here, though, in River City Girls 2, the issue has been fixed. Enemies are much breezier to battle with now, but that doesn't mean they're pushovers. Enemy variety is pretty great, with a large cast of punching bags to sock your way through, grabbing the fallen bozos' cash and spending it on stat upgrades, new moves in the Dojo or just blowing it on ice cream.

And what new moves. The Girls' (and Boys') arsenal has considerably expanded, making for a much more approachable and yet thoroughly personal fighting experience. You unlock moves faster, here, and can start incorporating them into your playstyle immediately. Each of the characters has a different fighting style to adapt to, but switching characters often can be beneficial as it ensures they'll be levelled up for when you need them. If you can't face the swarms of enemies alone, the "recruiting" system from the first game has been overhauled, meaning that you can now use your hard-earned cash to buy more powerful mercenaries to help you out in tough spots.

The world is the star here, with consistently brilliant pixel art visuals and a fantastic sense of character running through the whole thing. The visuals were a little scuppered by a nasty little frame-rate bug that tainted the game's launch somewhat, but a fix is coming - and is already available on the PC version. Though, to be frank, it was perfectly playable even at 30fps, just not as desirable considering that the first game in the series was locked 60. Christ, I hate framerate talk, but ya gotta do it! Backtracking also remains an issue, as with the original, but that's to be expected in a game of this structure, and the increased breeziness of the gameplay makes it less gut-wrenching to realise you need to cross a huge chunk of map to progress.

While the original River City Girls was a good time, this sequel ramps almost everything up and doesn't ruin anything that was already good - pretty much all you could ask for in a sequel. Yes, it's more of the same, but when the same was so good before and is so much better now, I fail to see the problem. Grab three friends and start staving heads in. Sorry, maybe that's a touch too violent. Erm... do a rolling kick followed by a high knee then stamp on their gut for the finish!