By Benny Carrillo / June 21st, 2017
The River City franchise has become something of a second mainstay for Natsume recently. Last year we covered River City: Tokyo Rumble. This year Natsume brought not one, but two River City titles to E3: River City: Knights of Justice and River City: Rival Showdown. Let’s take a look at the former here and see how the Kunio-kun series, as it’s known in Japan, handles the transition from being a city-based brawler to being in a world of swords and staves.
This particular game has you playing as Sir Alexander Valford. Upon arriving in town you’re attacked by a goblin who thinks you’ll be an easy target. Now while this is a beat ’em up, in most games of this nature you’d just swing your swords at each other until one of you goes down. Not in a River City game, however. Combat is just like the previous games in the franchise. While you can use your weapon, you can also throw said sword and then proceed to punch and kick your enemies into submission. If there are any items in the vicinity then you can also grab them and continue to pummel your enemies. And if there’s not, you can always beat up your foes, using the bodies of other enemies. Since we’re talking about combat let’s go over the controls really quick.
Movement is handled with either the circle pad or the D-pad. If you double tap a direction you’ll end up running in that direction. You punch with the “A” button as well as use whatever weapon you have in your hand to attack enemies with. If you press “B” you’ll kick, however, if you’re holding a weapon you’ll throw in the direction you’re facing. Even it if’s a weapon you want to keep like an awesome sword. Thankfully, you can just walk back over and pick the weapon up again with the “A” button. You can also store weapons away for later. At the bottom of the screen are some equipment slots. Just press “L” and you’ll put your current weapon away and take out the next one. I tended to keep the default weapon, your fists, selected and only broke out the good weapons for a boss. That way I’d make sure I’d always have a weapon on hand. Just keep in mind that space is limited. Including your fists, you have ten slots so that only gives you nine to anything you pick-up. Jumping is performed with the “Y” button and lastly “R” is used to switch party members, more on that in a few, but for now back to our first fight.
While this first battle is a one-on-one affair, like other games in the franchise you’ll often be dealing with multiple enemies at once. Once you’ve successfully put your attacker in his place, you’ll be given your first quest, to go to a graveyard. Quests are an integral part of the game. While some will be part of the main storyline, others will be given to you by talking to NPCs in town. So make sure to talk to everyone. Not only is the dialogue funny, but you may also pick up a few sidequests along the way. Many of these just give money, but some can give items you can use. Back to the task at hand however, the graveyard, where some of the more familiar elements of a JRPG come into play.
While the River City games have always had some RPG mechanics, this time around there are even more JRPG elements in play. For one, ghosts cannot be harmed with your fists. However, swords seem to be perfectly effective against the undead so just grab a weapon and go to town! Thankfully this is all that’s needed to clear the graveyard and complete your first quest. Each time you open a new area it will appear on your world map, which looks right out of a JRPG. In fact, it seems to even have random encounters. As you move about, enemies may appear, after which you’ll be tossed into a one-screen battle with a few grunts. Sometimes it might be thieves, while other times it might be slimes. Thankfully you won’t have to go it alone as you can recruit other characters to join you on your quest. What quest, you may ask? Well, this is a JRPG inspired game, so of course, we need a classic JRPG plot to go with it.
Turns out that in this world there exists something known as the Crystal Tower. This tower housed the power of the Goddess of Love, Maghralar. However, the forces of evil tend not to like things like love. As such the tower goes dark and beings of chaos start appearing. While the kings of the land attempt to mount a counteroffensive, the forces of evil decide that’s not in their best interest and send a horde of dragons to attack one of the kingdoms, Leyholllow. Kind of a competent move for the forces of evil there. Following this, something known as the Imperial Army appears and begins subjugating the people, and years later is where our story begins. As you can see, it’s very much a loving homage to games like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy with its setup, which I do like.
River City: Knights of Justice is actually a pretty fun title. A lot of the humor is tongue-in-cheek, which is a staple of the River City franchise. In addition, it also serves as a loving homage to a lot of older JRPGs. The game launched yesterday, June 20, of the Nintendo eShop for $14.99. I actually picked this one up yesterday based on what I played at E3 and I’m still enjoying it. Really if you’re a fan of either the River City franchise or just a fan of quirky games, in general, I don’t think you can go wrong with this one. Here’s hoping for more wacky River City games in the future.
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