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River City Ransom (NES) artwork

River City Ransom (NES) review

"River City Ransom (given the rather masculine name of ''Street Gangs'' in Australia) is perhaps the most enjoyable NES game you'll ever play. At a quick glance it may appear to be your run of the mill, scroll this way and that way and beat up a person or two type of game, but it has a surprisingly large amount of depth to it. You can choose to play as either Alex or Ryan, they both fight the same and only look slightly different. It turns out that Ryan's girlfriend has been kidnapped by same bad..."

River City Ransom (given the rather masculine name of ''Street Gangs'' in Australia) is perhaps the most enjoyable NES game you'll ever play. At a quick glance it may appear to be your run of the mill, scroll this way and that way and beat up a person or two type of game, but it has a surprisingly large amount of depth to it. You can choose to play as either Alex or Ryan, they both fight the same and only look slightly different. It turns out that Ryan's girlfriend has been kidnapped by same bad dudes over the other side of town, and of course you have to wander all the way over there and get her back. What an unfortunate way for these High School people (who should be busy doing homework!) to spend their day!

The graphics of River City Ransom are very nice indeed; they're some of the best visuals that I've seen so far on my NES. The characters have a certain repetitive charm to them; every single one of the hoods that you have to beat up will have the exact same body. It's a fairly muscular body with the fists balled up in front of it (even the heroes share this). The thing that sets the characters apart from each other are their faces, each character has a completely different set of features and head of hair from the person before him. You'll get people with big noses, big eyebrows, big hair; any type of facial design has been included here! The animations have been done pretty well, although when the people run they look a little like Solid Snake did in MGS (no arm movement!), but it's always a joyous occasion to see those little legs between your character pumping away. The animations in response to the application of a physical attack (try saying that five times quickly) are very good, maybe even comical. Hit a person and they'll screw up their eyes in pain, or attack their mid-section and the person will keel over in pain. It's all as realistic as one could have hoped for, and only the monotony of the body design and its apparel spoil the characters.

The backgrounds look fantastic; there is an awful lot of variety and a large amount of detail in all of the scenes. You start off placed against the backdrop of your school, with it's mundane yellow building and the big fence in front of it (which just happens to be cracking and showing signs of wear and tear, a wonderful effect). From there on you will go through many different types of streets and buildings, each with new and exciting backgrounds until you reach the other side of town (which looks remarkably like the place where you started). There are always things such as houses, or construction vehicles or just plain old nature stuff to make the scenes very interesting, despite the obvious limitations of the console the actual choices of scenes are very realistic. Colours have also been chosen nicely, there's a wide range of hues to be seen and it never gets too boring at all. The backgrounds as a whole look great and do a nice job of making the characters fit in and look a bit better.

Overall, the graphical package looks superb and compares remarkably well to pretty much any NES game you can find. It appears that nothing notable has been left out, the designers appear to have included everything to please those that see it. You certainly won't tire of these graphics in the long run!

The sound is very fitting for a game of this genre, it also accompanies the graphics to a certain extent, there's a little bit of repetition but not enough to make the looping track ever really stand out. You won't find yourself memorising a few short bars of music due to constant playing of a certain piece, the sections of music go for long enough to make them very listenable. The actual quality of the background music is very high, they're all upbeat tracks that could just have you tapping your toes along in time with them. There are not that many tracks to listen to, but the quality of them more than make up for it. One may count four or five different tunes, each one jumping in at certain bits of the game (the music that springs up when you fight against a boss is my personal favourite), and of course they have been chosen carefully as they fit their certain sections very nicely. This is the type of background music that you won't be afraid to leave turned up!

The sound effects are a bit lacklustre, dropping the ball a little bit when it comes to quality. The punch and kick sound effects in particular are the most disappointing, a stock-standard THWACK would have done nicely, but what they've used is an inaudible little noise not even worthy of being connected to a flick on the ears. The rest of the sound effects are just the usual BEEPS or BLOOPS that a person should be accustomed to, nothing out of the ordinary here, just an average collection of effects in River City Ransom.

Overall, the sound is excellent for the most part. The background music does a very nice job of giving the game charisma; the sound effects do nothing more than accompany the tunes a little bit. A bit more variety or clarity in the effects department would have been nice, but I suppose we'll just have to put up with what they've got.

The gameplay is some of the most interesting stuff I have ever come across, it combines some slick controls, classic fighting and certain RPG elements to make one extremely playable game. Of course due to there only being two action buttons fighting was always going to be a bit simplistic, one button will kick and the other will perform a punch. If you happen to pick up a weapon then those two buttons will let you attack with the weapon or throw it at someone! The directional buttons move your fighter in any direction and tapping the button twice will make you run, any questions? But seriously folks, these controls might sound a bit simplistic, but they are very responsive and make it very easy to control your character!

Every time your character wanders into a new section, a few little words will appear along the bottom! These words will tell you exactly who you're fighting against, you've got all different little mini-gangs (most of which are taken from High School stereotyping) that have varying abilities. You'll have to fight against exchange students, jocks, homeboys and even a nasty little band who call themselves ''The Mob''. As you go through you'll find that you'll be facing off against students who are more highly adept at fighting than the people before them, thankfully you can never fight against more than two people at a time so it's not always so hectic. A nice little touch is the individual names that have been given to each of the fighters. Play the game enough and you should be able to rattle off their monikers quite easily ''Oh, here comes that daredevil Curt, I hope he's not looking for trouble'' and many other witty phrases like that can be derived from this feature.

There are of course many miscellaneous objects littering the battlegrounds, they're often referred to as ''weapons''. Things such as metal knuckles, metal pipes, metal chains or metal trash cans can all be used to inflict further damage upon your foe. Of course they can also pick up these things, and you can actually hurt yourself with them, so they're not such an advantage in the end. It's very satisfying to see a leap pipe bounce off the wall and into your head, simply because of the semi-realism of the whole scene.

There are a lot of bad dudes out there, and it's pretty tough to make it through ALL of them without dying (of course you don't actually have to kill them all if you don't want to). Luckily, if you are dealt with unkindly and run out of life, then you will only be sent back to the previous checkpoint which just happens to be a mall. These malls are also the areas that give the game its RPGish features! Of course the battling is very simplistic, and any half-concussed gym teacher could do it easily, so the game has had STATS added in to make it a bit tougher. When a foe is vanquished, it will leave a coin behind; you must build up a healthy collection of money to splurge at the malls! At the malls there are quite a few shops, most of them sell food but others might sell apparel or books. Purchasing and then consuming some food will most likely increase your stats in areas such as stamina, kick power, punch power, defence and many more. If you get the right books then they will teach you a special move or two; all of these things are vital should you be striving for success.

Should you feel as if you've had enough for one day, there is a handy password system where you can record your progress. These passwords are rather long (33 letters or numbers) but are worth recording in the long run if you really want to make a dash at winning this game. Another awesome feature of the game is your 2-Player mode, which is far more fun than flying solo. It can lead to many heated arguments, as the players can actually deal damage out to each other, but it's all usually in good fun. Having to take on half as many enemies is a bonus as well! When one character dies, all the other one has to do is walk into a new screen and their buddy will be there waiting for them, pure genius!

Overall, the gameplay of River City Ransom is stellar! It has so many enjoyable features that make it worth playing, without all of those worrisome ''downsides'' that a lot of other games out there have. It is an interesting mix of two very different genres and it has been pulled off magnificently, you would be hard pressed to find gameplay of this calibre anywhere, let alone the NES (on which it leaves the opposition for dead).

The lifespan would be mid-range to high, it's not the longest game you'll ever come across but it will still take a while to traverse the city for the first time. Of course, when you do finally manage to finish the game then you'll most likely want to finish it again a large number of times. When you throw the multiplayer option into the bag, you're left with a lifespan that could very well be measured in years, it's just that darn good.

The fun factor is extremely high, I rented this game out by chance the first time, and it gave me absolute unbridled joy. The malls in particular are extremely fun, wandering around into all of the shops and flirting with the girls that serve you, just magic. During the fighting, all of the interaction between the characters makes it deliriously enjoyable as well. It's a game with a great sense of humour, all sorts of quirky little animations will make you grin or even giggle with delight, finishing the game will give you a great deal of satisfaction as well. It's next to impossible to find a fun factor that compares to this one.

The challenge would be somewhere between medium and high, as if you're not careful those enemies can really pound you into the ground. There are two different difficulty levels to choose from, and you can actually switch between them during the game should you feel the need. It's certainly not the easiest game you'll ever come across, but all it takes is persistence and you can find yourself fast approaching the finale.

If it weren't for Tetris, I would consider this to be perhaps the greatest NES game of all time (taking into consideration I haven't played an extremely large amount of NES games). It takes some great elements from two genres and forges them together into one of the most easily playable games of all time. If you own a NES and haven't experienced the ''magic'' of River City Ransom then you are urged to do so immediately. It's a game that gamers of all ages can enjoy, a game that once it enters your life you might just never see the back of it. River City Ransom is an absolute classic pure and simple, beating up hundreds of people who all have the same routine at the gym has never been so much fun!
- There is no gameplay as yummy as this, this is the epitome of yummy gameplay!
- Very nice audio/video sections
- A fun factor that is simply off the scale
- Abnormally large lifespan

- The enemies often say ''BARF'' when they die, more historic last words would have been nicer
- The hero who has actually had his girlfriend kidnapped is meant to be Player Two, isn't it strange?
- This section is filled with trivial complaints
SOUND - 8/10
GAMEPLAY - 10/10
LIFESPAN - 10/10
FUN FACTOR - 10/10
OVERALL - 10/10

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Community review by kingbroccoli (April 25, 2004)

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