River City: Tokyo Rumble Review — Yes. This is the Business Right Here.

This Article is part of One Week in River City, my series on the classic gaming franchise.

I took this screenshot with my phone because it used the word business in a way I enjoyed.

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River City: Tokyo Rumble came out late last year on the Nintendo 3DS. Unlike other localized River City Ransom games, it keeps a plot that’s faithful to the original Japanese version, which first released in 2013. It sees Kunio and Riki, the stars of the franchise in Japan, take their wacky fighting hijinks to the city of Tokyo, where they take on a number of themed street gangs.

It’s a fantastic follow-up to the original, and absolutely worthy of the franchise name.

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River City: Tokyo Rumble strikes a nostalgic cord right from the beginning. The character sprites and artwork are accurate recreations of the art from the original game, slightly improved but still very much within the technical bounds of the NES. Backgrounds are fully polygonal 3D, but their art style doesn’t clash with the characters. It really works.

Just like the original game, you’ll punch and kick your way through an open world, leveling up, gaining new moves…and eating lots and lots of food. Tokyo Rumble features a much beefier storyline, with short skippable cutscenes and some genuinely funny writing. In spite of not using the anglicized character names and locations from the NES translation of RCR, or the new River City Ransom Underground, the trademark humor still comes through.

In other words, there’s plenty of “BARF”ing going on here.

The game provides the player much more direction than other titles in the franchise. There’s always a clear main quest goal, and several side quests to take on as well from a job board. It’s pretty easy to figure out where you’re supposed to go and what you’re supposed to do in most cases. Also, in the item shops, you’re told exactly what each item will do for your stats. This is a far cry from the rogue-like qualities of the original template, where you just had to buy and try everything and then write it down, or have a strategy guide. I didn’t like this accessibility change at first…but it quickly grew on me.

Speaking of items, the game handles powering up a little bit differently than other entries in the franchise. As you beat up bad guys, you’ll gain experience levels, and food now solely governs your health and willpower. For bigger stat boosts, you have three slots in which to wear equipment. Hilariously, you can mix-and-match, putting any equipment type in any slot.

My main character is currently wearing three pairs of shoes, for enhanced kicking power. Maybe he has the additional shoes on his hands, or tied onto his belt?

Combat is just as fast and tight as the original game, with a couple of new techniques, but nothing that breaks the fun or the pacing. Unlike River City Ransom EX, the extra buttons on the DS layout are used to un-cramp the controls a little bit. There’s a dedicated jump button, and a full menu system accessible either with the buttons or the touch screen. You can also tap the shoulder buttons to adjust the angle of the game’s camera. A great touch.

Of all the sequel games I’ve played in the series, Tokyo Rumble is the one that feels like most like a proper River City Ransom game. It brings just enough changes to keep things fresh, while maintaining the core that made the original such a classic. This year’s River City Ransom Underground retains that classic spirit in other ways…but if you’re an RCR gameplay purist, then Tokyo Rumble is the sequel you’re looking for.

You can get it for $29.99 on the Nintendo eShop, and it plays great on the whole family of 3DS systems.

Written by

I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

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