Wednesday, June 8, 2011

River City Ransom EX: Even Ransomer

River City Ransom is a tough game to write about because it is hard to stop playing it. I didn't actually play the NES game when I was a young kid, but I was one of the many people that discovered it later on emulator. It's a rare game because it has really good fighting physics, a lot of depth for a brawler, and it is downright fun. I recently picked up the 2004 remake, River City Ransom EX for the Game Boy Advance, for only a few dollars. I'd heard mixed opinions on it from friends, but for the price I figured it was worth checking out.


River City Ransom EX is a surprisingly hardcore take on the game. Before even the title screen is displayed you are greeted with a clumsy menu system that allows you to change all sorts of options for the game. It's an inauspicious start to the game, but since this menu system is also used for the game's pause menu it is something you get used to before too long. All of the ill will build up by this slips away once you are in control of your character. The controls feel like River City Ransom should, and rival gangs are quickly making acquaintance with your character's fists.


Even so, the complicated menus are actually a fair tip off that this game is not as simple as the NES game that is remembered so well. The sprites aren't the only thing to get a major overhaul, the combat has been significantly deepened with moves for new contexts, new moves, and a general addition of badassery. There are back-attacks, new throws, and juggles. The stats play a bigger role in the way combat is calculated and there is an appropriately diverse set of new store items to buff the stats you need, not to mention all of the varied special moves.

There is only one reason I can think that anyone would not like River City Ransom EX, and that is that it is too complicated for a side-scrolling brawler. The original sidelined its RPG elements by keeping the combat simple, but this version revels in its own intricacies. You can edit all sorts of details of the game world, and fighting system is really insane. It's an extremely cool remake of a game that I love, but it does require a relatively high commitment to learn compared to other brawlers. I suppose you could just mash your way through it, but I can't do that because it seems like I'd be doing a disservice to the great design that went into the combat.

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