Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: River City Ransom

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chris-littlechild - July 23, 2014

The late eighties/early nineties were the formative years of gaming. It's kind of like our college days, where we decide if we're going to be a lawyer/stockbroker/caricaturist at the mall/alcoholic/bisexual. Apparently, while video games were at college, they decided that what they were going to be was pretty effing violent.

This was the era of the side-scrolling beat 'em up. The Genesis had Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, the notoriously lisp-tastic Altered Beast (wise fwom your gwave!) and so forth. You'd find them jostling for school-truanting youths' attention in arcades with Final Fight. The message was plain: if you want to cruise from left to right and punch bad dude face, games have you covered.

All of these are fametastic classics of the genre, but there's another that bears mentioning. Hold on to your asses, here comes River City Ransom. This 1989 NES release embellishes the usual ass-kickery with some fancy RPG elements. Let's see how that worked out.

'Barf?' The Batman cartoon would be proud of that one.

The story follows Ryan and Alex, students at River City High. Ryan's girlfriend has been kidnapped by some bastard or other by the name of ‘Slick.' Needless to say, Ryan is all kinds of pissed about the whole situation. Equally needless to say, a heroic scrolly rescue mission across the city is in order.

HOWEVER! Put your pants back on and pay attention, because that's where the first major genre difference comes in. This is an entirely free-roaming experience, with none of the ‘levels' or ‘stages' business you may have seen in lesser games. River City Ransom just wants you to stride mantastically about the world map as you please. Which is just what you do, dispensing beatdowns like a homicidal vending machine with angry fists as you go.

Screw you, Ivan.

As you make your way through town, you'll be beset by gang-dudes. The dudes of nine different gangs, no less. The Jocks, The Frat Guys, The... Squids; they're all here and they all want to wang you in the face with a steel pipe.

You're armed with your standard issue punches and kicks, but it also gets a little more ambitious with River City Ransom. At the cafes around the world map, you can buy different foods and drinks which augment your stats in all kinds of ways. As you'd expect of an RPG-lite, this will entail boosting your speed, attacking strength and the like. It's not shit-your-pants revolutionary, but it's a step beyond other beat ‘em ups and lends a little customization to proceedings.

All in all, this is a cult classic right here. The mechanics, the cheeky toontastic visuals and spirit, what's not to like?

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