When I was a kid, I loved the NES game Renegade. And a few years later, I loved River City Ransom. It was like fifteen years later that I found out that they were related. That's of course because of the weird localization (or often lack thereof) of the Kunio-kun series in America.
Over the years, I've looked back on River City Ransom with immense praise. In my mind, it's one of my essential NES games. If I were to build a list, it'd certainly be within my Top 25 or whatever. Of course anytime I go back and replay a childhood favorite, I'm a little nervous that it won't hold up. The last time I played River City Ransom was the GBA port, probably around 2009 or so.
The good news is that it holds up. My goodness, does this game still hold up. Speaking purely of its merits as a NES beat-em-up, I feel like RCR blows the Double Dragon series out of the water. The fighting is just SO GOOD. There's legit blocking. It feels like a really refined parry system. And the upgrades to your moves earned via buying books is so satisfying. Dragon Kick rules.
The game is also so incredibly ahead of its time. This is a beat-em-up, sure, but it doesn't feel arcadey. Instead, it utilizes an open world, which is incredible. It's almost like taking Renegade (or Double Dragon if that makes you feel better) and setting it up like Zelda. Plus there's some slight-ish RPG mechanics. You upgrade your stats, which is again, truly forward thinking.
So far I've beaten up a bunch of the gang bosses. I think the last one was Mojo. Now I'm heading back to the bridge so I can farm Benny and Clyde for money to buy some new boots with before proceeding. I'm looking forward to seeing this one through again.
Well, I made it to the last boss, but hit a wall.
The problem is I tried to rush through to the end, so I didn't spend enough time grinding for stat upgrades. I also gave up on buying the boots, which aren't available at the last mall right before the high school. Lame.
So now, I've spent several tries going from the mall to the high school, making it to the very end, and beefing it. Oh well. This is still a great game. A classic. I love it. But I don't have it in me to backtrack (and make that LONG jump through the factory) to get to an earlier mall to then grind up $100 for boots, and more money for stat upgrades. So, that's it for now.