When I first saw the trailer for River City: Tokyo Rumble, it reminded me of the standard 90’s beat ‘em up’s such as Double Dragon and Streets of Rage. When I started playing I was pleasantly surprised that it was both like those games in that it was had weapons and items but different in that you could purchase things for later use. Having a portable version of beat ‘em ups is some people’s dream and this might just be what they’re looking for.
The two Mini-games you can play are rumble and dodgeball. Both of them add more players as you advance the story, but you can play either before you start the story mode. For each of the mini-games there’s three ways to play, single player, local play, and download play. If you choose single player, you choose both your character and the three other characters of the CPU. If you go to local play you can either join a match or host one of up to four players. Download play is an option where the owner is able to share the game with their friends locally so they can play without having to purchase a copy themselves. I love the options available for playing as it really encourages multiplayer with others, especially with the option of download play.
Each of the characters you can choose possess their own special moves for both dodgeball and rumble. Rumble is the standard mode you have where you try to attack each other with your moves and objects around. Dodgeball is played by throwing dodgeballs at opponents to reduce their life meter, and you can perform special moves to do extra damage or catch to block damage received. I loved the ability to choose the music you battle to and the stage but, I would have loved to see the possibility of turning the use of weapons on or off.
The story starts off with one of Kinio’s friends being beat up by some street gang members. Kinio runs after them as they flee. Kinio finds out that the gangsters that beat up Kinio’s friend are part of a completely different gang that is try to take over Tokyo after they have already taken over all the suburbs. Over time you fight each of the bosses and finally you go to Hong Kong.
In the middle of the story you meet other fighters that you can add as companions who will fight alongside you, each with their own special set of skills which can work with any play style. After completing the story there is an option to continue playing at your present level. I enjoyed the story a lot, especially the amount of humor. The characters are constantly cracking jokes, such as when one the of them calls the teacher “babe.” It also had moments of seriousness, talking about friendship and doing the right thing through the many different characters. Though it is quite short for a standard beat ’em up, it isn’t unacceptable. You can lengthen play time through the various jobs you can take, as well as exploring the cities to find secret areas and buy everything. There is some voice acting but not a lot, and it’s all in Japanese, adding to the overall ambiance. The music is very good and done in an 8 – 16 bit style to match that of 90’s beat ‘em ups.
After the first mission, the job store opens up to let you take objectives in exchange for goods such as money or special moves you learn. Each suburb has at least one restaurant where you can refill the life of both player and companion, a bookstore where you purchase special moves, a clothing store where you can buy gear that improve stats, and a fast food joint where you can health items to consume later. As you fight, both you and your companion level up and your stats are raised. There are two types of moves you can perform with special moves helping you perform far more. At the beginning you get a couple special moves to start you off but the rest you either have to buy or complete jobs for. The three simple buttons you have eventually expand so much it’s hard to keep up with what you’re doing. The special moves make for a lot of fun as you try to beat up foes with crazy combos. One of the very fun special moves you can get let’s you slam dunk any weapons that you’re holding into enemies for massive damage. One the mechanics I love the most is the ability to continuously run after you double tap the direction you want to go in, this is both useful for fights and for just getting through screens. One the mechanics that doesn’t work so well is picking people up: I found that you have to be in a very particular place to be able to pick them up, and even with the use of the 3D it is still hard to find the exact place you need to be in. In contrast to the picking up, the blocking is a dream! All you have to do is kick or punch while someone is kicking or punching you and as long as your stats are higher than theirs you will block it.
River City: Tokyo Rumble is a worthwhile experience that I’d recommend to anyone, even people are not very good at traditional beat ‘em ups, because it is easy to get into the game and the story is a lot of fun. And for those who love to stretch out the value there’s a ton of options such as completing all the jobs, purchasing all the clothing items, and special moves. Players can even share with friends who don’t own the Tokyo Rumble through the use of download play. Despite some minor annoyances, this is some of the most fun I’ve had in recent memory and should be on the top of 3DS owner’s wish lists this year, especially if you love the classic beat ‘em ups.