River City Ransom EX - Staff Review  

West Side Story
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

2-5 Hours


Rating definitions 

   Ryan's girlfriend has been kidnapped, and the town has been taken over by a powerful gang-leader. It's up to Alex to help out his friend Ryan and defeat the gangs responsible for this mess. River City Random Ex is a remake of the original River City Random for the NES. In this action RPG, the two heroes eat any powerups they can afford, learn new fighting techniques by reading special books and magazines, and, of course, beat up any enemies that dare stand in their way.

   Battles are fast-paced and generally against multiple enemies. The AI isn't too smart on either side, but it's much better than most action RPGs for the Gameboy. Allies will occasionally manage to nail the hero in the back of the head with weapons they throw, but it's a pretty rare occurrence. While battles are quick and simple, there's more to them than standard hack and slash. There are several techniques that can be learned and a nice array of weapons that can be used or thrown to keep things fresh. Another good aspect of the battle system is the ability to customize the hero through the foods that he eats. Players must also choose between healing and purchasing upgrades if money is tight.

   While the game is mostly very easy should the player show some caution, there are a few random gangs that may be difficult to beat at first. Once a few dozen upgrades have been purchased, though, nothing except bosses pose a threat. Since lots of healing items can be carried anywhere, not even bosses can cause well-stocked fighters to break a sweat either. This is especially true due to the number of overpowered techniques that are also present in the game.

Yes Yes

   One problem with the nearly invincible techniques is that the controls are horrible. Starting a technique is easy, but it can be very difficult to cancel an ability once it's activated. This can be very problematic at times. The ability to jump is also a bit clumsy, and there is no easy way to cover ground vertically, no matter how high the player's agility is. The menu system is also sadly lacking, especially the save feature that forces the player to restart the entire game from the beginning, but with stats intact. Luckily, all of the basic controls are as they should be and, while all of the dialogue is very simple, the localization does a decent job anyway.

   The original River City Ransom was one of the first hybrids and thus rather high on the originality scale. While this mixture may not be original anymore, River City Random Ex is original in its own right. It surpasses most ports by building on the original slightly with the reputation and party system that allows the heroes to make a small gang of their own. The story has also been built upon and includes a few new scenes.

   The new story sequences add to what would have been an otherwise entirely neglected story. Of course, the focus is clearly on the gameplay, but it's still nice that sequences that change based on reputation were added. Despite the fact that they are extremely limited, they even give the game great replayability.

Will he heal himself or boost stats? Will he heal himself or boost stats?

   Having replayability is especially good in River City Random Ex's case, as it normally takes only a few hours to max out stats and one more to beat the game from start to finish once that is accomplished. While only the last hour or so can be repeated without starting from scratch, the high replay value adds a few extra hours for those who want to get their money's worth.

   Since the game is very short, little of the music gets old. In fact, it's possible to get from one background music to another after only a few minutes of playing, provided the player doesn't stop to beat up random gangs for money. The sound effects are very minimal, but they do their job well enough.

   Though it is a remake, it still manages to capture the look of the original while bringing the bit count up. The visuals aren't incredibly impressive, but they are still pretty good and manage to capture the feeling of comic fighting quite well. Another nice touch is that while it may appear that enemies are simply palette-swapped versions of each other, there are actually subtle differences between them.

   River City Random Ex is a fun game while it lasts thanks to its gameplay, but it's short and lacks a real story. The problems with the interface, especially concerning the save system, don't help either. It's certainly worth a look, especially for fans of the original, but it isn't anything particularly special in today's market.

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