River City Girls Interview
Perhaps best known for the Shantae series of games, developer WayForward Technologies is adding an entry into the storied Kunio-kun series with its upcoming release of River City Girls for PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on September 5, 2019. RPGamer got to interview Bannon Rudis of WayForward, the assistant director and combat designer of the game, about all things River City Girls.
Johnathan Stringer (RPGamer): Can you please give us a brief overview of River City Girls? What sets it apart from other brawler or beat ’em up-style games?
Bannon Rudis: River City Girls is an over-the-top, goofy homage to beat ’em ups in a flashy anime-style presentation. I grew up on a healthy diet of beat ’em up games and fighting games. We took everything we loved from various fighting games we grew up with and mashed them all together for this title. Then we sprinkled in some RPG elements, like stat boosting and leveling up, so the player can feel more powerful as they progress through the story.
JS: How does this game tie into to the Kunio-kun/River City series as a whole? Is it just aesthetics and style? Can you also elaborate on the Double Dragon tie-in for the game?
BR: River City Girls is part of this world, but it’s also very much its own unique thing. These are all the characters you love with our WayForward spin on them. As far as Double Dragon, I feel like a River City game cannot exist without some reference to Double Dragon at this point. They have become so entwined since their original arcade and NES releases, that their connective tissue has only become stronger over all these years. I liken them to Street Fighter and Final Fight at this point. They are separate but they come from the same universe.
JS: Kunio-kun games have been well known for the integration of items and the in-game item stores, how are these implemented in River City Girls?
BR: Items were super important to pull off in this game. There are some nods to the older games such as Spicy Chili, Cornish Hens, and various books. We have both active and passive items. Items can be stored away so you can replenish your stamina and boost your stats. You can also eat anything you buy, no matter how inedible it may seem.
JS: The Accessories and Recruits systems are new to Kunio-kun, right? What can you tell us about those systems?
BR: The accessories system is not only adorable but it also strengthens the player with passive effects. Accessories are little trinkets like rings or watches or earrings that each player can wear up to two of, and have some minor, long-term gameplay effects.
The recruits are my favorite system, because it allows the player to mix and match their playstyle by creating new combos with their new call-in buddy. There are 12 different enemy types in the game. Defeating everyone in the room except one enemy, and then getting that enemy to low health may cause them to beg for their life. At that point, you can recruit them to convert them into a sort of jump-in special attack.
JS: Given that River City Girls has an RPG leveling system, how is game difficulty balance handled? Do enemies scale with the characters? Can the player grind up experience and level to make the experience easier, and conversely, can they rush through and be under-leveled for certain areas of the game?
BR: Each time a player defeats a boss, it will go into a new chapter. Each chapter will start to introduce new enemies and new stats for previous enemies. Previous areas will start mixing up what enemies appear there, so it won’t be the same cast of characters if you backtrack in later chapters. It is possible to get through the game without upgrading your character but that is a life choice I would not recommend.
JS: Is there a cap on character leveling? And what actually happens each time the players level up?
BR: There is a natural cap at level 30, but you can exceed that amount by eating all the items in the game and wearing certain accessories. You can get pretty powerful. Leveling up will always replenish your stamina meter alongside increasing one of your stats. Some moves are only available in the dojo after the player reaches a certain stats level. You will also sometimes be rewarded with free moves and techniques when leveling up.
JS: How does progression work in the game? Is it a linear beat-em-up? Or more mission-based?
BR: It is non-linear but we do have a suggested path to streamline things and prevent players from getting too lost. The missions will help you gain more XP, money, and accessories. There are missions that are mandatory to further the story, and some non-mandatory side quests for extra goodies.
JS: About how long will a play through of the game take you, with and without exploring all side missions?
BR: The game seems to take new players around 10 to 12 hours to complete, longer if you do everything to 100% completion. It’s a pretty sizable adventure, but doesn’t feel overly long either. Everything moves at a brisk pace.
JS: Do the two main characters, Misako and Kyoko, play differently from each other? Is there an advantage or different content if you play one over the other?
BR: We wanted to make sure that each character was properly balanced against one another, but still different enough that playing as the other character will feel like a new experience. For example, Misako has a classic anti-air rising uppercut move, while Kyoko has a forward-arcing Acro Circus flip move. Both are great in combos, and for hitting enemies out of the air, but both play out very differently from each other.
JS: Does the game’s save system eschew the typical player “lives” found in brawlers? What occurs on player death?
BR: There are no lives in this game. When you are defeated you will lose a percentage of your money to help pay for hospital bills. While in two-player, you will lose half of your money if you are defeated. That is, if your partner doesn’t help revive you. How does one revive their fallen comrade? By stomping on their lifeless body until their soul goes back into them, of course.
JS: What happens when you beat the game, can you keep playing? Is there a New Game+ mode?
BR: There is definitely a New Game+. Mind you, this is a game we highly suggest playing twice. For reasons I won’t get into because it’s too good to reveal. So, this second run will potentially double the amount of playtime overall.
JS: Is there planned game support via updates or DLC at this time?
BR: I personally would love to keep adding more to this game, but nothing is finalized or planned as of yet. We do have some fun ideas though.
JS: Given that this is a US-made game, but for a traditionally Japanese IP, will the voice acting for the characters only be in English, or will there be VO options similar to those seen in localized games.
BR: The game does feature an amazing cast of English speaking actors. The VO audio is English-only, but the game’s subtitles and all in-game text is translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese for the different regions.
We would like to thank Bannon and WayForward for this opportunity to learn more about River City Girls. We look forward to playing this unique mash-up of RPG and brawler mechanics in this new adventure in the Kunio-kun world.