Sometimes, that old adage of "The more things change, the more they stay the same," will hold true of a game series, and River City is no different. There are still old school lo-fi spritework characters running across the screen, and you can still buy smiles for free. You can even eat whole plates of food whole. However, the changes that have been made to Tokyo Rumble are very welcome. Heck, after the travesty that was River City Ransom EX on the Game Boy Advance -- and the dearth of localizations that followed -- this game is a godsend.

The plot of River City: Tokyo Rumble is a simple one. A gang member wanting to challenge Kunio for control of the city, doing so by creating a potential rift between Kunio and Riki. When that fails, he taunts them, leaving Kunio's pissed and wanting to bust some heads. Unlike River City Ransom, the game now gives players clear objectives and plot exposition regularly, leading towards a game with a more focused chapter-like structure. There's also a nice map with plot points marked down by exclamation points. Travel is also expedited by way of subway stations to get around each of the prefectures.

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You can take on jobs, which are basically just your standard JRPG quests. These of course will let you earn extra money, equipment or skill scrolls, which is nice because acquiring money the old fashioned way of beating up gang members is slow, and the inflation of Tokyo's and Japan's economy doesn't help. Adding these extra RPG elements make the game more focused instead of the aimless wandering of the original title. Don't get me wrong, either, as I loved River City Ransom, but these additions set it over that game.

The gameplay is largely the same as it always has been. You can buy food to increase health and stats, buy skills to improve your chances of survival, and grapple, throw, punch, and kick your way to victory. In addition to this, you can equip gear to further improve your stats or add passive skills. Some new moves to Kunio's arsenal as well, like a suplex move. Tokyo Rumble also has more dimension, with slopes and depth to the background, making it easier to get a bead on where exactly an enemy is. Its gameplay is improved solely because there are more than two face buttons this time. There's also a badge system which acts a bit like an informal achievement system.

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The localization of the game is no slouch either. Its dialogue is amusing, and you really get a feel for the kind of lovable jerk Kunio is. Of course, classic lines like 'BARF!' are still in there, as are skills like Stone Hands and Dragon Feet. Thankfully, unlike Atlus's River City Ransom EX "localization," the game doesn't just borrow the NES script choices, and the characters and locations all have Japanese names. (Seriously: who just rips the original script and paste it into a GBA remake without at least altering the sprites to reflect the script?!)

Thankfully, that company has long since learned its lesson. The only bad thing in this game would have to be that the game keeps dropping badges that you already earned instead of possibly much needed cash. If you loved the NES classic, you'll love this game. It also has a Double Dragon-styled battle mode, and it even throws in Dodgeball for good measure. There's plenty of replay value to the game, even after the story mode. River City: Tokyo Rumble is solid recommend if there ever was one, and I'm totally not being intimidated by any delinquents to say this. Honest!

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VERDICT:

The Good: Quests make earning money, items, or skills easier.
The Bad: All that terrible inflation of the Yen.
The Ugly: Not much of a point to getting duplicate badges.

SUMMARY: River City: Tokyo Rumble is a very much improved sequel to the classic River City Ransom from the NES era, now tweaked and streamlined with an expanded experience.

FINAL GRADE: 

Promotional consideration made by Mika Kelly and Natsume

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