The River City Girls are back, and this time they have company.
After saving their boyfriends in the first outing, Misako and Kyoko are foolish to think that they’re going to be able to spend the rest of their school days without any more trouble. This time they’ve really angered a powerful member of the Yakuza, and if they want to save River City they’ve got to walk the streets while fighting adversaries yet again. But at least in River City Girls 2 their boyfriends are free to back them up. And there are other alliances to be made, too.
The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree with River City Girls 2. This is very much a sequel to River City Girls; bigger and certainly better, but not brave enough to rock the boat in any way. For a start there are six playable characters: Misako and Kyoko, of course, as well as Kunio, Riki, and two guests, Marian and Provie. Aside from each character having their own unique look, they all have their own range of skills, too. And so there are plenty of opportunities to keep the gameplay fresh by switching between them.
That does come with some issues, though. Like the first game, River City Girls 2 once again has RPG elements. And so as you explore River City, beating up goons, yakuza members and fellow students as you go, you’ll gain experience and level up, improving your stats. Food and other items can also be purchased from stores and consumed, granting permanent stat bonuses. The trouble is, characters kept in reserve level up at a much slower rate. So, if you wish to swap to another mid-game, you may have to do some serious grinding to get them up to scratch.
Another element of the first game rears its head here too, to once again frustrate some players: backtracking. Some won’t mind the more exploratory nature of River City Girls 2, especially as the world this time around has more rewards in store for being nosey. For others, however, revisiting areas time and time again will prove to be a bit of a drag. At least the fast-travel system makes it easier to move from one district to another.
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Mostly everything else we can say about River City Girls 2 is positive, though. The combat is improved, with new moves such as launchers and the introduction of elemental properties making things feel deeper and fresh. The buddy system has been expanded too, with you now able to hire more powerful allies at a cost, or simply recruit those you’ve defeated in battle. And then there’s the addition of more optional quests, some of which switch up the gameplay in fun ways. You might find yourself tasked with winning a game of dodgeball, for example.
Even the boss fights have been tinkered with. They’re not perhaps quite as tight, but they’re more outlandish this time around. It’s more important than ever to learn patterns, avoid hazards and look for openings. They can be more frustrating if you don’t keep your wits about you and pace yourself, but on the whole they’re definitely more interesting and entertaining.
It’s just a shame that if you jump into River City Girls 2 at launch, bugs might sully the experience a little. While infrequent visual inconsistencies can be easily overlooked, things like bosses warping to the top of the screen and getting stuck are much more bothersome. Thankfully such occurrences aren’t commonplace, and hopefully they’ll be patched out soon.
It’s safe to say that if you were a fan of River City Girls, you’re going to love River City Girls 2. But with that, there’s nothing here that is likely to draw in new fans. It’s very much an incremental improvement and expansion of the first. There are more characters, more moves, more locations, more… everything. And with the series’ typically strong presentation, those who get absorbed in the adventure on offer here will have an absolute blast whether they play alone or in co-op.