Action Review

River City Girls Zero – Review

It’s insane to think that only until recently that any release of the River City/Kunio-Kun franchise was met with uncertainty. Thankfully those dark days are over and part of that success is with River City Girls. Come with me as we dive into the latest Wayforward release of River City Girls Zero!

River City Girls Zero - Manga

Take me down to River City

River City Girls Zero starts with a brilliant Manga-inspired intro that sees Kyoko showing off a retro game she has just bought to fellow “River City Girl” Misako. Such things wouldn’t faze the raven-haired heroine usually, but when the cartridge shows the name of her love Kunio curiosity kills the cat. Upon booting up the game, the girls are presented with the tale of their playable debut in the form of Shin Nekketsu Kōha: Kunio-tachi no Banka from the Super Nintendo.

From this point on you follow the narrative of the above game. Kunio and Riki, two of the toughest Japanese schoolboys you’ve ever met, are accused of a hit and run they didn’t do and are promptly thrown into jail. Naturally not happy to sit and wait things out, it’s not long before the boys break out of prison and find out they have been set up. From here, they enlist Misako and Kyoko to help them find out who framed them and tried to take over their respective high schools.

River City Girls Zero - Fighting

Rock N Roll Highschool 

While the story starts quite intense for a River City title it soon returns to form. It then becomes more of a High School drama over who’s the best “Bancho”.

River City Girls Zero is a little more narrative-driven than the original River City Ransom and other Kunio-Kun titles before this. Fortunately, the writing does manage to provide some genuinely funny moments with the side cast and keep you engaged.

There are 2 versions of the script. One that follows closer to River City Girls with additions like Kyoko referring to Riki as “Riki-poo” or the translation which flies closer to what was originally written back in the 90s release.

The story is fine if not deceptive with its ambition at the start; it’s a Kunio game at its core and it doesn’t take long to revert to form. By the end, you’ll have had a few twists and turns. Without saying too much the scene is perfectly set up now for River City Girls 2.

River City Girls Zero - Motorbike

Time for P.E!

River City Girls Zero as mentioned earlier is a port of Shin Nekketsu Kōha: Kunio-tachi no Banka. It was a Super Famicom exclusive up until this release, developed by Almaniac and published by then license holders Technos.

It’s a 2D scrolling beat-em-up much like River City Ransom and other popular titles such as Double Dragon and Final Fight. This involves you walking across the screen placing your fists, feet, and heads firmly into the faces of your opponents.

The flow of the game is usually to have a conversation with someone, take part in a fight scene, and then move on. There are a few platforming sections, but it does lack the free roam of River City Ransom.

There are Mode 7 motorbike sections between a few of the stages. They involve you driving down a motorway kicking other people off of their bikes and coming off the motorway at the right junction. The first is a nice little break from the usual loop, but these sections wear thin really quickly.

River City Girls Zero - Anime

Be The Bancho

The controls while basic aren’t the most responsive. Once you get your school uniform back, you can use all your moves. Special moves are done by pressing L or R and either Jump, Punch, or Kick; while simple, they have a painful tendency to not always come out. 

Equally as painful is just how stiff the game feels. The lack of weapons doesn’t help. Neither does how a lot of the encounters and bosses towards the latter half of the game rely on cheap tactics; trying to fight legitimately just results in a game over.

You can switch between Kunio, Riki, Misako, and Kyoko at the touch of the ZL button. While each of them has different special moves and life bars, if ANY of them die then it’s game over. It’s not too much of a pain as it tends to only send you back to the beginning of the scene, but expect plenty of character swapping.

River City Girls Zero clocks in at around 3 hours tops on your first playthrough. It isn’t too bad for the genre, though some may scoff at the playtime when compared to River City Girls. Sadly the amount of dialogue you have to wade through will also knock it quite far down the list in terms of replayability.

Prom Dress

In terms of extras, this game comes with an additional manga-inspired intro and ending, a fully animated promotion video with music from the fantastic Megan McDuffie, and a few display options. 

Due to the game being a SNES port, you have a selection of different aspect ratios and some wallpapers to choose one to adorn your screen. I did find the focus on Limited Run Games rather than River City Girls weird, but I’m guessing that’s due to LRG doing the bulk of the development on this one.


River City Girls Zero is an awkward title. It’s fun but it’s also infuriating and relies on cheap tactics to see you through. At 3 hours tops for your first run, and with replayability being quite low on this title, it makes it a hard sell for anyone who isn’t a die-hard citizen of the River City.

If you are a fan of the franchise and go in knowing that this is just a classic title repurposed as a hype device for the upcoming River City Girls 2 then you should be fine.


Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC (Steam)

If you would like to see more Retro-style games, you may be interested in our review of Double Dragon Neon.

Many thanks go to Arc System Works for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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