Action Arcade Review

River City: Rival Showdown – Review

River City, aka Kunio-Kun, is one of those franchises I would have never put money on becoming something that would get localized with such reliability, considering its history. Be it River City Girls or the Romance of the Three Kingdoms spin off, we are not being forgotten in Kunio’s adventures, and this new title is no exception. Grab some money, hit the gym, and join me for a look into River City: Rival Showdown.

River City: Rival Showdown - - Day 1 Scene

It’s A River City Rumble!

River City: Rival Showdown is somewhat of a remake of River City Ransom, or to be more accurate a “reimagining”. It follows the same story of River City Ransom, in which two mysterious twins from a rival school are in town and set their target on Kunio. After attacking him one night, Kunio finds out these twins have taken over their High School and are going on a city-wide takeover tour, and this is something Kunio cannot abide.

The game has a much deeper narrative than that of the original River City Ransom, and this is allowed by the new game structure, more on that further in. You’ll get engrossed in several mysteries such as the identity of the Tiger Mask students, just why one student is called “The Zombie”, and even find yourself trying to help with relationship issues.

River City: Rival Showdown - Night Event

New to this release of River City: Rival Showdown is a side narrative that explains why Riki is absent through much of the story. Turns out Riki is busy trying to find his girlfriend Mami while being manipulated by a mysterious fortune teller. It’s a bizarre story, and you see it in small bits by talking to certain people in the town. It is fun though, and well worth seeking these people out to hear just what a strange few days Riki has.

As this isn’t a traditional beat-em-up in structure, it’s allowed the developers to add much more character to River City with its citizens and cast of standout students who you’ll be fighting against and alongside. River City games always have a quirky cast of weirdos, and Rival Showdown is no exception, especially when you follow the Riki story that is unlocked after completing the game, or if you have a save file from River City Saga: Three Kingdoms.

Something Old And Something New

River City: Rival Showdown is a re-release of the 3DS 2016 title with enhanced graphics and some extra content such as the aforementioned Riki story. For anyone familiar with that game, this is for the most part the same game, bar a few extra quests and the improvements made to the Double Dragon Duel mode.

River City has, for the most part, favored exploration and a somewhat free to go where you want gameplay loop, River City Girls Zero aside that is. River City: Rival Showdown is no exception, offering the entirety of River City to explore at your whim.

The main difference between River City: Rival Showdown and the other titles is you have 3 days to do so, and it is just from 15:00 until 23:00 on those days. A day and night system is going on and, naturally, this changes what shops are open, who’s hanging around, and more importantly what quests you can or can’t do. The game has several endings depending on what story you end up falling into, and it can be a little trial and error to find the “true ending” with only 3 days to do so and very limited time within them.

River City: Rival Showdown - Practice Mode

You have a map to help you explore River City, and it does flag up some quests, as well as a journal that keeps note of any important events you have coming up. Time is so essential in this game that rather than getting a “Game Over”, you lose an hour should you be knocked out. The name of the game here really is time management, and this can be quite an adjustment for people familiar with the series, and admittedly it caught me off guard. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to tip the scales in your favor.

The main thing to know about this game is that yes it does have a 3 day time system, but you also transfer everything from one playthrough to another, so there is less of a panic knowing that if you miss a story beat you can always get it on the next run. This is helpful to know from the get-go as the game starts almost brutally hard despite locking you into the easy difficulty.

River City: Rival Showdown - Up for a Fight

Fake It Until You Make It

The balance of River City: Rival Showdown is a truly bizarre beast. You start at level 1 and pretty much any fight you have can easily see you losing hours. The idea is that you grind some smaller fights before you take on the story. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to walk into a scenario where you’ll just get beat up, and most quests lead you to fight brick walls until you gain some levels. As soon as you start gaining those levels and some new equipment the game starts to ease off, but then becomes a breeze as I was at the highest level by the end of the first day, which often led to me beating bosses in a few hits and popcorn enemies in one hit.

Combat, as always, is fantastic in River City: Rival Showdown. You can punch, kick, grab, block, and jump, and as you level up through fighting you’ll start developing more basic moves. As you follow the stories in the game you’ll get special moves, as well as being able to buy them from book shops littered around River City.

Leveling up is a standard affair and has you distributing your stats, but I wouldn’t worry too much about locking yourself into a “build” as it is really easy to top everything out, and you can pick up equipment to cover any areas you are lacking in. You choose whatever special moves you want to equip, which allows you to create your ideal playstyle. I opted to have a build where I could juggle enemies quite easily. Again, earlier difficulties and balancing didn’t give the combat time to shine, and it was only when I hit the higher difficulties that I could get into my groove with the title.

With light RPG mechanics, a fully explorable River City, and plenty of stories to follow with multiple endings, there is a lot to love in River City: Rival Showdown. If you want something a little more condensed there is the Double Dragon Duel mode which is a 1 vs 1 fighting bonus mode with a full roster of characters, special moves, and even a few unlockables. It’s a fantastic bonus mode that once again fuses the worlds of River City and Double Dragon.

River City: Rival Showdown - Player Select

Who Put This On Repeat?

River City: Rival Showdown has the classic sprite character models on a 3D background, much like the other recent River City games, with the exception of the fully drawn River City Girls. Despite the 3D background, it follows a similar art direction as most of the traditional NES-era River City titles, which I know can be divisive. I do love the old meets the new look of the game but there are some weird additions like Street Light glare as you walk past them that make the game look a little “too” crisp.

One aspect that threw me was the soundtrack. It has all the iconic tracks you would expect from River City/Double Dragon, but it doesn’t seem to have enough. With the amount of exploring in River City you’ll be doing, you’re subjected to the same 2-3 tracks over and over and over again until you end up just muting the music and adding your own. A real shame considering once again this belongs to the same series as River City Girls 2 with it’s iconic soundtrack.

River City: Rival Showdown - w/Rabbit


River City: Rival Showdown is a unique title in the River City franchise, sadly to its detriment at times. The balance is all screwy, the soundtrack repeating kills the pacing, and it takes far too long to open up in terms of combat. On the other hand, there is a lot here that fans of the series will love, and more River City is always a good time. Sadly, after the last two really strong releases, this one comes off as just a little lacking.


Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4

If you are looking for another beat ’em up title, check out our review of Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons.

Thanks to Arc System Works for providing a Nintendo Switch review code for River City: Rival Showdown.

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