13 years ago
Larry Sonntag

Back in the days of the eight-bit Nintendo system, side-scrolling fight-’em-ups like “Double Dragon” and “Battletoads” were a dime a dozen. Sadly, a gem of a game called “River City Ransom” fell through the cracks. Its quirky style of gameplay earned it a cult following. Thankfully, Atlus has resurrected the game on the Game Boy Advance with “River City Ransom EX,” one of the best mindless beat ’em up games available.

One day at River City High, two thugs known as the Dragon Twins show up, start beating everyone up and take over the town. On top of that, a thug known as “Slick” kidnaps Ryan’s girlfriend. Alex and Ryan just happened to be absent from school that day, so they set out to beat their way through waves of thugs.

And therein lies about 98 percent of the gameplay. That’s no real problem though, because with a combination of amusing cartoony graphics and a varied array of attack moves, it never gets old. For instance, once a particular thug is knocked down, he can be picked up slammed into other thugs as a weapon. Things like that just don’t get old.

All the weapons from the original are back, with a few new ones as well. An array of weapons including rocks, chains and ladders, adds even more variety to the fighting. Things can get hectic when rocks and tires are flying, bouncing from thug to thug.

The player can buy new moves and increased stats from stores with the money harvested from defeated thugs. A lot of the game’s humor can be found here. For instance, when the character orders a burger, he grabs the whole plate and downs it all in one bite. Some of the items and descriptions are hilarious as well, with things like this:

Alex listened to the Emo CD!

Alex stared at his shoes and cried.

The music from the original is back without any changes. No arguments there, however. I felt pretty nostalgic listening to the music again. Surprisingly enough, the music never becomes annoying, despite the fact that there are only a few songs in the game that play all the time.

Some of the new features in “River City Ransom EX” are impressive. The player can now have AI-controlled people fight on his side, which adds a fun gang versus gang atmosphere to some of the fights. Character stats can be saved now too. Thankfully, the incredibly long passwords of the old Nintendo cartridge have been done away with.

“River City Ransom EX” is an excellent fighter, and it’s easy to lose hours to the mindless fun. While it may not have an in-depth plot or complex controls, it’s still one of the most fun games around.

three stars (out of five)