River City Girls (熱血硬派くにおくん外伝 リバーシティーガールズ Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun Gaiden: Ribā Shitī Gāruzu , lit. "Hot-Blooded Tough Guy Kunio Side Story: River City Girls") is a beat 'em up video game, part of the River City/Kunio-kun series, developed by WayForward and released worldwide on September 5, 2019 on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Misako is in detention at River City High, accompanied by her best friend Kyoko (even though she doesn't attend the school). Kyoko suddenly receives an alarming message on her phone: a picture of Kunio and Riki, the heroes of River City High and their boyfriends, seemingly being kidnapped. The two girls decide to spring into action to rescue their boyfriends. The pair rampages across the city, attacking any suspicious person they find while attempting to find answers.
River City Girls is a beat 'em up brawler. The player can choose between Kyoko or Misako, who play similarly but each has unique moves and animations, or two players can play a (local) cooperative mode with both. Waves of enemies and occasional bosses are out to oppose the chosen character(s). The player progresses through six areas in a linear manner. Like River City Ransom, the player is free to return to previous areas, but they must complete certain battles and objectives to go to the new locations in their current area. In many areas where combat is initiated the first time, chains and a lock will surround the edges of the screen (referred in-game as a "screenlock"). At this point, the player will be unable to leave the area until all enemies are defeated. There are six bosses in the game; to be able to advance to the next area, the player must defeat the boss of the current area.
Defeated enemies drop money for the player to collect, which can be spent at various shops to purchase items, food and gear to increase stats. Money can also be used to purchase new fighting moves from the Dojo to complement the starting basic set. Abilities are all simple to perform, being a direction + a button; complexity for advanced players lies in chaining the simple moves together into long combos. Characters also gain experience points and level-ups from defeating enemies, as in River City Ransom: Underground. Completion of quests grant experience and money rewards to both characters, ensuring that the one the player is not using in a single player game neither falls behind in levels nor money. As bosses are defeated in the game, enemies become stronger. Upon defeating the final enemy of an area, they might surrender. The player can choose to either defeat the enemy as normal or to recruit them. Recruited enemies can be summoned to assist the player, although only one recruit is kept at a time. The player can pick up various objects during the game and use them as improvised weapons, but they will break after being used multiple times.
If the player loses all their stamina bar and is defeated (or both characters defeated in multiplayer), the player must restart the current room and lose a portion of their cash on hand, but their health is fully restored. In multiplayer, if only one character is knocked out, it is possible for the other player to revive them by standing over their fallen body and repeatedly kicking their departing soul back into it. An angel leaving the character's body acts as a timer so that the other player can perform the revival as fast as possible.
Once introduced, Kunio-kun character Godai will offer players numerous side quests. There are also various NPCs that the player can interact with.
River City Girls is the first collaboration between Arc System Works and WayForward, and the second time that WayForward works on an intellectual property that previously belonged to Technōs Japan Corp, having previously worked on Double Dragon Neon. The game was in development for nearly three years.
The game was directed by Adam Tierney and Bannon Rudis, the latter who had previously worked on River City Ransom: Underground. Tierney approached Rudis with the idea to co-direct a new entry in the Kunio-kun series and take the game in a new "goofy, zany direction". Once Rudis saw what Tierney had done, he agreed to work on the game. The goal was to create a River City Ransom game in the style of Shantae (WayForward's flagship series), more expressive and larger in presentation than previous games in the Kunio-kun franchise. The aim of the game was to exude style, with each character having their own unique moves that would accentuate their personalities. As assistant director, Rudis tried to make the game's fighting mechanics as close to an Arc System Works fighting game as possible, while minimizing the play controls and inputs to make the game have more in common with the Super Smash Bros. games or Dragon Ball FighterZ. Rudis also worked the game's lead animator Kay Yu to decide how each attack should look like. From the start, it was decided that the game would use pixel art to connect it to previous games in the franchise.
A director at WayForward introduced Tierney to Shin Nekketsu Kōha: Kunio-tachi no Banka, while the game was in development and he instantly fell in love with both Kyōko and Misako, the two playable female characters in the game. WayForward wanted these two characters to take the lead role as they have already created games with strong female protagonists. During development, Tierney learned from Arc System Works that Kyōko and Misako were no longer acting as the girlfriends for the main protagonists of the franchise, Kunio and Riki. Riki had been with Mami longer than Kyōko (she was Riki's girlfriend in only two games) while Hasebe is often linked with Kunio (though she is only his love interest in Downtown Special: Kunio-kun no Jidaigeki da yo Zen'in Shūgō!). This led to discussions of creating a rivalry between the girls for the game's plot. Although River City Girls is billed as a canonical game in the Kunio-kun franchise, the game does not follow the continuity started with Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun Special, and it also ignores and contradicts old continuity from previous games in the franchise.
Most of the game's staff was new, mostly regarding the game's art, music and animation. Composer "Chipzel" did most of the boss battle music and arranged the boss theme from the original River City Ransom. Megan McDuffee composed the tracks for the stages, cinematics, menus and nearly everything else, some of these tracks include full vocal tracks. She also arranged music from River City Ransom and Kunio-tachi no Banka. Priscilla "Rem" Hamby, the illustrator of the webcomic Devil's Candy, was sought out to re-imagine the Kunio-kun characters. Hamby also illustrated the cutscenes. Cristina Vee directed the voice actors. WayForward VFX artist Jordan Vine animated the sequences while Kevin Samuels from WayForward's SFX department added sound effects.
- Jimmy Lee (voiced by Arin Hanson) and Billy Lee (voiced by Dan Avidan) run a dojo in Crosstown and Ocean Heights, respectively.
- Marian has a store Downtown, Swaggage.
- Kodani is in charge of Boy Toys in Downtown.
- Skullmageddon (voiced by Sean Velasco) runs the Pawn Shop in Uptown.
- Bullova appears in the Crosstown Mall and acts as the shopkeeper for Wardrobe.
- Martha Splatterhead runs the Lucky Penne in Ocean Heights.