River City Ransom
By Jason Vincion Sunday, 13 Dec 2009

River City Ransom was one of the staple games of my youth. I used to rent it continually until I found it new for $15 in 1991. After that, it barely left my NES. My friend Drew and I would spend most of our gaming time playing this game (and Skate or Die), and I know we both still have fond memories of it. Now it’s time to see how well it’s held up!

River City Ransom has a classic side-scrolling fighter plotline: “I hold your city captive & Ryan’s girlfriend hostage. With my gangs of students & evil bosses, nobody can stop me now. Meet my demands – or else! . . . P.S. Alex & Ryan if you interfere, you’ll be in for the fight of your lives! . . . SLICK” This “Slick” sounds like one jive soul bro. Like one bad mother… SHUT YOUR MOUTH! You get the idea, it’s time to bust some heads and get Ryan’s girl back.

Story aside, any decent fighter needs to have decent controls, and RCR has remarkable play control. The running is easy to negotiate, jumps are fairly simple, and of course, the button-crushing madness is top-notch. Special techniques don’t require excessive button pushing, they only require cash. The buttons are standard for fighters – B for kick, A for punch, and B&A for jump. The controls work perfectly for this genre.

Unlike some fighters, this game is not horribly frustrating, because you have unlimited lives. When you die, you only go as far back as the last mall, where you can build up your cash reserves and buy those needed food items, along with those edible plates and cups. However, you do lose half of your money when you die, so be careful if you’re saving up for a technique. The only differences between the normal setting and advanced setting are that the enemies are tougher to defeat, and they hit you harder. Again, the difficulties are balanced perfect for this game.

This game will take you a couple hours to beat if you’re not in a hurry and a little longer for the advanced setting. It’s a good length for a fighter, and since there isn’t a time limit or a forced path (you can go back and forth between screens – sometimes you have to), you don’t have to worry about rushing to the next stage.

Unfortunately, the save system is where the game gets a drop in points. It’s good that a game like this has a password system, but the system itself can be a bit confusing the first few times using it. It’s 3 rows, 11 characters per row, and the passwords consist of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and numbers. There are also apostrophes that need to be inserted every once in a while. The letters are fairly distinct, but if you screw up one character, it’s time to start a new game. There’s a fairly high margin of error with so many letters.

One of RCR’s more prominent features is its look. The graphics that American Technos use for all of their NES games are basically the same – all of the characters are stubby, blockheaded people with big eyes. You’re either going to love the graphics or hate them. Personally, I love ‘em. They’re not the best I’ve seen on the Nintendo, but you can’t go wrong with ‘em. The palette colors are nice, and everything seems to mesh well.

The music in River City Ransom is great. In fact, when I call upon myself to remember video game music, River City Ransom is usually one of the first ones to answer. Although certain tracks are a little mellower than

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others (Sherman Park and when you meet Roxy, Slick’s girl), the overworld theme, the status screen theme, and the boss theme are probably three of the best musical scores for a fighting game. They’re upbeat and they keep the game moving right along. Also, the sound effects take nothing away from the music. If anything, they add to them. When you whack an enemy over the head with a stick, a lead pipe, or a garbage can, you hear a lovely THUNK! Garbage cans, boxes… it’s so much like modern-day wrestling, it’s surreal.

As you can likely guess, I love this game! This is one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever played. The combination of the technically sound game with the silly graphics and the great music make this game a near perfect package! I still think that the devouring of plates and cups has to be one of the absurdly funniest things ever put in a Nintendo game! The enemies have character, and the diversity of weapons usable to hit enemies with is outstanding. The ability to build up your character’s power with RPG elements is definitely one of the things that set this game apart from the rest of the NES fighters. Way to go, American Technos!!!

3 Responses to “River City Ransom”

  1. Andrew Raub Says:

    Love this game. Never beat it though cus the foods, magazines, and moves are overwhelming to me. I guess GameFAQs could clear that up though.

  2. Sherv Says:

    I love this game to death. When I was a kid I dreamed of a SNES version that was 10 times as large and 10 times as epic. Alas, reality blows.

  3. Eric Kennedy Says:

    Kudos to this game for adding depth to beat’em-ups, something we still don’t see a lot of. I gotta say though, I felt like Slick was an anticlimactic final boss, especially after fighting the twins.

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