While there are many games in the River City series of side-scrolling brawlers, you don’t have to have played any of them to enjoy River City: Tokyo Rumble on Nintendo 3DS. If you’ve ever watched an anime series with stereotypical high school delinquents living in Japan, then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Arc System Works and Natsume’s next game in the series. River City: Tokyo Rumble has a fun tongue-in-cheek story that has you exploring Tokyo and battling street gangs for control of the city. It may be old-school style with its 8-bit visuals and simple controls, but there’s a lot to love in this Nintendo 3DS role-playing brawler. Slicked back hair not included.
Everything in River City: Tokyo Rumble’s gameplay is kept simple and straight to the point. Controls are your standard punch, kick, and jump that you would find in past games of the series. Moving around the city streets is like a classic side-scrolling brawler, with tons of hoodlums running around for you to fight. Picking up weapons like a soccer ball, a chain, or a trash can offer some tools to take out your rivals in creative fashion.
Though in the latter half of the game I found myself just using my good ol’ fisticuffs, it was interesting seeing how each of the different weapons I could pick up worked against my enemies. It can be very funny picking up a bicycle and smacking around a thug a few times, before tossing it at another across the screen.
On the surface is a classic brawler, but there is a role-playing style of leveling beneath the simple gameplay. Taking out enemies and bosses nets you experience that increases stats and opens up special moves that are powerful and dynamic. As I played through the story, more special moves became available that were vital to defeating some of the tougher and more challenging enemies that appeared.
Eventually, I could jump kick a thug off his motorcycle or spin delinquents around by their legs before tossing them afar. You also gain the ability to bring an ally with you later in the story, who also levels up and gains new abilities on their own as you fight alongside them. Though you can’t control them directly, you can issue orders to your ally that alter their behavior in combat.
Roaming the streets of Tokyo is an adventure in itself apart from the main story. Visiting different areas like Shijunku, Yokohama, and Shibuya give you access to shops to purchase items and new abilities. In typical Japanese hoodlum fashion, you’re broke from the start, but can take on various side-mission “jobs” to earn money and extra experience.
Each of the areas in Tokyo have a variety of layouts and locations that you will end up visiting multiple times throughout the story. However, it never felt boring revisiting locations since something new was always happening. As the streets became familiar, I was quickly traveling through places to reach my destinations for the story and side missions.
River City: Tokyo Rumble has a few mini-games that can be played alone or through local multiplayer and download play. Rumble is a straight free-for-all battle arena with up to four players at a time, while Dodgeball is the same but with stipulations. Both mini-games allow you to use any character that appears in story mode, provided you’ve met up with them at least once.
The mini-games are a nice distraction from the main game, but they aren’t deep enough to pull you away for long. No online play for either one is disappointing, but if you have friends with a Nintendo 3DS then you can still play multiplayer through the use of download play.
River City: Tokyo Rumble is surprisingly fun. Regardless if you’ve played any of the previous River City games or not, you’re going to enjoy what Tokyo Rumble has to offer. The mini-games are a bit shallow without any online support, but the main game is where you’ll spend most of your time. The tongue-in-cheek humor and plot is a good compliment to the simple controls and straight forward gameplay. If there was ever a list of sleeper hits on the Nintendo 3DS, River City: Tokyo Rumble would definitely be include amongst them.
This review was based on a digital review code for River City: Tokyo Rumble for the Nintendo 3DS, provided by Natsume.