Review – River City Girls Zero

Released back in 2019, River City Girls was a much needed breath of fresh air for the Kunio-kun/ River City Ransom franchise, being a looser, more complex, yet more accessible entry in a franchise known for being story-heavy, slow-paced and very limited in terms of combat options. The announcement of a prequel of sorts, River City Girls Zero, was met with a ton of anticipation from everyone, yours truly included, but sadly, I should have read the fine print with this one. River City Girls Zero is a fine game, but it’s not really a new River City Girls game at all. As a matter of fact, it’s not even a new game at all.

River City Girls Zero Kunio

I see no rivers, no city, and no girls.

Upon booting up River City Girls Zero for the first time, you’re greeted with some heartwarming and familiar nods to the original game. You’re greeted with an excellent animated intro, as well as a manga-styled intro cutscene featuring the voice actresses from the original game reprising their roles. The two girls talk about how they have managed to acquire an old game cartridge featuring their boyfriends (Kunio and Riki, the River City Ransom protagonists). After a few lines of banter making fun of pixel graphics, old-school consoles, and being too poor to afford a flat screen TV, the girls start playing said game. Then we start playing River City Girls Zero… kinda.

Here’s the thing: River City Girls Zero is actually a localized port of an old Super Famicom game from 1994. Shin Nekketsu Kōha: Kunio-tachi no Banka is what it’s called, and I really have no idea what it means. Again, what matters is that this is a Kunio-kun game first and foremost, River City Girls game second. You can play as the girls later in the game, but the main core of the story revolves around Kunio and Riki being framed for a crime they didn’t commit, going to jail, escaping from said jail, and spending the rest of the plot trying to find whoever set them up, all while beating up a ton of people in the process. Everything is presented through slow-crawling, but fully localized text, but let’s just say that its plot isn’t exactly… engaging.

River City Girls Zero Intro

Too bad this is the only instance featuring the genius voice acting also featured in the first River City Girls.

I wouldn’t call this a proper remaster, either. I’d say this feels more like an M2 port than a remaster. That’s necessarily a bad thing, but it makes you rethink biting the bullet with River City Girls Zero or not. The visuals are decent for SNES standards, but the soundtrack is really underwhelming, especially when you almost unconsciously compare it to the fantastic music played during the animated intro. However, the biggest problem with this game is the gameplay. Just like most old-school Kunio-kun games, this is slow-paced, somewhat clunky, devoid of meaningful combos, and sadly, suffering from collision detection issues. Going from the phenomenal combat featured in  River City Girls to this is massively disappointing.


The combat is as stiff and limited as any other Kunio-kun game, sadly.

It’s not that River City Girls Zero is inherently bad. It definitely isn’t, but I do think that its title did the game no favors. The original River City Girls was amazing, elevating the Kunio-kun franchise to a previously unheard degree of quality, so attaching the name to a port of a really dated Super Famicom game made me expect a lot more from it. Pay double attention before committing to this one. If you loved River City Girls, but don’t care about Kunio-kun/River City Ransom in general, I don’t think you’ll enjoy River City Girls Zero that much. Now, if you’re a die-hard fan of the franchise and its old school outings, go for it. It’s more of what you love, and you probably won’t care about its shortcomings.


Graphics: 6.5

Not a bad looking Super Famicom game, but that’s exactly what you’re getting. Well, besides the excellent animated intro, of course.

Gameplay: 6.0

Kunio-kun games are known for being a bit stiffer than your average beat ’em up, and that’s no different in here.

Sound: 7.0

River City Girls Zero starts off with a great intro tune and funny voice acting, but once you’re dropped into the game, all you’ll get is a mediocre Super Famicom soundtrack for the rest of your playthrough.

Fun Factor: 6.5

This is not exactly a sequel or prequel to the excellent River City Girls. This is a mere port and localization of an old Kunio-kun game, complete with all the hindrances you’d expect from a game in the franchise. Know what you’re getting into before buying it.

Final Verdict: 6.5

River City Girls Zero is available now on Switch. PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X ports are slated for later this year.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of River City Girls Zero was provided by the publisher.