RetroReview: River City Ransom (1989)

The first time I ever read about River City Ransom was in an old issue of Nintendo Power. It looked terrific. It had great graphics, a neat story, and a fighting system that resembled a juiced-up Double Dragon. In fact, it was developed by Technos Japan, the team that produced the Double Dragon games.

The story is simple, although a bit more complex than, say, Super Dodge Ball. Actually, it goes like this: Alex and Ryan are two cool young fighters who go to Cross Town High. “SLICK” kidnaps Ryan’s girlfriend Cyndi and is holding her hostage at River City High on the other side of town. SLICK leaves his henchmen all over town to stop you from getting her back. Perhaps this letter from the in-game intro will help you feel the depth of SLICK’s evil:

Next we’ll talk about graphics. River City Ransom has graphics that look exactly the same as other Technos classics, such as Super Dodge Ball, Nintendo World Cup, and Crash ‘n’ the Boys Street Challenge. Large heads, squat arms and legs, and big hair. The colors are perfectly used, and the backgrounds are also well done. When hit with a trash can, a gang member will crouch and his mouth will hang open. It’s great. The stores look great, too.

And speaking of stores, this is a rather unique feature to this game. There are book stores you can enter and purchase martial arts training manuals which, when read, will add a fighting technique to your moveset. What to forget a move? Just drop the book. A simple and unique way to juggle abilities. On top of that you can buy different food items to boost your attributes like strength and will power or it can increase your weapon skills. Very coo.

As you can probably guess already I really enjoyed River City Ransom back in the day. The mix of an RPG elements and an open world feel make this classic something special. If you have a Nintendo Switch try the original out and I do recommend the sequel River City Ransom: Underground that came out in 2017 for PC. You won't be disappointed in this game!


- The Big Geek


Release Date: April 25th, 1989

Publisher: Technōs Japan

Developers: Technōs Japan

Original System: Nintendo Entertainment System


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