Continuing with the 30th anniversary of the Kunio-kun franchise, Natsume has released another River City game for the Nintendo 3DS. River City: Knights of Justice takes a new spin on the classic beat-'em-up formula by adding RPG elements. The backdrop is appropriately set in medieval times, rather than contemporary urban Japan.
Cynthia, the princess of Neidard, has been kidnapped, and it's up to the lone heroic knight Sir Alexander (aka Alex aka Kunio) to rescue her and to also bring back peace into the land of Riverandia. It's not a very riveting plot, but fitting for the series.
Sir Alexander's quest is similar to the other River City games—travel from zone to zone and beat the crud out of bad guys. You visit different kingdoms and meet other warriors who will either fight you or aid you or both. Choosing your friends is up to you, whether you want to enlist the services of Sir Reinhold (aka Ryan aka Riki) or Ivan or a gang of undead flunkies. You can have up to three dudes total in your party, but you can choose to get rid of the ones you don't want if you find someone new you want to enlist.
Knights of Justice plays exactly like its predecessors, but there are some differences. In River City Ransom and Tokyo Rumble, you got around by going through one street to another, with all of these streets being connected into one large town. In Knights of Justice, you navigate a world map and each stop contains a series of rooms for you to fight through. Stops range from castles, towns and dungeons. Castles often serve as hubs for obtaining quests or going through key missions. Towns are key for gathering information from NPCs and buying equipment. Dungeons range from forests, graveyards, caves, etc. and contain lots of bad guys to beat up. Want to punch a slime? You can do that. Kick some brigands? Yep. Zap some zombies? Totally. Run the Acro Circus through a gang of orcs? Do it. Slay a dragon? Why not defeat it with your Dragon Feet technique? The brawling aspect is still fun.
What can be a downer though is while going from place to place, random battles occur. And when you have a lot of ground to cover and you want to be at a specific location but you have to fight through three or four encounters of the same two brigands who keep trying to rob you it'll eat up a lot of time. And if you're not prepared, you'll get outnumbered from larger mobs and lose the fight. Be sure to stock up on restorative items and equip them on hand just in case you're far away from a town. And don't forget to save often!
One addition I have mixed feelings about are quests. Like in Tokyo Rumble, there are quests you must undertake in order to get further into the game. Some are story related, but many are optional side quests. You may feel overwhelmed by the number of quests in this game and much of your adventure will be spent clearing side quests to farm gold and valuables to make the game easier. What's worse is that some quests can be overlapped in the same zones, so you'll have to re-enter some places in order to trigger different events. An upside is that the story does take multiple paths, so your decision making during these quests can alter how the game ends.
River City: Knights of Justice attempts to change up the core River City formula by adding RPG elements, but it's a mixed bag. With random battles and so many quests, fighting takes on a grinding aspect. Then again, this is an RPG, and that usually means some amount of grinding, so if that doesn't bother you, you'll have a lot of fun.
Hint: The Ghost Staff is a useful weapon to carry during the early parts of the game. You can summon up to four ghost buddies that will fight for you (and won't take damage from normal attacks!) as long as you have magic points to spare.
by Ray n.
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