I think it’s time we discuss one of the best NES games ever created, River City Ransom. To do justice to this NES masterpiece I feel we must first pay our respects to the company who created it, Technōs Japan. Technōs Japan is responsible for so many NES classics, but most notably they created the Kunio-kun series, which still lives on today even though sadly the company does not. The North American market saw some, but not all of the games in this series. The ones we did manage to get are some of my favorite games on the console, including Nintendo World Cup Soccer, Super Dodge Ball, Crash ‘N the Boys Street Challenge and of course River City Ransom.
River City Ransom is a non-linear beat em up style game with some RPG elements thrown in. The main story follows Alex and Ryan as they fight their way across River City in an attempt to rescue Ryan’s girlfriend Cyndi who is being held captive inside River City High by the game’s villain, Slick. Along the journey they’re forced to fight through various gang territories as well as face several gang leaders which act as mini bosses. In summation you punch and kick your way through parts of town on a mission to save your girlfriend while collecting bouncing coins dropped by thugs to purchase items to increase your skills to defeat even tougher thugs.
One of my favorite aspects of River City Ransom is that the player can move anywhere on the screen, horizontally or vertically. That level of freedom in an NES game was a big deal back then. Each screen will spawn thugs from a variety of gangs in the game. Some of them will even wield weapons such as brass knuckles, baseball bats (both wooden and aluminum), chains, wheels, trash cans and sometimes even fallen comrades will be used to try and stop Alex and Ryan. Progressing forward or going backwards doesn’t require defeating the thugs on the screen, so running away like a wimp is fully supported in River City Ransom. At the end of some screens will be a boss for one of the gangs you’ve been fighting. These mini bosses are usually just a little bit harder than the thugs you’ve been fighting, but the further you progress the tougher they become.
From time to time you will enter different towns in which you can purchase food that will replenish your health and add additional points into stats. There will also be stores to buy self help books that will increase your fighting abilities. One town even offers a spa where you can see the main character’s pixelated derriere, which was always hilarious to see as a kid. To save all your progress River City Ransom offers a password system to keep track of your character’s progress through the game. I’ve previously voiced my hatred for this system as there are a few characters that can easily be confused while writing them down, as well as requiring so many characters in general that writing the whole password down could take up half the night after you’ve already put so many hours into the game.
River City Ransom is a fun challenge, as well as fun and funny in general. This game has given young me so many hours, if not days of enjoyment fighting the different thugs and reading their cries after I’ve kicked their faces in. To this day the bouncing coin sound is still in the memory banks in my head. I have to confess that I’ve never beaten River City Ransom. I know, I know, but hear me out. With as open world as this game is and as much as I truly, deeply and seethingly hate the game’s password system, I never bothered to write them down. I simply started from scratch and played a few hours of beat up the thug who cries for his mother, catch the bouncing coins and ask the cute girl in the burger shop for a smile over and over again, it was that simple. Even without having beaten the game all the way through I still stand by the statement that River City Ransom is one of the greatest NES games ever created.