Hands-on: River City: Rival Showdown continues the series' celebrated urban brawling

Last year, the Kunio-kun series experienced a revival in North America with the release of River City: Tokyo Rumble, which celebrated the franchise's 30-year anniversary. River City Ransom: Underground followed earlier this year, giving fans another brawling adventure to jump into, and River City: Knights of Justice just launched digitally on the 3DS eShop, delivering a more fantasy-themed tale.

The next chapter in the Kunio-kun line of beat 'em ups to be localized for North America is River City: Rival Showdown, a 3DS title that is once again aimed at offering nostalgic thrills in the urban landscape of River City.

You've Got Three Days

River City: Rival Showdown is something of a quasi-remake or reboot of the popular River City Ransom. That said, if you already played the original and don't exactly want yet another remake or updated re-release, as has been the trend the past several years, you need not worry. Though the story is similar to that of the NES classic, the game itself is a highly original experience.

The plot follows Kunio, who's faced with unraveling some strange happenings around town. He's also tasked with finding his pal and rival Ricki's missing girlfriend. Aside from this story setup, as well as some references and character cameos aimed toward pleasing longtime fans, River City: Rival Showdown is very much its own game.

The big gameplay hook is a three-day cycle that's slightly reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Once the three in-game days are up, the story ends. You can then restart the game with all of the items, upgrades, and experience you earned in previous playthroughs intact. This makes it so that you're constantly improving Kunio's stats and increasing his abilities, which will in turn make you an admirable force to be reckoned with as you encounter stronger enemies as you play through the game multiple times.

You would think that the whole three-day system could potentially make playing River City: Rival Showdown a somewhat repetitive experience. Even then, however, given that the game is a beat 'em up with some grind-y RPG elements, die-hard fans of the series probably know what to expect. Even if you do end up seeing and doing a lot of the same things, the fast-paced combat is fun enough that playing through three days in the game over and over again while making Kunio stronger makes for a good time.

Thankfully, it doesn't seem like every single playthrough will be identical. Going through the three-day cycle multiple times will trigger different events tied to the plot, allowing you to experience different story beats, rumbles, and boss encounters. This is a great way to ensure that players who delve deep into the game are rewarded with new content, and it's sure to make dedicated players actually want to go through the story more than once.

Despite the addition of unique events throughout the story, River City: Rival Showdown will be a fairly linear experience. More recent titles have yet to take liberties with the straightforward beat 'em up design of the series, and it looks like that won't change anytime soon. Though there are plenty of shops to visit and brawls to engage in off the beaten path, the actual story will take you down a fairly direct path.

More of Those Familiar River City Vibes

By now, it should come as no surprise that the Kunio-kun series is very much rooted in tradition and nostalgia. Playing River City: Rival Showdown for myself, I was instantly reminded of last year's River City: Tokyo Rumble, also on the 3DS, and the original River City Rumble for the NES. If you enjoyed the combat and upgrade systems in those titles and want more of that familiar style of retro beat 'em up and RPG hybrid, you'll be pleased to know that this latest iteration will offer up exactly that.

Dropping dudes yields money that you can use to purchase food and other items, just like in the older games. These can then be used to replenish health or just turn Kunio into an even better brawler. And you're going to want to scrounge for cash if you want to stand up to the bigger baddies later in the game. In addition, there are three difficulties in River City: Rival Showdown, so taking on the higher levels will likely require you to do some grinding if you don't want to be beaten down by gangs of thugs.

The Kunio-kun games are definitely made with the series' fans in mind, so if you've ever played past entries and weren't too impressed, this upcoming release isn’t likely to change your mind. If you have adulation for these types of old school brawlers, however, and you've been starved for more Kunio-kun here in North America, well, River City: Rival Showdown will give you exactly what you're looking for. Like the brawlers of the NES era, this game plays a lot like an arcade experience that's both addictive and tough.

River City: Rival Showdown will be available on the 3DS in both physical and digital formats when it launches. Though an exact release date has yet to be confirmed for North America, you can expect the game to arrive sometime between late 2017 and early 2018.