Stay Cool, Kobayashi-san: A River City Ransom Story (PS4, Switch, Xbox One, PC)

The River City Ransom series sure has gotten a lot of games this year!  First there was River City Girls by WayForward, then River City: Melee Mach!!, which I reviewed earlier.  And now there is Stay Cool, Kobayashi-san: A River City Ransom Story.  It’s kind of a side story starring Kobayashi, one of Kunio’s rivals.  But who is Kunio?  He’s the main character of most of the River City games.  In Japan there is a popular series of video games that has gone back since the 80s starring Kunio.  He’s a hot-blooded high school student who sometimes gets into fights and trouble, but always stands up for his friends and against bullies.  Kunio also likes to play sports and when he’s not beating up baddies, he’s competing in events like soccer or dodgeball.  Some of Kunio’s games have made it to the US under name or graphical changes.  If you’ve ever played a game like Renegade, River City Ransom, Crash N the Boyz Street Challenge, or Super Dodge Ball, then you’ve played a Kunio game!  This new side story game is available to download on all current consoles and PC, but reviewed on PS4 here.

This new game plays similarly to River City Ransom, as it is a side scrolling beat ‘em up, but it’s also a little weird.  You first start by picking a male or female character, naming them, and picking three items which will dictate what item drops you’ll get mostly.  But you don’t play as that character, that’s the character that Kobayashi will rescue.  You actually play as Kobayashi and the storyline is pretty strange and involves time travel!  A second player can join in and play as the time traveling character from the future.  You can punch and kick bad guys and jump as well as use a special attack button.  As you defeat enemies, a meter will fill and when it reaches certain spots, you can press a button to have the time travelling character activate special skills like healing and raising your attack power.

Your goal is to defeat a certain number of different kinds of enemies, each represented by a color and they all look like Power Rangers lackeys to me.  So there is not a wide variety of enemies to defeat, but sometimes you can smack around UFOs and other flying robots for some reason.  Once you reach a number of defeated enemies, a boss will appear for you to beat.  The game has like, 20 different endings, and it depends on how fast you beat the game and how many times the other character has to reset time when you run out of energy to see which ending you’ll get.  When you start a second game, you’ll unlock a new skill for your character and maybe even a new one to play as (like Kunio).

The game is all right, but it just seems a bit weird and unpolished, especially compared to other titles like the aforementioned River City Girls.  You have a sprawling map but since you have all your skills available at the start, there are no shops to buy new moves or healing items like in past River City games.  Also there is no in-game map or checkmarks to look at, so goals are a bit unclear as well.  Regular enemies are easy to beat, but bosses are hit sponges and that gets annoying quickly.  I do like the 16-bit style graphics, though.  I’d only get this game if you are a huge River City fan and have already played River City Girls and want more of the same kind of action, but don’t mind a bit of weirdness added to the mix.

Kid Factor:

Stay Cool: Kobayashi-san: A River City Ransom Story is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Mild Language and Mild Violence.  Language is used sparingly in the text, and while you can punch and kick bad guys, they just fall over and disappear when defeated.  Reading skill is needed for the text, and younger gamers may find it a bit too difficult.

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