River City Ransom is a name that may be familiar to NES gamers from the 80s. It was a charming combination of street gang beat ‘em up and RPG stat progression, and it eventually became a cult classic. Western fans may not realize that the Japanese Kunio-
The game starts with an opening showing the core River City characters transforming into their medieval
On a basic level, Knights of Justice delivers classic beat ‘em up gameplay that the series is known for. You control Alexander through isometric 2D arenas, punching and kicking enemies until they “BARF” (yes, they kept the same terminology from the original game). There are obvious cosmetic changes. Instead of traveling through city and school landscapes, you navigate through fields and caves via a world map that looks suspiciously similar to Dragon Quest.
The biggest gameplay alterations are that you can now equip swords, staves, and other common RPG tools. The new weapons affect both your stats and abilities. Staves grant you access to unique spells like lightning or invisibility. Swords are more basic; you can swing them or throw them at foes. I found it annoying that you can actually forfeit your weapon if you throw it or lose your grip during battle. If you don’t pick it back up before the battle ends, it’s gone and you must repurchase it, which is baffling considering how much the game touts its weapon system.
The RPG inspiration leads to some interesting but poorly executed gameplay alterations – the biggest disappointment being that there is no level up system. Any power gains are limited to your equipment and jewels that can be affixed to the former. Even the original River City Ransom had some stat progression, so this design decision felt
The lack of depth is easily the game’s biggest problem. As a result, the game got repetitive very quickly, and this isn’t even a long game. I beat it in under three hours but performed very simple sword swinging throughout most of it. There are over 100 quests that increase replay value, but the majority of them simply involve defeating waves of enemies with the rest being dull fetch quests. Even worse, despite the sheer amount of quests, there is no way to organize them or prioritize the most important ones, so I sometimes had to look through pages of text just to figure out which was the next story mission.
If Knights of Justice does something right with its inspiration, it’s its presentation. The game effectively simulates the dungeon, castle, and town aesthetics of classic JRPGs like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. The costumed Kunio-
A medieval version of River City could have had robust stat progression, a sophisticated fighting system, and at the very least, a more interesting story. Instead, we have a barebones palette swap that is still the same beat ‘em up on the inside. Though the core mechanics are fun, it gets repetitive due to a lack of combat depth and stat progression. Regardless, this fantasy palette swap of the old-school games is a valiant effort. Fans of the series will likely find Kunio – or I should say Alexander’s – adventures in Riverandia to be an enjoyable, albeit short, experience. Others unfamiliar with the series seeking a good beat ‘em up may want to consider the original River City Ransom or the 3DS’ River City: Tokyo Rumble instead.
I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!