The Origin of Brawlers – River City Ransom (1989)

River City Ransom

River City Ransom, originally released for the NES as Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari (ダウンタウン熱血物語), translates literally to “Downtown Hot-Blooded Story.” It follows Renegade and Super Dodge Ball in the Kunio-Kun series. As usual, the characters and setting were greatly changed for the Western market, although the now familiar kidnapped girlfriend plot remains the same. Ryan (formerly Kunio) and his friend Alex must rescue Cindi, fighting their way through gang members in t-shirts who, in Japan, had been schoolboys in school uniforms.

The game’s use of a nonlinear role-play space was a groundbreaking move for gaming. The player uses game loot gotten from defeated rivals to buy books that confer additional fighting skills, or spa visits and food that add health. The choice of action was left to the player, who was free to survey shops, buy items, fight, create improvised weapons, and generally explore the world around him. The game was not very successful, but it has become a cult classic. It is generally considered exceptionally fun to play because of its humor and clever gameplay style. It was a strong influence in the creation of the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World comics and later in the creation of the game.

Fans hoping for a sequel are expecting a Windows release in 2014 from Conatus Creative, Ottowa, following their successful Kickstarter campaign.

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Gift of Ben Rog-Wilhelm, 2013.021.005