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Review – River City Ransom EX (GBA)

River City Ransom is a favorite game among many “old school” gamers. It’s fast paced combination of action and RPG coupled with a first rate two player set up make this a game everyone loves to play.

So, like its NES bother Super Dodge Ball, River City Ransom gets a GBA revamp. This game gets not just a complete facelift to 16 bit style graphics, but also many new features. The best new feature, and probably the worst, is the save system. No longer will gamers be plagues by extremely long strings of random symbols and letters. Now you can simply create a data file on the game pack with your character’s abilities.

The new save system unfortunately is extremely flawed. It’s not that it doesn’t work; it’s more that it’s extremely unintuitive. Loading the game lets you pick options such as difficulty, number of enemies, if you want the other character to follow you around (computer controlled). It also lets you load data for each character. However, it requires you to load for both Ryan and Alex; whether you want the other character with you or not. You can circumvent this however by simply entering the game and loading from in game.

Saving also works a bit strangely, as far as I can tell, it automatically creates a new file no matter what, so you’ll likely end up doing a lot of file deleting. This can lead to frustration as there’s nothing to differentiate a file other than player name. This of course can lead to accidentally deleting the new file.

Save system aside, the game also introduces player partners. In the original, two players could pair up as Ryan and Alex to trek across River City. This game allows you to let the computer to control the other hero. The computer isn’t really helpful for much more than absorbing damage though. He’ll take down a few enemies but he won’t really come rescue you too much if you’re starting to take a beating.

Ryan and Alex aren’t the only heroes anymore either. You can get up to 3 followers ranging from new characters to Zombies (the bosses). You’ll have to satisfy certain story based requirements to get these different partners.

Unfortunately, the game is not without its flaws. Firstly, I’ve played around with this game several times and I can’t get Thor to appear in the warehouse like he should. I’m not sure if there is some new story sequence I have to find or if my copy is buggy but this prevents Ivan from appearing to unlock the gates of River City High. Unfortunately the save file doesn’t save your progress, just your stats, so in order to try again I have to go through the whole game again.

Second, The cost of special moves has been increased dramatically. There are MANY new special abilities to learn and each character starts with one already learned (Alex gets Dragon Kick, Ryan gets Stone Hands), but the skills are now in the $150-$300 dollars. When you couple this with the enemies, who seem to be stronger and more numerous in this version, it means you’ll be hard pressed to actually save money when you have to spend it all refilling your life.

It’s not impossibly difficult, but this artificial increase in difficulty removes a lot of the fast paced fun of the original game. The new features and story make things a lot more complicated and as a result this remake loses almost all of the fun charm of the original. Honestly I find myself bored and frustrated more than enjoying playing the game.

The Game Boy is the kind of portable gaming. My portable gaming goals are likely different than others, but when I play my game boy I am looking for something I can either complete in 10-15 minutes or less (even if it’s one mission or quest) and something I can save and come back to in 5-10 minute spurts of game play. The save system not keeping story progress and the excessive time needed to raise money remove these aspects from the game. It’s a nice looking remake but it just isn’t as fun as the original game.

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