Wednesday, May 16, 2007

we got brilliance, right here in River City OR on being the valedictorian of Crosstown High

Around a year ago, I picked up a title on clearance-plus-a-sale. I'd been looking for a straight brawler for a long time; among the greatest play experiences I've ever had is Final Fight, and I've been chasing that (double) dragon for a while.

I'd been swayed by the internet. Seanbaby, for example, had indicated that the game was about as good as games get, primarily by celebrating its manual. Now, at the time, I was enjoying GBA games primarily on my beloved pink handheld--a straight GBA, featuring zero backlighting, and, honestly, very little...ah...onscreen action. My initial tilts with the title, then, featured my GBA's flawfree button feel, but looked pretty thoroughly plain and in general failed to thrill. (One exception was grabbing a chain and beating somebody with it after I'd knocked them down. That--was--awesome!!)

A couple weeks ago, though, I gave the ol' girl another spin. This time on my delectable little micro. What I found was a straight brawler--move to the right, hit the attack button. But this one had a non-linear map. And a complicated inventory system. And a ton of unlockable special moves. And a robust levelling-up scheme. And a plot-and-character setup residing in the Triangle of Awesome established by the three points MYTHIC, ARCHETYPAL, and VIDEOGAME PREMISE.(1) Then there's an optional computer-controlled fighting partner whose A.I. I can adjust. And lovely graphics--several scrolling layers of parallax featuring neato hand-drawn backgrounds. And gravity I can tweak, if I want my foes to fly farther after I kick 'em a beatdown. And button feel matching that of the straight GBA. And those terrific chain-thrashings remain!

What I found, then, was a dead simple button-masher, a perfect pick-up-and-play game...that's nowhere near dead simple. It's the beat-em-up, the retardedest of genres, reimagined for the player who likes to overthink essentially everything. It's a game designed for those who like to treat the lowest of genres with the intellectual respect usually reserved for the highest of artifacts. It's a handheld game with a satisfaction payload--and a delight payload--as high as anything available. It's a button-masher whose special moves are legitimately difficult to pull off. River City Ransom EX offers complexity disguised as simplicity, with depth hidden under the shallowest of premises.

And it's this what makes it...the official game of Reviewiera!!

-Fat

1.
The game begins with a character's girlfriend kidnapped by a gang. The player character then starts the game in front of the perfectly generic "Crosstown High School". The universe given is ALL OUR universes--playing the game ends up remarkably like watching Streets of Fire.

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