River City Ransom (NES)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

I've mentioned it before, a long time ago, that I'm not exactly steeped in the Nintendo lore. So there are tons of games ripe for exploration, enjoyment and blogging. That said, it can be hard to stick a pin, as it were, and decide on what to play, so recommendations are always welcome.

One game that I've heard talked about as a bit of a must-play is River City Ransom. That's all I could remember about it prior to today... I didn't know what it was about, what you had to do or anything. What better way to find out than to just dive right in?

Barf? I must have hit him really hard!

I was pleasantly surprised, at first, to find a game that was not unlike Double Dragon or Renegade (it felt a little more like Renegade to me). And, in fact, research showed that this was the third entry in a series that started with... Renegade. Damn, I'm good! And if you haven't heard of River City Ransom and live outside the US, well, it was known as Street Gangs in other territories. Isn't the internet wonderful?

River City Ransom is another in the long line of videogame tales that see your useless girlfriend captured and imprisoned and in need of rescue. One of these days, someone is going to program a game where that happens and the hero just says, "Ahhh, fuck it" and goes out and gets another girlfriend. That would be pretty subversive. Until it happens though, we chivalrous (in-game) fellas will keep on putting our lives on the line, battling past innumerable hordes of bad guys for the honour of our girls.

Oh man, I could murder a decent cuppa (and about a thousand goons).

The game features a number of inner-city locales to batter your way through, including parks, building sites, tunnels and buildings, and each of these locales is the turf of one of the many gangs that are featured. It's not quite The Warriors... each gang is determined only by the colour of their shirts... but it still adds a welcome sense of scope to proceedings.

Also featured in the game are high street shopping areas. In these, a number of shops can be visited and their goods purchased. These goods will go towards increasing your character's stats, be it through the eating of food or drinking of beverages (which will replenish lost stamina and energy as well as increasing maximum levels). You can also buy books which, when read, add extra moves to your character's moveset. This is a pretty cool touch, actually.

They what> The bastards! But I... I... trusted them!

One thing I noticed, bearing in mind that this is the first time I've ever played this game... River City Ransom has obviously been a massive influence on the whole Scott Pilgrim vs The World phenomenon. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the recent downloadable Scott Pilgrim game is almost a carbon copy of River City Ransom. I was amazed at how similar they are... I played Scott Pilgrim on the 360 when it was released, but not having been a NES owner, I didn't realise the extent to which it had been an influence. I suppose it's the sincerest form of flattery, especially as the Scott Pilgrim game was done so well and so lovingly.

River City Ransom is a good game, although its limitations can become a little wearying after extended play. You're only ever attacked by two enemies at once, which is a bit dull... that said, they often attack at such speed that you're easily caught out. I'm not a fan of the way you have to move three-quarters of the way across the screen to push the scrolling... it's a bit awkward. And I never actually saw an endgame as such... I didn't play it through to the end, but every time I died I was just put back to a recent point; there was no Game Over.

Hey, what's up homies? What's that? You want to batter me with bricks? Harsh.

Because the game never seems to end, the repetitive nature of the gameplay can become a little boring. Then again, that's the danger with almost every scrolling beat 'em up. At least you have the extra depth that comes with the RPG-Lite elements, and it's a little harsh to criticise what was obviously quite revolutionary for its time, and is still a pretty decent and fun game when it comes down to it. It's got me looking forward to digging out a few more NES games now.

Why is it called River City Ransom when you're not going to pay a ransom?

Unsung Classics. Number 12: Street Hassle (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

I've got such good memories of playing this. I doubt if many other people have, though, so it's becoming the latest in my irregular, infrequent and unmissable "Unsung Classics" series. OK, so the "unmissable" might be a bit of a stretch.

My mate Reedy, who has been mentioned here a number of times so far, bought this. I think it was from the fabled bookshop in Consett's bus station, but I can't remember. What I can remember is that it resulted in some of the best laughs we had from gaming.

Street Hassle is an Australian game. I reckon that maybe they could get away with a bit more down there. I say this, because it's imaginatively twisted, for a beat 'em up, and I'm not sure if we were quite at their level in 1987.

Right: Rock icon Graham Bonnet. Left: Underwear Man.

The character you play is a blonde, muscle-bound guy, who wanders through the suburbs dressed only in yellow boots and underpants, and a pair of sunglasses, looking for all the world like Graham Bonnet on holiday. Naturally, this causes consternation among the residents, and they set about attacking you in an attempt to clean up the 'hood.

There's not a "normal" resident to be seen, though. These crazy 'burbs are inhabited by all sorts. There are old blind men that will poke you with their sticks. I mean that... if you stand still, they'll walk up, look at you and then prod you in a mean way. Little old ladies will swing their handbags around their heads and fling them at you... if they remember to let go. If not, they'll be helicoptered across the screen at you. Gorillas routinely amble about, and will give you a good thrashing. Bulldogs are vicious things, but can be soothed with a tickle on the tum. There are lumbering fatties, elaborately-dressed wrestlers, basketball players. It's an odd sort of place.

See, that's how to deal with pesky grannies. That's payback for all the times they've smashed my shins with their brick-filled purse-bag-things.

Fortunately, you're able to fend off this lot with an array of attacks of your own. You've got a couple of standard attacks - a roundhouse kick and, umm, a tickle - and you get two special moves per level. These are different for each of the first five levels, meaning you have a total of twelve moves across the game. More than enough to cope with the scum you're up against.

This one had even me perplexed.

Street Hassle is a fairly mental side-scrolling beat 'em up. It's more basic than the likes of Double Dragon or Renegade, in that you can only move left or right, but it makes up for it by having a sense of humour unlike any other scrolling fighter. Where else do you get to twirl old ladies above your head before throwing them out of sight, or twist a blind old man's ears until he submits? Nowhere else, that's where.

Poke me with your stick, would you? Let's see how you like your ears twisted. Not much? Thought not.

For all that I enjoy playing the game and it's pretty funny, it is still limited, and so nowadays it's best played in one session and then left alone for a while, otherwise it's likely to get old. Most comedy does, but nothing moreso than a daft videogame. But it was great for its time, and given a quick spin it's still very likely to bring a smile to your face.