Last week, we interviewed Adam Tierney of WayForward about River City Girls Zero, which is out on Switch and scheduled to arrive on other platforms soon. Zero isn't WayForward's only upcoming River City Girls game, though. River City Girls 2 is due out this year, introducing online play and lots of new features to the series. To learn more about the hotly anticipated beat 'em up sequel, we interviewed Bannon Rudis, RCG2 director; Colleen Fannin, RCG2 producer; and Adam Tierney, RCG1 director and RCG Zero project lead.
Co-Optimus: Thanks for sitting down with us for yet another clearly in-person interview. First, Bannon and Colleen, could you tell us a little about your experience in game development and some of your favorite non-River City/Kunio-kun beat ‘em ups?
Bannon Rudis: My first title was a beat-’em-up called River City Ransom: Underground. We did a Kickstarter, and I worked on that project for about three years non-stop. Then I got offered a job at WayForward. As far as non-Kunio-kun beat ’em ups, I would say my favorites are Dragon’s Crown, Alien vs. Predator, and Guardian Heroes.
Colleen Fannin: The first beat-’em-up I ever played was Photo Dojo, shortly followed by Code of Princess! I’ve worked on a number of games with WayForward, including the Double Dragon Neon Nintendo Switch port, but this is my first real experience with the beat ’em up genre in terms of game development.
Left to right: Bannon Rudis, Colleen Fannin, and Adam Tierney
Co-Optimus: As I asked Adam last time, why do you think the River City/Kunio-kun franchise has been on such an upswing in western markets these past few years? Does it all come down to Arc System Works stepping in?
Bannon Rudis: Arc System Works took over the franchise when I was still working on my first River City game. So I've been working alongside them for almost eight years now at this point. They're big fans of everything Technos, so they have a lot of passion for the series. I think sharing Kunio-kun to a wider audience that maybe didn't grow up with it like they did is something they're excited about.
Colleen Fannin: With cute anime girls and bright colors, anything is possible!
Double Dragon Neon
Co-Optimus: The first River City Girls is easily one of the best beat ‘em ups of its generation, much like Double Dragon Neon before it. Is the first game’s most requested feature what I think it is?
Bannon Rudis: The most requested by far is online [co-op]. We've been working non-stop to make it run as smoothly as possible. I've been playtesting online a lot and it always surprises me how well it plays. In fact, most of the trailer footage I recently recorded was done online to show off how good it really is (plus I didn't want to drive to work). The amount of double-team combos you can pull off on the fly with a friend never gets old.
Colleen Fannin: Would you consider Marian’s abs a feature? :D
River City Girls 1
Co-Optimus: The more Marian, the better! Anyway, where does the story of River City Girls 2 pick up, and are Kyoko and Misako still dating the River City Ransom protagonists, Kunio and Riki, in this sequel?
Bannon Rudis: It starts exactly where the last one finishes. The happy couples are blissfully unaware of a new enemy rising up from the ashes of the previous one.
Co-Optimus: Besides the protagonists, who are some of the returning characters in RCG2? Will the Double Dragon or Combatribes characters show up in this one?
Bannon Rudis: I never like spoiling too much about cameos because I love seeing people's reactions when they stumble across new or familiar characters. There will be plenty of returning characters and familiar ones making their River City Girls debut.
Adam Tierney: I will tease — there are some major additions in RCG2 that we specifically held back from the first RCG game because we wanted to give them their own moment to shine. Realizing some of these characters after thinking about them for four or five years has been great, and we can’t wait to see player reactions.
Colleen Fannin: All I’ll say is, I cannot wait to see the next “All Hidden References in RCG2” lore video on YouTube!
Kyoko and Misako (River City Girls 2)
Co-Optimus: Art, music, and voice acting are some of the first game’s strengths. How have these elements changed or grown in River City Girls 2?
Bannon Rudis: There's a lot more dialogue this time around. The music is a lot more thought out to really capture the mood of each area players will visit. One of the biggest improvements, for me, are the VFX. They replicate that over-the-top anime vibe. Also, sound effects. The city sounds much more alive and brings it a lot depth.
Adam Tierney: In addition to there just being more dialogue, the [characters who are speaking] also change based on who the players are currently controlling, something we wanted to do on RCG1 but wasn’t feasible at the time. So whether you’re playing as Misako and Kyoko this time, or Riki and Kunio, or Provie and Misako, whatever the combination — those are the characters you’ll be hearing. We’re also adding Japanese voiceovers as an option as well, which we gave players a preview of in RCG Zero.
River City Girls 2
Co-Optimus: The first RCG added several interesting gameplay systems like accessories and recruits to the open-world, action RPG-style design of River City Ransom. Do these mechanics return in the sequel, and will there be any new ones?
Bannon Rudis: There are plenty of new items and accessories. Accessories got an overhaul from the first game. You can see visual cues on your characters when they take effect and the abilities they give you are more prominent.
Recruits now allow you to have two at the same time, so you can mix and match to fit your fighting style. The recruits you captured are readily available to choose from back at your hideouts. In addition to that, you can find hired henchmen that are essentially powerful recruits that you can hire.
Kunio and Riki (River City Girls 2)
Co-Optimus: Speaking of open-world gameplay, the first game had a fairly polished and useful map to aid with navigation. Does the map work the same way in the sequel?
Bannon Rudis: The map system got an overhaul as well. There's a whole new social media app called “Honkr” on your phone that will help guide you through your journey and [a GPS feature that] will lead you to important destinations. This game is massive and has multiple paths, so you're going to need all the navigation help you can get.