River City Girls 2 is the follow-up to the highly praised beat ‘em up of 2019. It comes from the renowned developers at WayForward, known for their interesting take on familiar genres. This stylish sequel continues that trend, though it’s not without its issues. 

Fans of the first River City Girls title will be pleased to see the return of main characters Misako and Kyoko. The action picks up right where we left off, showing us exactly what happened to the villains after their defeat. Revenge is in order, to say the least. The anime-style narrative is a superb introduction to the violent world of River City. The colorful visuals and terrific voice acting work together to set up the corrupt yet humorous world before we’re plunged back into it.

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By the end of the intro, Misako and Kyoko have been expelled from school thanks to a Yakuza takeover. They make the most of this awful situation by discovering the joys of playing video games on the couch. When they realize a new entry has been released in their favorite series, it’s off to the mall we go. This is where the fighting begins.

The entire city is overrun by baddies, who seem to relish blocking our heroine’s path. Thankfully, the pair has some wicked moves to go toe to toe with anyone who dares to stand in their way. As they work through the organized crime on the streets, they also meet NPCs to receive side quests and other missions, adding longevity to the game. Multiplayer is also an asset, with drop-in, drop-out mechanics allowing anyone to jump in locally at any point – handy during boss fights.

The voice acting is on display throughout the entire adventure. The casting and writing are both terrific, with amusing dialogue between each interesting character. It works well, bringing the anime style even further to life. 

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The gameplay works well, too. This is a classic side-scrolling beat ‘em up, complete with tough enemies coming at you from all sides. Kicking and punching everyone in sight is as satisfying as ever. I enjoyed the setup of completing various missions while uncovering the nefarious plans of the crime lord running the city. I also appreciated the sheer amount of destructible objects to wreak havoc as you wander the town; many also double as makeshift weapons. These are particularly fun and humorous to try, like swinging a bicycle at foes to take them down. It’s a rough and aggressive setting, but in a very cartoony way.

Unfortunately, there’s a significant issue with River City Girls 2 that stops it from reaching its true potential. There’s an inordinate amount of waiting to be done as you play, thanks to far too many loading screens. An initial loading screen of well over 30 seconds greets you when you first start playing. This could be excused as a one-off, but the entire game is riddled with these placeholder frames that ask you to “please wait”. 

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Each level is divided into many smaller areas. Moving between each area initiates the same black screen with those dreaded words begging for your patience while the next scene loads. These screens may only last between five and ten seconds, but it becomes a burden when you’re moving through area after area in quick succession, particularly when backtracking. And there’s a lot of backtracking. It’s. Like. Reading. Like. This. We’re talking about a loading screen every few minutes; it’s too much. It slows the action, creating a cumbersome experience that mars the game’s fast pace.

Overall, River City Girls 2 almost ticks all the boxes. The fun gameplay mixes well with the anime-style aesthetics and humorous story. The only downside is the jarring loading screens between each playable area, which annoyingly slows the pacing. It’s still an enjoyable title;, it’s just a shame it couldn’t have been better optimized. This could have been the perfect beat ‘em up.