River City Ransom

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"Street Gangs" redirects here. For street gangs, see street gang.
Downtown Nekketsu Story
River City Ransom
River City Ransom-front.jpg
North American cover art
Developer(s) Technōs Japan (FC/NES)
SPS (X68000)
Million (GBA)
  • JP/NA Technos (FC/NES)
  • JP Naxat Soft (PCE Super CD-ROM²)
Director(s) Mitsuhiro Yoshida, Hiroyuki Sekimoto
Composer(s) Kazuo Sawa
Platform(s) Family Computer/NES, Sharp X68000, PC-Engine Super CD-ROM², Game Boy Advance, Virtual Console
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Beat 'em up, Action role-playing, Open world
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Distribution 2-megabit ROM cartridge (FC/NES), 32-megabit ROM cartridge (GBA), CD-ROM, download

River City Ransom, originally released as Downtown Nekketsu Story (ダウンタウン熱血物語 Dauntaun Nekketsu Monogatari?, lit. "Downtown Hot-Blooded story") in Japan and later as Street Gangs in PAL regions, is a video game for the Family Computer/NES. It was developed by Technōs Japan and originally released in Japan on April 25, 1989. It is the third game in Technos' Kunio-kun series released for the console, preceded by Renegade and Super Dodge Ball. Like its predecessors, River City Ransom underwent great changes in its storyline and graphical presentation during its localization in order to make the game more palatable in the Western market. It was one of the first console games published by North American subsidiary American Technos.

Remakes of the game have been released for the Sharp X68000, PC-Engine Super CD-ROM², and Game Boy Advance (GBA). The NES version was re-released on the Wii's Virtual Console in 2007. It was also released on the 3DS Virtual Console in the PAL Regions in July 25, 2013 and in North America in November 14, 2013.


Gameplay of River City Ransom.

The plot follows high school students Alex and Ryan as they cross River City in an attempt to rescue River City High and Ryan's girlfriend Cyndi from the clutches of a villain called "Slick".[10] Along the way, they battle with gangs of students (with names such as "The Generic Dudes", "The Frat Guys", "The Jocks" or "The Squids") and several gang leaders which act as bosses or sub-bosses.

River City Ransom is a beat 'em up game with action role-playing elements. The game is non-linear,[11] allowing players to explore an open world,[12] in a sandbox manner.[13] The fighting style is very similar to Double Dragon, in that the player can move freely around the screen while pressing buttons to punch, kick, or jump. Objects such as brass knuckles, steel pipes, and trashcans can be used as melee weapons or thrown at enemies.[10] However, the characters' effectiveness in battle is determined by several statistics and their knowledge of fighting techniques, such as Grand Slam, Stone Hands, and Dragon Feet, which are purchased as books in shops throughout the city using funds recovered from defeated gang members.[10] This loot may also be spent on various food items and spa treatments which serve to not only revitalize the player's stats, but may also permanently increase attributes like "Punch" and "Kick" (Foods and items offer varying levels of improvement).

The player can input passwords that keep track of their character's stats, skills, possessions, money, and defeated bosses.[10] There are a total of nine gangs in the original NES version (which are distinguished by the color of their t-shirts) whom the player will encounter during the course of the game, each with their own characteristics and attacking patterns.


The Famicom cover artwork of Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari.

River City Ransom is an English localization of the Family Computer video game Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari, which is the third title starring Technōs Japan's mascot character Kunio, who previously appeared in Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun and Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu (the Japanese versions of Renegade and Super Dodge Ball respectively). This is the first game in the series where Kunio teams up with his rival Riki, who fought against Kunio in the previous games. The gangs the players fight in the Famicom version are all students from different high schools and many of the characters introduced in this game would reappear in subsequent Kunio-kun games (particularly those that were directed by Sekimoto and Yoshida).

In addition to anglicizing all of the characters' and locations' names, as well as the game's dialog in the English translation, the characters' sprites were also redrawn, replacing their Japanese school uniforms with t-shirts and jeans.

The number of difficulty settings was reduced from three to two (the easiest difficulty setting was removed and the Medium setting in the Famicom version became the Novice setting in the NES version) and an alternate 2-player mode (2P Play B) which disables player-against-player damage was removed too. In addition to a Password feature, the Japanese version also features support for the Turbo File, a peripheral released only in Japan that allows the player to save and load game data.

River City Ransom was the first console game localized by Technōs Japan's U.S. subsidiary, American Technos Inc. Although most of Technōs Japan's previous games (such as Renegade and Double Dragon) were released in North America as well, they were licensed out to other publishers. The second and final NES game released by American Technos was Crash 'n the Boys: Street Challenge, which was also a Kunio-kun game.



Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari was ported to the Sharp X68000, a Japanese computer platform, and released in April 1990. This version of the game, which was developed by SPS and published by Sharp,[4] features several enhancements to the Famicom original, such as displaying three enemy characters on-screen instead of just two, slightly more colorful graphics, an expanded game world, and new items and special techniques for the player (including some that were only used by certain enemy characters in the Famicom version, such as the headbutt and the whirlwind kick). The new locations includes several new shops (such as a dojo) and the schools of each enemy gang, each featuring two new bosses. In addition to the player's regular stats, the player also has individual stats for all the special techniques their character has acquired. The more frequently a special move is used to finish off enemies, the stronger that particular move becomes. Unlike the Famicom version, the X68000 does not feature adjustable difficulty settings. The player can save and load their progress in one of ten save files provided by the game itself.

PC Engine[edit]

The PC Engine Super CD-ROM² version of Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari, released on December 24, 1993, was published by Naxat Soft and developed by KID, the same team that did the PC Engine versions of Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball (Super Dodge Ball), Double Dragon II: The Revenge, and Downtown Nekketsu Kōshinkyoku.[14] This version features enhanced graphics, an arranged redbook soundtrack and fully voiced characters, with the voices of Kunio and Riki performed by Ryō Horikawa and Nobutoshi Canna respectively. The player's progress is saved in this version on the PC Engine's backup memory. The rest of the game is almost identical to the Famicom version.

Game Boy Advance[edit]

North American cover of River City Ransom EX for the Game Boy Advance

A GBA version of the game, titled River City Ransom EX (ダウンタウン熱血物語ex Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari ex?) was released in Japan on March 5, 2004 and in North America on May 26, 2004.[5][6] This remake was developed by Million and published by Atlus. The most notable change from the original version is the loss of a true cooperative mode. Instead, the game can be played with an AI-controlled partner, and players may exchange the data of their own characters to fight alongside each other. The GBA version also includes a vast amount of configurable options that can adjust game play on the fly, such as changing AI behaviour, the amount of enemies in one map area, and shop item reshuffling frequency. The password system is replaced by battery backup, which allows saving up to 12 characters. Character's appearances, keystrokes for learned techniques, even enemy characters can be customized and saved using secret shop items. A saved game does not store story progress or reputation, but it does store the player's statistics, techniques, current items and money, player's name, and customized appearances. The player can gain additional computer-controlled allies and form a "posse" who helps the player on his adventure. Some of these are boss characters are from the original NES version, while others are taken from later Downtown Nekketsu games. The player can be accompanied by up to three AI-controlled partners.


The original NES version of River City Ransom was re-released on the Wii's Virtual Console service in Japan on October 23, 2007, in PAL regions on February 21, 2008, and in North America on April 21, 2008.[7][8][9] The western NES titles, graphics, and storylines for the latter two releases were left intact.

Nintendo 3DS[edit]

The original NES version of "River City Ransom" was also released on the 3DS Virtual Console available through the 3DS eShop in Japan on November 28, 2012, UK/EU region on July 25, 2013 and North America on November 14, 2013. Like other 3DS virtual console games, the user is able to create a "restore point" in the game which makes the extremely tedious job of copying down long save codes irrelevant. It also feature a 2 player mode via download play. Only one person needs to own a copy of the game in order to play, but "restore points" are disabled.

Reception and legacy[edit]

The Japanese version, Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari, was considered highly successful and would be followed by several spinoffs (including seven subsequent Famicom installments) until Technos Japan's closure in 1996. Of these seven games, Downtown Special: Kunio-kun no Jidaigeki dayo Zen'in Shugo features the same gameplay system as Monogatari, with the main difference being that the characters are re-enacting a jidaigeki play.

Outside Japan, River City Ransom was not highly successful when initially released. However, due to its unique gameplay and sense of humor, it is today considered a cult classic.[citation needed] This cult following, combined with the game's character and humor, inspired parallel works.

The UK television programme Games Master generally panned the game (under its localised title of Street Gangs) with one reviewer saying they "would rather sit in a vat of horse manure than play this game, give it to your worse enemies" with an overall score of 32%.[15]

GamesRadar ranked it the seventh best NES game ever made. The staff felt that it was more memorable than Ghosts 'n Goblins, Legend of Kage, and Double Dragon and is still influential.[16]

In 2002, an aspiring game designer, tester for Atari, and longtime fan of the game obtained the title's trademark and began work on a sequel aptly titled River City Ransom 2. The project was halted when it was announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2003 that River City Ransom EX was to be released the following year.[17] However, a true sequel to the game was announced on March 18, 2011. Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari 2 (ダウンタウン熱血物語2?) is being developed by Miracle Kidz for a Japanese release on WiiWare in 2011. An online PC version was due out in 2012.[18] On October 22, 2012; however, the game was put on hold due to an announcement that the developers were freezing development to focus on making completely original games.[19]

On April 22, 2013, the Canadian independent developer, Conatus Creative, announced development on an officially licensed follow-up game, named River City Ransom: Underground, scheduled for Windows in August 2014.[20] On September 9, 2013 Conatus Creative launched a campaign on the crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, seeking CA$180,000 in funding for the game. On October 6, 2013, they successfully reached their funding goal. The campaign ended on October 9, 2013, having collected $217,643, approximately 120% of the original goal.


  1. ^ "VC ダウンタウン熱血物語" (in Japanese). Nintendo. Retrieved 2011-05-06. 
  2. ^ "NES Games" (PDF). Nintendo. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  3. ^ Eggebrecht, Julian (August 1993). "Street Gangs". Total! (in German) (Future Publishing): p. 69. 
  4. ^ a b "株式会社 エス・ピー・エス~博物館―Window" (in Japanese). SPS. Archived from the original on August 7, 2007. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  5. ^ a b IGN Staff (March 8, 2004). "Now Playing in Japan". IGN. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  6. ^ a b Castro, Juan (May 26, 2004). "River City Ransom EX Ships". IGN. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  7. ^ a b Fletcher, JC (October 23, 2007). "VC Tuesday: Best week ever". Joystiq. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  8. ^ a b Calvert, Darren (February 21, 2008). "EU VC Releases - 22nd February - Street Gangs". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  9. ^ a b "River City Ransom and Phantasy Star III Now Available on Wii Shop Channel!". Nintendo of America. April 21, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  10. ^ a b c d Thomas, Lucas M. (April 21, 2008). "River City Ransom Review". IGN. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  11. ^ Kramer, Josh (29 July 2004). "River City Ransom". Thunderbolt. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  12. ^ Plante, Chris (June 22, 2010). "Every Easter Egg Hidden in the Scott Pilgrim Video Game Trailer". UGO Networks. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  13. ^ Parish, Jeremy (2008-04-29). "Retronauts Carjacks Grand Theft Auto". 1UP.com. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  14. ^ KIDゲーリスト(PCエンジン) (in Japanese). 
  15. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huo90uhLsfg#t=6m45s
  16. ^ "Best NES Games of all time". GamesRadar. 2012-04-16. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  17. ^ Cifaldi, Frank (2004). "Realize Games' River City Ransom 2". Lost Levels Online. Retrieved June 21, 2006. 
  18. ^ Anoop Gantayat. "River City Ransom Sequel Set for WiiWare". IGN. Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  19. ^ "River City Ransom 2 On Hold, Developer Now Working On Original Games". Siliconera. October 22, 2012. Retrieved November 22, 2012. 
  20. ^ "River City Ransom announced". Conatus Creative. April 22, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2012. 

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