Not All Stories Are Worth Telling.
Stay Cool, Kobayashi-sai!: A River City Ransom Story’s release has the unfortunate timing of coming out the same year as another entry into the River City Ransom universe, River City Girls. Being another Arc System Works side-scrolling beat-em-up, it has the dubious task of being compared to what I believe is the high watermark of the genre on Switch. You play as Kobayashi-San, who I believe is a leader of a gang of guys who are fending off some kind of interdimensional threat? Candidly, the story itself is nonsensical in a way that is tough to follow and really kind of non-consequential.
But that’s not terribly important if everything else is good, right? Kobayashi-sai’s move set is simple (jump, attack, and special move button) but manages to add variety in other ways. The distance between you and an enemy can change what type of attack is produced, as well as if you’re holding a different direction on the d-pad. One direction produces standard kicks, another allows a charging uppercut that pops enemies in the air where you can juggle them for a bit. The special move is a charge-up attack that hones-in on the nearest enemy with a flurry of attacks, with a separate bar that recharges over time. This simple repertoire of attack inputs is complemented by visual flair in each punch or dash. If you’re connecting a punch or kick with the enemy, it’s flashy and looks cool.
It falls apart when you try to connect those attacks with enemies. The window of how even on the plane you must be with enemies feels oddly narrow, many of my attacks whiffing in the air as the enemies scooch in to pound me afterward. Once you get past that, the limited input options make the skirmishes feel shallow. Furthermore, while there are some additional features like a CPU ally that walks alongside you and engages with the enemies, it’s not clear whether he actually helps or just looks busy and acts as a character you need to heal from time to time. There was also a few instances where once I beat a boss and they turned into a shadow figure, while my ally stated we had to beat them, they went and flew offscreen in a way that in practice felt more like some kind of error rather than an intentional chase moment. The genre is often reduced to being described as a button-masher, and while I think some of the better examples of the genre eschew that stereotype, that’s effectively what you’ll be doing here.
That blandness carries over to its visual presentation writ large. There’s a severe lack of diversity in different enemy types, the bulk of them being nondescript uniformed henchmen types with helmets and an awful screeching sound that’s made no matter what they’re doing. The world is technically open-ended in that you aren’t on a treadmill constantly going from left-to-right, but the backdrops (outside of a few) are muted in color. Music is one track on infinite loop, a musical number that is inoffensive until you’ve hit the 20th time it’s looped. Whether or not it was an intentional aesthetic choice,
And that carries through the entire experience. There are threads of interesting ideas weaved within, but largely don’t compliment each other or get sewn into a more cohesive larger picture. Stuff like the swapping of allies in battle could have been more compelling or the diverse move set could have been more effective in a better game, but this is not that better game.