Street Gangs (NES)

Game Review

Street Gangs Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Damien McFerran


River City Ransom — or Street Gangs as it was known upon release in Europe — is arguably one of the most famous fighting titles for Nintendo's 8-bit NES console. Ported from the Japanese Famicom title Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari, the game combined the pugilistic focus of Double Dragon (which was created by the same company, Technōs Japan) with RPG elements, such as persistent stats, non-player characters, purchasable items and a large, non-linear game world. The result was a title which proved to be a massive critical success and showed that seemingly static genres like the side-scrolling brawler could be given additional complexity by introducing outside elements.

More than two decades have passed since the game first hit store shelves but it's surprising how playable and enjoyable it remains. The core combat is similar to that seen in Double Dragon and Renegade, another entry in Technōs' Kunio-kun series which was localised for western audiences. Punch and kick are the two main attacks, and these can be combined with sprints or jumps to catch enemies off-guard. Jumping is achieved by pressing both buttons simultaneously, while running requires a double-tap in the desired direction.

Both you and your enemies can pick up weapons — such as iron bars, knuckle dusters or chains — and use them in battle; all of these items can be used as projectiles as well. Finally, it's possible to block incoming blows by tapping either the A or B button at the precise moment your foe attacks.

Such a control arrangement means that River City Ransom is already a match for most other 8-bit fighters, but the twist here is that you can boost your character's power by purchasing items with cash dropped by fallen opponents. You begin with a base set of stats — kick, punch, weapon, throwing, agility, strength, and so on — and you can improve these by consuming food, reading books or purchasing medicinal drugs. Many items you acquire in the various shops which populate the game's retail districts can also be retained in your character's inventory and used at a later date.

Furthermore, it's possible to learn entirely new moves by buying and studying special tomes. These new moves drastically enhance your fighting power, making it easier to overcome the hordes of enemies and increasingly difficult boss characters you face along the way. However, there is a limit to how powerful you can become — all of the stats eventually reach a maximum level, which means there's only so much expansion required before you can march to the end of the game and destroy the final boss. Still, it's a fantastic way to add a sense of progression to this kind of game, and is aided immeasurably by the inclusion of save states — which render the existing password system irrelevant, unless you feel like inputting the ones you scrawled down on a piece of paper back in 1991 when you played the NES original.

Another neat addition in this handheld version is the ability to play two-player with a fellow 3DS owner via download play. Save states are disabled but it's still a welcome feature which will no doubt bring back happy memories for those who spent so many hours playing this title co-operatively with friends. The fact that the second player doesn't need to own the game is a bonus, and will make it much easier to arrange impromptu multiplayer sessions.


In many ways, River City Ransom — or Street Gangs, if you prefer — is better suited to handheld play than on a home console. It's RPG-style gameplay means that you become hooked on the main quest, constantly tempted to rough up a few more hoodlums in order to obtain additional wealth so you can increase your stats further. Save states mean that you can drop-in and drop-out of your mission of justice at any point, and the game is perfect for bite-sized play sessions.

The repetitive nature of the action can sometimes become a little grating, but this is a criticism which can be levelled at practically any side-scrolling fighter — and with its RPG-style mechanics and open-world environment, River City Ransom does at least offer some respite. Humorous touches — such as enemies who exclaim phrases like "Are we having fun yet?" and "BARF" when they kick the bucket — enrich the package further, making this an 8-bit classic that is most certainly worth revisiting.

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User Comments (37)



C-Olimar said:

Is there any reason NES games on 3DS eShop cost £1 more than their Wii U counterparts?



unrandomsam said:

So have they got the PAL version branded as Street Gangs running at 60hz ?

Or what have they done ? (They said they couldn't do that). Is it the US rom ?



Ristar42 said:

@unrandomsam Pretty sure they could force an early NES game like this into 60Hz, as I doubt any concessions were made in the original PAL version to correct the speed or aspect ratio.
Looking at the trailer for the 3DS VC release 'Street Gangs' (I've not downloaded the actual game), it seems to be running at the correct 60Hz speed as the 'River City Ransom' trailer above (the game is boardered anyway).



bezerker99 said:

Very addictive and fun game!! I'm going to have to get this for my Wii U whenever it comes to NA.



manpretty said:

Great game. One of the handful of 8 bit games that still holds up very well today.



unrandomsam said:

@Ristar42 I am sure they could but they wouldn't do it up to now. If they could do this then they wouldn't have had to do the 50hz optimised Balloon Fight for example.



unrandomsam said:

@manpretty There is tons of TG16 (Which is 8 bit in the only reasonable way of categorising such things) games that hold up well today. A few Master System games (I thought Crisis Force was probably the best NES/Famicom or Master System Shooter but Power Strike 2 is light years better) and a few NES games.

And the best version of this is on the TG16


They could have used those sprites and put it as a 3D classic.



GreatPlayer said:

This game was originally called hot blood tough gang in Japanese. I love this game when I was a kid.



GreatPlayer said:

This game was originally called hot blood tough gang in Japanese. I love this game when I was a kid.



Morpheel said:

Hehe looks like an 8bit GTA (without cars).

I really should play it someday.



Ristar42 said:

@unrandomsam I dont think they have a clear policy on the matter, we have yet to see a 50Hz 3DS VC title, the 3DS VC trailer looks the right speed despite the title screen 'Street Gangs'. Perhaps a PAL gamer who has downloaded it can confirm for certain.



Clayfrd said:

I love RCR, but I really prefer it with a friend! A great gaming memory of mine is spending a few dreary winter hours blazing straight through this with a friend. The cooperative action is top-notch, and the banter you can share with a buddy can help mitigate the repetitive nature of the beat 'em up genre (and turn it into a truly great time). As much love as I have for this game, I have to recommend it on home console release!



Assassinated said:

With the subheading "BARF" I expected a scathing review of a terrible game, yet there was far more praise than criticism. I'm not implying that I think it's a bad game, never having played it, merely that the subheading was misleading.



MeloMan said:

Love this game to death, and will play it with a friend of mine all over again. Speaking of River City Ransom, whatever became of the River City Ransom they were working on for WiiWare? Movin' on over to Wii U E-Shop? Anything... Anyone...?



JimLad said:

They need to localize all the Kunio games, there's something like 15 in total.



rayword45 said:

To those who haven't played, that tagline sounds like it's gonna be a negative review.



Windy said:

Played it! Great for those who have not played it. But I will wait for a 3d classic version. By all means great game. If you haven't played it try it! Is Nintendo going to do anymore 3D Classics or is Sega Going to Grab the Reigns on 3D Classics? I'm a Huge fan of Kunio Dodgeball on PCEngine.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Damo: It is quite an in-joke, though. I get where they're coming from no question, as it really does look like a negative statement.



KevTastic84 said:

I have this on the Wii, and the EX remake for the GBA so will pass on owning it a 3rd time on 3DS even with the fun two player option in tact



grumblegrumble said:

Can't wait to play this again! I played it once many moons ago (uhem!) through a video rental store, can't wait to download it for $5, i remember it being a kinda sorta double dragon clone but much better than double dragon imho with the added story elements.



appel said:

I loved Double Dragon, so I tried this game, but I really don't like it. I mean, the production values are very good, but I found it too confusing. Most of the time I had no idea where to go or what items to get.

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