Playing Critic: 'River City: Knights of Justice' like a blast from the past

Playing Critic: 'River City: Knights of Justice' like a blast from the past

"River City: Knights of Justice," exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS at this point, is a brand-new old-style button-mashing brawler merged with a fantasy role-playing game.

And, yes, it's a spin-off from a series that grew out of the 1989 NES classic, "River City Ransom."

As to whether you would like it, that depends on if you're into nostalgia or not.

By most standards, it's not a "modern" game. The graphics are pixel-art fare, reminiscent of the series' NES origins. The plot line is thin, the characters lack much personality, the controls are exceedingly simple, the enemies lack intelligence, and the main story is easily beaten with a few hours of effort.

Some will find it a waste; others will think it utterly charming.

It's comfort food for those of us who grew up playing this sort of game.

In "Knights," you play as Sir Alexander, a knight tasked with saving the kingdoms from the evils that threaten them.

Basically, you can talk to the many people you'll encounter, many of whom will have quests for you, which you can choose to attempt or not. Some of the quests are just basic busy work — go here, kill this please — while others will advance the main storyline.

Some of the folks you’ll talk to may even ask to join you on your adventure. Say yes or no as you please. You can technically have up to two others officially in your adventuring party, though in an odd game quirk, you can eventually be joined by companion characters who don’t take up the two open spots. At one point, I had five others fighting alongside Alexander, which made for short battles.

Battles are much as one would expect in a brawler. In essence, hit the enemies until they die while trying not to be hit too much in return.

The A button is your basic attack whether you’re holding a weapon or not.

B is kick if you are unarmed and throw if you’ve got something in your hands. Remember to run and pick up whatever you threw if you want to keep it. It won’t return to your inventory if you just leave it on the field.

Actually, let’s pause here for a moment. A major dynamic in fights in this game involves disarming enemies and being disarmed in return. If someone is knocked down, they might lose their grip on their weapon. And any weapon, be it a rock, sword or magical staff, can be picked up by anyone involved in the battle. So fights contain a slight tactical element where you try to minimize your enemies’ damage potential while collecting choice gear for your own use.

Anyway, back to the controls:

Y is jump. And X is to use the item you’ve got in your hands. So if it’s a piece of bread, you’ll eat it to regain health. If it’s a blitz staff, you’ll rain down lightning on your enemies. (All the magic you can use in “Knights of Justice” is granted by equipment. There are no spells to learn; just items to find or buy.)

You can also switch between any of your party members at will, though I’ve found that’s only useful if you mess up and get Alexander knocked out.

Beyond that, there’s not too much else to this game. Rest up in inns, buy gear from stores, and accomplish quests in order to advance the storyline.

It’s a simple game, reminiscent of a simpler time. A nice diversion when you want something to pick up and play without really having to do much thinking. Nothing more and nothing less.

Joel Leizer is The News-Gazette’s Playing Critic. Contact him at

'River City: Knights of Justice'

Platforms: Nintendo 3DS.

Price: $14.99.

ESRB rating: E10+ for everyone 10 and up.

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