Kids, if there's one thing you take away from River City Ransom, may it be that violence is the answer to your problems. If you beat a gang member hard enough, he will become an honor student. And if you beat an honor student hard enough, he will give you his lunch money. And the final moral is: it's all about good grades and trips to the mall.
River City Ransom, released in Japan as Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari (part of the Kunio-kun series, which also included the Super Dodge Ball series, Crash 'n the Boys: Street Challenge, and the original Renegade) and in Europe as Street Gangs, is a Beat 'em Up with elements of a Role-Playing Game. The story goes that Ryan's girlfriend gets kidnapped by River City High's top gang leader, Slick, who also happens to be the arch-rival of Cross Town High's top punk, Alex. So Alex and Ryan fight their way past gang territories and various malls to get to River City High, take down Slick, and rescue Ryan's girlfriend.While not the most well-known game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, it was well received by those who did play it. It offered several different ways to customize your character, was one of the earliest games to blend RPG elements into another genre in a successful fashion, and was noted for its humor in many spots.Has a Japan only sequel/spin-off Downtown Special: Kunio-kun no Jidaigeki Dayo Zen'in Shūgō!, which is practically River City Ransomrecycled in historical Japan. It is less linear, has a proper save system in place of the original's long passwords, allows computer controlled allies in a 1 player game and has a great deal more moves, but replaces the classic "eat food for power" with equipping items and a level up system, restricting food to health regeneration.A remake, River City Ransom EX, came out in 2004 for the Game Boy Advance, which added more moves, more gangs, more weapons, more characters (some of them from later Downtown Nekketsu games), and the option to have up to three allies fighting alongside you. However, it lacked a proper 2-player co-op mode and while the English version featured an Americanized script like its NES counterpart, the characters were still drawn with their Japanese school uniforms.A new officially licensed sequel named River City Ransom: Underground is being developed by the Canadian indie developer Conatus Creative. The project reached its funding through Kickstarter, and is slated for a September 2014 release.Before River City Ransom: Underground was announced, the game actually had not one but TWO cancelled sequels. You could say that the sequel, not as a single game, but as a concept, has been in a long Development Hell, which Underground will hopefully fix.
First one was a fan-sequel to River City Ransom, planned for the GBA by an independent American developer called "Realize Games". The developer even managed to get rights to the trademark "River City Ransom". In 2003, the developer heard that a remake of the original game, River City Ransom EX, was being developed, and the fan-sequel was cancelled out of respect for the original developers. 
Second sequel, Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari 2, was announced in 2011 by Japanese developer Miracle Kidz. Miracle Kidz includes original Kunio-kun developers and it was supposed to be the official sequel. Sadly, this project was put on hold in 2012 and it seems likely that the game is not going to be made.
And then the GBA rerelease reuses the US NES version's pose coupled with an anime-esque style, effectively combining the US and Japanese versions. Click!◊
Anti-Villain: Roxy supports Alex and Ryan, despite being Slick's girlfriend.
Arbitrary Headcount Limit: On the enemy gang members. 9 in the NES version and up to 20 in the GBA version. Furthermore, you can only recruit 3 other characters to your party in the remake.
Best exemplified if you manage to recruit The Generic Dudes. Their boss follows Alex just like the other partners, but the other two guys are replaced with other gang members until they're wiped out.
Artificial Stupidity: In EX, you should set the "attack" menu option to "none", as it makes you immune to the attacks of your allies (not that the game ever explains what exactly this function does.) Otherwise, the biggest threat to you on the battlefield may turn out to be your supposed ally.
The Atoners: Notably, the Zombies minus Thor will all wish to join for this reason upon defeat.
Behind the Black: In order for the screen to scroll in the NES version, you have to be ridiculously close to its edge. This leaves you open to sudden, unexpected attacks from enemies that were standing just offscreen.
Bonus Boss: Benny and Clyde are the only bosses the player are not required to defeat to access River City High School. Once inside, Tex can be skipped too, since only Otis and the Dragon Twins are needed to be defeated to access the final boss.
Bystander Syndrome: Completely averted with Gary. He refuses to stand by and watch the streets become overrun by the gangs. Unless you recruited him at the very beginning he is ALREADY out there kicking ass on his own before he teams up with Alex.
Critical Existence Failure: The player can still keep fighting with 0 HP and Will Power until he gets knocked down by a finishing blow or by running into a wall.
Cultural Translation: All the Kunio games that were localized for the international market were Americanized in some form or another. River City Ransom did so by replacing the characters' gakurans with jeans and shirts. The GBA remake reverts back to gakurans, but keeps the anglicized character names.
Averted with Super Dodgeball Brawlers for the DS, the only game besides the Neo-Geo version of Super Dodge Ball, where Kunio and Riki were still called Kunio and Riki outside Japan.
Also averted by Aksys Games' most recent Kunio-kun localizations on the DS, River City Soccer Hooligans and River City Super Sports Challenge, which keep the River City "brand" for the sake of consistency and brand recognition, but also keep the names Kunio and Riki. That pair's names have changed so many times in so many localized games that it's nice to see some consistency for once.
Cutscene: Subverted, as a boss will start to monologue when they first appear, but you can attack them during this (and they have dialogue that only appears if you do attack them early).
Ivan will fight on your side as long as you complete the side-quest, even if you don't allow team mates via option. When you hit the top floor, he's facing off with the Dragon Twins just as you show up and counts as a team mate — although once they're defeated, he leaves.
Even if you have a FULL PARTY, complete his quest and Ivan will still show up here and temporarily join your team.
The Generic Dudes require Ryan to be absent because his school rivals theirs — but then you have the ENTIRE 20 PERSON GANG of the Generic Dudes following you around, 3 at a time. When defeated, they're gone for good — except for their leader, Conan.
It IS possible to get Thor to join you, but he has the steepest requirement of all the Zombies; namely, a reputation neighboring the game's cap and not having already another Zombie on your party.
Determinator: In the original NES version, no matter how much an enemy wails on your limp, prone body (and the Dragon Twins will certainly do that) as long as you have at least 15 Willpower remaining, you will rise to your feet. Each get-up requires another 15 Willpower, but that's all you need in order to heal while in a position to defend yourself back into fighting shape.
On Hard mode this also applies to the mook gang leader - always has the same face, and has 15 Willpower and will get up one more time no matter how much you beat him down.
In the GBA version, Willpower is applied more like Heroic Spirit as if you run out of energy the game automatically converts your Willpower to your stamina as required. You're not done until you're out of Willpower. Applies to enemies too.
Difficulty By Region: The Famicom version has three difficulty levels: Easy, Normal and Hard. The Easy setting was removed in the NES version, while Normal and Hard were renamed Novice and Expert respectively. The NES version also removed the option to disable friendly fire in the 2-Player mode.
Dub Name Change: See article for a full list (which does not include gangs and towns).
Excuse Plot: "I hold your city captive & Ryan’s girlfriend hostage. With my gangs of Students & evil bosses, nobody can stop me now. Meet my demands – or else!… P.S. Alex & Ryan if you interfere, you’ll be in for the fight of your lives!"... Yeah, that's all the plot you'll get. Now go kick the crap out of them all until they cry like little girls.
Please note there are no demands listed. No wonder you're kicking his ass, you have no option otherwise!
Expy: Randy and Andy, the Dragon Twins, are based on Billy and Jimmy of Double Dragon fame, complete with their leitmotif. They even get Billy and Jimmy's shifty eyes from the NES version (¬_¬). In the GBA version, their hair colors were even changed to match Billy's and Jimmy's.
Extreme Omnivore: Your characters will down whatever meal they ordered in one gulp. For extra fun, try dining in at a Merv Burger and ordering a drink. Yep, they'll eat it; glass and all.
Or in the original version, try dining in at the KFC expy and ordering gravy. The game even tells you they just drink a bowl of gravy, STRAIGHT. Never mind the fact that the characters swallow the thing whole, bowl and all.
Every item (other than books that teach you new techniques) raises your stats. Yes, this includes CDs, books, toys...You can only use them once. The game doesn't specify that your characters are eating them, but considering the above points, you can't put it past them.
Four Is Death: The Zombies (in the Japanese version, they're named The Four Heavenly Kings)
Freudian Excuse: The reason for Slick kidnapping Alex's girlfriend and taking over the whole city? He's actually Simon, Alex's childhood friend. He got tired of being seen as a weakling and second fiddle compared to Alex and wanted to prove he could kick his ass. Even after getting a beat down, he still swears revenge for next time they meet.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Near the end of the game, you can go into a sauna and see the characters' boxy buttocks. Rom hacking revealed that the boys originally walked into the girls' side of the sauna, right next to some female patrons. Oh dear.
Of course, in Japan, nudity in bathing doesn't violate modesty laws, but in America, one must wonder why it wasn't changed.
Guide Dang It: If you didn't know what Reputation is in the remake and how to raise it, you wouldn't know you can actually recruit people. Even the recruit with the clearest requirements (Ivan) will refuse to join if your karma is low, even after clearing the Abby sidequest. Some are clear Violation of Common Sense; to have Ted even appear, you'd have to fullfill the requirements to recruit Tex, turn him down, then return and clear the street he was again. To recruit Jesse beat up his friend Turk four times with bad reputation, then beat them both with good reputation.. And then there's the Tidus sidequest...
Happily Ever After: Really? All the gang members went back to school and became honor students?
Heel Face Door Slam: You can refuse to take on defeated enemies as your allies. But one notable boss is the Zombie Mojo. If you are in a position to recruit him he will actually show regret for his actions before asking to join. And then he sadly laments that he is stuck where he is if you refuse his offer.
Heel-Face Turn: In the GBA version, you can recruit some of the bosses to your side after beating them. In a few cases, you might get them to join without a fight.
Riki (Ryan's Japanese counterpart) himself is an example of this trope. Riki was originally Kunio's (Alex) rival in the original Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun (the Japanese version of Renegade), where he was the first boss in that game. Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari takes place months after the original Kunio-kunaccording to the manual, which is why Ryan is unfriendly towards Alex in the opening of the GBA version.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: Tex and Ivan are hinted to be this. Tex refuses to fight you if he finds out Ivan has made a Heel-Face Turn. Actually, he has a crush on Ivan's sister, Abby. Both Ivan and Tex will also fight you simultaneously under certain conditions.
Hot-Blooded: It's part of the Japanese version's title.
It's Personal: For Ivan. If you refuse his offer to join, you will still find him already about to fight with the Dragon Twins. He joins in, even if you have a full party. Once the twins are defeated, he declares his beef was with them alone and leaves the rest to you.
Jekyll & Hyde: It's possible (without cheats, even!) to create a copy of Slick. Now, play a solo game (max 1 person party) with both characters as Slick. Rename one Simon. Fight Club ensues.
Knight Templar Big Brother: Ivan Popov in the GBA remake has a score to settle with the Dragon Twins for getting too close to his sister, Abby.
Lighter and Softer: This is quite possibly the least brutal Beat 'em Up ever made: no one gets killed, none of your rivals are especially evil, most don't even work for the Big Bad, and all of them — yes, we said all — go back to school and earn top honors after you beat the final boss. That said, it's still one of the most esteemed games in its genre, and deservedly so.
Money Spider: Justified in part by only fighting human opponents - but isn't it strange how every member of a gang always has the same change in their pockets?
When you consider everything else about the gangs, no, not really.
The Movie:River City Rumble, a fan-made tribute movie made by X-Strike Studios. Still better than half of the game-based movies out there.
Never Say "Die": Everyone always faints when they fall down with no more health and willpower.
No Export for You: Despite the cult following of River City Ransom, none of the later Kunio games were localized with the exception of Nintendo World Cup and Street Challenge. An attempt to bring several Kunio games under the Crash 'n the Boys banner was made, but only the aforementioned Street Challenge (Bikkuri Nekketsu Shin Kiroku!) was released and plans to release Ice Challenge (a localization of Ike Ike! Nekketsu Hockey Bu) was canceled. This includes Downtown Special, which plays the same, but takes place in historical Japan and is less linear.
No Fair Cheating: Very averted in EX. There is a hidden shop located in a secret wall in the tunnel that offers a variety of powerful items at a high price. Some of these items do pretty cool stuff bordering on Debug Mode like creating a save file of any character in the game (including Slick!), rebinding your special moves' controls, and merging two saves to make a character with the stats and special moves combined of both characters. Since these alter the save files themselves instead of the current character, you can just load a save, get the item, use it (even on the same save), and reload to get your money back. And said shop also happens to sell a cheap lottery ticket that is very easy to savescum.
Password Save: An odd system, since it only would keep track of your stats while the plot starts over from the beginning every time the game is turned on. A jacked up character however can easily walk through the plotline until the point he left off. They were also annoyingly long.
Piñata Enemy: The Entrees gangsters, which run for their lives at the mere sight of your character, but drop a whooping $7 each. For perspective, the end-game dominant gang, The Plague, yields $1.5 each. There's also The Gamers gang, which drop $1.6 per KO, but are far less rare and more willing to get their noses bloodied than the Entrees.
Promoted to Unlockable: Eventually everyone, in the remake, thanks to the Custom Char item. As far as the plot is concerned, however, you are still Alex or Ryan regardless of what character save you have loaded.
Save Game Limits: The original's passwords and the EX save only keep track of your stats. You start from the beginning every time. (Granted, enough passwords/saves and you'll be able to blitz to Slick, at which point you need the stats.)
A side effect of this is in EX that you can save and load anytime, anywhere, yet the action remains unchanged. You can load a weaker character to feed him a boss money drop, or load yourself back to full health in the middle of a fight.
Say It with Hearts: Quite a bit in the remake, and parodied when you fight both Tex and Ivan together (Your karma meter must be at it's lowest for this boss fight).
Shout-Out: The music from Double Dragon plays during the fight against the twins, and one gang's members are named after classic television characters. The GBA remake takes this further; members of many gangs are named after things such as webcomic artists, rappers, and even the cast of Disgaea.
A recursive shout out: Two members of the Japanese gang in the GBA remake are named Kunio and Riki.
A lot of people who dislike Megatokyo cackled with giddy delight after beating two gang members named Piro and Largo with trash cans.
Or smacking around Cloud, Duo and Yaoi. From a gang called "The Plague", no less.
There's also an odd sort of shout-out to "Crash n' the Boyz", where an optional team mate will basically tell Alex that "Crash and the Boyz are rooting for you"... despite the fact that Crash is just that game's version of Kunio.
Sorting Algorithm of Evil: To the point that the next boss won't even appear at his turf until the previous boss or bosses are defeated.
Terror Hero: Blade will become a Type-V variety if he joins you. Recruit him and Moose and Rocko will run away every time you try to rematch against them for the rest of the game! To put this into perspective, Blade is the 1st zombie that you fight. Not even their leader Thor commands such respect in the game!
Theme Naming: Each gang has its own theme, a couple having been changed in the GBA version. They are:
Time Skip: River City Ransom Underground is set 25 years after the original, mirroring the real release date difference between the two games. As a result, the characters are designed to look notably older.
True Companions: A feature added to the Game Boy Advance version, defeated bosses could follow you around and fight on your side. Most of the time it required a high reputation (an invisible stat the game keeps track) but sometimes it required talking to certain characters or choosing not to play with both Alex and Ryan. The best examples are the Zombies and the Generic Dudes, because none of them really wanted to work for Slick or Thor.
Tex is an especially good example. If you have his friend Ivan (he also has a thing for Ivan's sister) with you, he will refuse to fight you even if your reputation has fallen. If you completed the Ivan side quest, he will ask if Ivan left the gang and you confirm it, he leaves too. If you have a good reputation and Ivan, he will join you.
The mooks even get this; Otis will team up with the Dragon Twins under certain circumstances and Slick will call in the three of them if you have a full party on your side.
Gary and Rick, the two close friends of Alex and Ryan respectively. Neither have any personal stake in the conflict and still come to aid their friends in need.
Jesse. He isn't a zombie. He isn't even a bad guy. But he still comes to help his best friend Turk (who Jesse believes is just on the wrong path) if you beat on him enough times.
Unwinnable: While it isn't likely to happen accidentally, in multiplayer, if an Javelin Man equipped player throws the other to the right in the first Benny and Clyde fight, they fly off into infinity and the game can't proceed.
Weapon of Choice: Along with the names and colors, many gangs also have favored weapons they'll bring to the fight. In the GBA version, this is the only way to get certain weapons like the Eagles' double-length chains and the Entrees' buckets and ladders.
Zerg Rush: Getting Conan to join your party in the remake will also bring the entire Generic Dudes gang on your side, who fight 3 on screen at a time.