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Something borrowed, something new: River City Ransom sequel will revive a classic title

Combit Studios' upcoming River City Ransom sequel is the "passing of the torch from the old to the new," with the help of revitalized game mechanics and a familiar-yet-updated look, founder Daniel Crenna told Polygon.

Announced officially only last week, the follow-up has been in development for almost a year already. Combit's sequel isn't the same as the title undertaken by Miracle Kids in Japan, which is currently on indefinite hold, but the company's individual vision.

River City Ransom 2 — not the game's official title, Crenna said — will take place 20 years after the events of the original title. A new cast will join former stars Alex and Ryan, now out of high school and well into adult life. Crenna is keeping the game's cast under wraps for now, but he briefly mentioned a new character named Glenn. Crenna called Glenn an "homage to '80s fighting games" with 15 or so moves that players will be able to unlock.

Like the original game, River City Ransom 2 will revive statistical role-playing elements, shopping and outlandish physics. But more importantly, Crenna said, it will incorporate the game's open-ended play elements.

"I think a lot of people got into the sand box element of the first one," Crenna said. "You can play baseball if two people grab a baseball bat and a rock and you throw the rock at that person. I spent way too much time as a 10-year-old setting up box experiments, standing on a box, someone kicking the box ... Our entire mode of operation here is to do what the original did and make it better."

"River City Ransom was very much like a Japanese anime in game form."

Players can expect new combat to make an appearance, similar to the game's original "Stone Hands" and "Dragon Feet" moves, but in an expanded, matured way. The game's environment will also be interactive and will "either work for you or against you," Crenna said.

River City Ransom 2 will recreate the retro, 8-bit style of the first title heavily. Everything in-game will be composed of hand-drawn pixels. No 3D lighting effects, no modern game engines that will help Combit "cheat" to achieve special effects, Crenna said.

"We will be only creating 8-bit art that will match the colors that were available on the NES, " Crenna said. "You're going to get a retro style and it will look very much like the original. It will be modernized it in a way, because we're going have a lot more technological capability."

The simple, 8-bit world is important to recreating the feel of River City Ransom, Crenna said. Making a modern, hyper-realistic sequel just wouldn't capture the game's original charm.

"Most of what made River City Ransom [appealing] was the fact that it was [a] charming, open world," Crenna said. "You can just kind of hang out there and get lost in that. You didn't really have to follow a story arc ... River City Ransom was very much like a Japanese anime in game form, and I don't think it lends itself to three-dimensional style."

"Crowd funding is about making sure we can get our complete vision of the game."

The River City Ransom sequel is being licensed by Million, creator of the River City Ransom EX Game Boy Advance re-release, which will help ensure the game is in the same spirit as the original. Combit's sequel will be self-funded, however, and the studio plans to turn to crowd-funding this summer.

"We want to be able to work 100 percent full-time on this game, and that requires some expenses that don't normally show up," Crenna said. "We have to pay licensing fees. We have to pay for localization and make sure that the game is high quality in different languages other than our own."

If the game doesn't achieve its crowd-funding goal it will still be made, Crenna said, but likely a little slower than they'd like. The studio also hopes to use crowd-funding to expand the game's lifespan across multiple platforms, not just PC.

"Crowd funding is about making sure we can get our complete vision of the game in as opposed to the vision of everyone working late at night, trying to push it as far as we can," Crenna said.

"We are all lifelong fans of the game, and in many cases on the team it is their favorite game. We are making sure that the game is faithful to the original so that the fans of the original would love it as much as we do."