Kunio’s appearance earns awe in River City: Rival Showdown. During most conversations, Kunio stands in front of school, hands in his pant’s pockets, staring indifferently toward the horizon. No wonder other teens think he’s the coolest; he’s the Fonz of his generation, a high school student labeled as a “delinquent” by elders.
He’s also a brawler, a world class fighter batting around rivals from other schools in this take on teenage rebellion. Rival Showdown looks at Japan’s younger culture harshly. Kids find their escape in fight clubs, their idols create violence, and drunkards line the seedier sections of the city. Roughly textured backgrounds give River City an edgy look, with angular shapes and uninviting color. In working class sections of the city, Rival Showdown looks like industrialized Japan of the ’70s, choking on gray smog as piping shoots into the skyline.
Last year’s Tokyo Rumble peered into bullying, a unique PSA about identity and being yourself. All of that seems gone. Rival Showdown still wants freedom from a repressive social system, but it does so angrily. The only escape, according to Rival Showdown, is to punch through the norms to establish yourself.
Rival Showdown changes the formula too. It’s about being in the right place at the right time, setting up an artificial night/day system between 3-11pm. Opposing fighters and storylines show up at specific time, less engaging than the free-flowing system of old. Something is bubbling under the city waiting to burst, ending with a showcase of violence right outside of Kunio’s school. No one else seems to notice or care. The kids fight to feel different, a depressing ideal.