River City Ransom: Underground

Created by Conatus Creative Inc. (River City Ransom: Underground)

River City Ransom: Underground
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5,179 backers pledged C$217,643.20 on Kickstarter

An officially licensed, North American follow-up to one of the most beloved RPG beat'em ups of all time.

Raised in Kickstarter
C$217,643.20 / 5,179 backers
Raised in BackerKit
C$11,477.30 / 5,134 backers
Estimated Shipping Date: December 2014


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This is a full color, 18″ × 24″ poster of your choice of game cover.

Learn About Our Project:

Incredible 2D action! Single player and co-op modes! Eat the whole plate!

We now accept PayPal!

For a limited time, we'll make core rewards, including physical items like shirts and posters, available here. Pledges during this time apply towards stretch goals! 

Here's a taste of what we'll create with your help: fast-paced, retro-inspired combat mechanics in an open world, taking inspiration from classic fighting games and a healthy dose of wrestling thrown in for good measure!

Legendary Talent!

Yoshihisa Kishimoto, the grandfather of the beat'em up genre, director of Double Dragon, and creator of the original Kunio-kun game, Renegade, that sparked the entire Technōs line of amazing titles from the past, has joined us as a creative consultant to steer the game towards new heights.

We have Rich Vreeland (aka Disasterpeace), the composer of the acclaimed FEZ, Runner2, and the upcoming sensation Hyper Light Drifter, set to score the original soundtrack for River City Ransom: Underground. He's taking responsibility for breathing new life into River City's soundtrack, from funky shopping tunes to fist-pumping brawling action. We can't wait!


"Oh man oh man oh man this is going to be awesome." - Ian Birnbaum, PC Gamer

"The art direction stays true to the original, but the animation is phenomenally smooth... add in a soundtrack by Rich "Disasterpeace" Vreeland, it's hard to imagine that this won't be a winner." - Jonathan Holmes, Destructoid

"Those seriously have to be some of the silkiest smooth moving pixels in recent memory. Though the updated combat system sounds equally enticing." - Matt Hawkins, MTV Multiplayer

"More than any other Kickstarter project I’ve seen, the team's intense reverence for the original really comes through here." - Ewan Miller, VG247

We are also grateful for press coverage in these fine publications: Joystiq, Kotaku, Game Informer, IGN, Siliconera, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Yahoo! Japan, CVG, The Escapist, and Wired Game|Life.

We've had great interview features from Plus10Damage, 1MoreCastle, HardcoreGamer, and 4ColorRebellion.

Legendary Cross-Over!

[Update 10/4/2013] The classic Double Dragon villain, Abobo, is making a cameo appearance!

The Legacy

It's barely 1990. Technōs is already a household name for creating the beat'em up genre of fighting games starting with Renegade, the inaugural title in the Kunio-kun franchise, which would go on to become an iconic and prolific gaming franchise in Japan, as well as spawn the legendary fighting series, Double Dragon (1987). While most Kunio-kun games never made their way to North America, a few were localized for Western audiences: Super Dodgeball  (1988), Nintendo World Cup (1990), Crash N' The Boys Street Challenge (1992), and River City Ransom (1990). The latter was unlike anything ever seen before: a "belt-scrolling" fighting game with role-playing elements. The charming North American localization only added to the game's appeal.

River City Ransom is an irreplaceable part of our gaming history, both for fans from the beginning, and those who discovered the game later during the emulation craze. This title is often cited as one of the top NES games of all time, and one of the most deserving of a sequel. We have a chance to make this a reality and give you the game you deserve. Let's do this!

Core Rewards

Our original rewards, while sporting pithy names and clever slogans, weren't a perfect fit for the campaign, so we've been working to improve them. Check these core rewards below!

FREE SMILE AT MERV'S ($5 CAD) - You'll get a digital wallpaper pack and we'll put your name in the game in a River City special monument. You rock! Does not include a free smile at Merv's.

JUST THE GAME ($15 CAD) - You'll get a digital copy of the game when it comes out! This will be a Windows, Mac, or Linux, DRM-free version of the game. If we launch on another platform, and that platform lets us generate free keys, you'll get a copy on that platform too.

BARF! ($20 CAD) - We'll use advanced digital fusion techniques to combine both the FREE SMILE AT MERV'S reward with the JUST THE GAME reward, while you stare in amazement. And then we'll hand it over. Just like that.

DISASTERPEACE ($25 CAD) - You'll get everything in the BARF! reward. Plus, you'll receive the game's digital soundtrack, as composed by Rich Vreeland (aka Disasterpeace). We'll throw in a weapon skin of a compact disc, so you can really "hammer home" your love for the game's music.

WOOD STICK ($40 CAD) - You'll get everything in the DISASTERPEACE reward, plus you'll receive a digital feast: an old-school digital game manual, a digital map of River City and surrounding areas, and a digital comic book. On top of that, you'll have access to our private beta program.

LEAD PIPE ($60 CAD) - It's everything you ever wanted in a WOOD STICK, plus some sweet weapon skins exclusive to Kickstarter: a double-barreled bat, a mystical morning star, and a gold-plated garbage can. 

SCANDAL RAG ($100 CAD) - You'll receive a River City athletics T-Shirt exclusively designed by our lead artist Bannon Rudis, only available during our crowd-funding campaign. You'll receive everything in the LEAD PIPE reward. Titling on the shirt comes in your choice of English or Japanese. If you want both, just add $25 to your pledge!

SUSHI ROLL ($125 CAD) - You'll receive everything in SCANDAL RAG, plus an 18" x 24" full-color, rolled poster of the game's cover art. The cover art comes in your choice of English or Japanese design variants. If you want both, just add $25 to your pledge!

This isn't the complete list of rewards we have on offer, but will help prepare you for "The Grid", a system of mythical proportions that will show you what you'll receive at special edition reward levels.

Rewards Grid

The following graphic demonstrates what you'll receive at each of our reward tiers. Some tiers don't appear here: they are "legacy" tiers that won't give you as much value as those in this grid. Don't worry though, if you don't change your pledge from a "legacy" reward, we'll figure out the one you should receive when fulfillment time rolls around.


We're happy to provide physical add-ons for those who prefer a game or soundtrack on disc, want both English and Japanese versions of the shirt or poster, or just want a T-shirt or poster without all the digital extras.

T-Shirt Add-On ($25 CAD) - If you wanted the T-shirt, you can now pick it up at any level by adding an additional $25 to your pledge. Add $10 shipping if you're outside Canada. Your choice of gender, size, and lettering (English or Japanese).  

Poster Add-On ($25 CAD) - If you wanted the poster, you can now pick it up at any level by adding an additional $25 to your pledge. Add $15 shipping if you're outside Canada. Your choice of cover version (English or Japanese).  

Physical Game ($25 CAD)* - You'll get a DRM-free version of the game for Windows, Mac, or Linux, on a physical disc with the game's cover art on the label and jacket. Add $5 shipping if you're outside Canada and your current reward level doesn't have shipping already. If you pick up both the physical game and physical soundtrack add-ons, you only need to add the $5 shipping once.

Physical Soundtrack ($25 CAD) - You'll get a physical edition of the game's soundtrack with exclusive soundtrack art on the disc label and jacket. Add $5 shipping if you're outside Canada and your current reward level doesn't have shipping already. If you pick up both the physical game and physical soundtrack add-ons, you only need to add the shipping once.

Build-A-Box ($20 CAD) We'll send you an unfolded game box and an NES cartridge-style label, so you can grab your least favorite NES game and morph it into something special! A great option for the Do-It-Yourself crowd. Please add $5 for shipping outside Canada.

You can also add $10 for an additional digital copy of the game, or $25 for an additional 3 digital copies of the game.

How do I add on to my pledge for these?

If you're a new backer, simply add up the additional costs for the add-ons you want, like the recipes listed above, and pledge that amount, selecting the appropriate reward. For those who have already pledged, log in to Kickstarter, click on Manage My Pledge from the project home screen, and increase the amount of your pledge to match the add-ons you want and any additional shipping, while keeping your reward the same. After the campaign, we'll get in touch and you'll be able to select exactly what add-ons you wanted.

Stretch Goals

$205K - Apple® Mac™ and Linux™ (FUNDED!)

With the recent announcement of SteamOS, Linux is even more of an interesting choice for developers. And of course, we can't ignore the many folks who love their Macs. Our game library is well traveled in the *nix space, so we are confident in our ability to deliver this stretch goal.

$280K - Sony® PS4™ and PlayStation®Vita

Our original goal remains unchanged. The technical complexity for this goal is higher, but the effort involved paves the way for future platforms.

$320K - Nintendo® WiiU™ and 3DS™

Our initial talks with Nintendo have been encouraging, and we have heard from many vocal and passionate fans of the platform. We have said that River City Ransom: Underground belongs on Nintendo, and with the right resources, we can make it happen.

$360K - Microsoft® Xbox One™

Based on Microsoft's new Independent Developers Publishing Program, and the foundations laid in previous stretch goals, it looks like clear sailing to reach fans on this platform at this level.

$390K - Sony® PS3™

The current generation PlayStation 3 is a platform in its own right, and we don't want to ignore it. This level will give us confidence to ship on this console as well.

Note: We don't consider Kickstarter a "pre-order" system, so to us, backing our project means you're supporting our vision for the game and want to see it happen. Though we'll bring our game to Windows first, we will then consider as many platforms as we possibly can, based on time, resources, and license approvals. The platform story doesn't end with this Kickstarter, and we're talking to all of the major players to make sure we get the game to as many people as possible.

We've set out to create a sequel worthy of the name, paying homage to the original while recapturing its charm and gameplay innovation. This is our love letter to River City Ransom, Technōs Japan, and the epic fighting and wrestling games of the 80's and 90's.

While Technōs is no more, a new company, Million Co., was founded by former Technōs staff, acquiring the rights to all intellectual property in 2001. We acquired a license from Million in April to make an official installment in the series, which means we're on the hook to make sure our game can exist in the River City canon.

You're backing a 2.5D open world beat'em up with RPG elements, just like the classic game, for the Windows platform. We're making River City bigger, adding more stores, items, and bringing the cast and crew into the modern era. You'll reunite with old friends (and punch them in the face), meet new ones, and play through an epic story in an urban, open world. Yes, the game will feature local co-op play, and online co-op depending on our distribution partners on launch day.

We've evolved combat based on the mechanics of the golden age of console fighting, and we're pushing to get sophisticated, crafty opponent AI into the game. You're not safe standing on your bench anymore!

Welcome back to River City!

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Nearly twenty-five years after Alex and Ryan defeated Slick and his gang of students and evil bosses, River City, home of the world's most violent high schools, enjoys a delicate peace. Alex and Ryan run A&R Auto, and the delinquents at River City High School are not up to much, as usual, until disaster strikes.

Why We're Kickstarting

Games, and licensed games in particular, are expensive to produce and difficult to build. Usually, licensees rely on a publisher to finance their games, using the license itself as a bargaining chip to raise funds. Rather than go the traditional route, up to this point we've been completely self-funded, though we don't have complete control over the game's final product as a licensee. For us, this is an honor, not an obstacle.  

We've put up a significant amount of cash to bootstrap the game to this point; acquiring the license up front, preparing the campaign, building tools, and lining up key resources to make this game the best possible experience we can create. 

What We Need

Some of our team members need to support themselves while we work on the game, so we'll cover adequate living expenses for the next year (tasty, tasty noodles!). We have standing contracts with amazingly talented people to fill in the gaps in our roster. We also need to invest in QA and localization as we prepare to launch the game in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Japanese, as well as legal and accounting support to help us manage our licensing obligations. Unlike many Kickstarter efforts, we'll also need to account for licensing royalties, on top of the usual Kickstarter and credit card fees, and fulfilling physical rewards. 

Early Press for River City Ransom: Underground

Since we acquired the license back in April, we've been lucky to have some great coverage in the media. Polygon was the first to write about our intentions to keep the game in the spirit of the original.

In May, we were blessed by indie game fans by winning Capsule Computers' Indie Dev Grant, a community-driven competition put on during their theme-based indie game bundles. The award provided funding to film our launch video. We really appreciate the early support!

Attention: Developers and modders

We will open source our MonoGame-based game engine, and our game will be mod-friendly. This means that you can build off of our foundation for your own creations. Kickstarting a game to sell is cool, making something to allow others to do the same, is cooler.

Who are you guys?

We are a small team of creators with a varied but deep background in web, mobile, gaming, and film. Each of us brings our own personal story. 

The cool thing about our story is that it's a true story (no montage yet, unfortunately). It started as a daydream, but hard work and good timing came together and here we are. It's not just that we're crazy enough to cough up the cash for the license, and embark on a year long, intense journey to create this game under enormous pressure and expectations. No, we're crazy and we love this game so much.

Bannon Rudis (art director, game designer)

Forged in the fiery depths of California, Bannon is the self-proclaimed creator of underwater tennis and master of all things pixel. Some would call him an artist. He would reply to such accusations with “I like to draw things.” Working primarily with digital media combined with archaic pencil, pens and paper, Bannon creates various artworks for film, games, and apparel. Bannon has been sketching a follow-up to River City Ransom since the age of ten, so we stole him from his own indie game to make those sketches come to life. He worked so hard preparing for this campaign he broke his drawing tablet. So we had to buy him a new one. But it's nicer, anyway. He's over it now. Really.

Daniel Crenna (producer, engine developer)

Daniel is a web and mobile code-slinger with ten years of software development experience under his belt, working with large companies like Microsoft and Kobo. He's been a key player on projects that have reached millions. Learning to program games at the age of six with his brother, Daniel is a prolific open source developer whose contributions have surpassed two million downloads; his code is so ubiquitous in the Windows world, he accidentally has a credit on Bit.Trip Beat. Daniel's right at home coding our engine based on C# and XNA/MonoGame, which he's been hooked on since 2006. Daniel has written a few programming books and is a three-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award.

Dustin Crenna (audio director, game designer)

Dustin started his game career at 8 years old when he drew up an idea for a Gremlins game for the Atari 2600 (in crayon) and submitted it. While waiting for the final decision, he became a sound designer and composer, going on to log over a decade of AAA game studio experience. Nominated for multiple audio awards, you can hear Dustin's work in Halo 4, Bioshock 2, The Darkness II, Battlefield: Vietnam, He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe, and many others. Now an indie game designer, he's taking time off his first title to lend his talents to make every punch, kick, and barf elicit the proper childhood ecstasy. 

Mark De Verno (gameplay developer, harbinger of reality)

Mark is a seasoned programmer who spent five years of his adulthood living in Japan, soaking up the culture and developing an addiction to the Famicom. A karate black belt, Spartan trifecta racer and dogsledder, when he's not being a superhero, Mark is obsessed with AI and physics. Mark is the developer crunching the numbers to get our physics and combat mechanics smooth and supreme. He's also our reality check for insane gameplay, and we like to think of him as our Scotty, but with a Canadian accent.

Justin Cyr (animator)

Justin is a seasoned beat'em up veteran, animating titles like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game, TMNT GBA, and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith GBA. Justin is the"two" in "two-punch", and we're lucky to have him lending his talents to the roster.

Ryoma Machida (executive producer in Tokyo)

Ryoma is "our man in Japan"; a successful business instigator with a special interest in promoting Japanese business at the international level. Ryoma is our one stop communication solution, localization coordinator, creative problem solver, and all around good guy. He's been with us since day one, and we're thrilled to have him on board.

Nina Matsumoto (localization, cover art, ???)

Nina is an Eisner-winning author and comic artist who is well known for her OEL manga comic, Yōkaiden. She's bringing her versatile skill set to our project to assist with the Japanese cover art, game localization, and hopefully other exciting things. We are so happy to have her!

Where are we now?

River City Ransom: Underground is wrapping up pre-production and gearing up for full scale development. Our game design document is being prepared for licensor submission and approval. Our game engine is operational and we are working to complete the physics sandbox, from which all of our combat mechanics will emerge! While we have some solid ideas for story and character design that were part of our licensing pitch, we're still piecing together the expansive world of River City, its inhabitants, and the various items you may find or shop for.

We think our budget and vision for the game are ambitious enough, but in the event that we reach stretch goal territory, we have a solid game plan. The last thing we want to do is spend more time working on smelting toys than making our game. 

To ensure our backers get the most benefit from stretch goals without biting off more than we can chew, each and every goal we reveal will come equipped with additional talent to join our small team to help us handle the extra workload.

Future stretch goals may allow us to beef up our tangible rewards. For example, we would love to do a boxed product release, complete with an NES game cart replica USB stick, but the logistics involved for making that happen are nearly a project in themselves. If you want to see those kinds of rewards, please give generously! (Warning: friends don't beat up friends to turn them into coins, but you can ask nicely).

A final word

We hope you'll get behind our team to make this game. If you can't back, we'd love it if you could share our Kickstarter link with your friends and the retro game store down the street. Thank you!

Special Thanks 

René Hartel, Adrian Mustain, James Croak, Chris Miller, and Griswold.

Some images (c) Million Co. Ltd., and used under license.

Creative Corner

Hey! You're still here? You made it all the way to the end of the page, and you should be rewarded for your efforts. Throughout development we hope to provide you with some insight into our development process. Below, you'll see examples of videos we've made for the campaign, that show you how we go about creating the game we know you're going to love.

Animation featurette by Bannon Rudis

Here's the final result!

Sound design featurette by Dustin Crenna

 Level Design Featurette by Daniel Crenna