What would you do if an older relative passed away and left you some money? Maybe you’d take a trip, or invest it, or pay down your student loans. Or, maybe you’d decide to try and buy the rights to the video game River City Ransom.
For those who never played it, River City Ransom was released in 1989 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game is a beat-em-up that has players fighting through an onslaught of foes to rescue the main character’s girlfriend, stopping only to eat fortifying meals and learn new martial arts moves by reading books. It’s pretty neat, and it added a lot of elements to the beat-em-up formula that were carried on by other titles.
River City Ransom was developed by Technos Japan as part of their Kunio-kun series, which included sports, fighting, and racing games, though only a few of these were localized for Western audiences. When Technos declared bankruptcy in 1996, a licensing company named Million bought up the rights to their catalogue and released games based on them like Super Dodge Ball Advance, which was a launch title for Nintendo’s GBA handheld.
By the mid 2000s, though, the Kunio-kun series was mostly reduced to remakes and smaller downloadable games. Coincidentally, around the same time, Fanbyte News Editor Imran Khan’s grandmother passed away. The sale of her estate left him with some money, and he decided that the best use of this windfall would be to purchase the rights to River City Ransom.
Finding the current owner of the IP, Khan asked if he was looking to sell. The rights holder was working on a fan game, but things weren’t going well, so he was open to the possibility. During their negotiations, however, developer and publisher Atlus announced that they were creating a new River City Ransom title. Khan decided it wasn’t worth pursuing, Atlus and Arc System Works developed a few Kunio-kun games, and then in 2015, Arc System Works acquired the rights to the series — which eventually led to the Wayforward-developed River City Girls in 2019.
Still, though, it’s fun to imagine what could have been. You can listen to the whole story in this week’s episode of 99 Potions in the player below or in your podcast app of choice. By the way, did you know that Arc System Works worked on the original Double Dragon and now owns the rights to that series? We could get an ArcSys followup to the Double Dragon fighting game one day, just saying.
If you could buy the rights to an old game or series, which would it be? Personally, I would have gone for Kickmaster.