Based on the popular manga/anime series of the same name, Ranma 1/2 follows the story of an aspiring martial artist who accidentally turns into a young woman by bathing in a cursed spring. He can revert to his natural form by touching hot water; however, contact with cold water will turn him into a girl again. Most of the original manga story is dedicated to semi-comical situations, based on the fact that Ranma is trying to conceal his predicament, which leads to misunderstandings, confusion, and romantic complications in his high school life.
This interpretation of the license follows a part of the initial manga story, starting with the curse and going through Ranma's first conflicts with schoolmates and rival martial artists. The game is mostly structured like a "beat-'em-up" side-scroller, though there are also several boss fights that are more reminiscent of a one-on-one fighting game. The Vs. mode allows the player to recreate these boss fights using different characters.
Ranma's curse becomes a gameplay feature in the game: cold and hot water turn Ranma into a girl and a boy, respectively. Female Ranma is quicker and can jump higher, but her attack and defense are lower. Anime-style cut scenes advance the story between the levels.