Streets of Rage is one of the most iconic franchises ever to be release. It helped put SEGA on the map thanks to its addictive side-scrolling beat ’em up gameplay and jammin’ beats that saw a great trilogy of games released for the SEGA Mega Drive (SEGA Genesis for our international readers). Unfortunately, Streets of Rage never returned to our screens once the 16-bit era ended, despite serval rumoured sequels being in development over the last 26 years. But finally, we can officially see that SEGA’s iconic brawler is back!
All this changed back in August 2018 when publisher Dotemu announced that not only is Streets of Rage back, but also gave fans a glimpse of what to expect. There was non-stop action, epic soundtrack, and beautiful hand-drawn animations. But the unanswered question that was constantly asked was ‘Will Streets of Rage 4 live up to the original trilogy?’. Fast forward to 2020 and the wait is finally over, Axel and Blaze have returned to pick up the fight where they left off!
Who Is Back?
The story of Streets of Rage 4 is quite simple: Set 10 years since the events from Streets of Rage 3, returning detectives Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding (there may another returning character that you can unlock) team up with new characters Cherry Hunter and Floyd Iraia to take down a new crime empire headed by Mr X’s own spawn- The Y Twins. Your mission? take down the Y Syndicate and clean up the streets, for good.
Streets of Rage 4 feels like a true successor to the original trilogy in every aspect. Returning players to the series will feel right at home with its fast-paced gameplay and side-scrolling mechanics. While new players to the series won’t take long to pick up the basics because basically, not much has changed in the last 25 years — you still walk around and beat up the bad guys, sounds simple right?
Combos, Combos, Combos
The controls remain similar to its predecessors (there is even an option for a ‘legacy’ 3-button layout)- attack, special attack (that costs health to use), jump, star attacks, and a few sneaky combinations that all allow you to build up your combos and build up that score. Speaking of combos, not only is it satisfying to build up epic combos (and extremely frustrating when you lose them), but big combos lead to big scores that now matter more than ever. Your score acts as your badge of honour, similar to the original Streets of Rage where you can boast about your new top score after each act, but now also contributes towards earning extra lives.
Like school, I struggled to get a good grade — After a few hours of playing Streets of Rage 4, I still couldn’t achieve a higher rating than C. This is probably due to my philosophy of ‘all out attack’ rather than timing my attacks, avoid taking damage, and retain my stars rather than use them for my star attacks. Star attacks are new to the series and are effectively an ultimate attack that will often help you get out of trouble. These star attacks can be the difference from dying and surviving but should only be used when absolutely required. I say this because once you consume a star, it’s gone. The only way to get more stars is to find them hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) in levels. The frustrating part is that stars cannot be banked up and stockpiled for later levels. In fact, nothing can be banked up – not lives, score, stars, nothing. This stays true to Street of Rage’s acradey heritage by having a level playing field each time you play, making sure you can accurately compare your score with your friends for bragging rights.
As good as Streets of Rage 4 is by yourself, it pales in comparison to its multiplayer aspect. It is great fun seeing who can get the best combo and highest grade for each level. On the flip side, it is also bloody annoying when your buddy purposely accidentally hits you… over and over again. Funny enough, the biggest argument I had when playing was not from friendly fire, but actually about what food icon we would use (yes, Dotemu have included the ability to change the small and large food icons in game). I wanted the old school apple and chicken, but Jimmy wanted the pizza and burger; the fat little man!
Streets of Rage wouldn’t be Streets of Rage without 2-player couch co-op, which has been increased to 4-player couch co-op thanks to the arrival of Cherry and Floyd. The addition of online co-op is as obvious as it is welcomed, but sadly there isn’t an option for 2-players to play local on one system with multiple friends online. This is far from a deal breaker, but it would have been nice addition and possibly something that may get patched in at a later stage (something the 16-bit era couldn’t do). Streets of Rage 4 does also support Steam Remote Play Together, meaning you can invite a friend who doesn’t own the game to help you clear out a level you are struggling with, which is a great feature that I am sure will please a lot of gamers.
Crank Up the Beats!
Let’s be completely honest, if there is only one thing you remember from Streets of Rage it is its music, and Streets of Rage 4 doesn’t fail to deliver here either. It is obvious that a lot of time and effort went into the music score, so much so that Lizardcube bought back the original music composers from the original game. That is right, Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima have returned for Streets of Rage 4 and delivered a stunning soundtrack full of upbeat dance and retro tunes that will instantly throw you back to the 90’s.
Streets of Rage 4 has done everything right — it builds on the foundation set 25 years ago without ruining the nostalgic feeling from our childhoods. Lizardcube have gone one step further and even included a collection of Easter eggs that pay homage to the golden era of gaming. I won’t give everything away, but the little things like the legacy mode for your controller layout (anyone got a USB-Sega Mega Drive controller I can borrow?), changing food icon, the ability to unlock retro characters and even the original retro music all adds value to the game and ensure that this game is far from complete after its first playthrough.
- GAMEPLAY - 73%73%
- GRAPHICS - 68%68%
- AUDIO - 84%84%
Lizardcube have done an amazing job of capturing everything that made the original trilogy such a success, but have also spent the time ensure that they improve every single aspect of the game without upsetting hardcore fans of the series.
Streets of Rage 4 is out now on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
For more on Streets of Rage, check out our previous coverage.