The long-awaited sequel that you didn’t think would be good is finally here! If you’re a Streets of Rage fan, you probably already have the game purchased by now. But maybe you’re somehow still on the fence about Streets of Rage 4 (LizardCube/Guard Crush Games/DotEmu, $24.99)? Here, take my hand and let me show you how fantastic this game is. It’s been decades of wait time and you deserve this. Let’s go!
Featuring hand-drawn visuals from the team behind 2017’s gorgeous Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap remake, Streets of Rage 4 builds upon the classic trilogy’s gameplay with new mechanics, a fresh story and a gauntlet of dangerous stages with a serious crime problem. Streets of Rage 4 recalls classic gameplay but it stands as an entirely original arcade-style romp thanks to the expertise of Guard Crush Games and Dotemu.
Whether players gang up with a friend or clean up the city solo, Streets of Rage 4 is a skull-bashing, chicken-chomping delight all set to a thumping soundtrack sure to get your blood pumping.
- The comeback of the legendary Streets of Rage series.
- Beautiful graphics fully hand-drawn animated by the studio behind Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap.
- Classic gameplay enhanced with brand new mechanics.
- Soundtrack by a wide line-up of world-class musicians.
- 5 main playable characters and many unlockable retro characters.
- 2 players online co-op, and up to 4 players locally.
- Story mode, Arcade mode, Battle mode.
- Roasted chicken (or it is braised?) served on a pristine plate, and more!
First we’ll start with the audio (naturally). I wanted to touch on the voiceovers to begin with. The game has about the same amount of voiceovers that the previous games had. Maybe the laugh of a villain or sounds of people getting punched. The protagonists say a catchphrase here and there when executing more special moves. The reason I wanted to delve into this, in the beginning, is to show that the devs didn’t try to overdo the voiceovers.
In this day and age games have high-quality voiceovers every turn, doesn’t mean that Streets of Rage 4 does. They balance it the same way the old games that had the hardware limitations had to. It’s nostalgia done right. And yes, the voiceovers sound good. They didn’t purposefully modulate the voices to make them sound like they’re coming out of an early 90’s arcade machine. They updated it but kept it the same. Follow me?
The music itself is somehow also perfectly balanced. What I listened for first was if they just put in modern-sounding music. Maybe they put in retro sounding music. Maybe they just used music from the first three games. What I heard was a pleasant surprise. We do indeed get 16 tracks from the original composer, Yuzo Koshiro, you’ll just need to enable it. What we also got was music made to sound as if it was early 90’s sound made with modern tech. But they also sprinkled in more modern music practices and styles.
A little splash of dubstep here and there as well as other modern music philosophies. Because the game does indeed take place in a time closer to our own, it only makes sense that the past collides with their future. I could go on all day, dissecting the music. I think it’s easier to give you the streaming and purchase links for the soundtrack. Maybe the music alone will sell you on the game. It sets such a mood and makes the game even more playable! Purchase soundtrack on Bandcamp by clicking here. You can also stream it through multiple outlets, click here to take a look.
And now the visuals. *Makes Italian chef hand-kissing gesture* Usually I feel that the soundtracks of games overpower the visuals. Don’t get me wrong, visuals can be grand and beautiful, but the music just gets me into a mood. With Streets of Rage 4, however, I feel equally in tune with the visuals as I do with the music. And there I go again, up balance in the game. There’s just something to be said about the 1080p, hand-drawn worlds with their respective atmospheres and the characters that inhabit them.
The characters look especially pleasing to the eye. The everyday villains that attack you have as just as much detail as the boss characters and the main protagonists. There’s not one area where they glossed over detail. It’s the same artists that drew all of Wonder Boy and that game also looked beautiful. These artists know how to make it look like you’re playing a cartoon. Whether it’s the fun and fantastical world of Wonder Boy or the dark, mean “Streets of Rage”.
There is simply so much jammed in this game. So much to talk about. I’ve been toiling over this review for a very long time, I’m certain that there’s no way that I’ve covered everything without spoiling anything.
- New Characters-This time around we have some original characters. You’ll be able to choose any of the new three characters to choose from the start. That means none are unlockable so feel free to play the story mode with any of them from the get-go. You’ll find Cherry Hunter, daughter of Adam Hunter. There’s Floyd Iraia as well, shares his name with boxer Floyd Mayweather and his arms with the likes of Jax from MK. So that means that he’s one heck of a puncher.
- Returning Characters-Axel returns in this game. Albeit a bit bulked up and definitely weathered. As you’re playing the story, you’ll eventually unlock another original character that’s been brought up to the modern age. That character is the very fun to play Adam Hunter. Lastly, the siren, first introduced in 1991, Blaze Fielding. She’s unlocked from the get-go, just like Axel is.
- Unlockable Characters-These 12 characters are 16-bit models and unlockable. They are as follows, Adam (SOR1), Axel (SOR1), Blaze (SOR1), Axel (SOR2), Blaze (SOR2), Max (SOR2), Skate (SOR2), Axel (SOR3), Blaze (SOR3), Dr. Zan (SOR3), Eddie (SOR3), Shiva (SOR3).
- Unlockable Modes-You’ll be unlocking modes as well. You’ll get Arcade mode, Boss Rush mode, Battle, and Stage Select. Everything unlocks as soon as the story mode is completed.
- Unlockable Extras-There are some extra goodies baked into this game if you unlock them. You’ve got Mania difficulty, Gallery for Heroes, Gallery for Enemies, Character Info, and Gallery of Environments. Everything becomes unlocked as you complete stages of the story mode.
- Hidden Levels-There are hidden retro levels within the game. They’re nothing you unlock per se, you must simply find them while in the story mode. If you find them, you’re transported to a retro level to play against an old school boss. There are only 4 or 5 of these levels throughout the game. You must have a taser and then tase the correct Bare Knuckle arcade machines.
- New Gameplay Controls-There’s a new control scheme. I’m going to list out which button does what. I used a Wii U Pro Controller on Steam, so you’ll have to use your imagination to have it applied to your controller of choice. Jump=B, Attack=Y, Special=X, Pick Up/Throw=A, Back Attack=L, and Star Move= R. You can also have button combinations to do those special moves if you want since they use life to use. You may not want to accidentally press them and lose some life.
- Returning Gameplay Controls-What this game does that I thought was interesting and maybe for added difficulty would be that it adds legacy controls. If you enable Legacy controls, you are given three buttons. Jump=B, Attack/Pick Up=Y, and Special=X. You can also throw weapons, back attack, and do the Star move with button combinations. It’s a lot more to think about and manage.
- Settings/Options-There are some extra settings that you can mess with. For instance you can change what the foods that you pick up look like. You can adjust how hard the HD Rumble is (on the Switch). language, When you die on a level, they’ll give you a continue. Like the arcade, if you want to continue from where you were, it will cost you. In this game it doesn’t cost you quarters, but rather points. So when you die, choose wisely how you want to proceed. Under the Video section you can adjust lots of attributes of the game. The screen shake, luminosity, shadow blobs, environment/background details, overlay details, ambiance, and post effects [bloom, retro, retro crt]. Lastly, under the Audio section, you can checkmark the box to enable retro soundtracks too.
- Overall Gameplay-If you’re familiar with Streets of Rage, as most of you are, this game will be right at home for you. You’re already going to be used to the gameplay, mechanics, and hidden goodies. With new comers, the easiest way to describe it is a “beat ’em up”. You walk primarily from left to right across a level. You’re a 2D character moving in a 3D space and you beat up your attackers. You’ll find health benefits along the way as well as money. You’ll collect money as a way to earn more points, the same as beating up baddies. You accrue more points to get more lives that stack.You’ll also find and earn stars that allow you to execute a star move. I usually saved those for boss battles as they did the most damage in a small amount of time. There are 12 stages, with 12 bosses, and some stages are longer than others. I found this game to have a steep difficulty but in a good way. I played through on easy after I saw how difficult normal was. Even on easy the difficulty is intense, but you’re getting more benefits to help you. I felt that easy was the best because after you beat a hard enemy, you feel so rewarded. At the end of each stage, you’re graded and points are tallied to be posted on a leaderboard.As far as the other modes, Boss Rush mode is exactly what it sounds like. You’re given only so many benefits to start with and you must defeat all 12 bosses in a row. Arcade mode lets you play through the story albeit in an arcade fashion. That generally just means it’s presented level after level without cutscenes and other interruptions. Stage select mode is a mode that lets you go back and play a level again. This could be for any number of purposes. Maybe you really just liked a level and want to relive that without having to play the others before it. Or, more likely, maybe you want to get a better grade and/or leaderboard score.And lastly, the interesting/frenetic as heck, Battle mode. I found an actual quote from a developer that really encapsulates what Battle mode truly is. “Battle Mode lets you select your favorite characters and test your skills against one to three friends across several memorable levels. While it’s true that Streets of Rage 4 is all about cooperation, we thought it would be fun to let you guys play around with the characters and discover which of them is the most powerful, and which ones best suit your playing style. Whether you want to train your combos and specials, or just have some fun, Battle Mode is the place to do it – and it will be available right from the start.” -Cyrille Imbert Executive Producer, DotEmu
This section has always been dedicated to how one could get the most bang for their buck out of a game. Some games don’t really have much replayability. Some games are short and have no replayability. Well, let me tell you, son, this game has so much longevity to it, I think you may feel overwhelmed long before you ever finish it.
First off, I need to mention again the unlockables. From the extra modes to the extra characters. Playing the game through to unlock everyone should be your first endeavor. Then you can play all of the modes you’ve unlocked. After that, you can replay the entire story mode with all of the characters that you have not already completed it with. That’s a lot of playthroughs of the story mode. You can do arcade and boss rush modes the same way. Have fun with that, that should take you an incredibly long time. But wait, now you have to redo all of those modes with different characters on each of the different difficulties. Because, lest you forget, there is also a leaderboard point aspect, like in the arcades.
But wait, now you can do all of those configurations with the Legacy mode controls that I had mentioned earlier. Now let’s mix all of those possible scenarios with the fact that you can play multiplayer and add in friends up to four total players, in fact. It’s so easy for friends to jump in and out of online, you can also easily jump into existing games with ease. And then, let’s not forget about the achievements built into this game. I mean, come on guys, this game could last for months on end if played correctly.
Last of all, I anticipate DLC characters and modes. There’s just no way they’d be dumb enough not to make more money off of a game that has gotten such high reviews across the board. I personally would love to see the bosses be playable as well as Roo/Victy (he was a bartender in this game).