Streets of Rage 4
Sega has copious intellectual properties that boast praise that still reverberate among video game enthusiasts to this very day. For two and a half decades, the Streets of Rage series has been dormant. By joint collaboration Dotemu, Lizard Cube and Guard Crush games, a fourth instalment finally arrived on April 30th this year. Available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Streets of Rage 4 is a side-scrolling beat-em-up. You must battle through stages to defeat an evil organisation that bids to control the city. Initially, you have the choice of four characters. Axel Stone, an ex-cop featured in the original trilogy. He's returned looking hardened, a middle-aged warrior that looks a refreshing change of pace from his previous clean-cut look. Another returning original, Blaze Fielding, who appears to have aged immensely well over the years. They're joined by Cherry Hunter, the daughter of a character only featured in the original game. She sports a guitar in her arsenal and is the most agile among the starting cast. And lastly, the bionic armed Floyd. His role is the powerhouse, of course.
From the opening sequence, long time fans are treated to a tempo that is reminiscent of the classic trilogy. This isn't a rehash, nor an attempt to replicate. What these developers have produced is a sequel that is a natural fit. The music features input from original composers Yuzo Koshiro & Motohiro Kawashima, who are heralded by producing stellar soundtracks.
There is a change, however, as a new leading composer was brought into the mix. That person is, Olivier Deriviere. Together these talents represent a fusion of new and old, that really stands out in what you'll experience through this game. It gives gamers familiar with the series reminiscent hints throughout a number of tracks. Triggering a flood of memories without making it feel you've heard it all before.
Graphics follow a similar logic. Instead of pixelated characters, we have an animated style. A first in the series and a natural progression for today's level of hardware. The presentation is eye-catching, featuring hand-drawn backgrounds. Those that show fantastic attention to detail and help immerse you into the setting.
How does it play? I am happy to report that this isn't going to disappoint. In fact, I found this to be a game that I'll keep coming back to for many years to come. Streets of Rage was born in an era where coin-operated titles were a bigger part of SEGA's culture. They implement an addictive element. The combat is fluid, responsive and gives a feeling of great satisfaction landing devastating blows. Equally, you can't help the heartstrings pull after those knockdowns, mistimed attacks or interrupted combos.
You can expect everything here what makes the series great. Weapons, hordes of enemies, challenging situations, boss fights and scoreboards. There are some tweaks to the formula. Most notably, 'star moves'. As the name suggests, these are special attacks for each character. At the beginning of the stage, you'll begin with one, with other being available as item drops.
In previous titles, power attacks drained health. That remains a factor, yet you're able to recover this part of the life meter, by avoiding being hit and earning it back through combos. Juggling an enemy has become more prevalent, especially with the introduction of wall rebounds. This adds to the player's potential of achieving various combos, under conditions never before possible. Enemies now flash to telegraph attacks, A nice touch to assist in learning behaviours and react quicker to avoid significant damage.
Streets of Rage 4 has a number of modes. The story mode will take you through the stages, providing narrative in slideshow form. Hardly a blockbuster plot, but just the right level of detail to give a premise worth getting into. Giving enough reason to despise the antagonists and introduce each new level in a logical (sort of) sequence.
We also have stage select, this allows you to replay any previously completed stage under a variety of difficulties. An arcade mode, where the player is carried through the stages, not having any of their stats reset between stages. There's a boss rush mode which is great for pushing yourself to the test and learn their patterns. The battle mode offers offline versus, a nice way to settle disputes.
The local coop can have four players simultaneously, in my opinion, that's an amazing selling point, more so for this day in age. Multiplayer, on the other hand, is restricted to only two players. A disappointing difference, you can't win them all.
Throughout playing offline your scores contribute to earning new unlockables. Including characters, even pixelated ones out of the original trilogy. Serving as a great motivator to keep battling for a higher rank on each level. Though it must be said that once Streets of Rage 4 has its hooks in, there's no going back. Similar to Streets of Rage 2, to this day I'm compelled to complete it. A testament to a game that has fun being a core emphasis.
For newcomers, this is undoubtedly worth a try. To any Streets of Rage veterans that may be having doubts, I did too. "Could Sega really pull this off, after so long?" I thought after watching the announcement trailer. You'll certainly find yourself right at home.
My main critique is that Streets of Rage 4 is relatively short for a game, based on modern standards. Arguably that is reflected in the cost. What this does offer is quality and for that, it is worth all five stars here.