Yuzo Koshiro and SEGA are responsible for the greatest beat em up franchise of all time: Streets Of Rage.
Growing up, the arcades and consoles were abundant in these fast, combo heavy, multiplayer brawlers. Highlighting accessibility and sharp gameplay – the genre was one that would blossom and usher in some of the finest experiences in an era gone by.
Streets Of Rage or Bare Knuckle in Japan, is a franchise known for its sharp gameplay, incredible animation, and most importantly: an amazing soundtrack. While the franchise would see three installments on the SEGA Megadrive, it was lost to the history books with unsuccessful attempts to bring the franchise into the realm of 3D.
However, history has a funny way of changing. Dotemu, Lizardcube and Guard Crush games obtained the licence to bring us a sequel and a modern take of the most beloved beat em up. Today at Remote Play, I have the distinct pleasure of reviewing what I consider as an old school SEGA fan, a come back story for the ages. This is our review of Streets Of Rage 4.
The game take place ten years after the demise of Mr. X in Streets Of Rage 3. After the old band split up, Wood Oak City gets taken over by Mr. X’s children. Meet the Y twins, the siblings who’re out to avenge their fallen father. The twins plan to take full control of Wood Oak City with hypnotic music to brainwash the civilians. Blaze Fielding assembles the old gang back together to fight this new crime Syndicate.
The combat in Streets Of Rage 4 is refined and stays faithful to the original trilogy. For instance, Axel still has his signature Grand Upper and you’ll see many familiar moves with Blaze. You start off with a few characters but as you go further into the story, you’ll unlock more. As a bonus, you also unlock the 16-bit versions of the characters from the Megadrive. The control layout is pretty simple. You have you regular punch, jump buttons but you’ll also have a defensive/offensive attack. You can use certain parts of the environment to your advantage like an exploding barrel to take down the street thugs. You can go all in with an air special attack and carry on the combo with an offensive attack. There’s a variation of moves you can perform but the best thing about these moves is that you can juggle and combine the combo with another player. You can hold Punch for a strong attack or press back+punch for a back attack to avoid having your combo being broken. It wouldn’t be Streets Of Rage if you couldn’t pick up weapons and SO4 carries on that tradition. You can pick up metal pipes, knifes, swords and even grenades and you can still throw them towards an enemy. You can grab, volt and throw like previous games but the newest addition to SO4 is a star move. A star Move is simply like a super charged attack that causes a lot of damage.
The gameplay and difficulty is well balanced and the boss fights can be ridiculously hard if you’re playing on a harder difficulty. After completing a stage, you’ll be ranked based off your performance. As you playthrough certain areas, you can unlock some throwback moments from the previous classics. It’s a nice Easter egg for old fans like myself to appreciate. Besides a traditional story mode, SORF also has a verses modes where you take on waves of enemies with a friend and a Boss Rush mode where you take on the main bosses of the game.
The hand drawn graphics in Streets Of Rage 4 look gorgeous. Streets Of Rage 4 detracts from its predecessors by mixing the best of cel shaded visuals and focusing in on animation with thousands of frames. Each sprite moves fluidly with finesse and liquidity. Special star moves and combinations result in blisters of effects on screen that us MegaDrive faithful could only dream of.
Environments evoke a sense of Pulp straight out of Hong Kong cinema. Characters will traverse through broken down ghettos, beautiful cities, and police stations. The gamut of art meets modern day fidelity is both fitting and a shoe in for the franchise roots. I appreciate the fine detail they’ve added in all the stages. The game is colourful and pleasing to the eye.
The soundtrack delivers the same feel good moments like Streets Of Rage 2 as Yuzo Koshiro was partly involved. The house and techno tracks would give you vibes of the 90s. The soundtrack is so good that I started downloading the entire album on iTunes.
Overall, Streets Of Rage 4 is a love letter and a worthy sequel to an iconic franchise. The gameplay is addictive and playing with a friend felt competitive. The competitive aspect kept making me go back to improve my skills. The game may not be as long buts it’s longer than the previous instalments. Streets Of Rage 4 shows why old skool beat em ups can be fun and still have a place in today’s landscape.
A Review code was provided by Dotemu
Developer: Lizardcube, and Guard Crush Games / Publisher: Dotemu
Release date: 30/04/2020
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4 Pro