I’ve been a fan of the beat-em-up genre most of my life. I grew up with Final Fight and Streets of Rage as some of my go to games. Streets of Rage 2 is close to the top of my list of all time greatest brawlers. When I heard about Streets of Rage 4 under development, I was cautiously optimistic. So many revivals have promised so much and delivered so little. How does Streets of Rage 4 compare to the other revivals? Time for a breakdown.
When we shared the Streets of Rage 4 review it became clear I didn’t mention the soundtrack. So a quick note on that. Fantastic. Wonderful soundtrack that has a nice 90’s vibe but sounds clean and grungy at the same time. It fits the game perfectly and calls back to the original titles. So, there you have it. Awesome music as well.
The first few minutes of the game gave me a little bit of a sense of hope that this game was going to be fantastic. The hand drawn comic book inspired artwork looks amazing. What takes it to another level is the lighting that takes place on the characters. Traditional hand drawn art work generally feels flat and doesn’t fit into the overall world all that seamlessly, but with Streets of Rage 4 things are different. Characters are impacted by light and it is stunning to see in motion.
On top of that, there is an aesthetic to the game that feels like the originals while also feeling like something brand new. Outside of Adam and Cherry, the father-daughter team me and my daughter played in the game, all characters stroll through the levels. There is no running, which is a great call back to the original titles. Most characters move slowly and it works perfectly. The animations are smooth, but frames are still seen. This makes the game feel more like a fighting game than a beat-em-up.
Those frames and that movement all comes into play as you start to get deeper and deeper into how the game works and how you are going to survive the punishingly brutal fights. Knowing how far certain moves will take you is key and I can see a community growing around the game and creating frame data charts to maximize efficiency throughout the levels.
The story is fine. I’m not going to go into it or give it much thought. It isn’t mind blowing and it isn’t utter trash. The story beats give you a reason to move from one stage to the next. Every one of those stages, by the way, is incredibly well designed. The first level feels like the first level from Streets of Rage 2 and keeps the nostalgia flowing as you get used to this new version of the game. This isn’t a review with rose-tinted glasses either. I expected a mess, or something passable. What I got was a old-school brawler with a few new-school touches, and it works incredibly well.
You start with four characters, with a fifth to be unlocked shortly into the story. Axel and Blaze return, (Adam comes in later) a little older, but much better looking on the screen. The combat is extremely tight. Combos are key and as time goes on, wall juggles and teaming up on one big enemy becomes key to success.
This wouldn’t be possible, though, if the controls were too complicated. Dotemu, Guard Crush Games, and Lizardcube made the right choice in keeping things simple. There are a few commands to pull off special moves, but nothing goes beyond double tapping forward and attacking. Combat stays focused on timing, positioning and reading enemy attacks.
Streets of Rage 4 can be extremely tough. My daughter drew this plan for the final level. Hopefully it helps you as much as it helped us.
One new feature that felt incredibly well balanced focused on the life draining special attacks. When you perform a special attack that costs life, you don’t lose the life completely. If you are able to beat enemies up without getting hit, you can regain most of the life spent back. This adds another layer to an already deceptively simple combat system. What you get here is something much more in depth, but easy enough for my 10 year old to play and enjoy.
The Other Characters
Level design is incredibly well done. I mentioned it a minute ago, but it deserves to be called out as a character unto itself. What makes the levels so special is the details and the interactive objects. I don’t want to ruin any of those objects for you, as they were such a fun surprise, just know that there is a great deal to look forward to.
In addition, there are plenty of extras to unlock. The game is extremely tough, so I have a lot of work to get to that point. All told, expect 12 characters from the classic Streets of Rage titles to appear in their pixilated glory. The game is so much fun to play, I’m actually picking up a third controller so the entire family can team up. The game supports up to 4 players total.
A brawl mode is included as well, so you can beat each other in a arena fighting mode. Level select and 5 difficulty levels are unlocked after your first play-through with some of the options seeming masochistic. My daughter and I used the assist featured on each level which gave us more lives and more super moves but cut our score by 10 times. We still barely beat the final boss. But, that is okay. The game is designed to be played by all skill levels and if you just want to get through the game with non-gamer friends, you can do that. Want to go for a no death run? That option is there.
I can’t give this game enough praise. The characters, levels, artwork and gameplay are all so incredibly well polished. The fact that they took a game that could be a 5 hour long brawler and turned it into something that my family will be playing for months to come is a testament to just how well all the systems work together. I did experience one crash, but it was a transition from one level to another so no progress was lost.
One last note before I throw a score on this thing. Streets of Rage 4 doesn’t work like most arcade ports. You don’t get to press start to “feed” more quarters. Once you go through your allotted lives, that’s it. Game over. You have to sit and watch the other people that are better than you continue. It is extremely exciting and stressful when your partner dies and the level is nearly complete and it all comes down to you holding it together and closing things out. Otherwise, you both start over.
Or, if things get too frustrating, team damage can be toggled on and off and you can simply backhand your partner all you want to let out that frustration. Get this game. Show support to the developers so we can get more in the future. This is an incredible title and one that anyone will be happy to have in their collection.
We have yet to have a chance to review the online play for the game but will update the review once we get a chance. As long as the online servers work the score will stay the same.
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