Technos, Capcom, Sega, Konami….. these are the companies that brought us some of the greatest beatem-ups ever made and since the mid 90s we haven’t really gotten a proper return to form of the classic side scrolling genre and while we have gotten games that have either tried to and failed or successfully evolved the genre such as how Shenmue and Yakuza have or they have failed miserably in how Final Fight: Streetwise did. Enter Team17's Raging Justice, a new take on the classic brawler genre taking many inspirational cues from Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Bad Dudes, and Double Dragon while making some changes to the formula which is really good in many ways and not so much so in many others.
You have a choice from 3 characters to choose from that are the standard archetypes of the bruiser, the balanced fighter, and nimble but weak fighter; in this case these characters are Nikki Rage (The Balanced fighter) has a military background and balanced moveset to effectively deal with whatever is thrown her way, Ashley King, a 15 year-old with lightning fast moves akin to Skate of SoR, and finally Rick Justice, a veteran cop who isn’t afraid to break a few rules (and skulls) to take down criminals. Each character has different speed, priority and ranges as well as slightly different moves and benefits, so you’ll want to give each a try to see which appeals most to your play style.
Games like these allow for 2 player co-op drop in drop out play and no matter what platform you play the game on you’re able to play it with a buddy just like in the 80’s and 90’s before games ended the couch co-op feature as they have in the mass majority of gaming nowadays. If friendly-fire bothers you then you can always turn off that feature within the options setting so that you don’t end up accidentally hurting or killing each other while playing and progressing through the game. Now I could go into detail about the button layout and how the game plays but honestly if you’ve played Streets of Rage and Final Fight then you already know that there will be a punch/kick button, jump button, and crowd control but health draining button that’s the standard for the genre first pioneered by Final Fight, however, there is are two new additions that I like that are in this game that I feel that one of the two should be standard and they are the addition of a grab button and a feature in this game that is done significantly unique in comparison to other brawlers and is what sets this game apart and that is the arrest system which not only is a gameplay feature but also factors into the challenges that are prompted at the beginning of every level which is pretty cool!
The arrest feature in the game is pretty cool over all but sometimes it is hit or miss given that it is activated when you beat your enemy down to a certain degree and they become stunned and start to have a glow to them of which if you grab them in this state you can arrest them instead of KO’ing or possibly “killing” them. There are benefits to arresting your enemies as it not only adds to your score but also some enemies have warrants of which when you arrest them you end up clearing a challenge and helping you rank up on the online leaderboards for bragging rights. There are a decent range of baddies to take down throughout the game. Some will have weapons like dynamite, baseball bats, and knives, but luckily anything they can pick up so can you. Bosses can be a real challenge at times because they often have special moves that will have area of attack features, this is made worse with animation loops that have to finish before you can get back up again after being knocked down, and if everything lines up perfectly wrong you won’t even have a chance to recover.
Ok so animations and art style…..I am NOT a fan of how this game looks when in motion, yes it uses a style of digitization and what not but I just don’t like this art style. I am not trying to crap on it and yes it is unique but to me after seeing a game like The TakeOver having such an amazing art style and seeing it look so smoothly in action, I just cant dig the look of Raging Justice in motion. I also am not a fan of the issues of range with some of the attacks and also I am NOT a fan of the music at all. Yuzo Kushiro is legendary for his music from the SoR series and games like The TakeOver have taken that style of music to a new level (and will also have Yuzo Kushiro doing some tracks for said game) and then you have games like FightnRage (my current all time favorite brawler) which has an amazing sound track that really brings in an excellent mix of SoR, Mega Man X, Final Fight and more high octane heart pounding tracks…….so why oh why do we have such mediocre tracks in this game that don’t really do much to get you into the mood to bash some skulls? IDK the music just does absolutely nothing for me and is a real bummer as music and brawlers go hand in hand, think of it this way; would Double Dragon’s first stage be as memorable without that iconic theme that has spanned numerous interactions through out the series? No it wouldn’t be as memorable and that’s why music in brawlers is so key and in this game the music is really underwhelming and unmemorable.
All that aside the game is enjoyable minus some of the quibbles I had with the hit detection, art style, and incredibly underwhelming music. The story is about as standard as it gets for a brawler but its about right for the setting of the game but its not memorable at all, just standard at best. Most importantly Raging Justice doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s got the right number of levels (ten or so) and they aren’t drawn out too long either. With multiple difficulty levels and settings, leaderboards, and extra stage challenges, there’s more to this game than meets the eye. While it doesn’t do anything to reinvent the genre its also not trying to and it’s still a great deal of fun and well worth your $15. All in all Raging Justice may come across as a bit generic and a bit too by the numbers but regardless I had an enjoyable time with it and given that I have this not only on the PS4 but also on the Nintendo Switch I am able to play how and where I want. I love brawlers and being able to play this game on the go is just the way that I want to be able to play this game. Definitely Kasanova Approved so go out and pick this game up.