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Streets of Rage 4 Review

Initial release date: April 30, 2020

Designer: Jordi Asensio

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

Composers: Yuzo Koshiro, Motohiro Kawashima, Yoko Shimomura, Olivier Deriviere, Harumi Fujita, Keiji Yamagishi

Developers: DotEmu, Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games

Publishers: DotEmu, Yooreka Studio (Greater China)


"Streets of Rage has returned to its glory after the mishap that was Streets of Rage 3 into this love letter to franchise fans such as myself and is a great entry point for modern gamers to fall in love with the franchise."
  • 5 difficulty levels ("easy to pick up, hard to master").

  • Story Mode has 12 stages.

  • Also: Arcade Mode, Boss Rush, Battle Mode, Extra.

  • Playing solo is really great fun as well as multi-player modes! (1/x)


As an 80s Kid growing up in the 90s one of the most favorite of my past times was hitting the arcades to drop quarters into the newest and most hype games that came out and back then we had so many to choose from with the Double Dragon series which kicked off the beat em up genre to Final Fight which perfected the formula to the still spectacular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time and X-Men The Arcade Game and more yet we never experienced that level of greatness at home on consoles until 1991’s Streets of Rage. For those who do not know; Streets of Rage was inspired by both Final Fight and the movie Streets of Fire and was made by Sega due to Nintendo having their exclusivity deals with Capcom and since the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive elsewhere in the world) didn’t have that killer beat em up, Sega decided to step up to the plate and make their own.


While It may have kicked off as an inspired clone initially to Final Fight and Double Dragon, eventually with the following 2 sequels Streets of Rage turned into a franchise all of its own that had Capcom hustling to compete with it especially after the magnum opus that is Streets of Rage 2 which continues to be considered the greatest brawler/beat em up of all time. It’s been 26 years since the critically panned Streets of Rage 3 came out on the Sega Genesis and after near 3 decades of waiting we finally have Streets of Rage 4 on all platforms with the question many are wondering of if it lives up to the legacy of the franchise and exceed it or does it fail as many franchise returns do such as Double Dragon 4. We can only find this answer on the STREETS OF RAGE!!!


Story

The story of Streets of Rage 4 takes place 10 years after 3 and the fall of Mr. X and the Syndicate with the streets being safe and the corruption being done (SOR4 follows the continuity of Bare Knuckle 3 and not Streets of Rage 3 which had an altered non canonical plot). In that 10 year gap: main characters Axel, Adam, Blaze, Skate, Max, and Dr. Zan have all moved on with their lives to some extent or another. Axel left the force and moved away from the city to seek true strength and become a better warrior (echoing Ryu of Street Fighter’s pursuit). Blaze also leaving the force and refusing to take anger management classes after attacking the police commissioner; went on to become a dance instructor while who still gets into street fights. Adam went on to continue his decorated career as an officer and joined a special forces outfit with his younger brother Skate going on to become a college student and his daughter Cherry growing up to become a high school student who is in a metal band. Dr. Zan is now helping individuals such as new main character Floyd with cybernetic arms to replace his lost ones from a construction accident.


In the wake of the fall of the Syndicate and Mr. X’s demise has arisen a new criminal syndicate composed of the remnants of the previous group and are lead by Twin crime bosses known as Mr. Y and Ms. Y who are the children of the previous villain. They have near complete control of the city from the police force to the everyday thugs, food and music industry, and more! They have developed a technology to brainwash and control anyone that they wish and are the greatest threat that Wood Oak City (yes the city is named in this entry finally) has ever faced. With this new threat looming; our heroes must once again answer the call to justice and take the fight back to the streets to save the city once again.


Gameplay

If you are a series veteran who played the previous 3 entries, Final Fight series, or any beat em up in general then you will feel at home here as this game plays and feels SUPERB! If you want to compare how this compares to the previous 3 entries then this is basically a supped up Streets of Rage 2 as it plays speed wise the closets to it along with having its gameplay system reverting back to not being able to run or dodge roll up and down like you could in 3 and weapons do a nice amount of damage to you and to the enemies with a large variety to choose from.

You have you buttons for attack, jump, grab item, special attack, back attack, and combination inputs for a new screen nuke like attack being special attack + grab item which is an area radius attack with Axel gaining Cody Traver’s Criminal Upper/Punisher, Blaze gaining a chi based levitation attack similar to Rose’s Super from Street Fighter Alpha and 4, Adam gaining Terry Bogard’s Power Geyser, Cherry getting a rolling thunder style move into a guitar slam, and Floyd getting a Iron Man inspired Proton Canon beam wave.


These techniques utilize one star each and act similar to the first game’s screen nukes which in the would summon a police car (more on that later) that would show up and clear the screen and would need you to pick up a police car item to replenish or die and respawn to use again. In 4 you can find stars hidden throughout levels and be able to pick up to replenish this ability and you can stack them as they don’t cost your life bars the way that the special attacks do.

Special attacks operate the same way they did in 2 and 3 with one difference being the ability to utilize them in midair. Axel will do a rolling flame attack into a flaming straight punch while Blaze will pull off a blue flying jump kick and Adam performs an aerial Tatsumaki or tornado kick.


While Streets of Rage 2 and 3 had a combo system in them, Streets of Rage 4 took that to a new level and added in not only a free flowing combo system but also the ability to juggle enemies from throws to wall bounces and more and the only limits you have are your own as you can combo and juggle into anything and especially if you play Co-Op and work together with or without friendly fire being on. Your combos are counted similar to how they are in games like Fight N Rage and honestly the closet comparison I have to Streets of Rage 4 IS Fight N Rage which was heavily an inspiration for this new entry.

The game has your standard Co-Op 2 player mode with both local couch Co-Op and online which is something I’ve been BEGGING to be included in modern beat em ups and a new feature which is just AWESOME being a series first with 4 player Co-Op! This is limited to local offline only but hopefully in the future they can patch in 4 player online as the replayability in this game is INSANE!



There are 12 missions in this game as opposed to the previous entries only having 7 missions and just when you think the game is going to end it continues onwards with some of the best designed levels in a brawler I’ve ever seen. The levels especially the first level is a call back to the first level of Streets of Rage 2 in design and aesthetics and even its theme as well yet not long after it evolves into it’s own style and becomes an even better level layout. All the levels feel unique and original and one never feels like a rehash of a previous level with all of them paying homage to the levels of the original trilogy with special cameos of characters like Roo in the bar and more.

The enemies and bosses never feel cheap or annoying or have that terrible rubber band effect that other games in the genre do as each one has a unique strategy and approach and once you learn the patterns and how they react to you then you’ll be good to go even if you decide to play on Mania mode. One of the bosses, Elisa, has a special screen nuke style attack or rather desperation attack which is a call back to the original Streets of Rage where she calls in a squad car to fire a missile at the player. It’s such a great call back to the original. Each of the new bosses has a unique style as well and pose quite the challenge but are fun to fight and figure out their tactics.



Last thing I want to speak on is the unlockables as this game has TONS of unlockable characters to choose from aside from the starting 4 characters as you can unlock Adam after playing a few stages and more characters including playable versions of every previous playable character from the franchise giving you more reason to play through the game’s story mode as well as Arcade and online modes.

Graphics

Ok so I’ve talked AT LENTGH about the gameplay but what about the presentation and graphics? Well I have to be honest, when I first saw the reveal of what Streets of Rage 4 was going to look like I was immediately turned off as I assumed it was going the way of art style that Battletoads was going and I didn’t like it or felt it fit the grimy aesthetics of the franchise. I viewed it as being the Double Dragon Neon effect on a franchise I grew up with and I initially hated it and wished it looked more like the indie inspired The TakeOver which I felt was visually the way Streets of Rage 4 should’ve looked like but……..this art style grew on me and after playing it I came to LOVE IT.



The way that all the characters are hand drawn and animated brings them to life in a way that I never could’ve envisioned the series before. Axel who initially looked really out of place and fat to me initially now looks as he should as a man who’s lived in the wilderness and constantly training as he is no longer lean fit but dirty bulk muscle bound as in “I train on the edge of life and death” team no neck fit. Blaze looks even sexier than she did before and went from looking 80s hairband generic to looking more sensual and sultry. The biggest change of all for me was seeing how Adam looks as he looks like a BOSS with his short hair modernized take on his classic hairstyle and V-Neck yellow t-shirt with black pants and black overall straps with shades. The man is STLYISH while kicking tons of ass.

The returning enemies from Shiva, Barbon, Big Ben, and more all look and animate so well in this modernized style that I am absolutely in love with how this looks. The new enemies fit so well into the world of Streets of Rage and absolutely no one looks out of place not even the last half of the final boss.



The levels themselves come to life in this new artstyle with bloom effects and lighting along with particles and smoke and more in the backgrounds that make you feel like this is what the original creators envisioned when they wanted to make the original Streets of Rage but were limited due to the limitations of the hardware. As stated earlier, the first level is such a love letter to the first level of both Streets of Rage 1 and 2 as it faithfully meshes the 2 together and brings them to life with its own unique evolution with its own identity.

Sound

Ok can I just say that this games OST SLAPS and SLAPS HARD? Every track on this game from the opening level to the final level hits so hard that you might find yourself putting down the controller just to get up and dance to how absolutely AMAZING it is. I am not sure what Yuzo Koshiro was doing on Streets of Rage 3’s soundtrack with how experimental that games OST was but man he came back with a ROARING VENGENCE on this games OST. There is not one bad track at all on this game.



Oh and there’s voice acting too albeit incredibly limited voice acting as in only when you select your characters and they speak briefly and honestly they all sound the way I envisioned they would nearly 30 years ago.

When you hit or get hit by enemies no matter what it is, be it fist or weapon, they all sound meaty and weighty with that thunderous UMPH sound. Explosions, gunshots, electricity, and machines all sound spot on and have that crunch that you’d expect and love.


Downsides

With as much praise as I’ve given this game I can only speak on few things that left me wanting more and that’s mainly the lack of full voice over for the intro and cutscenes as well as the lack of the additions made to SoR3 that allowed you to dodge up and down as well as run but I understand that by adding those back in would speed up the games style and potentially upset the perfect level of game balance that is already here.



I honestly can’t understand why the game doesn’t feature full on voice acting for the intro and cutscenes as this game could’ve benefited from it as it works wonders especially when you look at games like The TakeOver that utilize it in the opening and cutscenes.

The other downside and its more of a nitpick more than a downside is why is 4 player Co-Op limited to local couch Co-Op and not included in the online as well? As I said that’s a minor nitpick but something I would’ve loved to have had in the game but I do feel this is something that they can add in later on.

Wrapup

Man franchises from the 80s and 90s don’t make it to a 4th installment and many fall face first on the 3rd outing but Streets of Rage has returned to its glory after the mishap that was Streets of Rage 3 into this love letter to franchise fans such as myself and is a great entry point for modern gamers to fall in love with the franchise. With 12 levels, a large roster of diverse characters to choose from, a spectacular art style, a boat load of unlockables, local and online Co-Op, and a soundtrack that SLAPS: Streets of Rage 4 is a MUST OWN game for 2020 whether you are a series vet or looking for something new, this game NEEDS to be in your collection.

"Review Code Provided By Dot Emu"

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© 2016 by Mekel Kasanova

 

Journalist, Content Creator, Entrepreneur, YouTuber, Podcast Host, Twitch Affiliate , Video Game Reviewer, & Vlogger.

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