Streets of Rage 4 is a Visually Impressive Nostalgia Fueled Beat ‘Em Up
It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but Streets of Rage 4 seems to be a solid entry that is catering to the fans of the series.
This might lose me some “gamer” cred, but I’ve never played a Streets of Rage game. Not that I can remember anyway. There is a small chance I played the first or second games from the beloved beat ‘em up series on my uncle’s Sega Genesis but I was a Nintendo kid. My beat ‘em up memories are filled with licensed properties, most notably Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the Double Dragon series. Even then, I played one Double Dragon game and it was the bad one with the Battletoads.
Honestly, beat ‘em ups have always been stale to me. Unless I was playing with a friend, there was really no reason to touch them. I always thought there was an issue with perspective, which always led to me mashing the attack button endlessly until I would land a lucky hit. They never felt great to me. That being said, Streets of Rage 4 surprised me.
Streets of Rage 4 is the newest entry in the Streets of Rage series. It is, for all intents and purposes, supposed to evoke nostalgia. We see the return of Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding, the two characters that have been playable in each entry since the first in 1991, fighting their way through a ton of enemies until finally reaching the boss who is as challenging as the number of times you decide to press continue. But Streets of Rage 4 feels like more than just looking through a nostalgic lens, if only just a bit more.
During my demo, I played as Blaze Fielding, the female protagonist of the series. The gameplay isn’t unlike other beat ‘em ups you may have played. There was a button for basic attacks and one for special attacks. Special attacks are a risk to use since you do lose health every time you use them. However, every consecutive hit will regain that lost health. There is also a finite amount of super moves you can use that help during overwhelming situations.
Whether it was a normal enemy or the last boss of the stage, the strategy for winning was the same: mash that attack button. There wasn’t much strategy to it. However, it did feel good, especially playing with another person. Being able to juggle an enemy between each player is very satisfying and always ended with a laugh. I was always smiling after each hit just because the gameplay felt good despite it being redundant.
The only strategy that even seems present is trying to avoid hitting the other player. This is only a problem if you do decide to have a second player join, but you can hit your friend and it does do damage. Both me and the other player I was playing with found this out the hard way as we were always running into each other. I like that I could hit the other player. It helped me keep track of what was going on screen and also led me to communicating to the other player more often.
The gameplay is serviceable and I’m sure fans of this genre will find it satisfactory. Where I think Streets of Rage 4 stands out is its animation and art direction. It was that feeling I assume all the Sega kids felt when they first played the atrocity known as Comix Zone. It looks like a comic book in motion. The only problem I had with the demo is that it showcased a level that had a darker color palette. I want to see what this would look like set during a sunny a colorful day. I assume it would look like DotEmu’s other long-awaited sequel, Windjammers 2. If it does, I have no doubt Streets of Rage 4 will be one of the best looking modern beat ‘em ups.
One of the most asked questions about Streets of Rage 4 is the music. Although I had never played a Streets of Rage game, I have listened to the soundtracks a few times since. I’ve seen it lauded as one of the greatest gaming soundtracks of all time. The music is integral to the series, which means composer Yuzo Koshiro’s involvement is imperative to a proper Streets of Rage experience. I did ask if Koshiro would be involved but the team had “no comment” on that just yet. I was also told that the music in the demo was placeholder, but was an indication of what direction they would be going with the game’s music.
Streets of Rage 4 is indeed a nostalgia-fueled affair catering to those who want another Streets of Rage game. For those of you, like myself, who have not really been impressed with beat ‘em ups for the genre’s existence, I don’t see how Streets of Rage 4 would change your mind. It does play well and the visuals are stellar but nothing about the package really stood out to me.
Streets of Rage 4 will release sometime in 2019 for unspecified platforms.