If you would have told me a few weeks back that during PAX West I would be able to check out both Windjammers 2 and Streets of Rage 4 then I would’ve thought you had lost your mind. With both franchises having not seen new installments since 1994, it seemed safe to say in 2018 that they were each dead. Publisher Dotemu has decided that shouldn’t be the case though and is now looking to bring back both with new sequels next year.
The first of these two that I was able to try out was Windjammers 2. Whats stuck out to me immediately, and as you probably noticed in the reveal trailer, is the hand-drawn animations. Seeing Windjammers 2 running in front of me, I can affirm that these visuals look just as slick as they did in that reveal. Even though it’s a far cry from the retro style graphics that we’ve become familiar with in the original game, these new visual still felt reminiscent of what I’ve grown accustomed to thanks to the bright color palette and 80s aesthetic.
On the gameplay front, Windjammers 2 played like, well, Windjammers. That’s the best thing I can say about the current build of the game that I saw and it shouldn’t come as a huge shock considering Dotemu worked on the PS4 and forthcoming Switch re-release of the original game. There were only two playable characters to choose from in the demo and they each had their own unique abilities and specializations, much like the first game.
All in all, I’m excited for Windjammers 2 simply because Windjammers was already great in the first place. There’s not much new to talk about right now because I didn’t see anything all that new in my demo, but I think this one’s in a good place right now. I’m looking forward to seeing more of what additions will be coming to the game as Dotemu reveals more in the future.
Streets of Rage I admittedly have very little experience with, so it’s harder for me to speak on the demo I played as someone who is intimately familiar with the brawler classic. In total, I played three levels of the game and it played just like an old-school brawler should. Most of the moves from the original Streets of Rage games have returned, including the ability to throw enemies. I even ate a street turkey.
Much like Windjammers 2, the most immediate difference is that of the graphics, which now resemble a hand-drawn art style. I’m not sure how all Streets of Rage fans will respond to this change, but I found it to be refreshing. The character animations, in particular, looked fantastic and were really smooth. Even if you don’t like the new art direction and would have preferred something more akin to the 16-bit style of old, I think it’s hard to dislike the way Streets of Rage 4 looks.
Early indications from me are that Streets of Rage 4 feels great to play, but I question whether it will live up to the prominence that many have built up in their minds about the series over the last 24 years. If you keep your expectations in check, what I’ve played of Streets of Rage 4 seems to be fun, but again, that’s me speaking as someone who isn’t as intimately familiar with the series.
There’s still a lot left to see about both of these games and the builds that I played of each didn’t really give me a great indication as to how either will turn out. While I love the new animations found within each title, I’m looking forward to seeing what new ideas and features will be added to both, as that’s something we still haven’t seen much of just yet.
Dotemu has to prove to all of us that bringing these franchises back was a good idea in the first place and while I may not be won over just yet, I trust that the passionate developers working on each of these projects will be trying their best to please longtime fans while staying true to the legacy that both Windjammers and Streets of Rage already have.
Currently, Windjammers 2 is scheduled to launch next year on Switch and PC. Streets of Rage 4 is slated to release in 2019 as well but platforms have yet to be announced.