It’s been almost 30 years since the original Streets of Rage game that came out, and surprisingly Streets of Rage 4 was just released not too long ago. You may be too young to know what Streets of Rage is, or possibly missed the entirety of the side-scrolling beat’em up games but not to worry I’ll give you a quick catch up session to get you up to date. Streets of Rage first released on the Sega Genesis on August 2nd of 1991. You got to choose from one of three main characters, Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding, and Adam Hunter, all whom are ex-law enforcement in one way or another. Teaming up with another player you’re tasked to go up against Mr. X, a boss of a syndicate who poisoned Wood Oak City by corrupting everyone including the police. After a year later after successfully freeing the city from Mr. X’s syndicate, we’re introduced into Streets of Rage 2.
For Streets of Rage 2 we’re introduced to Eddie “Skate” Hunter (Adam Hunter’s kid brother), and Max Thunder (professional wrestler and Axel’s friend). Along with Axel and Blaze, Max and Skate are back out on the street to fight Mr. X again to save Adam, who was kidnapped and held hostage by the syndicate. After defeating the evil Mr. X in the 2nd game, Mr. X decides to to create a research company called the RoboCy Corporation to act as a front for his syndicate. With the help of Dr. Dahm, Mr. X slowly replaces key officials in the city with robots so he is able to really control all of Wood Oak City. To keep the police busy, Mr. X has dispersed bombs around the city. Since Adam is busy with helping the police disarm the bombs, Dr. Zan a former syndicate henchman, notifies Blaze of what’s going on and the true threat actually is. Streets of Rage 3’s roster rounds out with Dr. Zan who replaces Max, Eddie aka “Skate” since Adam is busy, Axel, and Blaze.
Which takes us now to Streets of Rage 4, ten years after the events of SoR3. This time around Mr. X is no more, instead his evil children the Y Twins, are here to corrupt Wood Oak City by brainwashing everyone with the power of music. To put a stop to the Y Twins, Blaze gets the old crew back together Alex, Adam, and two new comers the daughter of Adam, Cherry Hunter (yes another Hunter), and Floyd Iraiya the apprentice of Dr. Zan.
Even after 26 years since the very last game, it feels like it’s picked up right where they left off. Axel looking a little more rugged and aged, Blaze still looking like the bombshell she was designed to be, and Adam looking a bit updated almost like a digital animated version Wesley Snipes. The environment of Wood Oak City gets even more fleshed out compared to the previous games. The new animated cartoon-esque look to the game is a breath of fresh air to the Streets of Rage series where it’s not over saturated, but also not underwhelming. Not only is the game visually appealing, it’s also audibly appealing. The new music in the game is also an amazing addition. If you weren’t familiar with the series music, it’s always been full of synth and bass beats that stood out from a lot of games. Streets of Rage 4 is no different, filled with beats that fill the game with nostalgia and pays homage to the previous games.
Stage designs felt deeper and more interactive compared to the previous games, and all the while the characters get a update to their previous fighting abilities all while still feeling balanced. While adding depth to fight mechanics, the combo system in the game makes players want to learn how to fully make use of the characters abilities, whether it’s a regular attack, heavy attack, defensive/offensive special abilities, and even aerial special abilities. Building up your combos not only make it feel satisfying, but depending on the difficulty you’re playing at the extra points towards extra lives definitely helps in the long run, let alone banking all the points at the end of the stage towards unlocking new, well old characters.
One of the nice new additions to the game is online multiplayer, but sadly there are limitations to the co-op sessions. Currently there is a limit on only two players that can play online together, but local co-op you’re capable of having up to four players which is a first for the franchise history. If you are purchasing Streets of Rage 4 for PC, just be aware that certain online stores won’t support multiplayer at all, or will support it further down the line. Besides the online multiplayer, the local multiplayer has added the first ever PVP mode where four players can choose between 17 different characters to beat the hell out of one another, unfortunately because given the current pandemic I wasn’t able to try out the full 4 player PVP.
Overall Streets of Rage 4 is a welcomed update to the franchise, Lizardcube and Dotemu definitely gathered the right resources to bring this game to fruition. From the moment I started up the game, to the three to four hours straight that I put in to beat the game for the first time, all of it was filled with fond memories of the entire franchise. The game play and fight mechanics felt familiar and refreshing at the same time. The button mashing became even more calculated after beating the game, slowly learning how to combo correctly while using abilities and chaining mid-air juggles to bouncing enemies off walls to even further the combo. It’s funny when you think about mastering the art of martial arts for each character since they all fight differently and have different abilities, but even while the credits were rolling there was only one thing that rolled across my mind… I need to play more. As frustrating as some enemies were, the game had me wanting to play more so that I could unlock a lot of the old characters from previous games all while trying to clear Arcade mode with only the 5 lives that they give you. If you’ve played the previous games be sure not to miss Streets of Rage 4, and if you’ve never played the previous games be sure to find a way to play them then play the new one!