The resurrection of a dormant game series is always a tantalising yet risky prospect. Although it can be tempting to revisit past glories, rejuvenation can backfire, causing players to reevaluate if they really liked a series to begin with. Streets of Rage 4 takes these concerns, punches them in the gut and suplexes them off a skyscraper. Who has time to worry when there are gangs to take down?
Returning after a whopping 16-year hiatus Streets of Rage 4 doesn’t miss a beat in continuing its 2D brawler brilliance. As soon as the atmospheric techno begins over the opening crawl long-term fans will be right at home. Picking your fighter is a real all-you-can-beat buffet. From series staples, Axel and Blaze to newcomers Cherry and Floyd the variety is incredibly impressive. That’s just the starting roster too, as you play you’ll unlock fan favourites and strange surprises alike.
The most striking aspect (aside from the actual, y’know, striking) is the incredible art design. Every character and location has beautiful, hand-drawn graphics, stuffed full of personality. Gorgeous, hand-drawn styled animations made all the fighting glorious and visually clear. You can unlock 16-bit graphic options but that seems a step back from the beautiful standard presentation. From special moves to generic goons, you almost would want to stay still and just take in the glorious sights.
Alas, there’s no time to stay put, unless your dentist will reattach your teeth for free. Streets of Rage 4 is no joke in terms of challenge. With difficulty settings ranging from easy to hardest and an unlockable Mania option, new players and veterans alike will find a comfortable starting point. The game options are incredibly extensive, even offering options for preferred food for the health pick-ups. Vegetarian hooligans can look forward to tofu rather than street chicken! For the uninitiated Easy mode is definitely recommended for your first run, this is a game to be replayed after all. The first run is just practise.
Warriors, come out to play
The series has long been one of the best couch co-op experiences and this is no exception. Now up to four players can team up to deal justice but two combatants are still optimal. The perfect balance of planning and chaos. Now you can take the fight online but unless you’re playing with friends the matchmaking is disappointingly unreliable.
However, newcomers might be surprised by how old-fashioned the gameplay is. The fighting is simple yet evocative, rewarding diligence with flashiness. Each character has a limited number of moves but are all incredibly distinct, each hit feeling great. From Floyd’s robotic arms to Cherry’s guitar video-game violence rarely feels so wholesome yet satisfying.
Can you dig it?
The grapple system is disappointingly archaic, relying on the same controls that perform all basic character movement. At times you can accidentally grab an enemy when trying to move in for a pummeling which can lead to frustrating combo breaks. A dedicated grapple button would certainly be welcome. Measuring the distance between yourself and enemies can lead to some minor confusion. Few things feel worse than missing a hit by mere pixels with your foe on a different plane of digital reality altogether.
These issues are minor in the grand scheme of Streets of Rage 4. Developers Dotemu, Lizardcube and Guard Crush Games have delivered a one-two punch of both a great game and a beautiful resurrection of an old beloved series. While it could be accused of playing it too faithfully to older titles there are so few games of its type that it makes for a refreshing trip down memory lane. Wait, memory lane? Screw that! Only enraged streets can be this satisfyingly glorious.