If you grew up arcade gaming in the 1980s – 90s, then chances are you knew that the Beat’em up genre was king. Capcom’s Final Fight was the standout and as the home console market started to evolve into the 16-bit era, gamers were clamoring for a quality home port. However, in 1991, Sega released Streets of Rage on the Genesis (also known as the Mega Drive) and the conversation changed. Streets of Rage clearly used Final Fight as a foundation but arguably improved every aspect of the popular Beat’em up. The Streets of Rage franchise till this day is held in high regard when talking about must-have titles in that era and I’m here to say the accolades & praise also now applies to Streets of Rage 4!
Streets of Rage 4’s story takes place ten years after Streets of Rage 3. We are greeted with the iconic Wood Oak City skyline with up scrolling dialogue informing us that the “Y twins” are following in the footsteps of their late father Mr. X who we defeated in the previous title. The twins not only have a wide variety of goons, but also hypnotic music which will brainwash the people of Wood Oak City. Blaze Fielding discovers this evil plan and decides to call up Axel Stone and Adam Hunter. The trio reunites but with two new additions. Cherry Hunter who is Adam’s daughter and cybernetically enhanced Floyd Iraia.
The Streets of Rage franchise has always had colorful, stylish levels accompanied by originally produced dance beats. These two elements are present to the 10th degree. The development teams undoubtedly love the franchise and did an amazing job bringing us back to the streets of Wood Oak City. The backdrop storefronts or distance views of the city are absolutely beautiful.
Each of the 12 stages is uniquely designed while at the same time progressing the story with visual & audio cues. For example, the Police Precinct level is utter chaos. You are fighting criminals who just escaped their cells along with cops who are attacking you and the escaped criminals. In one area, there is an all-out brawl with some cops using tasers and others holding riot shields swinging a baton. Overlaying this level is a heart-pumping techno track that also symbolizes the hypnotic rhythmic music the Y twins have produced to drive people mad.
Streets of Rage 4 gameplay has built upon the franchise’s simplistic “pick up & play” style by including strategic tweaks to the combat. Your base attack can still be button mashed to your heart’s content, however, your combo button needs to be used cautiously. As you perform these strong combos you will notice your health bar is depleting but leaving a gray bar in its place. You can regain your health and refill this bar by alternating with the base attack button to defeat your enemy.
Once you win the fight, the health bar will replenish. This is a great tweak to reward players instead of adding the additional stress of hoping to find a food item to replenish your health. Each character still has a special attack that can be activated by pressing “Triangle & O” together. Each of the original trios has a new special attack. On that note, their move sets have also been changed while sticking to their original strengths.
When it comes to the enemy types, all of the previous street goons return along with some new faces. Many of the enemies have a pattern but these characters have also been tweaked so you’ll need to figure out the new method of taking down these foes. As you progress, some levels will also include a mid-level mini-boss battle. To avoid spoilers, I will not go into detail but will say they are all challenging even on normal difficulty.
In traditional Streets of Rage form, you can play solo or with friends. Local supports up to 4 players but online co-op is only 2. During my first playthrough in online co-op, we experienced random slow down and frame issues when there were several NPCs on screen. These issues only occurred in my online co-op session. I since played solo and in local co-op with no issues.
Streets of Rage 4 is packed to the rim with content. Upon completing the story you will unlock the following game modes and extras
• Stage Select – Replay a level, note you can only replay a level on the same difficulty in which you beat it in story mode.
• Arcade – You get 6 stored lives and need to beat the story with no retries. As you progress, you will earn extra lives but regardless, this mode is challenging.
• Boss Rush – Pick your character and go one vs one with every boss in the game. You only get one life so this will require skill and patience.
• Battle – Have a friend or family member saying you are dead weight and being carried throughout the game? Well pick your favorite character and fight it out.
• Character Info – See bio and character stats
• Gallery: Heroes
• Gallery: Enemies
• Gallery: Environments – I recommend checking this out and zooming in on the backdrops. You will find some very cool easter eggs in almost all the locations
• Gallery: Other – Some beautiful artwork that can be saved & used as wallpaper on your PS4 via the Dualshock Share button to take a screenshot.
• Credits – Salute the teams that put some serious work into this amazing title
As you play in all these modes, you earn points to your “lifetime meter” score along with a grade letter. This meter appears at the end of every level. You will see a few milestone markers on this meter. Once you reach a milestone, a new or should I say returning character will unlock from the franchise. There are 12 total. These characters come with original move sets, 16-bit grunt sounds and special attack. So if calling in for backup as Axel is what you want, just keep playing and you will eventually unlock him. There are also interactive easter eggs which will let you play a boss from a previous streets of rage title in their 16-bit form. I won’t tell you how to find these but if you really want to know more I recommend checking out my friend Tony Polanco’s Tip & Tricks.
Streets of Rage 4 is everything a fan of the franchise or Beat’em up genre could want. The game brings new life to the existing story arc, introduces new gameplay mechanics, and enhances the overall presentation while still staying true to the original formula and packing it full of content which provides countless hours of replayability. In fact, even though publisher Dotemu sent over a PS4 code for review, I went ahead and purchased the Nintendo Switch, Steam, and Xbox versions. This game is an instant classic and an absolute must-have on all platforms.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Streets of Rage 4 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Dotemu, Lizardcube, and Guard Crush Games.