A sequel 26 years in the making.
Twenty-six years ago, I was seven years old, and only months away from receiving my first games console ( a Sega Master System on clearance sale). At the same time, I had previously played an hour or so of Streets of Rage 2 on a relatives console, I would not experience the series again until May 4th 2020, with Streets of Rage 4.
And while over two decades had passed since my solitary hour playing Streets of Rage 2, the nostalgia hit me like a ton of bricks.
Before getting my own console, I believe my total video game playtime was limited to around 2 hours in total, so the memory of Ecco the Dolphin and Streets of Rage 2, are deeply embedded in my childhood sense of wonder and amazement at playing a video game.
Skip ahead 26 years and that sense of wonder has not diminished, I still love the video games and despite owning close to 2000 titles, the first moments of any new games still fills me with that sense of hope and excitement.
A fusion of the Old and the New.
Streets of Rage 4 can proudly hold its own with any 2D game released in 2020.
The graphics look fantastic, and the soundtrack is both authentic to the original and far superior to anything possible in the early 90s.
Gameplay-wise the combat is as smooth as butter, and chaining combos feels fantastic.
Streets of Rage 4 has captured the very essence of a 1990s 2D side scroller and infused it with the production values we expect today.
Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as special moves that cost health to perform, successfully chaining damaging combos without receiving damage allows you to regenerate this health.
The selection of enemies you face while not massive, are a fair representation of foes form the series, and each stage ends with a boss fight, that offers surprising complexity and challenge for a 2D title.
Each boss has its own mechanics and moves, and you will find yourself drying a lot as you perfect your strategies for tackling each one.
Better with Friends.
2-4 players can hop into the action with local co-op, however for those without gaming relatives during isolation two-player online co-op is available.
Two-player PvP is also available in both online and local varieties, and while it’s far shy of a complex fighting game, it’s still a lot of fun and a great way to spar with friends.
Streets of Rage 4 employs the same character design that made the original famous, Blaze is oversexed, flashes her panties with every kick, boasts surprisingly accurate 2D jiggle physics and wears an outfit that leaves little to the imagination.
However, this overt sexiness is made less intolerable by the fact the male characters are equally as campy, with massive biceps and 24 pack abs, its very much a product of the early 90s aesthetic and in this case it works.
The narrative is wafer-thin and basically consists of twin baddies, known as the Y twins, children of Mr X and their campaign to destroy all that is good, it’s very much the type of narrative drivel we ate up in the 1990s, and I am glad they kept it going, giving Streets of Rage 4 a deep, engrossing narrative would have distracted away from the essence of the franchise.
The story is mostly told via a comic style stills between levels, and while it’s not the best way to tell a story, its suffices in at least keeping the narrative moving.
A Classic Grind.
You shall see no microtransactions here, unlocking characters is done the old fashioned way, pure mindless grind and repetition, and while this grind is made more tolerable and even enjoyable with friends, it’s still possible to solo for those who wish to continually better themselves and their score.
Worth a Buy?
Its a lot of fun and fans of the franchise will feel well taken care of, for those who are unsure, it’s also available on Xbox Gamepass for PC and Xbox, allowing you to try it for next to nothing!
Xbox Game Pass.
Streets of Rage 4, is part of Xbox Game Pass, an ever-growing catalogue of over 100 games that is a great way to try a whole smorgasbord of games, including day one access to all Microsoft first party titles, for just a few dollars a month.