Streets of Rage is a name that dominated the Sega Mega Drive, nine times out of ten when it came to showing off exclusives in the school yard, the Mega Drive kids had Streets of Rage and Golden Axe in their pocket and rightly so. Despite several false starts over the years we are finally here with the fourth release in the series. Does the flicker of rage still burn bright or is this the series final fight?.
Streets of Rage 4 is developed by LizardCube who are famous for the recent remaster/remake of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Curse. For those of you who missed it, the game was a masterclass in changing the look & feel of the game, enough to make it feel like a more recent release but it also managed to feel like the first time you had played the original game.
Streets of Rage 4 is set years after the third installment of the series, this much is shown with the series main character Axel Stone who is looking a little bigger and a bit more rugged than his last appearance, though Mr Time doesn’t seem to have paid Blaze the same visit!. The Syndicate have been stopped and there was a period of piece, that is until a new Syndicate appears and is lead by Mr Xs children, it’s time for you to take to the Streets of Rage once more and leave no criminal standing.
While this does have a decent bit of story told through cutscenes between levels this is a scrolling beat em up and at its heart all the game ever needed was an excuse for the cast to walk through the streets and beat people up. While I would say for the most part it’s fine, towards the end the game seems to have somewhat of an identity crisis and takes a rather out there turn. It’s not unusual for the series to go a little bit off but this tonelly seems at odds with the rest of the game.
Visually Streets of Rage 4 is nothing short of phenomenal, if you played the developers previous title you know exactly how good their work is. Everything has this unique cartoon look which makes characters look so animated, the colours are all vibrant and the dingy parts of the game look as such. The stage variety does what it can with the game location and it manages to nail every single Beat Em Up level cliche but with visuals this good it would be a shame if they didn’t.
On the audio side of things, everyone whos played Streets of Rage knows about the soundtrack, it is legendary for a reason. Streets of Rage 4 once again continues this tradition. There isn’t a duff track throughout the game and the tracks that really break through do so that strongly you would think they came directly from a previous title. Yuzo Koshiro is back to do some of the tracks but rest assured that even if he didn’t work on all them, there is a high enough quality here that you won’t really miss it!.
So how does one Rage the streets? Well if you have ever played a side scrolling beat em up you’ll be right at home, if on the other hand you’ve never experienced the genre, read on.
You pick one of the initial 4 characters, Axel, Blaze, Cherry and Floyd, each character plays slightly differently, fast, strong, balanced, each character has a different move set. Press the special button and you have unique moves which take a little health off, this health is returnable should you hit enough attacks to fill the green in your health meter back up.
On top of the special attacks you also have a more powerful ultra attack. These require Stars which can be found in the level, they hit hard and they clear screens.
You’ll walk to the right through over 10 levels set around the city, ranging from the streets to roof tops and even a ship!. You’ll be throwing hands at some very familiar enemies, including the fella who runs across the screen with a knife, he is a right riot!. At the end of the stage you’ll meet the boss, new and familiar foes await to strip you of your lives and health.
Newly added for Streets of Rage 4 is the brilliant addition of juggling, nothing feels more satisfying than watching a bosses health melt away while you have them stuck in the air. In terms of enemy repetition which plagues the genre you have the standard recolours of every enemy and unfortunately one of the bosses is just a recolour of another one.
You have the Story mode to work through which allows you to save between stages, switch characters and have a crack at the same stage you’re stuck on until you complete it. Arcade mode is the vintage old school experience, just you (and a friend if you choose) every stage of the game in one sitting, no saves and no unlimited continues. You also have Boss Rush which will pit you against every boss in the game and finally Battle mode which is a PvP mode for multiplayer laughs.
There are several difficulties to play through the game on ranging from Easy to Mania which is described as “this difficulty isn’t even remotely fair. For Streets of Rage maniacs only”. Genre newcomers should be able to work through Easy without too much trouble and slowly start on that ladder to Manic. The game seemed fair for the most part minus a few screens which no matter what difficulty I played on seemed to be right coin eaters.
There are several characters to unlock and even past versions of characters, it’s very possible to play with all Blaze or all Axel, it’s also very nice to see Adam Hunter back on the streets and kicking ass!.
Some people love the genre and its “simplicity” others call them repetitive, this genre is kind of the blueprint for the Musou genre everyone loves to bag on, fortunately I’m a huge fan of scrolling beat em ups and have been waiting for this to drop since it got announced!.
It’s almost a dream to see a new Streets of Rage in 2020, proving that the genre is still just as fun as ever and providing Gamers with that Arcade style hit we so sorely need. It might not be ideal for epic sessions but grab a few friends and grind out that Arcade mode, beat your scores and get those characters unlocked.
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