After over two decades, it finally happened: Streets of Rage 4 was announced, and I was so excited, especially as it was actually 2D and not some awful 2.5D cheap bollocks like a lot of revivals of classic games tend to be. Still, I lowered my expectations and intentionally didn’t read up about it so as to make the first playthough as fun as possible and sure enough: I was blown away. The art style, the super-smooth animations, the hard-hitting combos and funny references to the original trilogy all combine to create a genuinely amazing time for me personally. Want to hear more, like how it holds up after multiple playthroughs? Read on!
Beating up a Galsia has never looked better!
Streets of Rage 4 was released in April 2020 for the PS4, XBOX One, Nintendo Switch and PC. It all came about when creators Lizardcube had built a remake of Wonder Boy: Dragon’s Trap for Sega and decided to use their new-found clout to request permission to create SOR4. To everyone’s surprise Sega agreed, and the project began in 2018. Crazy. I wonder what changed since the SOR Remake guys less than ten years earlier…
It’s not just playable characters returning either! That’s right, large breasted chubby female biker! CLASSIC. … Oh wait, I meant Barbon, sorry.
At its core it’s still classic Streets of Rage. Punch combos, grapple combos, throws and jumping strikes, plus a back attack, special move by double tapping forward and then punch, and of course a health-draining specials and pick up-able weapons. There is a lot of variety this time in weapons, and they threw in a weapon catching system clearly for no other reason that because it’s cool as hell. Seriously, there was a time enemies were approaching from left and right and I had a pipe in my hands, and I tossed it into a foe, caught it on the rebound, threw it into a foe to the other side and caught it, toss, catch, toss, catch and suddenly I felt like a proper “bad ass”. There are several other new additions to the combat this time as well beyond just weapon catching (though that’s probably my favourite…)
I think the most important one is the combo system, where the repeated hits are kept count of with various named levels (think Devil May Cry) and the bigger the combo the more points you get, which then in turn can become extra lives. You can even bounce enemies off objects or the side of the screen for some extra juggling points, it’s a really fun system, single and multiplayer, the latter the two, three or four players (yes, up to four players!) share a combo meter. Each successive hit restores health as well, but if you’re hit before the combo is officially counted then you don’t get the health back, it’s a really fun system, especially in the final level which starts you off at half-health and throws a bunch of Galcia clones at you, encouraging you to fight them off without being hit in order for you to get a full health bar for the level.
Now THAT’s a satisfying kick animation!
There is also a new “Star Move”, which is a massive super move that can only be done once per stage, unless you collect an extra Star. It reminds me of Streets of Rage Remake having both regular Specials and screen-clearing police car moves, just without the police car. I’ll also mention new character Floyd Iraia’s ability to grapple more than one enemy at the same time and crush their heads together, which is fun. There are also hidden arcade machines in some levels that if hit by a Taser will transport you to a mini-stage from Streets of Rage II, and finally at regular intervals you unlock the original playable characters from the Mega Drive trilogy (apart from Roo and Ash, no idea why Roo was left out, where as Ash makes perfect sense. Both do cameo in the background though!) They come complete with old sprites and limited moveset, with is visually contrasting, and often funny. Overall there is a lot of variety and style to the combat which matches the flashy visuals.
In terms of modes, there is the Story mode, which is still split in Stages but allows you to continue each stage after you lose your lives indefinitely (and even make it easier at the cost of your Score Points), an Arcade Mode which takes the same stages but gives you limited continues much like the original games, a Boss Rush and the old 1 vs. 1 Battle Mode. It scores highly on the cliché-o-meter too, with the returning fire-breathing fat guys, whip women and lift stages, plus a pro-wrestler boss (no spoilers!) but it is surprisingly lacking in ninjas. It does have a new powerful enemy in a karate gi and the return of the kickboxers, but no ninjas (unless you could Shiva returning as a boss… Whoops, I guess spoiler there, sorry!)
Graphics and Sound:
I wanted to get them mid-head-collision, but mid “flying away from the sheer impact” is good too.
The graphics are excellent, beautifully animated 2D characters that look like animated cartoons rather than game sprites. Really nice backgrounds as well, plus some well drawn cutscene artwork. Can’t complain at all, it’s what I’d want a Streets of Rage game to look like in 2020.
Sound is also brilliant. Not on the level of SORII, but still very catchy and several very memorable tracks. Most of the OST was done by French musician Olivier Deriviere, but some themes were done by others, including Yuzo Koshiro himself (his theme for when you’re fighting Mr. Y was caught in my head for days). There’s an option to replace the soundtrack with music from the original games (including Master System / Game Gear tracks) but frankly that just sounded off to my ears.
The soundeffects are great as well, and the few voice samples are perfectly fine. Overall, you can’t fault the presentation!
Shiva shows the new bosses how the old school pixelated bosses get it done!
After 10 years of relative peace, Mr. X’s twin children “The Y Twins” create a new syndicate with the technology to control people’s minds through music. Blaze brings the old gang of Axel and Adam (eventually) back together, plus Adam’s daughter Cherry and Dr. Zan’s apprentice Floyd Iraia, to take them down.
The Fivesome travel across Wood Oak City, dealing with crooked cops and mind controlled foes (including Max Thunder as a boss!) before stopping a large concert from mind controlling the entire populace. They then track down the Y Twins to Y Island and defeat them to bring an end to the latest chapter of vigilante justice. There is an awful lot of Y-themed things, which is odd. I don’t recall X being THAT obsessed with his letter, but whatever!
Cherry channels her Uncle Skate with some mounted head pounding!
Streets of Rage 4 is everything I wanted it to be. I mentally used Sonic Mania as a measuring device, a game that was extremely fun, new and nostalgic at the same time, and this is exactly that but with a series I loved even more. Within two weeks I completed the game eight times (one for each character and then one for a character from each classic game) and I wasn’t exactly tired of playing it by then. I’ve dipped in and out of it since because it’s just so much fun to play. Streets of Rage 4 really is a dream come true for me, and even if its success doesn’t lead to a SOR5, I’m more than happy we got a great 4th after nearly 25 years of assuming it wouldn’t happen. Top marks!