Back in the early 90s, one of the dominant video game genres on home consoles and arcades was the beat ’em up. These 2D side-scrolling games had players fighting their way through wave after wave of on-screen enemies, either solo or co-operatively, with the goal of each stage being to reach and defeat an end-level boss. It was a simple formula that was the foundation of such classics like Final Fight, Double Dragon and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time.
But of all the games the genre had produced during its golden age, the ones in the Streets of Rage series remain some of the most fondly remembered and beloved. Particularly Streets of Rage 2 for the Sega Genesis, a game that stood as a pinnacle for the genre with its tight controls, gorgeous sprites and awesome soundtrack. But by the time Streets of Rage 3 was released in 1994, the genre had already begun to see a decline in popularity.
Fast forward to 2020, and we have finally gotten a new entry in the series in the form of Streets of Rage 4. Developed by a trio of indie developers, the game serves as a throwback to the simple yet refined mechanics that made beat ’em ups such fun to play back in the genre’s heyday. It’s been more than 25 years since the previous game, but the new one manages to recapture everything that made the series great.
First of, we have the graphics, which have been upgraded with beautiful hand-drawn sprites and backgrounds, lending the game a distinct cartoon aesthetic that works well with this style of game. Cutscenes are presented with a similar comic-book style, which gives the game’s presentation a uniform look and feel.
Then we have the game’s soundtrack, which once again comprises of an eclectic mix of dance and electronic tunes that are reminiscent of the club scene in the early 90s. There are quite a few bangers to be heard here, but as a whole, it doesn’t quite reach the same heights as the stellar soundtrack from Streets of Rage 2. So it’s a good thing then that those older tunes are featured here as well.
Finally, it wouldn’t be Streets of Rage without the bone-crunching combat. And this is where the new game truly shines. The combat stays true to the older games, while introducing a refined combo system and mechanics that borrow from newer games like Bloodborne. And the best part is you can play with a friend in a 2-player online co-op mode, or up to 4 players in local co-op.
All that said, it is also worth noting that Streets of Rage 4 is a very short game. I was able to beat it in just a little over 2 hours, but the fact that it is packed with unlockables and higher difficulty settings lends it quite a bit of replayability. The end result is a game that feels both familiar and challenging at the same time. So do yourself a favor by checking it out on PC, PS4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch.
What do you think about the Streets of Rage series getting a new entry after all these years? Are you excited to check it out? Let us know in the comments section below.