Review – Streets of Rage 4

Saying that I was looking forward to Streets of Rage 4 is a mammoth-sized understatement. This franchise as a whole is much bigger and way more important than you could ever imagine if you, like me, grew up in Brazil, also known as “the distorted reality in which Sega has always managed to beat Nintendo”. Anyone who had a Mega Drive (yes, that’s how we’re calling it in this review) or a friend who owned said console has played a Streets of Rage game at least once. The combat was great for the time and the soundtrack, oh dear goodness the soundtrack, was a thing of beauty. For a good chunk of the world, the release of Streets of Rage 4 will be just another Wednesday. For me, it’s an event. And I’m so glad this event turned out to be a party for the ages.

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Sure thing Mr. Officer, just keep punching the bad guy and let me mind my own business.

This might sound weird, but Streets of Rage 4 wasn’t developed or published by Sega. As previously mentioned on my Panzer Dragoon remake review, Sega is more than happy to license their franchises to smaller developers and publishers, as this will restore these franchises’ relevance with modern audiences with the Japanese company not having to move a single muscle. The team behind Streets of Rage 4 is developer LizardCube and publisher DotEmu. “Who the hell are these guys?”, you must be thinking. Well, these guys were the dynamic duo behind 2017’s Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, a fantastic remake of the Master System classic and possibly the first time Sega realised they could let other studios doodle with their older franchises, leaving their schedule completely free for more Yakuza games.

LizardCube and DotEmu know how to bring a franchise back from the dead. They know how to perfectly blend old and new. Streets of Rage 4 is the perfect example. This is a game that features brand new graphics, yet still retains an undeniable Streets of Rage vibe. It features some gameplay tweaks, but it’s still a tried and true arcade beat ’em up like any other from the 90’s. It features online co-op, yet it can be played with three more friends locally, just like a good arcade game should be played. In other words, Streets of Rage 4 is exactly how a brand new game in the franchise should feel: old and new living in perfect harmony.

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‘Sup? Can I get you anything?

The most obvious improvement is in the graphical department. Just like with Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, everything in Streets of Rage 4 is hand drawn. Everything has been painfully drawn (and animated, might I add) by hand, frame by frame, and it looks absolutely phenomenal. It will sound like the dumbest critic cliché in the world, but here I go; it feels like you’re playing a cartoon or a comic book. It’s almost like this is also the revival of Comix Zone. The attention to detail is ridiculous: the environments, backgrounds, character design, particle effects, everything is absolutely top notch. To top things off, the framerate is always stable, and as previously mentioned. Even though the graphics are clearly a lot more elaborate than the pixel art from the Mega Drive era, it still manages to retain a noticeable Streets of Rage vibe.

The gameplay is also a modern interpretation of the classic Streets of Rage combat system, but it never tries to innovate that much. It just adds a few new features here and there to spice things up a little bit, but at the end of the day this still is a classic beat ’em up at heart. You have a normal attack button, a “pick up” button, a back attack, and a special attack button. If you get close to an enemy, you’ll automatically grab him/her, and if you collect a special star item, you’ll be able to perform a screen-clearing ultra attack. It’s best to save them for boss battles.

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Shoryu… oh wait, wrong game.

Beware with your special attacks, as they slowly drain your health, even though you can recover part of it if you proceed to attack your enemies with normal punches afterwards, just like in Bloodborne. The collision detection is a bit iffy, making all fighters feel like they’re 2D Paper Mario-ish characters on a 3D plane, but if you’re a beat ’em up veteran, you’re probably more than used to that. All in all, just like with the visuals, it’s the perfect blend of old and new. That can also be seen with the overall level of difficulty. Unlike most classic beat ’em ups, Streets of Rage 4 has some very fair perks and some easy difficulty tiers, but if you decide to play on anything harder than Normal, then you’re in hell, buddy. Enjoy!

You thought I was going to forget about the sound department? I would never dare. Yuzo Koshiro, the titan behind the franchise’s legendary soundtrack, is once again part of the composing team, and he’s still got it. Some levels feature electronic tunes that are perfect to make you want to punch everyone in front of you. Other levels feature heavy metal tunes that are perfect to make you want to punch everyone in front of you. In conclusion, it’s a fantastic collection of songs that are perfect for a beat ’em up. If you’re a purist, don’t worry, as the Streets of Rage and Streets of Rage 2 soundtracks are also available in here. The soundtrack is so fantastic that it almost makes up for the fact that the rest of the sound department is undercooked at best.

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Excuse me, I think there’s gum on my shoe. Can you take a look, please?

Streets of Rage 4 is exactly how the franchise should have been handled in the 21st century. It features brand new visual upgrades, gameplay improvements, online multiplayer, and a killer modern soundtrack, but it still retains the charm and soul of the Mega Drive classics. There might be some issues here and there, but all in all, LizardCube and DotEmu did one hell of a job bringing the legendary franchise back to the spotlight. Could you please do the same with Golden Axe? Thanks in advance.

 

Graphics: 9.5

Everything is beautifully hand drawn and manually animated. Even though the art style is brand new, the game still manages to retain an overall arcadey feel.

Gameplay: 8.0

It is safe to say that the gameplay hasn’t changed that much ever since the Mega Drive days. On one hand, this is fantastic if you’re looking for a retro blast to the past. On another hand, you’ll need to get used to some small collision detection issues and the slow speed of your main character.

Sound: 9.0

Yuzo Koshiro’s soundtrack is everything I expected from a brand new Streets of Rage game. It is so good I can almost forget how bland the overall sound effects are.

Fun Factor: 9.0

A fantastic blend between old and new. It is beautiful to look at, it is fun to play, it is challenging, it can be played with more friends, and it’s stupidly replayable.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Streets of Rage 4 is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Streets of Rage 4 was provided by the publisher.

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