Review: Streets of Rage 4
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
It’s been over 20 years since the last Streets of Rage game was released, but the game’s legacy is immeasurable. Originally released for the Sega Genesis in 1991, Streets of Rage followed the dangerous adventures of Axel Stone and Blaze Felding, cleaning up the streets with their fists. While initially Streets of Rage was like any other side-scrolling brawler, Streets of Rage shattered ceiling and broke new ground in its video and audio presentation. Visually, the game was exceptionally sharp in its light, compositions, and detail, but it was the soundtrack that would become one of the best, and most important, soundtracks ever composed in the history of video games. Streets of Rage would have a sequel, Streets of Rage 2 in 1992, and Streets of Rage 3 in 1993. Despite being on the greatest and most revered video game trilogies of all time, Streets of Rage would go on an indefinite hiatus for nearly 30 years, with the original games re-releasing on various systems like the Nintendo 3DS. That hiatus came to an end this year with the release of Streets of Rage 4 from developers LizardCube and Dot emu. After appearing at every major convention for the past few years, Streets of Rage 4 arrives, and remarkably, in every category, becomes one of the best indie games released in 2020.
Axel, Blaze, and the rest of the Streets of Rage team have been out on their own paths. The city has been at peace for a long time, until an evil corporation causes widespread corruption on a government level. The streets are filled with crime and the police are bought out to carry out the wills of the company. Axel, Blaze, and the entire team reform once again to take back the streets in rage-fueled justice. Along the way, they are bound to see old friends, as well as old enemies.
Like its predecessors, Streets of Rage 4 is a side-scrolling action brawler, where one to four players take to the streets to beat waves upon waves of bad guys. Players fight and pulverize the competition, beating each and every enemy with ferocity and impunity until they make it to the next zone. In addition to their fists, players use an assortment of weapons strewn about the level. From the infamous crowbar to knives and boomerangs, each weapon has its advantages and disadvantages, but when used wisely, can be extremely advantageous to winning levels and succeeding in the game’s more difficult portions.
While the golden days of side-scrolling brawlers are long behind us, Streets of Rage 4 intricately and precisely brings back the feeling, momentum, and dynamic mechanics that made the best side-scrolling brawlers so revered. Streets of Rage 4 doesn’t imitate, but is instead genuine as if it were created and made during the time of FInal Fight and Bad Dudes. Most games today, such as Raging Justice, do an admirable job of recreating the sensations of classics, oftentimes weaving their own fabric, but they imitate the aspects that made games like the original Streets of Rage incredibly memorable. Streets of Rage 4 is a game built, stitched, and polished not just by fans but by enthusiasts that understood the weight and significance of Streets of Rage.
Streets of Rage 4 happens to have a bevy of options, including a multitude of difficulties and characters to choose from. In addition to Axel and Blaze, players can choose between new and classic characters, each with their own distinct momentum and playability. More characters are unlocked through continuous play, each with their own abilities as well.
During combat, the white-knuckle combat the Streets of Rage franchise is known for returns but is greatly enhanced by remarkable polish. Every punch has weight and force. Every impact on an enemy is excitedly felt. Each move is sublime and detailed, never feeling off or unrefined. Of course, the traditions of eating turkey and apples off the ground for health returns. A new addition to the combat are special attacks. During the course of the game, players collect stars. These stars, when used wisely, unleash extremely powerful combos that can clear a room, or badly hurt a boss. Fighting in Streets of Rage 4, coupled with the designs and mechanics of the overall game, never grows tiresome. It's solid, airtight, and most importantly, incredibly enjoyable.
The art, animation, and visual scope of Streets of Rage 4 is impeccable and appreciated. The previous games garnered a legendary reputation for their achievements in the art of music and graphic style. Yuji Konjoror returns to Streets of Rage 4 for a vibrant and exciting soundtrack, but for those looking to relive the golden days if an era long ago, the original soundtrack can be selected for your gaming pleasure. Visually, the game is extraordinary, from the levels to the character animations. These days, there are criticisms regarding the stylizations and designs of video game, characters, especially female characters, for being portrayed as too risqué and revealing. However, I am of the belief that style and visual flair are important for distinguishing your game from others, as well as highlighting the core of the world being portrayed, as well as connecting to the player. Additionally, designs with flair and fierceness can encourage players and give more positive feedback. That being said, the updated redesigns of the characters, especially Blaze, is as close to perfection as you can get. The fluidity of movement, as well as the chosen colors and outfits, greatly distinguish the character from one another, while also providing a sublime level of action and feedback. Their movies and style roll into an entire experience. Blaze feels like Blaze and Axel feels like Axel. Of course, they look absolutely fierce through all the violence. Streets of Rage 4 does not sacrifice its artistic vision, and for that, the artists and animators have my biggest of respects.
Streets of Rage 4 is a game meant to celebrate local co-op sides rolling action. In addition to a lengthy campaign and many different challenges, Streets of Rage 4 has local and online multiplayer, meaning anyone and everyone can play. With several difficulty setting, Streets of Rage 4 finds itself open to new players and casual players as well. This choice alone makes Streets of Rage 4 an ambassador for more accessible gaming. Games like Streets of Rage 4 become legends because of their ability to welcome players and encourage them to keep playing, keep trying, and enjoy the unique camaraderie formed when fighting alongside others. It's incredibly positive to see this in Streets of Rage 4, and I hope more games follow this example.
Streets of Rage 4 is a triumph in artistic vision. It's gameplay is built upon the greatness of its predecessors and it's visual style stands firm and shines brightly among the gaming scene. Streets of Rage 4 doesn't sacrifice and part of itself, and instead, expands itself to gamers old and new. Streets of Rage 4 is an excellent action pack trip, for the brawler in all of us.