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Streets of Rage 4 Review

Streets of Rage was a classic beat-em-up/brawler from the 1990's on the Sega Genesis/MegaDrive. It was Sega's answer to Capcom's Final Fight series. Streets of Rage was so well received it spawned 2 sequels in 1992 and 1994 respectively. There was even ports to the Sega Master System & Sega Game Gear. These versions were scaled down 8-bit versions of their big 16-bit brothers. The series was a lot of fun with catchy techno/dance/club music infused that kept the player pumped up through the waves and rounds of endless enemies to beat up while you made your way to the final boss, Mr. X. A crime syndicate that took over your once peaceful city.

The first game follows 3 vigilante cops, Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding and Adam Hunter. The trio must clean the city of the evil influence of the syndicate & Mr. X, they will risk their lives on the Streets of Rage. The series was a blast to play back in the day. However, Sega went through 2 other console generations with the Sega Saturn and then the Sega Dreamcast, without a 4th installment. There was 2 chances of us getting a Streets of Rage 4 during these times, first on the Saturn, which fell through and the game later switched into a different game called Fighting Force, this game was then ported to the Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64, it spawned a single character, more action oriented sequel which kinda sucked..... Later on the Dreamcast it wa srumored that Sega was attempting another 3D Streets of Rage sequel, but it fell through because they weren't happy with it's overall framerate and performance. The series seemed to have died with the 3rd and at the time, final installment, still on the console the series started on, the Sega Genesis.

Fast forward to 2018, Lizardcube, along with Dotemu revealed they were indeed working on a true sequel to the original trilogy and Streets of Rage 4 was born. Well, it's 2020, the game is finally here, so how is it? Well let's talk about that. The game follows the old style of games from the 1990's, but adds a little extra flare. No longer using the sprite style, instead everything is cell-shaded and hand drawn. At first I wasn't too big of a fan of the art style/direction but after having played this game, I can honestly say, it was the right choice and it looks fantastic. The backgrounds are bright and vibrant, shadows are nicely done, character animations look and feel fluid and it's just a really beautiful looking game, and it fits well for the type of game it is. There is plenty of fan service in this game as well.

Story:
10 years after the events of Streets of Rage 3, Mr. X and the Syndicate are long gone, but a new evil rises up and seeks to take over the peaceful city once more in the form of the Y-Twins. Mr. X's children, grown up spoiled and corrupted by their father they seek to take over the city by the use of force and a mind control device so that everyone in the city will beckon at their will. Axel & Blaze set out to put a stop to the madness and save the streets, accompanied this time by Cherry Hunter, the daughter of their old-time friend Adam, and Floyd, a muscular man with cybernetic arms and a student under Dr. Zan, one of the heroes from Streets of Rage 3. Together they must clean the streets of this evil and they will once again risk their lives on the Streets of Rage.

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Gameplay:
The gameplay in Streets of Rage 4 is iconic. It feels great, smooth and can be hectic. You can now play up to 4 players on couch/local co-op play for the first time. Playing with 3 other friends on the couch is an awesome and chaotic experience. The gameplay feels solid and tight. It feels like the games that came before it, but with some new, very welcomed additions and innovations for the modern times. Gamers new to the series will be able to pick this game up and feel right at home with it, while old school fans of the series will pick this game up and feel like they never put the game down from the 1990's. We've played through the game about 5 times and each time we've felt like we've improved over the last playthrough in some way. There are 12 stages in this game instead of the traditional 8 from the first 3 titles. Some stages are longer than others but the game doesn't overstay it's welcome, nor does it feel too short. The $25 price tag feels just right for a game like this. There are 4 difficulty levels to choose from and play through: Easy, Normal, Hard and Mania. The later being the hardest and most challenging, which comes with a fun little achievement/trophy if you can beat a stage on Mania without dying. Once you complete the game, you unlock "Arcade mode" which is one life, no continues playthrough of the game. A real test of your skills, a true "Arcade" experience from the late 80's/early 90's. Play through the game enough, build up enough score and you can unlock classic sprite versions of the characters from SoR1 through SoR3 and a few extra special hidden characters as well.

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Sound/Music:
The soundtrack in this game doesn't disappoint. The team of composers on this new installment do a good job at remaining somewhat faithful to the type of music you'd expect in a streets of rage game and series composer Yuzo Koshiro is back on board this time with some new tracks of his own for this installment. If you aren't a fan of the new soundtrack though, they did include a "Retro" option which will play some of the old tracks from Streets of Rage 1, 2 and 3 in place of the new music, so there is something for everyone to enjoy here in the music department. The music is overall fantastic.

Graphics/Art style:
The graphics are very well done. I loved the hand-drawn/cell shaded art style they went with for this game. It looks almost like a comic book when you're playing through the levels, but it's a welcomed change. The old sprite style would've also worked but i think Lizardcube & DotEmu made the right choice here, backgrounds pop and look fantastic, character animations are very well done. It's a very beautiful looking game, especially for a beat-em-up in 2020.


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Final Thoughts:
While Streets of Rage 4 was released 26 years apart from it's predecessor in the series, it was a project full of love and it was well taken care of and expertly crafted by Lizardcube & DotEmu. However, it's not without some flaws. It looks great, sounds great, and plays great. I've felt some of the retro tracks didn't really fit the stage they were used on. It's a minor personal gripe from a fan who grew up playing the series, We played the game on the Xbox One X and didn't notice any real framedrops or anything along those lines. We can't speak for the other ports but from our understanding they all run and play very well, even on the Switch. So was Streets of Rage 4 worth the nearly 27 year wait? Yes, we believe it was. Lizardcube did an outstanding job on this project and you can see it was truly a labor of love to the fans of a long-since dead genre. Let's hope this game sparks a new interest in the beat-em-up genre and we can see more games like this come out in the future. Hopefully we'll get a Streets of Rage 5 and Golden Axe 4...... *wink wink*


Gameplay: 10/10
Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 10/10

Overall: 9/10 - GREAT!
 
Smokey

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