The staff at Black Nerd Problems has made no secret of our love for Streets of Rage. Anyone who holds fond memories of the Sega Genesis era has their own story on how these games came to hold a hallowed place among their favorites. Filling the nearly 30-year-silence since then would take passion. That passion burns brightly in the collective efforts of developers DotEmu, Guard Crush Games, and Lizardcube resurrecting the series. Streets of Rage 4 pushes forward with choices that are true to the series without falling prey to nostalgia.
The most immediately notable change is the game’s visual style, where pixels have given way to a vibrant animated look. The overall effect recalls bygone days of Saturday morning cartoons. By less favorable comparison, so does the straightforward plot. While there are a few surprises for series veterans, the real story is the passage of time told through character designs. Series main Axel Stone graduates to Seattle grunge, while the long-absent Adam Hunter received a breathtaking glow-up.
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All this effort would be for nothing if Streets of Rage 4 itself wasn’t tuned into the mechanics of its predecessors. With previous experience developing their own Streets of Rage homage, Guard Crush Games were able to study their inspiration closely. Their attention to detail is so faithful at times that Streets of Rage 4 is even frustrating in the way the previous games were. A quick tip for first-time players about the knife-wielding enemies once they’re in motion: don’t even try it.
The player, however, has an arsenal of options for dispatching their foes. Modern controllers have made things possible one couldn’t have imagined on three Genesis buttons. For instance, once upon a time the ‘attack’ and ‘pick up’ actions were bound to a single button. The separation of these functions not only keeps players from accidentally swiping health from each other, but lets you do fun things like catch a weapon after bouncing it off some poor fool’s skull. Another mechanic incentivizes using Super Moves by using the game’s new combo system to earn back health.
To encourage multiple playthroughs, further incentives are spread throughout Streets of Rage 4. Level rankings, multiple difficulties, and unlockable characters are all reasons to breeze through the brief story mode solo or with friends. If these don’t entice you, however, the game will likely feel overly repetitious even before the last boss falls. Another huge component of Streets of Rage as a whole is the soundtrack, now made a classic by time. While multiple artists from the original games contributed to the new installment, it’s too early to say whether its current music will have the same staying power.
For those old-school fans, however, there’s depth to master here that will make this game a part of your Streets of Rage rotation for years to come. Bosses, music, and even visual filters from the previous entries are threaded throughout SoR 4’s 12 stages. The game isn’t content with simply playing the hits, though. The evolution of its presentation feels natural, as if Sega had always continued to make the series. Personally speaking, I only stopped playing to write this review. I’ve already waited too long for this game.
9 out of 10 Garbage Can Health Powerups