The Streets of Rage series is something I tie directly to my youth, and just thinking about it brings back a rush of great memories. I couldn’t have been more excited when Streets of Rage 4 was announced. It’s available on all major platforms for $24.99.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A Fun Nostalgia Trip
As soon as I started the game, and loaded into the first level, I immediately felt like a kid again. It was almost as if I stepped into a time machine, and I was sitting on the floor with a Sega Genesis controller in my hand, with no problems or responsibilities. The game looked and played exactly how my brain remembers it, which doesn’t mean it's all good, but it was exactly what I was looking for.
Side scrolling beat 'em ups basically defined my childhood. As an adult, there have been very few titles that really scratch the nostalgia itch while still being a great game, the best of the bunch being Raging Justice, which I loved. Streets of Rage 4 really hit hard on the nostalgia factor, while still being a great game by modern standards, despite not really introducing anything new.
The story is not much at all, but what is there is told beautifully, through cinematics using comic like strips.
The main bad guy of the series, Mr. X, was defeated, but now you have his kids to deal with. They are pulling the strings and trying to take over the world with mind control. If that sounds silly, that’s because it is, but the story is not the reason you come to a game like this.
Like I said earlier this game plays exactly how I remember it, so much so that I decided to play the original game soon after completing this one, and the gameplay is very similar. You are just going through each level fighting, beating down anyone who stands in your way; your move set is basic but effective.
Veterans of the series—and newcomers, for that matter—will get a hold of the gameplay easily. If you are a veteran, there are only two major changes that I realized to the gameplay.
The first one is a big one: every character has a special move, and in doing that special move, you deal more damage, but at a cost for some health; this is not the new part. In this game, when you do your special move, your health goes down, but you can start a combo that will bring back the health the move took away. Special moves used to be a risk reward scenario, but now its more of just a reward.
The other fun gameplay tweak has to do with your weapons. Like in the old games, you can use and throw weapons at your enemies. What’s different here is, if you hit your target, your weapon will bounce back towards you, and with a well timed button press, you can catch that weapon and keep using it.
This made me feel like a badass.
Smack someone with the weapon, throw it at someone else, catch it, and get back to the beatdown.
I just couldn’t stop!
This game did something I don’t remember another game doing in a long time. I started the game thinking I will just try it out, play around for a little bit, and then come back at it tomorrow when I had more time. Well, the game had other plans for me.
Once I started I couldn’t stop.
It took me roughly 3 hours for one full play through, but I had to see the game to its conclusion. The gameplay was so good that I felt I couldn’t stop playing it until the game told me it was over. I put it down, but couldn’t stop thinking about it.
There are twelve levels that increase in difficulty—so much so that some bosses seemed next to impossible at higher difficulties. The game does a great job making you feel powerful as you learn the game and your enemies. There were many bosses that wiped the floor with me—and I didn’t know why—but after a few losses, I learned the patterns and knew exactly what to do to win.
Besides the story mode, the main menu had a surprising amount of game modes; unfortunately most of them boil down to be basically the same. After completing a level, you have the opportunity to play it again in a stage select mode. In this mode, you can only play levels you completed on that difficulty. If you beat the game on normal, and want to try certain levels on hard, you will have to play through the story mode on that difficulty to unlock it.
Arcade mode is basically just story mode without any save points or continues. You start at stage one, and the game only ends if you quit, beat all twelve stages, or die.
If you die you need to start over from the beginning.
Another mode is boss rush, which is exactly what it sounds like. You will play a mode against the bosses only. With this, you have only one life, so it can be difficult if you have not mastered the bosses yet.
Finally, we have the most unique mode, called battle. Battle mode pits two players in a 1v1 deathmatch. It doesn’t play as great as a dedicated fighting game—which is to be expected—but it was still a fun time to be had.
All of the above game modes are playable online. I joined many different games, and hosted a few, and had zero issues. It’s easy to browse what games are available and jump right in. Once you match with someone and play, if the host wants to switch game modes, you stay with them and go right into it with them. After playing the game solo, and then playing it with a partner, playing with a buddy was definitely the way to go.
There are four retro boss fights hidden in the campaign. In four different levels, you will see an arcade cabinet. There is always an enemy with a taser, or one laying around, when you get to these points. Pick up the taser and zap the arcade cabinet and you will be treated to a retro boss fight. These levels look just like the original, which can be weird playing as a beautiful hand drawn character in a very pixelated level, but the experience itself is great.
Axel and Blaze make their return as two of the four starting characters, but everyone is back, and can be unlocked. When you finish a level, you have a total XP bar that you need to fill up to unlock characters. It’s a good way to keep you going back playing more trying to fill that bar up to unlock them all. You can also unlock pixelated versions of the characters from the originals, who look at play just like the originals did, making them actually worse than the new characters since special moves are not part of their move set.
Streets of Rage 4 was exactly what I was looking for. A retro, side-scrolling beat 'em up, that looks and plays great. It may lack anything that’s truly modern, but the way the game plays will be great for veterans and newcomers. This is a game that I won’t be putting down for a while. I give this one two thumbs up! This is a game that needs to be played!
Final Score — 9/10 —
For more reviews, be sure to check out my thoughts on Darwin Project, Yoku's Island Express, and my new podcast: Game Bites, the latest entry in The Spinchoon Podcast Network (check out Flix & a Six here). As always, check us out on Twitter @TheSpinchoon and I’m@Big_Broons.