The Genesis was home to a couple of my favorite beat-‘em-ups, one being Golden Axe and the other being Streets of Rage. It’s safe to say that when news broke of a new SoR game coming to the current generation of consoles, I was ecstatic. When I saw gameplay footage, I was blown away and had the release date marked in my calendar as soon as it became available. And it definitely lives up to the pedestal I put it on. Not only does it provide a story that’s appropriate for a revamp of the series, but it bolsters a lot of extra content and unlockables that will keep you coming back, even for just a level or two.
Following the collapse of Mr. X’s syndicate, a new organization is emerging to take control of the city. It is up to Axel, Blaze and their gang of misfit tag-alongs to once again free the city from the clutches of corruption and evil. It is impossible to get into the story without spoiling it (it’s rather short as it is), but it’s important to note that the story doesn’t hold any real significance to the fun the player will have with this game. Instead, it is the constantly scrolling level design and gameplay that really drives this one home. The environments are beautiful, albeit a little dystopian, and the gameplay is reminiscent of the 16-bit adventures while also being new enough to provide some quality of life improvements to the classic gameplay you know and love. It is essentially a love letter to the 90’s, and is one that is welcomed with open arms. A pinch of nostalgia and a dash of gameplay improvements makes this a great time to be had by old fans and new ones alike.
The game feels fine-tuned, a departure from the clunky movement of the past. Everything flows nicely, and will assuredly make you feel like a badass as you jab and throw your enemies around. The new special moves add just enough flavor to satiate anyone’s taste and the combos are very similar to what we’ve seen before. It’s very much still a game that is rooted to the side-scrolling and up-and-down movements of the past. To dodge, you will often have to move upwards or downwards on the two-dimensional plane. It’s the mastery of the movement and fighting combos that will take you a long way into the harder difficulties. For newcomers, the easy difficulty is inviting and will allow you to learn the ropes. Anything past Hard though is excruciating as you are limited to the number of lives you are appointed. Luckily there are accommodations that the game provides allowing you to sacrifice points for more lives to help you beat that tricky boss you’ve been stuck on for ages. There is an ideal balance of difficulty for newbies and pros alike.
Graphics have shown a huge departure from the original 16-bit sprites and environments. Everything looks silky smooth, almost ripped out of a comic-book. It all has a nice polish to it that is easy on the eyes. The character models blend seamlessly with the colorful environments, animations never look out of place, and the backgrounds are alive with character and charm. It looks exactly like you would imagine a Streets of Rage reboot would look. Absolutely phenomenal. The series’ graphics looked good for their time back in the 90’s and they have advanced with the ages.
The sound has also evolved to find a place here in the 21st century. The music pumps you up to smash down some baddies, and the collision sound effects are satisfying to say the least. Right from the onset you have the option to play with the soundtrack uniquely designed for this entry, or the classic Streets of Rage soundtrack, which are both incredible. Even if you are a veteran, bound to the game by nostalgia, I would recommend playing the game with the new soundtrack first, soaking in all that the developers have intended. Later you will unlock the sprites from the first three games and it’s fun to run a playthrough again with the old characters and old music that fits them.
The amount of content you can unlock is outstanding, and it really draws the player in to multiple playthroughs. The only way to unlock everything is to continue playing and building up your lifetime score to meet the various milestones set out for you. The older sprites that are unlocked really clash with the sleek levels, looking out of place. It is still fun to see this clash, as odd as it seems. If you are playing on a platform that allows achievements, there is a great deal more content to come back to as you are challenged to finish the game on various difficulties and with various characters, multiplying the duration of the game at an astounding rate. With achievements, the amount of time completionists will have with this game far extends the initial one or two hour story.
Streets of Rage 4 is more than a solid entry in the series and acts to revitalize the genre showing that games like this can still be successful. For veterans of the series, this will likely scratch an itch that has persisted for over 20 years. It is also inviting to newcomers, being solid as a stand-alone experience. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who may find pleasure in old-school beat-‘em-ups and those looking for a refined beat-‘em-up experience.
Replay Value: 5/5
Total: 21/25 or 84/100