- Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
- Developer: Dotemu, Lizardcube and Guard Crush Games
- Publisher: Dotemu
- Release Date: 30 Apr 2020
- Time played: 8 hours
What is it
The late 80s and early 90s was the heyday of 2D side-scrolling, co-operative beat' em ups such as Double Dragon (1987), Golden Axe (1989), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989) and Final Fight (1989). In 1991, another beat 'em up entered the mix called Streets of Rage (aka Bare Knuckle in Japan). This would end up being released on the Sega Megadrive, a console I never actually owned; all the times I played the Megadrive was at my friend's place and Streets of Rage was one of the few games I ever remember playing. The game had it all: beautiful pixelart sprites and backdrops, satisfying gameplay, a groovy 90s dance soundtrack by Yuzo Kushiro and a story about incorruptible police officers turned vigilantes, cleaning the streets of crime.
The original Streets of Rage was well received and Sega ended up making two sequels: 1992's Streets of Rage 2 and 1994's Streets of Rage 3. Both of these games were also well received by critics but it would be a long 26 year wait before fans could sink their teeth into a proper sequel, which is where DotEmu and Streets of Rage 4 come in.
Who are DotEmu? Well, they're a French video game developer and publisher formed in 2007 that specialises in bringing back retro games to modern platforms. They've already brought back several classics such as Karateka, Little Big Adventure, The Last Express, Another World, Raiden and Double Dragon. However, in all of these cases there were very minimal changes to the games but DotEmu have been involved with more involved remakes, such as 2017's Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap, a collaboration with developers Lizardcube to remake the 1989 game Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap: the game was a critical and commercial success.
Fast forward to 2020 and we now have Streets of Rage 4, the results of a collaboration between Dotemu, Lizardcube and a third developer called Guard Crush Games, who developed a game obviously inspired by the original Streets of Rage called Streets of Fury EX. The game has similar gameplay to the original Streets of Rage games but has adopted a comic-book art style with higher resolution sprites, backdrops and higher definition music (Yuzo Kushiro even returned to compose some of the tracks)! Set 10 years after the events of Streets of Rage 3, Wood Oak City comes under the control of a crime syndicate again, led by Mr X's children, aptly named the Y Twins. The heroes from the first Streets of Rage reunite once again to clean up the streets of those on the Syndicate's payroll, along with help from a couple of new characters.
The game has only been out for a couple of months but has already garnered critical acclaim with a Metascore of 84 on PC and a "Very Positive” rating on Steam based on 6,129 user reviews.
How I got it
There are a few side scrolling beat 'em up games I remember back from the genre's golden age but I played just about all of them at the arcades, except for Golden Axe and Streets of Rage (and out of those two, Streets of Rage was just way cooler, at least so I thought at the time - I wasn't really into fantasy back then).
I don't tend to get excited by many games nowadays (although my Steam wishlist might suggest otherwise) but when I heard that a new Streets of Rage game was in development and that it was coming to PC, I knew I just had to get myself a copy.
So, as soon as the game was released on Steam, I purchased it.
|If you play as SOR1 characters, you can call in the cops as your special ability|
What I like:
Comic book art style
I'm pleased that the developers decided to keep things 2D and have adopted a comic book art style for the game with respect to the cutscenes, sprites and backgrounds.
One of the great things about the original Streets of Rage is that not only was it incredibly satisfying knocking out several hoodlums without a scratch, you looked cool while doing it too: you felt like you were Jackie Chan, Jean-Claude Van Damme or Chuck Norris in your favourite 80s action film.
Streets of Rage 4 continues this tradition and the animations seem even more fluid than previous entries in the franchise.
Let's face it: what really elevated Streets of Rage above all the other beat 'em ups of the day was its awesome soundtrack inspired by 80s and 90s dance music thanks to the brilliant efforts of Yuzo Kushiro. Fans will be pleased to know they didn't hold back on this soundtrack and not only managed to get Kushiro to return and score a few of the tracks but also other veteran game composers such as Motohiro Kawashima, Keiji Yamagishi, Harumi Fujita and Yoko Shimomura. And the rest of the composers aren't too shabby either with Oliver Deriviere composing the lion's share of the soundtrack that is inspired by several styles of music including 90s dance, R&B, hip hop, rave, Big Beat as well as more contemporary styles such as synthwave and dubstep. The soundtrack has something for everyone and is the perfect accompaniment to clearing Wood Oak City of the Syndicate.
Unlockable content from previous games
To increase the game's replay value, there are a lot of things you can unlock by simply grinding through the story campaign. Eventually, you'll be able to unlock most of the characters from the previous three Streets of Rage games and use them in Streets of Rage 4! The game also comes with galleries of concept art, character profiles as well as the ability to use the soundtracks from the previous games as background music via a "Retro Soundtrack" checkbox in the Options Menu: unfortunately, you're not able to choose which specific tracks to play but it's still a nice touch!
Variety of game modes
Besides the usual Story Mode (which allows up to four players locally and two players online) there's an Arcade Mode where you have to make it through the entire game without any Continues, a Boss Rush Mode where you can fight a series of bosses with a friend and Battle Mode where you can try out some player-versus-player action.
The game also has multiple difficulty levels with the easiest difficulty level allowing even beat 'em up novices to finish the game.
Works on Steam Link
I've played the game with up to three players on the Steam Link wirelessly with Logitech F710 controllers and while most of the time there were no issues occasionally there was some input lag. I'm not sure if this was due to my network setup or the game but it's worth noting. I had no issues playing it single player.
The game has 37 Steam Achievements you can work towards. There are no Steam Trading Cards available as of yet.
|Not much effort has been made into creating an original story, but does it matter?|
What I dislike:
The story is a bit ludicrous, similar to harebrained schemes you'd hear in old James Bond films or 80s cartoons but then again, video games aren't normally renowned for their deep and meaningful plots, at least back in the 1990s.
It doesn't take long to finish the game in story mode; in fact it only takes 2-3 hours so in terms of content, it might seem lacking but to be fair, the original Streets of Rage games weren't very long either and, as mentioned earlier, the developers have offered a whole bunch of different game modes to increase the game's replay value.
Score – 8/10 (Recommended)
A beautiful homage to the original games, Streets of Rage 4 has everything a fan could want: beautiful and fluid comic book art visuals, a phenomenal soundtrack, lots of content to unlock, and a variety of single-player and multiplayer game modes to sink your teeth into. Sure, the story is short and a bit silly, but to be fair, so were the original games and once you see how much TLC the developers have shown this venerable franchise, you'll realise you've got a real gem on your hands. Recommended.
Is the game worth $35.95 AUD?: A conditional yes. This is a very high quality beat 'em up and for Streets of Rage fans it's a must-buy. For other beat ‘em up enthusiasts though, there's a lot of competition on Steam (as of this review, there are at least 458 games with the "Beat 'em up" tag on Steam alone) so you may want to wait until it goes on sale.
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[ LINK: Streets of Rage 4 Official Website ]
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