For the crew best known for fighting the rage-filled streets of Wood Oak City, it’s been 10 years since they successfully took down the crime syndicate leader known as Mr. X, but for the fans of this classic Beat ‘Em Up franchise, its been 26 years long years since they’ve been able to walk the streets and pummel punks into submission. Well, through the incredible teamwork of developers Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games, and Dotemu, Wood Oak’s quarantine has been lifted allowing both lifelong fans and newcomers to experience all of the new tricks that this classic franchise has learned, and I assure you, it was all worth the wait.
The beauty of Streets of Rage 4 is that it isn’t a game meant to be beaten once. No, the story doesn’t change, depending on what character you choose to play as, but with the game offering unlockable characters and other secrets sprinkled throughout the game, it’s a title that rewards players for coming back for more. On top of the secrets waiting to be found, another reason for jumping back into the game is how different each character plays. The different play styles that each character presents is like something out of a fighting game. If the first character you choose to play as isn’t clicking, simply try another. Whether your style is fast and wild or slow and brutal, it’s all there to be discovered.
And discovering which character is your favorite is only half the fun because once you’ve mastered landing 75 hit combos you’ll find time to stand around and smell the flowers, or, in this case, a completely wrecked out biker bar. Between the updated art style that looks like a Saturday morning cartoon show that I would have killed to watch as a kid and the masterfully crafted soundtrack, replaying Streets of Rage 4 quickly becomes a treat for your eyes and ears. And for those that are missing the sounds of the classics, don’t worry because, with the simple push of a button, the classic tracks of the original Genesis titles will blast throughout the entire game.
And it’s because of all of this that Streets of Rage 4 belongs in the discussion for the game of the year and one of my personal favorite games of the generation. Sure, maybe there’s a little nostalgia mixed into this cocktail I’m drinking, but the developers have managed to accomplish what so few have. A great comparison can be made with Capcom who has recently taken on the near-impossible task of remaking some of their classic titles, and not only have the recent Resident Evil games been great but they’ve managed to take the place of games that so many considered their favorites. If someone asked if they should play Resident Evil 2, I don’t think anyone would suggest they play the original over the remake unless they’re looking to learn where the franchise itself originated and the same can be said for Streets of Rage. If someone is new to the beat ’em up genre or is interested in finally getting into the Streets of Rage franchise but doesn’t know where to begin, I think everything that’s introduced in this game makes it the perfect place to start. Not only does it pay homage to the games that came before it but it helps push the genre in a positive direction moving forward.