I’ll make this one quick because I just got home from work and need some sleep. there are some games throughout the year that, while they might not have blown me away, they linger with me. They’re the kind of game I can’t help but go back to over and over again, even if it’s only to play it for a few minutes. That kind of sums up why this entry made it onto my list.
(Click this link to see the archive of entries so far)
#6: Streets of Rage 4
Played on Xbox One X | Released 30th April | Developed by Dotemu, LizardCube & Guard Crush Games
I grew up playing the ever-loving crap out of the first two Streets of Rage games on my Sega Mega Drive. Being in the U.K. like I am, so that’s what I call it. The very idea of another, belated sequel to a retro classic of my childhood all these years later was both an exciting and a worrying prospect. There have been so many other examples of games in this same exact genre coming back after year and being massive let-downs.
But then there have been success stories too, especially with games from Sega.
Given it’s placement on this list, it should be obvious that Streets of Rage 4 isn’t a let-down. I reviewed the game back in May and you can read that review here. Just as you’d want from a game like this, Streets of Rage 4 is both reverent to the series where it came from, while also being vert palatable to modern audiences.
This 4th game takes the approach to keep things as close to the original experience as possible while adding a few little changes to both modernise and streamline the experience for players. Now with the option of playing co-op with four players, we’re given the choice between the returning characters of Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding, accompanied by Flyod and Cherry, characters who both have connections to characters from previous games.
And for the most part, it plays almost exactly as you remember from previous entries in the series. The changes are subtle, but welcome. For example, while special moves still drain your health, that health is not actually gone. Landing hits on enemies before they can damage you will restore the spent health, making using special moves a more risk/reward choice rather than a simple sacrificial move.
Also, each character has a super move, which they spend stars on to use. Much like the police backup from the first game. Only now, they’re unique to the character. Finally, with the ability to have up to four players at once, there is an ability to bounce enemies off of walls and other players to perform air juggles.
While I know nothing about fighting games, this kind of approach to beat ’em ups seems to be increasingly common. As the two genres have always been a least loosely intertwined. Fighting game mechanics from much loved games coming into these types of games add some great depth to the combat for people who want to dig that deeply into it, but also opens the game up more to the fighting game community. So it’s wins all around.
As for the narrative of the game itself; it’s exactly what you want it to be for this kind of game: inoffensive and easy to ignore. While there is more of a focus on the narrative than there has ever before in the franchise, it’s not why you come to game like this. You just want to get in, beat up waves of enemies and not have to think about it.
Which really is where the game shines, not in the beating up of enemies (although that is a part of it) but in how much reverence it holds for the original games. Not only is the game packed with nods and references to the older games, it has a retro-style second soundtrack as a selectable option in the options and the ability to unlock every other iteration and playable character from the older games.
Who look and play exactly as they did back in their original release. It all ties up into a great modern title that manages to pack itself with so much nostalgia that it almost demands any fan of the genre to give it a look.
Like I said at the top of the post, Streets of Rage 4 has been a game I have constantly found myself revisiting over the course of the year, playing a few stages here and there. It was the exact same thing with Sonic Mania a few years ago. It’s a great, easy to pick up and play for a half an hour experience, as well as being a great social experience for me and my brother and cousin who played a lot of this game growing up.
Is this a mostly nostalgically driven pick? Sure, but it’s also a good enough game in its own right that anyone who likes a good beat ’em up should seek it out, from what I’ve heard its far from the worst one to come out this year.