Sega’s childhood hatred kept me away “Road of Anger.” This is a franchise that I know vaguely but never played thanks to the console war of the 1990s.
At that time, you supported Nintendo or Sega. There is no middle ground. Choosing one means insulting the other. That is the mandate given to the playground deity or maybe the company’s marketing department. Because I grew up with Nintendo, I remained with Mario and hated Sega children who lived in a backward society with a 512-color palette and thick four-button controller.
Unfortunately, the insult created a blind spot game, which I just filled out because “Streets of Rage 4.” The sequel release gives me a reason to go back and play through the classic sect. It was an opportunity to revive someone else’s childhood and discover why this beat-’em-up series was so loved by so many people.
What I found was that in essence, the game “Streets of Rage” was about a deep battle system and extraordinary music. The stories are never of any use. They usually deal with the evil Mr. X trying to take over Wood Oak City through a robot, ninja, or the brute force of his gang. Narration is always secondary to travel, which takes the player through enemy forces along the coast, factories and underground bases.
That mentality was carried over 26 years later in the last chapter. Dotemu developers, Lizardcube and Guard Crush Games give “Streets of Rage 4” a large facelift with hand-drawn visuals that look cartoon but function for the franchise. The developers brought back the main heroes Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding and Adam Hunter and introduced the new faces of Cherry Hunter and Floyd Iraia. (Other fan favorites can’t be opened.)
They come together to fight with the children of Mr. X, the Y Twin. Children have emerged as a new threat to Wood Oak City by entering themselves into the social order while producing thought control processes through music. Heroes join together to stop the twins through 12 stages of the campaign.
From the bat, “Streets of Rage 4” feels the world smoother and faster than the 1990s entries. The characters move easily and the animation looks smooth. Better than that, the developers fix one of the more disturbing flaws in this genre. In the past, once enemies reached the edge of the screen they disappeared and players had to retreat to lure them back into play. Doing so breaks the speed of battle and creates a tiring process, especially when fighting strong enemies.
In the new game, enemies who reach the edge of the screen bounce back to play and become food for combo juggles. This is a clever move borrowed from people like “Street Fighter II” and aggressive fighting prizes. It makes the flow of fights feel much better.
Elsewhere, developers are improving battle systems. Players now have special capture buttons and combos taking into account long and short presses for weak and strong attacks, respectively. They added a counterattack to guard against enemy attacks while the player beat the enemy. The team also continues to move Blitz, which allows the character to close the distance between enemies through attacks. To add visual talent and help control the crowd, this game allows players to perform star movements which produce large damage on most screens. Unfortunately, it can only be used with stars that have character and opportunities are rather rare.
Another important improvement is how Dotemu and the company deal with Special Attacks. This is a powerful move that results in impressive damage, but in a previous entry, the movement was related to health: If the player uses it repeatedly it sucks up energy and causes rapid death.
On “Streets of Rage 4,” the studios produced a compromise that allowed players to use this attack more often. It will require health costs but if the player is aggressive enough, they can get that energy back by defeating the enemy. This creates a risk-reward scenario that drives offensive games when needed.
All of these changes create a system that is familiar to veterans while bringing some much needed gameplay updates. This is an extraordinary achievement to remodel the gameplay while maintaining the uniqueness that determines the “Streets of Rage” franchise. After playing through the previous games, “Streets of Rage 4” feels like a cohesive part of the whole. This shows the carefulness of the developers in creating not only improved beat-ups but also those that evoke the spirit of this series.
What ties everything together is music. It has become another calling card from the franchise, and the music from “Streets of Rage 4” does not disappoint. With a call back to the previous entry and some new songs, the soundtrack, with an interesting synth and driving score, continues to push the player forward. It fits the environment while inspiring intense nostalgia.
The only problem with “Streets of Rage 4” is its length. Like the previous chapters, this is brief but the developers did add a few additions including secret stages and characters that cannot be unlocked. That should keep fans busy, but let’s hope they don’t have to wait another two decades for another chapter in the series.
‘Streets of Rage 4’
3½ stars 4
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One