Over 25 years after Streets Of Rage 3 debuted, we finally have a sequel and it definitely delivers a kickass beat 'em up formula.
Growing up with Nintendo consoles, I was introduced to Streets Of Rage later than most gamers my age. While I was playing Double Dragon, Battletoads, Kung Fu Heroes, and Turtles in Time; my classmates would talk about Streets Of Rage and I'd wonder what that was all about. Now that I'm familiar with the franchise thanks to compilations such as Sega Genesis Classics, I can see that I was missing out on some supremely fun beat 'em up action. Anyway, Streets Of Rage 4 carries the torch beautifully by offering simple yet exciting gameplay that's even more fun while playing with others. All you do is pace around, jump, attack, and pick up and use items. To mix things up, you can unleash special attacks which deplete a bit of rechargeable health as well as deploy a powerful star move whenever you have at least 1 in stock. It's very easy to pick-up-and-play yet it's undeniably tight and super-enjoyable stuff.
The most immediately noticeable aspect of Streets Of Rage 4 is just how awesome it looks. The characters are gorgeously animated and really pop with their carefully crafted sprites. By the way, if the graphical style seems familiar then you've probably played the delightful Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap as the same team developed that gem of a game, too. In addition to the wonderful character sprites, the environments are detailed and diverse which offers a consistently changing atmosphere. Speaking of which, the soundtrack does a phenomenal job of bringing each stage to life with a mix of modern electronic music and plenty of old-school flair.
As I've mentioned, Streets Of Rage 4 is more enjoyable to play with others. Thankfully, you can play cooperatively with up to 4 local players or team up with another player online. There's also a battle mode where you can compete with other players but doing so isn't nearly as thrilling as the average dedicated 1-on-1 fighting game. Nevertheless, it's great that these options exist.
Finally, allow me to discuss some aspects that took away from the fun that I had with Streets Of Rage 4. For starters, the gameplay is authentic yet it simply doesn't take enough risks with the classic formula. I understand that if they did, fans may not approve but with fantastic beat 'em ups such as River City Girls and Castle Crashers offering varied campaigns complete with rewarding RPG elements and such; why not do the same with Streets Of Rage? They could have even made it a separate mode so gamers can choose between the classic formula and a more modern one. Now that I mention it, I wish Streets Of Rage 4 included more modes and content because once you're done with the few hour long campaign, there isn't much else to sink your teeth into besides playing on harder difficulties.
I should also mention that the visuals got far too chaotic on a few occasions during my playthrough. I almost never lose track of where my character is while playing similar games but there are a few moments in Streets Of Rage 4 that are over-the-top confusing such as boss fights where enemies keep spawning all over the screen while the boss warps around. It can get exceptionally disorienting.
Streets Of Rage 4 brings back the retro franchise in such a masterful way that it can convert modern gamers into hardcore fans of old-school beat 'em ups. With that said, it's still a bit too dated in some regards although it remains a heck of a lot of fun.
- + Tight fast-paced beat 'em up gameplay
- + Awesome music and top-notch 2D visuals with a variety of great environments
- + Fantastic multiplayer options
- - Gameplay plays it a bit too safe
- - Some parts can get overly chaotic and cause graphical ambiguity and confusion
- - Could use more modes and content