It seems like an age ago when the first Bare Knuckle game came out, and like most, I hadn’t heard of the series until Streets of Rage 2 when a mate got a copy for his Sega Mega Drive.
Arguably the closest we got to going to the arcade, Streets of Rage 2 was the early 90s equivalent of a modern-day lockdown – we simply wouldn’t go out.
Is it any good? Read on in this…
…Streets of Rage 4 Switch Review
Available on the Switch, PS4 and Xbox One, Streets of Rage 4 is the long-awaited brawler that defined the side-scrolling beat ’em up like Streetfighter II and Mortal Kombat did for the one-on-one arena.
It was one of many fighters around but has stood the test of time and highly revered by beat ’em up fans and those who aren’t that big on the genre.
With the resurgence of remakes and fanboy developers paying homage to the games that they too grew up on – like the excellent 99 Vidas, the team of Lizardcube, Dotemu and Guard Crush don’t aim to break the mould and focus on what made the original games (the first two) great.
It’s the same formula, only the graphics are hand-drawn and look crisp in HD.
But… there’s the CRT filters, and retro characters for us crusties – Streets of Rage 4 is feature-packed.
There are plenty of options, but let’s look at the meat and potatoes.
An Origin Story
Streets of Rage 4 follows on ten years from the last.
Mr X and the Syndicate are gone, but his children have come to fill the void.
Cue our vigilante friends as they battle across 12 stages that are all gorgeous and unique to one another.
The nature of side-scrollers is they are repetitive, but Streets of Rage 4 never felt like that; if you weren’t trying to stay clear of a chop to the face, you’d be swooning at the backgrounds.
At first, you have the pick of four characters; Axel and Blaze are reunited, along with Cherry – daughter of Adam Hunter, and Floyd – a pimped up version of Jax from Mortal Kombat.
Axel was the all-rounder, with his sleek frame he knew how to hit but was swift with it. Now he’s got this vagrant look about him and looks like he ate his former self.
As a fan of Max, I was pleased to see that Axel had the same physique, but it’s Floyd who takes that mantel: the guy is enormous and hits like a truck.
I wasn’t overly keen with Cherry, but pro-gamers will no doubt prefer her style of play.
Control Your Rage
The controls in Streets of Rage 4 are incredibly simple and effective with minimal input required to pull off a skill.
- Y is your standard attack of punch and kick, hold it down for a strong attack
- B to jump
- X is a special attack that will drain your health
- A picks up items
- X + A does the special move
While simple controls, it’s not a button masher and still requires skill to get through this.
Completing the story took a couple of hours (I think) of non-stop play, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
You have several lives, but should you die, you can continue from the beginning of the stage along with an assist mode.
Assist mode grants you extra lives and stars (used to pull off special moves) – the caveat being your overall score for the level will be reduced significantly.
May Contain Nuts
Once you’ve completed the story mode in these games, surely there’s not much else to do?
Let’s break down the features, as I know a lot of you don’t like reading through walls of text:
- Story – duh.
- Stage Select – choose from levels you’ve already played and beat the score (you can only replay levels if you’ve completed them in that stage.
- Arcade – Old school: you get one continue to finish the story.
- Boss Rush – fight just the bosses.
- Battle – compete against your friends (if you have any).
- Join Online Games – jump into a game that others are already playing.
They’re all self-explanatory and beef up the already excellent standalone game.
Finally, there’s also the extras that are mostly bios of the characters you start with and unlock, plus some galleries.
Many of the originals return, with Adam being the first character to unlock and he’s hands down my favourite over Max now.
I could go on about how cool both the ‘new’ graphics are, as well as the retro sprites; instead, I’ll touch on the music.
Music is always important to me in a game. It isn’t the deciding factor, but it needs to be suitable in context and not grind to the extent that it takes away the focus of the game.
The Streets of Rage series already has one of the best soundtracks of all time, and one of the few game soundtracks outside of Zelda or Oxenfree that I would listen to outside of playing a game.
Streets of Rage 4 doesn’t disappoint as it has the same signature tracks, along with some new material that is just perfect for the game.
Ignoring the current pandemic, there would have been a shortage of tissues as Streets of Rage 4 is a beat ’em up fan’s wet dream.
There are those people who say that they were into a band before they got famous, or quick to say that they knew something would be big – after the event.
Despite acquiring the Streets of Rage title, I wasn’t majorly excited for Streets of Rage 4 when I first heard about it last year.
If I’m entirely honest, I was quite dismissive of it and thought it was a cash cow to milk on the heyday of the side-scroller.
I’m glad I was wrong.
If it weren’t for Final Fight being so readily available in the arcades, SNES and Amiga back in the day, Streets of Rage 2 would have been my go-to side scroller.
By today’s standards, Streets of Rage 4 takes the crown.
The game is clearly a love affair for all those involved, and they’ve not only outdone themselves, but even Sega couldn’t have pulled this off.
Streets of Rage 4 is one of those rarities where a sequel is better than the predecessors.
Now, all we need is The Simpsons arcade remake, and I’m done with leaving the house.