There’s not a lot out in the world right now that sparks joy with me lately, but French retro game producers Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games, and publisher/co-developer Dotemu have announced an extremely early Christmas present in the form of a release date for a game I’ve been waiting for for nearly 25 years – Streets of Rage 4.
A lot of folks (incorrectly) dismiss the Streets of Rage series, at one time almost as big a Sega franchise as Golden Axe, as a lazy clone of Nintendo’s Final Fight games. And sure, both games feature nearly identical gameplay that borrows a lot from 2-player side-scrolling punchfests like Double Dragon. But Streets of Rage distinguished itself quickly, with unique level and enemy designs, and a better selection of characters than Final Fight (and certainly Double Dragon) ever offered. I maintain that Streets of Rage 2 is one of the best games from the 16-bit generation of consoles, and while Streets of Rage 3 was underappreciated, still holds up today.
Dotemu’s Streets of Rage 4 brings elements from the 16-bit games into the modern age, with stunning art in both it’s re-skinned characters and backgrounds. The tried-and-true gameplay formula looks largely unchanged, though the ability to throw down with up to three players in co-op is huge. There’s also the return of the popular Battle Mode, a mode from Streets of Rage 2 and 3 which allows you to go one-on-one with your friends in a kind of fighting game scenario.
One thing I always liked about the Streets of Rage series was the variety of characters on offer, and Streets of Rage 4 looks to continue that legacy. Favourite characters Axel, Blaze, the lightning-fast Skate, and over-muscled brawler Max are joined by Dr Zan and Shiva from Streets of Rage 3, a number of new additions, as well as classic 16-bit versions of these characters available as unlockables. Adding to the nostalgia is the ability to play with the outstanding soundtracks to Streets of Rage 1 and 2 (the latter is one of the best game soundtracks of the 90’s) as you pound your opponents to dust.
Streets of Rage 4 will be available on April 30 for the Playstation 4, the Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.