As a teenager, I often played in arcades in the 80s and was there when fighting games had their heyday. I’m not talking about Street Fighter II taking over the whole market after the huge success of Street Fighter II, the one-on-one, one-on-one, one-on-one, one-on-one. Before that, there were brawlers that pitted you and a friend against countless waves of enemies as you fought through alleys to rescue your kidnapped girlfriend. That was the premise of Double Dragon, and from then on there were countless duds.
This trend towards massive fighting games has also quickly spread to the home console market. The problem was that the dominant system at the time, the NES, was not as powerful as its Arcadian big brothers. For this reason, the original Double Dragon was a nerve, allowing only one player to kick at a time. The sequel is called Double Dragon II: Vengeance corrected this, but other concessions, such as short levels and only two enemies on screen at a time, were notable weaknesses.
After a while, I was completely in love with Capcom’s latest arcade masterpiece: Final battle. It was essentially the same premise as before the fight, but with interwoven elves, an amazing setting and a slightly long campaign (for the time) designed to take your pocket money before you knew what was happening to you. Even during the switch to Super NES 16-bit, there was no two-player mode. So you can imagine that fans of these arcade games are probably disappointed by the ports on their home consoles.
Sega saw the opportunity to create a game from scratch for the Genesis, with a two-player collaboration. They called it Streets of Rage, and there was no arcade game to play the powers of Genesis and create a very special game. They hoped to win the final battle – and many agree they did. It also gave Sega one more thing to throw in the faces of future Super NES owners, and one more reason for players to opt for the Genesis instead. The 16-bit era is called war for a reason. The game had two sequels to 16 Bitter, and from then on fans had to wait over 25 years for another sequel. Thankfully, the wait is now over!
Streets of Wisdom 4 is a love letter to the brawlers of the past. Developers have done their best to create a decent sequel for the video game market, which has practically moved away from the beat ’em up genre. Thanks to the indie scene, there has been a resurgence of sorts, and the nostalgia for these games has helped to push forward projects that would have otherwise been ignored. I know that my circle of close friends still occasionally play games like Double Dragon II and enjoy them, so there’s always a time and place for it, especially when it’s done so well.
Fans of the series will instantly recognize some of the characters on the list. From the start, you have the option to play one of two emblematic fighters: Axel Stone or Blaze Fielding. As in previous matches, Axel is as muscular as ever and a good fighter, though a bit chubbier and older than in his previous appearances. Blaze is not that strong, but she more than makes up for it with her agility.
Two new faces make up the rest of the starting list for you to choose from: Cherry Hunter and Floyd Iraya. If you’re familiar with the franchise, you’ll recognize the last name Cherry. She is indeed the daughter of Adam Hunter (played in the original game) and the niece of Eddie Skate Hunter (played in parts 2 and 3). She has a crazy talent for the electric guitar! Floyd has learned from Dr. Zan (played in the third part) and even has two robotic arms with which he can do considerable damage, but he is very slow on the steps. Whichever one you choose, there are many successful moves, but you should experiment with each one to see which one suits your play style best. As you progress through the game and reach certain milestones, you unlock even more playable characters, giving players a reason to play the story over and over again.
One of the most emblematic parts of the original series was the amazing soundtrack. She mixed some really unique beats that were just great, especially on the Genesis sound chip. Master composer Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima (from Streets of Rough 2 and 3 fame) return for a few tracks in Streets of Rough 4, and they’re as sublime as ever. If you like to kick next to your feet, you won’t be disappointed. I had a smile on my face throughout the game as the soundtrack really drove me forward in each level. Of course, the Switch isn’t limited to Genesis chiptunes, and that’s largely a good thing. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I think the gravelly sound of the first two games still holds true, and in some ways is even a little better – but that doesn’t mean the tunes here aren’t good too.
Like any good fighter, Streets of Rage 4 has a cooperative mode that lets you and your friends take down the bad guys. In this respect, there are several options: the local four-player cooperative and the online two-player cooperative. No matter how many friends you have on your team, you’re sure to have a great time. It’s thanks to the fantastic gameplay. As you’d expect, each character has a wide range of moves, from punches to jumps to special abilities. When you perform a special attack, you use up some of your Life Bar, but if you can perform more standard attacks afterwards, you have a chance to restore some of your Life Bar! This creates an extra level of strategy that allows you to unleash your rage at the right time and launch more modest attacks to maintain order. You can also catch enemies by approaching them and then throwing them into a group of advancing gorillas to slow them all down. I especially like when Floyd walks up to the two bad guys, grabs them with both hands and then cracks their skulls open – it’s so satisfying!
As befits this type of game, a variety of enemies will approach you with a variety of weapons. Objects like knives and pipes can be snatched away from bad guys and used against them. You have the option of fending off an attack or throwing an object across the screen to strike from a distance. One of the parts of the game we rely on is that you can juggle enemies in the air and at the edges of the screen, causing massive damage. In some cases, you can even throw a projectile and pick it up after it bounces off the enemy and use it again – recycling has never been so much fun!
Throughout the twelve stages of the game, you’ll meet different bad guys (and girls). Everyone has their own style of attack, some are fast, while others have a quieter approach. At first glance, some of them are embarrassed to fight hard and even have complex defenses that are difficult to penetrate. Remember that you can move the screen up and down. So when an enemy makes a special move or comes at you, you can often completely dodge them by simply pressing the up or down button, which often gives them the opportunity to counterattack. Most enemies and bosses have special instructions that you can pay attention to so you don’t do too much damage. With five difficulty levels to choose from at the start of the game, you should have no problem approaching the game in the easiest settings. The game encourages multiple games by the way it unlocks. So don’t be afraid to play the easiest mode first, and then work your way up to the limit.
The soundtrack is more or less the same in many ways, which is really good! The chart shows the biggest change from the original trilogy. Instead of sprites, we have hand-drawn backgrounds and characters, giving the comic a more comedic feel. In fact, the artistic style is reminiscent of NES boxes and tutorials where artists tried to convey what 8-bit graphics should represent. When I saw the game in development, I wasn’t very excited about the look, but the end result is pretty impressive. The amount of detail in the various scenes is fantastic, and I stopped moving forward a few times simply to immerse myself in the atmosphere. Purists will probably want the game to be made entirely in pixel art, and there is indeed a mode you can activate to make this happen. It’s fun and I appreciate all the work that had to be done to make it, but overall I enjoyed playing with the new graphic style. Oh, and you can even turn off the classical music! It’s cool, right?
If you want to win, the streets of Rage 4 are a real treat. If he doesn’t actually reinvent the genre, he modernizes it while respecting the original trilogy. This game brings the nails into the gameplay, giving us multiple visual and sound options, but also a great difficulty to choose from. I haven’t had this much fun with a Brawler in decades, and the level of care and attention put into this title shows everywhere. Don’t miss what could be the rebirth of the decade!
- Charts – 9/10
- Sound – 10/10
- Gameplay – 9.5/10
- Late Call – 7.5/10
Final thoughts : EXAMPLES
Players have ignored the bashing genre for decades, but Streets of Fury 4 is here to give them some sense. It crosses the line and offers just the right amount of nostalgia while introducing new characters and gameplay to create a fantastic experience that should appeal to today’s teens. Take a friend and kick his ass. Don’t fall asleep!
Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published in various media. He is currently an editor and contributor to Age of Games.
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