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Streets of Rage 4 review – Was it worth the 25 year wait for this retro themed title?

It seems that in todays society, developers are insistent on throwing remasters, remakes and reimagining’s of games down our throat and I for one am getting more than sick of it. Capcom proved with Resident Evil 3 remake just how badly it can be done. Don’t even get me started on how Square Enix are extorting the customer with the Final Fantasy VII remake in its episodic release at £50 per game, and no mention of just how many episodes they are releasing in total. The development world has become lazy and I have been saying this for a while now.

The last time we saw Streets of Rage was way back in 1994 on the Sega Megadrive and Genesis and I remember fondly spending probably a bit too much time playing the side scrolling action, but, that’s back in the days where games were designed to be challenging, not to mention once you died you went all the way back to the very start of the game. Have gamers really become that soft now that we all have to have auto-saves constantly updating save progress every 30 seconds so that if you do put a foot out of place you can just load up that save again and away you go? It does seem so, and I will get on to that issue in a little while.

Breaking from the tradition of developers of late, the combined minds at Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games, and Dotemu development teams decided to make a series comeback introducing us to an entirely new campaign with Streets of Rage 4 yet making it so that it is a continuation from where we were left 25 years ago. Was it too little, too late though when it comes to a true classic games series?

As for the story of the game, it’s set 10 years after the fall of Mr X. The ‘Y twins’ (I think we’re working through the alphabet here) have decided to take over where Mr X failed.. and away you go. That’s it! There’s no real depth to any character development or actual story if I’m being honest. It does however try to emulate the feel of the original games within its movements. The animations are chunky and robust as if they have been designed with restrictions in frame rates purposely built in, just as we had in the good old days. These animations really do emphasize the moves within the game, the slams, the crunches, the fists and kicks to the face. It was great to be taken back to the days of side scrolling action games like Streets of Rage and Double Dragon, the graphics from Streets of Rage 4 are lovely, and this is how I pictured them to be in my mind as I was playing the originals as we all did at the time. The backdrops are pure retro from street scenes to fighting on the top of moving trains having to jump over signs that depict the movement of the train.

The game does look the part, but when you are trying to either revive a classic title like this, or bring out a ‘homage’ to the original everything needs to be on point. What made the 16-bit original’s great was the soundtrack, particularly with Streets of Rage 2. Streets of Rage 2 had composers composers Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima create some great House and Techno riffs that still sound great today, and that is something that can make or break a game for me. Well, Streets of Rage 2’s soundtrack is blessed with electronic beats that stand out nicely complimenting the original games, but not being copies of them.

Much of the music comes from Frenchman Olivier Deriviere with titles behind him such as Vampyr, Remember Me and A Plague Tale: Innocence; he is certainly well versed in creating fitting styles to different genres of games. With development in games and machines used to play them he has used some thick and heavy riffs rather than the original ‘tinny’ stuff, but they still fit well. The music really builds especially well in Stage Six of the twelve available and that stood out for me. However, the stage numbers brings me on to my next point that I wanted to make..

The game is short! Way too short for my liking. I was hoping for a challenge, something that would take me a good few hours to get through, but no. My total play time was about 2 hours to get through the entire game. Although the game did feel nice to behold in front of me, it was just way too easy, even ramping up the difficulty level; I had much greater challenges from the original games as, like I said above, the original games were designed to be hard to beat and you didn’t have the luxury of saves. The other thing that this game offers is that when and if you die on a level you can start from the beginning of that level with added lives and added special moves. OK, that does subtract from your overall score at the end of that level, but it makes life too easy.

Emphasis has been put on combo attacks and building your combos and it just doesn’t feel the way the game should to me. It is to stop attacks from behind, but anyone who has played the originals knows that if you want to stop that happening, then stay to the side of the screen. Also introduced are powerful attacks which can see numerous enemies repelled at the same time. Look, I’m sorry, I’m a purist, I have always liked my original games and the way they were designed to be played and these special attacks just don’t work for me. The game is trying to hard to be a combination of old meets new and I think that is where it is failing in my eyes. Do one or the other, not both.

Beating the game does unlock Boss Rush and Arcade modes. Boss Rush is a challenging idea; you take on all the games Bosses, one difficulty setting and no extra lives but I grew bored of it after beating the game. At least the arcade mode does bring the game from the 90’s back to us. Its the way the game was designed to be played with no restarts etc. Once you are dead then thats it, back to the start you go, but this should have been the way the game was designed from the start. Once I had completed the game and unlocked these modes I didn’t really feel like going back over the game for replay value as once I had beaten it, I was left that disappointed with it there was just no point in playing through again. Maybe in time I may come back to it and try doing it online with the help of a few more players, but I can’t even see people buying this game and continuing with anything even online for more than a week or so and thats a real shame. Battle mode won’t even keep people entertained. The idea of this is pure PvP with added bad guys from the game, but its not exactly that much fun to play with the limited amount of moves the game offers. They should have dropped that and just stuck to the story multiplayer which has the friendly fire option within, but even so at the end of the day the idea is to complete the game together with others.

So, to answer the question of the post title; was it worth the 25 year wait for Streets of Rage 2? Well, yes it was I guess, but at the same time, no. What they have managed to do is nice, but its not brilliant. It does feel like they have tried to play it safe and for me it just hasn’t really paid off. The best I can give the game is a 6/10 and I was torn between that and a 7, but theres just nothing there that really boosts the game for me. There are some lovely touches within the game but I really don’t think they have fully managed to capture and bring back the Streets of Rage series unfortunately and it really is a shame.

Reviewed on PS4 Pro

**PLEASE NOTE: AIR Entertainment were supplied with a review copy of the game. This has in no way influenced our views on the game as per our Review Policy**

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