Review: Streets of Rage 4 (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Streets of Rage 4
Format: PSN 6.52B)
Release Date: April 30, 2020
Publisher: DotEmu
Developer: DotEmu/Lizardcube/Guard Crush Games
Original MSRP: $24.99 (USD)
ESRB Rating: T
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Streets of Rage 4 is finally upon us, after an almost thirty-year hiatus, and for the most part, the wait was worth it. The team at DotEmu has taken great care in making the game feel like a true successor to the previous two games (I say “two” because combat mechanics changed pretty drastically between the first game and the second, and subsequently, the third).

Controversy has always surrounded the third game in the series. While I’ve always enjoyed it, I prefer the second entry, and that feeling was fully captured with Streets of Rage 4.

This is both to its credit and detriment- credit because it feels absolutely authentic when controlling older characters like Axel and Blaze; detrimental because the series has always moved forward with every iteration (with added features and character abilities) and in Streets 4, characters like Axel can no longer run. This was a bit of a surprise because I started the game with Cherry Hunter, and she can dart around the screen when you double tap the directional buttons. Not so with Axel, making me rethink how I play him and reverting to my initial Streets 2 instincts.

This may sound like I’m coming down on Streets 4, and nothing could be further from that. Gameplay is absolutely tight, and there is still a character for every play style. Blaze is still an absolute badass, and now Cherry joins in as a speedy character that rewards quick movement. Axel has somewhat taken the place of the burlier character, while still maintaining some of his killer martial arts and speed. As of this writing I haven’t tried all of the characters, including the unlockable ones, but to this day I have yet to play all of the characters of the series. I stick to what I enjoy.

What can be said about Streets 4 is how absolutely great it feels to play. While the game doesn’t advance leaps and bounds over original gameplay mechanics, it does offer some variations on existing moves and they feel great to execute, and, dare I use the same word again, “natural”.

Streets of Rage 4 isn’t long by comparison to other modern games, but it’s a side-scrolling fighter. The price matches the length, and there is plenty of replayability and bonus modes to tackle after you complete it, including a boss mode, and a death match between you and three other players. I mean, it’s that multiplayer that keeps me going back to the original games year after year. You play these over and over again with your friends.

Visuals:
I mean look at this thing. Well before this game was released, everyone was going on about its beauty. It was clear that DotEmu would do this game justice, especially after seeing the work they did on Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. But it’s when you see it in buttery smooth motion that you really appreciate their work. Every character has their own motion style and attack style, and it all happens with a visual quality that matches the drawn style of the game.

What’s great (and was also mentioned in our video review) is that the art style isn’t only particular to the characters. The background also match that style, and does not take the 2D-to-3D route that a lot of modernizations tend to take. The result is a world that exists seamlessly from its actors. Streets 4 does offer a few visual options, such as pixelated backgrounds, harkening back to the days of the original games. But I don’t believe these were implemented as well as, say, Fight N’ Rage.

But truthfully, this game was meant to be played as it was originally designed.

Audio:
The Streets of Rage series is almost always mentioned synonymously with “amazing music” (let’s leave Streets 3 out of this for now). The expectations were incredibly high for this new entry, because those same expectations were based on the love for Streets of Rage 2’s musical genius, and DotEmu knew this. So instead of flirting with disaster and syphoning the musical style of Streets 3, a more familiar sound is heard, one echoing the beauty and rhythm of Streets 2.

But even if you found yourself missing those old tunes, there is an option to change the music to classic Streets 2, although I wouldn’t recommend it. The new tunes are absolutely perfect.

Online/Multiplayer:
Multiplayer is where Streets of Rage earns its keep. That’s not to imply that the game is not enjoyable when playing it alone. But this series was created to one-up Nintendo when Final Fight on the SNES was only one player. Thus, Streets of Rage 4 excels in the multiplayer department, with four-player co-op offline and two-player online.

I initially wondered why online was only two players, but when I noticed some hick-ups during my online game, I could understand their wise decision. Online for a game like this can introduce some latency issues, and even though I experienced a few, it was nothing that ruined my experience. Offline, the multiplayer was completely flawless, though I have yet to play with three players offline, what with that quarantine thing going on right now.

Conclusion:
The wait is over, and it has paid off. Streets of Rage 4 is a worthy successor to one of the greatest side-scrolling fighters ever made. It doesn’t come with that same advancement in gameplay mechanics that the last two debuted with, but what it does well is maintain the integrity of the originals.

In fact, it’s such a letter of love to fans that you could pick up the controller immediately after playing Streets 2 and feel right at home with this new entry. Multiplayer has combinations for every type of part, be it online or offline, and there is plenty to do after you complete the game. DotEmu has proven to be a strong force in bringing back classics with more than just a fresh coat of paint, and they have proven it once again with Streets of Rage 4.

Golden Axe next?

Or what about Phantasy Star?

Please?

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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