I was a little young to really get into the arcade scene as a kid. I’m told that they weren’t so much of a gaming paradise as seedy places full of slimy characters and maybe the odd video game here and there…but sometimes I hear just the opposite as well. Hard to say, but regardless I’ve definitely had my fill of arcade games in one way or another over the years regardless.
That means I’ve tried my fair share of side-scrolling brawlers. How does the genre stand up in a world where microtransactions don’t just mean quarters dumped in a machine, though? Let’s take a look at the latest modern iteration in the idea, Streets of Rage 4, and find out.
After the defeat of crime boss Mr. X, Wood Oak City seems to be calming down. This isn’t Streets of Chill or whatever, though, so as you might have guessed something’s going on. X’s kids, Mr. and Ms. Y, have put their own evil plans in motion to take the city over and turn it into a criminal metropolis. It’s up to Blaze, Axel and some new and returning faces to get the streets back in order using a healthy helping of fists to the face.
I’ve only played marginal amounts of the first three Streets of Rage games and haven’t had hands on with Streets of Rage Remake, so I don’t have the same sort of nostalgia that others might have coming into this one. That said, Streets of Rage 4 is a perfectly acceptable brawler with plenty to draw players in and keep them punching. Foremost among the game’s best qualities is the free-flowing combat system. You’re encouraged to string moves together into destructive chains of your own.
My preferred character of the five initial options, if you must know, is Floyd. He’s a grappler who’s able to extend his reach and catch enemies in order to extend beatings. It’s a great system, particularly when it comes to boss battles, and it feels much less like the quarter-munching cheapness that typified many beat-’em-ups back in the day.
How are you going to go about beating people up, though? Well, along with the Story Mode, which is a pretty simple yarn typical of the days before games desperately wanted to be movies, you’ve got a Boss Rush and Arcade Mode available. If you’ve got friends, grab them for cooperative play or go head to head in Battle Mode. There’s no crazy surprises or huge twists on the genre here, but Streets of Rage 4 knows what it wants to be and does that pretty well.
Much of the Internet chatter about this one focused on its presentation. There are a lot of folks who are down on the comic-style art in Streets of Rage 4, some even going so far as to claim that its ugly. As usual, I wish I had the same refined taste as Reddit and its ilk, since I’d have a lot more free time if it were more difficult to impress me. Would that I could proudly announce that I was voting with my wallet because these gorgeous graphics just weren’t enough to satisfy my palate.
Sadly, I’m a mere pleb who thinks that Streets of Rage 4 looks fantastic both in screenshots and in motion. I’ve always been a sucker for cel-shaded graphics and the like, so being able to control what is essentially a playable comic book is fantastic so far as I’m concerned. Even better, those visuals were crafted by none other than Popzara favorite Ben Fiquet, who knows a thing or two about remastered classic pixels for the high-definition age. It’ll also run on pretty much anything, so there’s that to consider as well.
If you aren’t too busy clutching your pearls over the graphics to give the game a shot, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Streets of Rage 4. It’s got nice, crunchy brawling that’s hard to find in this day and age. I suspect that fans of the older games will find this game suitable for their punchy needs, while newcomers will find this game to be welcoming and satisfying.