Streets of Rage 4 is a 2020 game that continues the franchise that has been dormant since 1994. It is my first Streets of Rage game, and I am going to be completely blunt, side-scrolling beat ’em ups like this aren’t really my bread and butter. I did not play many of them when I was younger, so lack the nostalgia for the genre, and haven’t played many, period. This is not an insult to the genre, the fans, or the Streets of Rage franchise. This is just me fully acknowledging my perspective. Not all gamers like all kinds of games. And while I can chalk a lot of it up to my lack of experience, I would say this is not my favorite genre…, though far from my least favorite, and I have been known to enjoy games in genres I tend to never touch.
The game takes place roughly four years after Streets of Rage 3, with the rise of a new crime syndicate believed to be led by the children of Mr. X, the Y Twins. You can choose to play as Axel or Blaze, from previous games, or Cherry or Floyd, both connected to previous games’ characters. You move through various stages, most ending either in a boss fight or just a challenging group of enemies, and uncover the story and what the new crime syndicate is up to. The story is not the most complex, but it is decent and serviceable for the type of game. We have solid enemies, things unfold decently, and there is even some growth with characters. It’s a bit shallow, but again this isn’t a genre about intense and deep stories. It gets the job done and is interesting enough to carry you along.
Gameplay is what you would expect; it is a side scroller and action-heavy. You have your standard attacks, special attacks, and weapons you can sometimes pick up, and really it’s about combining all the different things to take on a variety of enemies. You can interact with various parts of the scenery, some to give you health items or other upgrades, and others can be used against enemies.
As you play the game, you will also unlock older characters from the various Streets of Rage games and can play through the game with them as well. There is also co-op, so you can play the game with friends.
Really this game isn’t reinventing the wheel, more just adding some shine to it while still appealing to people with nostalgia. While the gameplay wasn’t my bread and butter, I mean I enjoyed it just not my favorite, what really appealed to me was the art and music. I love the colorful art and style and the real nod to the 80s and 90s with it. The game looks awesome and is bright and fun. The music is fantastic. Every song is great, and it’s just a lot of fun to listen to the game while playing. I really cannot compliment enough how much I enjoyed looking at the game and stages and listening to the soundtrack.
Gameplay was fun for what it is, but I had a few issues that I don’t know if they were me, the game, or the genre, due to my lack of experience. Sometimes the gameplay felt slow, almost sluggish, and I wished for faster movement speeds. It does change a bit with characters, but overall I still felt a little weighed down at times. I also felt a bit overwhelmed with my skill level. The first I will say might just be the genre itself. The second is most likely my personal skill level rather than an actual problem with the game or balance. It wasn’t impossible for me, but I played on lower difficulties and still felt a little stuck. However, there is a learning aspect with this type of game, especially with bosses, so again likely my own skill problems rather than an actual issue with the game.
I don’t have a whole lot to say just because the game is pretty straightforward and what people would expect. It’s a classic side-scrolling beat ’em up that manages to blend bringing a bit of newness to it while still clearly having a lot for fans of the franchise in the past and the genre in general.
Bottomline? I really dug it, actually. I had fun playing it, even with a few frustrations, and again cannot express how much I loved the art and music enough. I don’t see myself becoming a true fan of the genre or digging up a lot of games of its type, but it has made me curious to maybe seek out some other older gems or related games. The nostalgia aspects kind of made me wish I could be part of that, though I never felt the game completely left me in the dark because I don’t have those memories. If you are looking for a beat ’em up, I would recommend it. If it’s a genre that, like me, you haven’t tried much, this is still a game you could probably enjoy. Really unless you are completely deadset against side-scrolling beat ’em ups I would recommend it to most gamers. It’s fun, looks and sounds great, and is a pretty quick little romp without feeling too short or too shallow. I’m glad I gave it a go, even if it’s not my normal style of game, and look forward to future playthroughs.