After years of hoping, publisher Dotemu (Wonder Boy, Windjammers 1/2) and developers Lizardcube (Wonder Boy) and Guard Crush Games (Streets of Fury EX) made my dream come true. This spring, I was blessed with an all-new continuation of SEGA’s iconic arcade brawler series known for its radical fights, 90s beats, and awesome characters.
Streets of Rage, known as Bare Knuckle (ベア・ナックル Bea Nakkuru) in Japan, is a trilogy of beat ’em up games developed and published by SEGA in the 1990s. Some of my favorite memories back then were with my cousin Paul, sitting back in his room, and raging for hours on end. We both had SEGA Genesis but he had the game, giving even more incentive to go visit so often!
What I missed most about the game (aside from the nonstop fighting) was the music. Especially from Streets of Rage 2, the electronic dance influenced music was paired perfectly with nonstop action, and a wide-variety of characters. The classic 90s style tunes are why its still considered one of the best beat ’em up series of all time.
Streets of Rage 4 couldn’t have arrived at a more perfect time for me. After weeks of stalking its release online, I went on the Nintendo eShop to get confirmation. Boom! April 30, 2020. I’m talking the very nanosecond my clock hit noon that day I was in the eShop downloading greatness. I got one of my favorite video game series of all-time, right after lunch, with nothing but time on my hands because of quarantine. It was an epic win.
10 years have passed since the fall of Mr. X and his crime syndicate. Now his children, the Y Twins, are a new threat causing a raucous all over the city. With chaos and mayhem at every turn, it’s about time our classic companions come out of retirement and cleanup these streets!
In this edition of the best side-scrolling beat em’ up ever, Axel and Blaze are joined by Cherry, Floyd, and Adam. The more you accomplish on the game, the more characters you can unlock. I personally enjoy a 16-bit Axel from Streets of Rage 3 (mainly because he can dash) but I do most of my raging with Adam. Other retro characters you can unlock include Skate, Max, Dr. Zan, and Shiva. I was pretty bummed when I couldn’t pick Roo, but, you’ll be happy to know he does make an appearance in the game.
Throughout the 12 stages of bashing, thrashing, and overall carnage, you can jam to the modern tunes of SOR4 or choose the retro soundtrack. The backgrounds have been modernized and hand-drawn. You’ll fight underground, on a plane, on abandoned streets, and even in a police headquarters. One of the fun parts about the backgrounds is that they’re active. So on the first stage you’re walking the streets, looking for action. At any given time, you might see pigeons pecking around for food, gnats flying around bags of trash, or store signs flashing in neon pink lighting.
As you can see above, some of our favorite bad guys from the series are back in highly-defined glory. B.T., Donovan, and Y. Signal are just a few of the classic bad boys to return to the scene.
A big change that you can also see above is that four players are playing at once. Gone are the days where you’re limited to just two fighters, now, four of you can rage at once! The only limitation is that you have to be local. Online play is limited to two players and really, that’s my only gripe with the game aside from Roo not being available, so I can accept that.
I give Streets of Rage 4 a 9.5 out of 10. Whether players gang up with a friend or clean up the city solo, Streets of Rage 4 is a skull-bashing, chicken-chomping delight all set to a thumping soundtrack sure to get your blood pumping.