Back in the day, I didn’t play Streets of Rage 2 at the arcades, I didn’t even get to play it on the Mega Drive, no, I played it on the Game Gear. Alongside other reworked Sega home console classics like Sonic the Hedgehog, Shinobi, a Japanese import of Ganbare Gorby! and more, this kept me and my brothers sat on the upstairs landing right next to a power socket – no way were we going to be rinsing through half a dozen AA batteries at a time without a good reason!
My memories of Streets of Rage might be a little more atypical, but Streets of Rage 4 looks and feels like a modernisation of my memories in all the right ways.
Visually, Streets of Rage 4 is a delight. With Lizardcube having last worked on the Wonder Boy remake, overhauling the cult classic platforming adventure with gorgeously modern hand drawn artwork, they’ve understandably taken a similar approach for Streets of Rage 4, which is being developed alongside Guard Crush Games and Dotemu. You could argue that the Mega Drive originals had a kind of gritty realism about them, but that’s been traded in for a much slicker hand animated style that’s simply gorgeous.
It still feels just like Streets of Rage thanks to the iconic silhouettes of some of the enemy goons that wander onto screen to come and attack you and their easily identified movements. The knife guy who just takes a diagonal path across the screen with blade sticking out from him, the fat dude who’s going to breathe fire at you, the plethora of plumbing that can litter the floor after you’ve landed a few blows on a crowd of enemies, it all just feels right to me.
The same can be said of the combat, the simple strings of attacks, getting yourself onto the right plane to hit an enemy, the grappling throws and so on. However, the team of developers haven’t been afraid to make some meaningful additions to the formula along the way.
A returning aspect is that Special attacks come at the cost of sapping some of your health from you, but now you can recoup it by landing regular hits. It’s a similar concept to how Bloodborne keeps you on the front foot in combat, but as a result of your attack choices instead of your failings. You can also use the Special attack in the air as well, for the first time, and then there’s screen-clearing Star moves that you have to earn from pick ups in the level.
Joining the returning Blaze Fielding and beardily rugged Axel Stone, Cherry Hunter (the daughter of Adam Hunter from the original game) was revealed at Gamescom, with a fourth playable character still being teased in the game’s artwork. Her design is noticeably more lithe and nimble than Axel and Blaze, but her most distinctive feature is the electric guitar strapped to her back.
As you’d expect, it gets pulled out in the brawl for her various attacks, whether it’s battering someone round the head with it, sliding along the ground like a veritable Marty McFly, or unleashing a power chord that clears out nearby enemies. She kicks just as much butt as the others.
Though I only briefly fought through a couple of levels with a co-op buddy at Gamescom, getting to battle two level-ending bosses that I can only describe as an “electric snake lady” and a “robot dude”, I had an absolute blast and can’t wait to see what the full game has in store.