I jumped into the nostalgia hole and decided to use Game Pass and check out a few oldies that recently released a new iteration. One of them was, Streets of Rage 4, the last time I touched the game was when I was ten playing the second one on the Game Gear. When I saw that there was a new one released on Game Pass, I almost passed it over. I was a little concerned after Mighty No. 9 and Bionic Commando among others that have recently disappointed. But it was on Game Pass and it has co-op mode so, why not try it? Right?
Well it’s a small download which is nice especially with Call of Duty’s massive updates and over 100GB total size eating up so much room on the SSD. Obviously, they can’t compare in graphics and size but it was just a recent download that took forever. After waiting just a few minutes I was off to the races and joining up with the wife to play through together. It was surprisingly refreshing to play a simple game that understands what it is, a beat ‘em up and doesn’t try to do more than the scope of that. The controls are easy as pie, X button punches, the joystick moves you, Y does special attacks, and Y+B does your super. The most important parts of any beat ‘em up is having tight controls, good attacks, and hard as hell boss battles. It really succeeds in all of these areas.
The attacks get repetitive because you only have a few moves but the supers and specials add some variation and each new enemy that is added means new strategies to effectively take them down. Some of the early bosses return as regular enemies which makes the game extremely challenging closer to the end of the game. The characters available allow for different play styles. There are two smaller but faster characters and 2 large but slow characters. Later you can unlock another that is a mixture of both. With the bigger characters you can do much higher damage but getting out of the way of attacks becomes a problem as the game goes on.
In the late stages of the game, they introduce a lot more enemies that require some finesse to kill. They will carry shields, tasers, and other tricky moves that will force you to strategize. This can be a bit of a pain in the butt and when playing by yourself requires a little more luck and strategy. They even brought back the dominatrix lady that whips you forcing you to deal with a distance attack while swamped in melee enemies. If you are playing co-operatively you can use your partner to distract while you attack from a different direction and vice versa. Then they went and made some of the bosses have multiple forms or stages and you are only allowed the life and supers you have on hand. The final boss was a massive pain in the rear and my wife and I took some time and a number of deaths before finally beating them.
If you remember 90’s video games you can guess that the story is insane. You are in the gritty streets of Wood Oak City trying to hunt down the mastermind behind a string of recent attacks. Soon enough you find out that the evil masterminds are the children of your previous nemesis, MR. X, the Y twins. Now the streets are filled with a bunch of malicious people looking to destroy you and the good citizens of Wood Oak City. The police are involved somehow and there is some crazy nonsense. Bad guys blowing stuff up and building huge robots but, the citizens either don’t notice or don’t care what is going on. I love this kind of crazy story line and it brought be back to being a kid.
My nostalgia was intensified while playing the game in cooperative mode. When my wife joined in on the fun, we soon realized that we could beat the hell out of each other. I started having flash backs from Battle Toads and Double Dragon (I can’t remember if you could hit the other player in Streets of Rage 1-3). It was frustrating but soon enough we were able to break the screen into zones of control. The biggest problem is during the bosses since you regularly have to move all over the screen to avoid the attack pattern. Playing cooperatively both makes the game easier and harder. You can take out regular enemies in short order but some of the mini-bosses and, for sure, the boss battles are harder with two players. It didn’t stop us from finishing the game but it definitely increased the difficulty and how many times we died. A lot of those deaths were by each other’s hands.
Just like the games of the SNES and Genesis era the game is relatively short, I think we beat it in around 4ish hours but there is a lot of extra achievements and challenges to keep you going back. I have ended my achievement hunting days and haven’t gone back for more. But if you were like years past me, I would play this through for the challenges and be furious every time I got punched during the last boss fight and failed to get the “Perfect” achievement. That wouldn’t stop me though and I would just keep doing it. You would just have to look at the amount of time spent in Trials HD and that for a while I was in the top 100 people on some of the tracks. Now I am happy to just finish the game. Too little time because of all the adulting.
Streets of Rage 4 lives up to its predecessors and continues its lineage in a good way. It follows the original formula closely and the differences that have been added are due to better game design and creature comforts. The graphics are colorful and it feels like the 80’s/90’s (one of the enemies is dressed like Jubilee from X-Men animated series), the music is good, and the gameplay is tight. Still, I doubt I would have played the Streets of Rage 4 for the advertised price of twenty dollars but, with it being available on GamePass I was drawn to it right away. My Wife and I had a lot of fun playing through it together and I am glad to see that the game continued its co-operative mode, something that is disappearing in the modern games. So, while I would have waited for a sale, if you are really into beat ‘em ups or are feeling especially nostalgic then Streets of Rage 4 will not let you down.