STREETS OF RAGE 4
SEGA is a great company, no doubt. And also very very strange. This is expressed in different ways – by slogans, advertising campaigns that have not surrendered to the DLC to anyone. But above all – the attitude to the classics. If, say, Nintendo cherishes his own creations, then the fathers of Sonic the hedgehog, on the contrary, abandon their “children” to their own devices, put them off until better times. They come, alas, not always. Among these waiting “hour X” poor fellows there are many masterpieces: Golden Ax, Vectorman, Ecco the Dolphin. And, of course, Streets of Rage, one of the greatest representatives of the beat ’em up genre, coexisted with them for many years.
Today, it is unlikely to impress anyone: the gameplay is monotonous and generally primitive, the plot serves as an occasion for fights, and the graphics, even though vivid, are long outdated. However, by the standards of the 90s, it was an absolute hit – a real interactive version of Hollywood action movies, with cool heroes, brutal martial arts, and a hundred villains who are so pleased to hand out cuffs. What is the difference that the game takes place in an hour, if it is beautiful, exciting, and yet it can be to try on the role of Wesley Snipes (Weslie Snipes), Jean-Claude Van Damme (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Cynthia Rothrock (Cynthia Rothrock)? That’s the same. The first hit was followed by two equally popular sequels (the last of which, however, was mercilessly “censored” in the West), and then … silence. The familiar series just disappeared from the radar.
Why? It’s hard to say – the authors themselves back in the 90s planned to release a full-fledged sequel to Saturn, or at least Dreamcast. Alas, the fourth part from the Ancient team for some reason did not see the light of day, and the eminent corporation somehow did not smile to release its exclusive on the competitors’ consoles (as suggested by Core Design employees, authors of the Fighting Force ). So poor Axel Stone and his comrades were actually left without work. In the absence of new products, fans had to be content with all sorts of reprints of the trilogy, rare cameo characters, and amateur wonders like streets of Rage Remake. Help came from where they did not wait – from France.
In 2017 in the wake of the success of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap publishing Dotemu and studio Lizardcube (which later joined forces with the Guard Crush Games is ) turned to the Japanese proposal to pull out the legendary shooter from the abyss of oblivion. They suddenly agreed: at that time, SEGA had just changed its leadership, so the project was given a green light without further ado. And so, a year and a half after the announcement, Streets of Rage 4 reached the stores. So what happened to the fathers of Streets of Fury and the new old Wonder Boy? If in a nutshell – a time machine.
Ten years have passed since the collapse of the Syndicate and the death of the sinister Mr. X. Peace and order reigned in Wood Oak City, and the paths of the daredevils who liberated the city from the yoke of crime have long diverged. But nothing lasts forever: the new underground empire imperceptibly invaded the metropolis, and the police can do nothing with the influx of crime. Once the authorities are powerless, it’s time for the old heroes to gather again, to scour along the familiar lanes, and stretch their fists.
And on the streets, in spite of the past years, everything is still like neon lights, garbage bins with steel pipes and half-eaten chicken … as well as hordes of Gopnik’s of all sorts and colors. Like a mathematical constant, the essence of Streets of Rage does not change – know yourself go from left to right and kick the bandits who have turned up by the arm. No riddles, no RPG elements, or scenes with platforming, as it is fashionable to do in the genre today. Just good old fights in the best traditions of console action games of the 90s.
As before, the player is free to choose a protagonist to his liking: only four fighters are available at the start, during the campaign they join five, and another twelve bonus ones can be opened, earning the right amount of points after passing the levels. The roster is surprisingly healthy, however, the quantity did not affect the quality in any way: although they are all very similar in appearance, almost every character has unique features.
For example, Floyd (a big guy with cyber prostheses) is slow but incredibly strong – his iron arms allow you to take several people into captivity at once. The miniature Cherry, the daughter of Adam Hunter from the first part of the saga, on the contrary, is frail … but only she (not counting retro ghosts) can run. Even the three versions of Axel from the classical trilogy are by no means identical: one hits faster and further, the second has more tricks and has a lower range, and the third can deftly dodge attacks.
And although the gameplay as a whole does not change, such a spread in the characteristics significantly affects the level cleaning process. The same segment is easily run by Blaze, but causes great difficulties for the slow Axel; the simplest boss, from Cherry’s point of view, becomes an obstacle to the clumsy Floyd. However, despite the differences, the game can be defeated by any character, even in solo. True, this does not mean at all that it is easy to learn.
At first, Streets of Rage 4 does not seem like something complicated and requires dexterity: the enemies are weak, stupid, in every garbage dump there is some first-aid kit or weapon. You can even go to the finals of the first levels without even delving into the mechanics, frantically beating at the “Square” to the bitter end. But once you get used to what is happening, the designers immediately get their knives out.
New obstacles and mini-bosses appear. Familiar opponents begin to behave differently: they learn tricky tricks, less substitute for blows. Some even catch pipes that are well-thrown in their direction, and then, without a twinge of conscience, send them back, directly to the forehead. A few similar misfires and goodbye, overworked life acquired. And also a couple of dozens of cuffs – and you’ll have to go to the start of the level: the control points have not been delivered. And so it is on normal difficulty. There are more on the higher bandits, and they act many times faster: only have time to clean the screens.
Somewhere after the third death, an insight suddenly comes: it’s damn “the same” Streets of Rage. Not because the number 4 flaunts in the headline, not because familiar characters wave their fists on the screen, but because the developers grasped the essence, returned 1992 in all its hardcore beauty. Like SEGA, many years ago, Dotemu, Lizardcube, and Guard Crush Games challenge users honestly – they force them to learn from mistakes, adapt, approach every passing fight wisely, and not rely on conditional pumping or button-swapping. Here it is, the true old school.
But it’s not a single nostalgia: in the novelty, they reproduced all the fundamentals with manic accuracy – blows, AI opponents, even technical touchdowns after enemy throws feel exactly the same as before. However, it is worth paying tribute: the authors of the fourth part did not blindly copy absolutely all the features of the previous issues in a senseless pursuit of authenticity. They took a familiar formula and slightly modernized it, throwing out everything superfluous (timer) and finalizing the most controversial aspects of the originals.
For example, before bosses loved to become almost invulnerable and interrupt combo attacks – it’s scary to imagine how many people “ fell asleep ” on the mighty Abadede many years ago. Now in the best tradition of slashers from PlatinumGamesopponents blink quite noticeably in white when they react poorly to damage, and in red if they are going to carry out a particularly dangerous capture. With a similar system, everything is not going smoothly (about which below), but it is visual.
Another noticeable change: opponents have forgotten how to fly off the screens after particularly powerful attacks. Previously, we had to wait for the villains to slowly return back – now they are all as one amusingly fighting against the walls, substituting another couple of kicks. With the right skill, you can build impressive chains that even avid Tekken fans will envy.
The developers even revised the method of using special techniques. In Streets of Rage 2, they spent a portion of their health. Do you want to hurt? Well, you have to make sacrifices. A special scale was introduced in the prequel, which filled with time. It was a good and still somewhat controversial find: it too simplified the gameplay, partially exchanging an element of tactics for a boring “cooldown”. In the novelty, the authors found an elegant way out: they returned the system from the second part, but with one important correction – after the super attack, HP does not evaporate forever. The used energy can be restored by beating opponents, provided it is true that the character himself will not get hit on the head in the process. The move is ingenious: there is a tangible risk, and a noticeable benefit – everything is as it should be a solid action.
The words “Solid action” as a whole perfectly describe the brainchild of Dotemu, Lizardcube, and Guard Crush Games . Beautiful, charming, forcing you to work on yourself and hone your own skills to combat punks – just a delight. And this is not even affecting the possibility of cooperative passage with a friend! In a word, almost a masterpiece. Nearly.
Run into a fist
Although the authors, no doubt, have invested their souls in the project, the new Streets of Rage is far from perfect. A scuffle is a delight, the mechanics are excellent, new ideas are surprisingly at the box office, but the picture is spoiled by details, sometimes of a technical nature, sometimes gameplay. We leave out the claims to the duration (two to three hours by the standards of the genre – normal timing) – the novelty has roughnesses that are not so obvious, but much more serious.
With the bosses (and their mini-varieties), it also turned out a little controversial. Yes, it’s interesting to fight with them, some of them even deserve a place in the character roster, but how monotonous the fights were by themselves. Battles go on in approximately the same scenario, with similar chains of attacks and annoying hyper-armor, which engages in the most inappropriate (and unexpected) moments. LacksStreets of Rage 4 is something like that, frankly insane. However, it’s only half the trouble: fights, among other things, are not “sharpened” by the speed of the heroes – in any case, in solo.
The balance skew is especially striking in the finals of the eighth and eleventh levels, as well as during fights with robots during the first, tenth, and twelfth chapters. Any attack on the area from which it is necessary to quickly run away for fighters like Floyd and Axel means almost inevitable damage or, if not at all lucky, death. It feels like either opponent was designed with Cherry in mind, or initially, all the protagonists were able to run normally. In any case, such fights are the only moments when the game seems frankly dishonest.
It is worth noting that many of the above shortcomings are insignificant in themselves: you never know, some kind of fat cop likes to teleport with a shocker at the ready, no one is perfect. Nevertheless, all of these blots blur the impression of a delightful beat ’em up, forcing a slight decrease in the final grade.
The resurrection of the cult series is a heavy burden, not everyone can handle it. There are too many pitfalls: here is nostalgia with the eternal “Grass used to be greener”, high expectations of fans, and the need to make a game that will be understandable and interesting even for beginners. Many well-known studios can not stand this burden, releasing a dull consumer good such as Thief (2014) or Bionic Commando. But Lizardcube took it and for the second time in a row managed to jump above her head.
Streets of Rage 4, even taking into account roughness and some controversial design decisions, the miracle is just as good – it is difficult to recall another legendary talented heir who has long gone into the sunset. As they say, everything is with him: fascinating gameplay, excellent picture, and animation, peppy music, which, perhaps, not immediately, but sooner or later sinks into the soul. Yes, strictly speaking, the French have not opened any new horizons, only who said that each new product must be innovative? The main thing is that the French adventure was a success. Dance, SEGA fans: the streets of rage are a celebration again.
Pros: timeless gameplay; generally well-chosen complexity; the abundance of really different characters; relevant innovations; sensible additional modes; great picture; peppy soundtrack; FanService Sea; the presence of online multiplayer; There is a translation into Russian.
Cons: slowness of most heroes; not everyone will like the visual style; lack of voice acting in screensavers; clumsy hitboxes; monotonous bosses, co-passage for four is available only in local mode.