It’s been a wild ride for fans of SEGA fans the last few years. Lately, it seems as though the forgotten series of their past are returning in spades, thanks to the efforts of smaller indies the world over: Wonder Boy, Shenmue, Monster Boy, and finally, Streets of Rage. That last one is a big deal for a particularly loyal fanbase. After nearly a quarter century, Streets of Rage is getting the sequel fans have been clamouring for, but was it worth the wait? After the brief glimpse we took at the game at PAX West, we think it might just be.
As we reported earlier, Streets of Rage 4 is being brought to life by Guard Crush Games, Lizardcube, and DotEmu, the latter two being the teams behind last year’s Wonder Boy reboot, which Site Editor Damien McFerran praised for its sumptuous visuals. That praise is key here as well, as Streets of Rage 4 utilises the same techniques and a very similar art style. Unlike Wonder Boy, however, Streets is an entirely new game, rather than a remake of a beloved classic.
This distinction matters, as it means the team is not bound to the limited number of frames 16-bit consoles could handle, and as a result the character animations are incredibly fluid. In motion, Streets of Rage 4 is a sight to behold. From the movement of Axel’s hair as he slams an enemy to the pavement, to the flickering of the flames surrounding his fist as he executes of a super move, it’s clear great care is being taken to represent these characters in a way that feels right to fans of the series.
This same care extends to the backdrops as well. The demo took place in the same city area featured briefly in the announcement trailer; it was not only gorgeous but felt alive as well. Neon lights would cast their glow on their surroundings, while shadows would accurately cast against the beautiful, hand-drawn sprites of characters as their fight their way through the streets.
The build we played was extremely early, and we were told it was more or less intended to give players an idea of where the game was headed, rather than to be representative of the finished product. In the demo only Axel and Blaze were available, and each were hard-mapped to player 1 and 2, respectively. We played the game on a PC as a Switch version has yet to be confirmed. Though considering the team behind the game, we’d be surprised if a Switch version wasn’t on the cards.
The demo consisted of two very brief combat sections, which allowed us to take on a selection of enemies, all of which appeared in the trailer. The combat was as satisfying as we remember, with attacks coming out with no discernable input lag. Despite being beautifully animated using modern techniques, Streets still feels exactly like an old-school Mega Drive/Genesis game, which is both a compliment of the highest order and little surprise considering how well these teams brought 8-bit gaming into the modern era in a way that pleased both purists and newcomers alike.
Throughout the short demo, classic Streets of Rage music and sound effects were used. DotEmu stressed to us that the effects in the demo were not final, but when asked if there would be an option to retain the classic sounds, the team did offer the following, “We understand that music is as important as gameplay itself.”
From what we played, it’s clear that Streets of Rage 4 is very early in development. It’s also clear that it’s being handled with the same care as Lizardcube's previous project, which turned out wonderfully. After playing through the demo, we’re very optimistic about the next entry in the series. We truly believe it could not be in better hands.