Axel and Blaze return, fast and furious as ever.
To play Streets of Rage 4 feels pretty much exactly like I hoped it would: Like playing Streets of Rage. While the beat ‘em up genre has seen a number of variations since Streets of Rage first hit the gaming streets, it felt wonderful for a few minutes to be transported back into the flow of one of my favorite Genesis games.
From the second I pushed forward on the D-Pad, Axel and Blaze moved, punched, kicked, and body slammed with the cadence and fury that I remembered. Axel could still grapple enemies and heave them over his head — always a satisfying take down — and Blaze could high kick foes like Nora and Big Ben into oblivion. It was easy to fall back into the rhythm of trapping foes into a flurry of punches only to lay down a massive kick and decimate a whole wave of them.
But a tiny tweak to the fighting makes co-op play even more of a joy this time around. Players can juggle enemies with one another. At the very least in my demo, crowd control with my fellow player was a blast as we’d trade enemies from opposite sides of the screen, corralling them into the center of the area until there was no hope left for them.
All of this action went down in the fourth entry’s striking, vibrant new art style. It looks downright gorgeous — the angular lines of character models and the bustling backdrops come together to create some vivid and memorable locales.
But a bit could still be done to make these levels somewhat more readable. I had occasional trouble identifying where to pick up some food from to regenerate health now and then, making a sacrificial death easier to stomach. I didn’t have that issue with money to pick up, and can only hope the food is adjusted slightly to be just as readable.
Streets of Rage 4 isn’t trying to revolutionize the franchise, and that’s a good thing. The wave of nostalgia that hit when playing for 15 minutes was absolutely what I wanted with the unexpected new entry in this franchise.
Jonathon Dornbush is IGN’s News Editor. Find him on Twitter @jmdornbush.