While I don’t have the deep seeded love of Streets of Rage as many beat ‘em up fans out there do, I know that jumping into the fourth titles years after the original trilogy came out is a huge task. What’s more, I know already how seriously Lizardcube is taking it based on the twenty or so minute demo I got with the game.
I got to play a very specific vertical slice made for press at PAX West, and what I played isn’t necessarily indicative of the final game, but an outline of what the game will look and play like. What jumped out to me immediately was just how phenomenal this artstyle is working for Streets of Rage. If you played Lizardcube’s Wonder Boy remake, then you know their hand drawn style is almost second to none, and that easily carries over here.
I got to play through a couple of levels alongside Ben Fiquet, who is acting as Art and Creative director of Streets of Rage 4, and I was compelled to get to the story that is bringing about Streets of Rage 4. He told me this was something him and his team sought out, putting together a presentation to take to Sega and show them what they believed they could do with Streets of Rage 4. Sega bit, and took the offer and gave them the license to make this years-later sequel, which I asked him if this was basically a dream project. He agreed, and doubled down on how seriously they are taking this opportunity.
I asked big questions like, biggest of all, who is doing the music? Ben wasn’t ready to say, and his hesitancy just reiterated how they’re not trying to disappoint fans of the franchise. It’s just too early to say right now and much of that has not been decided. Some of the visual assets in the game I saw were also placeholder for things to come, but I don’t know what they could be leading to or how they’ll be implemented just yet.
Digging into the game itself, I actually had a fun time playing with Ben and running around the city punching thugs in a couch co-op experience. I got to play Axel while Ben played Blaze, and we launched ourselves into crowds of foes. What I liked about what I saw was how not-spongy enemies are. My small amount of experience with beat ‘em ups amounts to me feeling like folks just take too much of a beating to go down. It’s frustrating when I feel the damage isn’t evenly distributed, and that wasn’t an issue here. The specials of each character here here, from dragon punch-styled attacks coming from Axel to flaming kicks from Blaze. Everything looked stylish as hell, and it continued to be a massive standout in motion. Each enemy design we came across had that same shuffling animation you’d want from a 90s brawler and it was just complemented by the effects coming off of each character’s special.
Streets of Rage 4 is something by fans for fans, and anyone worried about it can put their hearts at ease. It’s safe to say Lizardcube is taking this just as seriously as any hardcore fan would want them to, and I can tell from Ben’s enthusiasm that they’re not going to treat this opportunity as anything besides an actual dream come true. There is no release date in mind yet, but when there is, we’ll be there to get all the details.