Streets of Rage 2 is one of the best games ever made.
There’s just something about Streets of Rage 2 that side-scrolling beat ’em ups since just haven’t been able to capture – not even Streets of Rage 3. If I had to put my finger on it I’d say it’s the pace.
Movement feels deliberate in Streets of Rage 2; every action you make feels like a strategic choice. Your inability to run isn’t restrictive, it’s actually freeing. It’s one less thing for you to consider, and why would you want to run, anyway? You’re supposed to be cleaning up the streets, not hurtling through them.
After playing Streets of Rage 4 at EGX last week, I’m happy to report that it recaptures the same Streets of Rage 2 magic. Honestly, I’d have been happy with a Streets of Rage sequel in any form, just because it indicates that SEGA still cares about the series. But Streets of Rage 4 is shaping up to be something special. I just know it.
I jumped into Stage 6 of Streets of Rage 4 alongside Kim. I took control of Axel, while Kim went for Blaze. The rest came naturally. Axel’s moveset remains pretty much unchanged from Streets of Rage 2, from his primary combo of punches and kicks, to his special rising uppercut. And the pacing is perfect, too. Streets of Rage 4 doesn’t feel sluggish, but you’re not dancing around the screen like a whirling dervish, either. Every action has to be considered. Space needs to be managed.
There are new elements introduced in Streets of Rage 4 that give it a little more depth, however, and some quality of life improvements. Picking up items is no longer tied to the attack button, for instance. Playing with an Xbox One controller, I was pleased to find that the B button was solely used for picking up any weapons laying on the ground, as well as foodstuffs and precious objects. It gives you peace of mind when fighting goons near a turkey that you’re not quite ready to consume just yet.
After using a special attack, players now also have a short period in which to regain some of the health expended on its use. Follow up a special attack with some additional hits and you’ll find it much less costly. Even more destructive super special attacks are now also available. Performed by pressing both the special attack and pickup buttons at the same time, they’re best used when you’re in a truly sticky situation.
Perhaps the most impactful change in Streets of Rage 4, however, is the ability to juggle your enemies, which really comes into its own when you’re playing in co-op. One player can launch an enemy into the air with a powerful attack, allowing another to follow up and cause even more damage. With the right moves, you can play a serious game of keepy-uppy with an unfortunate enemy, sapping their life bar in no time at all. You can’t exploit the system to make light work of bosses though. Stage 6 ended with a fight against Shiva, and his advanced skills allowed him to evade such traps. He also wasn’t a fan of being grabbed, breaking free unless I acted in an instant.
I walked away from playing Streets of Rage 4 elated. It looks great, sounds great and more importantly plays great. Streets of Rage is back, and it is better than ever. Using Streets of Rage 2 as a base, Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games and Dotemu are set to deliver a game that fans like me having been craving for years. All we need now is a release date.