Being Hopeful and Nostalgic About Streets of Rage 4

Bring back the kangaroo, cowards.

It was the summer of 1997. The Spice Girls were reigning in their second year, the PlayStation was selling incredibly well, and Microsoft was becoming a household name. During all this success, I was ill, bedridden for half the summer holiday. With the Sega Mega Drive in my bedroom, I was borrowing a game from a friend which I hadn’t had chance to play. For a whole week during my recovery, I started up Mega Games 2.

“Mega Games” was a compilation series for the Sega Mega Drive released only in Europe. This iteration had Golden Axe, The Revenge of Shinobi, and Streets of Rage. Looking back, you couldn’t ask for a better collection.

Of course, all of them were incredible to play. But Streets of Rage had it all; the artwork, the level design, the gameplay, and the music were all top-notch. The sidescrolling beat-’em-up was the perfect blend of gameplay and style, handing me multiple interesting characters to toy with. With Streets of Rage 3, this included my all-time favorite: Roo, the boxing kangaroo. But because of that fateful week in 1997, the Streets of Rage series remains a dear favorite of mine today.

As the years went by, I’d come across its two sequels, alongside reading about efforts for a sequel or, a reboot to appear on the Dreamcast. Nothing came of it.

Sega Retro, a great online resource of games from the late-90’s Sega generation, still holds footage of the tech-demo from 1999. The absence of this fourth Streets of Rage has left me heartbroken for almost two decades.

That is until August, when the news broke that DotEmu are developing Streets of Rage 4. The original logo’s even there! I was in awe and unaware of myself, as my partner asked why I was jumping on the bed.

From the trailer, the graphics give the impression of an animated, pixelated crossover. That’s already promising, but the gameplay seems reminiscent of the first entry, alongside the return of characters Axl Stone and Blaze Fielding. Help, I’m dead.

But as I thought of other entries being revived, I wondered: if I was in charge of Streets of Rage 4, what would I do? The number four has been tainted in recent years, with the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 in 2010, or even Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008.

With a return to form like Sonic Mania, there has been some restored faith in the dreaded fourth entry. We’ve gotten good glimpses at how developers can enhance a series and bring in fans to help make it something even better.

As such, it can be interesting look at the cut content of the first three Streets of Rage games. When procrastinating, I take peeks at The Cutting Room Floor, a wiki site that documents every lone object or palette that you don’t see in the final version of a game. Or if any prototypes find their way out of a vault, they’re recorded. The Streets of Rage 3 page, for instance, shows a few documented cut levels. This motorcycle stage is an interesting example of this.

It would be great to see this rebuilt, perhaps with a rideable motorcycle this time. Shinobi III had a similar stage where you rode a horse; you could see the enemies run in the background then appear at the forefront to try to attack you. That idea could work spectacularly in Streets of Rage 4.

There are also some secret characters, especially in Streets of Rage 3. These were unlocked by beating enemies in a certain order, or pressing a button before a round begins. Even unlocking characters felt fresh rather than completing the game a certain amount of times. It’d be great if Streets of Rage 4 included encore of characters from the past three entries, especially if four-player multiplayer is a thing. In all honesty though, I just want Roo to return again.

The original Streets of Rage featured a different special attack than the other two entries. By pressing A, a police car would appear, then bombard the on-screen enemies with a rocket launcher. Thanks to modern consoles and touchscreen devices, the franchise can use more than a measly three buttons. I’d love to see the return of special attacks and combo attacks. It’d be awesome to see characters do a team-special move in a theoretical multiplayer co-op, too.

But addressing the Kangaroo in the room, the series is most memorable because of its music, composed by Yuzo Koshiro. My vinyl of Streets of Rage 2 sounds incredible, bought from DataDiscs where the soundtrack has been extracted. I even use a snippet in the opening theme of my podcast, The Outpost Show.

Sonic Mania had Tee Lopes, a fan of Sonic’s music, take on the soundtrack. By reformatting old favorites, he created memorable new tracks, such as Mirage Saloon and Press Garden.

While most fans would love to see Koshiro return, it’d be interesting to see a meet in the middle and have Lopes and Koshiro collaborate.

Overall, I’m just happy that Streets of Rage 4 is real. It’s happening, it’s in development, and it reinforces the fact that nostalgia can work as a development motivator. Companies like SEGA, Sony and Nintendo seem to be realising this in their own unique ways. Though DotEmu has yet to talk release platforms, I hope to buy this for Switch. That’s mainly because Sega Mega Drive Classics releases in December, and includes all three Streets of Rage titles.

It’d be perfect to round out my Switch collection with the fourth installment, which DotEmu have dated for next year. With nostalgia still an incredibly valuable commodity in the industry, it’ll be fascinating to witness the return of Streets of Rage.

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