Emerging 24 years after the last game in the series, Streets of Rage 4 is being made by Lizard Cube and Guard Crush Games. A lot has happened in the time since Streets of Rage 3. The genre has naturally evolved into games like The Warriors and the Yakuza series. Digital platforms have allowed small independant studios to create their own riffs on the formula – Guard Crush Games’ Streets of Fury, for example. Streets of Rage 4 will have to establish itself in a world that has moved fast, and a genre that has blossomed into a broad church. The long-awaited sequel will need to keep an eye out for these games if it wants to win over new and old fans alike.
Streets of Beige
This charming little game from developer Fiddlesticks, who made 2016’s Hue, saw the themes of colour and town planning combine in a furious, beautiful medley. There were no hordes of enemies to take out your anger on, only the grim reality of urban decay. The streets of Dulux City must be coloured with your paint-soaked fists. Who would have thought a non-violent variant of Sega’s classic would have caught on as much as it did? Streets of Beige won us over not only in its fluid movement and expressive martial arts, but in the hopeful beauty of its world. From what we’ve seen of Streets of Rage 4, the art is looking pretty sumptuous – is it fair to say that those boys down at Lizard Cube haven’t already taken some inspiration?
Sheets of Rage
This one came out of left field. Nobody expected iNiS, the developer behind Elite Beat Agents to get busy with a rhythm-action nod and wink to the scrolling beat ‘em up – but by christ that’s just what happened. Sheets of Rage married the feverish dexterity demanded of the rhythm-action hardcore, with the bollocks-bursting violence of Streets of Rage. Interestingly, there were signs that Sega wanted a similar thing with Streets of Rage 3:, Yuzo Koshiro’s score leant bizarrely toward ‘90s rave music, soaking its violence in a spasmodic rhythm all its own. (Perhaps Streets of Rage 4 should steer clear of Sheets of Rage actually.)
Tweets of Rage
A game by StudioMDHR, the makers of Cuphead, Tweets of Rage was a curious project from day one. Arguably an outrageous infringement of copyright, it cast players as an anthropomorphic version of Twitter’s blue bird. The task at hand: cleaning up the internet of bastards one peck and thump at a time. One of the reasons I keep going back to Tweets of Rage is for the unexpected complexity of its avian brawling – to say nothing of the delight of its animation. The reason most folk fell for it in the first place was its artistry and theme: When you really think about it, is the internet not truly the streets of our time?
Elites of the Stage
A curious beast, Elites of the Stage was developed by Sketchy Logic, who made Aviary Attorney. That studio’s bold artistic style married their Phoenix Wright influence with a 19th Century newsprint aesthetic, and with Elites of the Stage, they dipped their fists into the beat ‘em up genre. The game saw a young thespian wannabe thump his way to the West End, headbutting obnoxious casting agents, dropkicking critics, and piledriving pundits. The real stroke of genius came when you made it on stage, and the final ‘boss fight’ was in fact a full on rendition of Hamlet’s fateful soliloquy. I dunno… maybe Streets of Rage 4 should think about deconstructing the theatre scene?
Feats of Sage
A game as much in the mould of Cooking Mama and Overcooked as it was Streets of Rage. Feats of Sage cast players as a wise old chef, running a kitchen with his furious fists. The blend of culinary delight and extreme violence was an odd cocktail to get accustomed to, but when it took off, it really took off. One of the game’s best parts was taking out your foodie frustrations on your subordinates, hurling them into fridges, suplexing them into soup pots. Can the new Streets of Rage match this gem in terms of sheer creativity? The series always has had an affinity with turkey…
Bittersweets of Age
Developed and published by Broken Rules, the makers of Old Man’s Journey, Bittersweets of Age was a beautiful eye-opener of game. What this little charmer lacked in punching power (and it really did because its protagonist was 84 years old – a spiritual nod to an aged Axel) it made up for in emotional dropkicks. That trailer showed us a markedly more grizzled Axel, with a gruff beard and lines under his eyes; perhaps they are already going in this direction for Streets of Rage 4?