It’s October 1993. I’m turning 9 years old. My birthday party, arranged by my mother, is being held at Discovery Zone. For those who don’t remember, Discovery Zone was sort of a more play-based version of Chuck E. Cheese. Less mouse mascots, more indoor zip-lines and ball pits to climb through. It’s pretty much exactly what a 10 year old would want.
That said, my real want at the time was a Sega Genesis.
Somehow, I’d almost completely missed owning a video game system as a child. Besides a secondhand Atari 2600 which didn’t do much to hold my attention, my only exposure to video games was through my relative’s Nintendo and Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems. I never had one of my own.
But lo, on that fateful birthday, I opened the gift wrapping from a large present from my mother, and there it was. The Sega Genesis. But not just any Genesis, it was the “Fighting System”, which at the time, included my hoped for Sonic the Hedgehog, a mail-in slip for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and some other game…Streets of Rage 2.
I was on cloud nine.
I came home that night, and after putting some time into Sonic the Hedgehog, which was as exciting and attitude-filled as the game promised, I decided to give this “Streets of Something” a shot.
And then I heard this music drop.
My 9-year-old brain absolutely melted.
Here was a game which played like the arcade brawlers I’d sunk quarters into at local mom-and-pop eateries (like Final Fight, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, and who can forget that massive X-Men cab?), but it was MINE. And that soundtrack. WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON.
This is a dopamine hit which I’ve spent my life, through to this very age trying to chase.
Now, literally 27 years later, I’m reliving all of these moments again, thanks to Streets of Rage 4.
Hitting PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PC this past Friday, I’ve put a few hours into the game, and while I’m recognizing how much my skills have atrophied, I’m pleased to say that the team at DotEmu have 100% delivered.
The game itself is beautiful, with high definition, hand illustrated frames for each fighter. The game play is as punishing as ever, and for better or for worse, the controls are almost 100% the same as before. They seem to have added some weapon tossing/catching mechanics, but…my kingdom for a double jump and a block! Maybe this is 35 year old me speaking instead of 9 year old me. But, I digress.
I’ve played both solo and, appropriately socially distanced online play (though I could do co-op in better times), and the game plays like a dream. This is what Streets of Rage was in my mind’s eye, even if some of those higher-resolution graphics have revealed how poorly I had connected the dots with some of the 16-bit pixel graphics back in ’93.
Simply put, if you’re gaming today, and you have that fondness for the Streets of Rage franchise, throw the money down. You’ll, even if just for a moment, feel that joy again. I know I did.
Oh, and as for the soundtrack this time around? Yep. Still rules.
Streets of Rage 4 is available now for Sony PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Xbox One and PC.