Series Reboots and Streets of Rage 4

Streets of Rage 4 was released about 3 weeks ago to positive reviews - surprisingly positive in my opinion. I was expecting the discussion around the game to be along the lines of “if you‘re a fan of the series, you’ll like this one, otherwise it's an easy pass.” Being fair, not all of the reviews were glowing, and the Bad End podcast crew was pretty critical of the game's design.

I expected that the general market has moved on from classic brawlers. I see this behavior in packages like the Capcom brawler collection that specifically packages these as retro games and are marketed as such without gameplay or design innovation. I see this in games such as _River City Girls_ which specifically references an old brawler's brand and game design, but also adds character progression and other light RPG concepts.

Along comes _Streets of Rage 4_ with no character progression, a relatively simple move and combo system (though one that is certainly evolved from prior SoR entries), a modern graphical presentation and art direction and somehow does it all quite well. I feel like this was a pretty conservative game and product design for a series that hasn't been active for 26 years.

As a big Streets of Rage fan, I also think they knocked it out of the park. The game does everything that I'd like a sequel to do.

  • - It updates the core mechanics while keeping them familiar. There is an explicit combo system this time that impacts score (and thus your extra lives). There is a great risk/reward mechanic with your special moves where you take recoverable damage every time you do one, but you lose it all if you take a hit.
  • - It adds modern UI and playability affordances. The game is balanced around saving progress and able to restart at the beginning of every level. I got a game over on the first level before I got to the first boss and was _delighted_.
  • - It slaps a fresh coat of paint on the graphics and music.
  • - There's tons of fun callbacks and references for old fans. There are Bare Knuckle cabinets, there are old characters to fight and play, and there is an art installation with a golden street turkey.
  • - It nicely obsoletes previous versions of the game by doing everything the older games do just generally better.
  • I recognize that I'm in the minority of the overall game-playing market as someone who has modern consoles sitting next to mini consoles and I regularly play both, but I'm still surprised how well the game both turned out and was welcomed. And perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised considering how well DotEMU's _Wonderboy_ update was received.

    Does _Streets of Rage 4_ show that there is a market and appetite for "obsoleted" game designs to be refreshed, or is this a one off? I'm specifically thinking of "new" games in long standing series and not remasters or remakes (such as the recent _Panzer Dragoon_ release).

    I‘m not sure if there is a big demand for sequel games made in “old design” styles, but I know that I personally enjoyed STREETS OF RAGE 4. I’d love to see more classic franchises continued on in that same vein.

    I didn't play KINGDOM HEARTS past the first one on PS2, but I've heard from many friends that KINGDOM HEARTS 3 has a "PS2-feel" to it, in terms of mechanics, environment design, etc. To me, it sounds like STREETS OF RAGE 4 was "made for the fans" in many of the same ways that KINGDOM HEARTS 3 was made for KH fans. There DEFINITELY was a market for that sequel.

    I don't really even care about updates to mechanics. Easter eggs for long-time fans and a modern UI, along with save states, are enough for me.

    In particular, I'd want to see a "classic feel" new entry for the APE ESCAPE franchise.

    I do think Streets of Rage 4 was “made for the fans” - music aside. I really am not a fan of the music myself, it tries to emulate the past in a way that doesn‘t do it for me, but I won’t get too far into it.

    I think the reason the mechanics are working better for people than (for example) river city girls, is because this went into things with more of a fighting game mentality. It's about spacing, exaggerated combos, and knowing your opponent. The fact each enemy has a slightly more sophisticated pattern, and that every character has their own combo style and the fact there's a combo meter at all just helps reinforce this stuff.

    I also think it's paced well, and introduces characters in a satisfying way, and in general seems to understand what people liked about the original. It does modernize things a bit, but not as much as I would've wanted to, which is the #1 reason I think it's "for the fans."

    I think a game like this would be much better with a block/face button, and it's weird how few of these games do that sort of thing. I was arguing in another thread that it's totally possible to make a good/interesting new brawler with nice mechanics, but I think it's tough to get noticed without a brand like Streets of Rage behind it. Maybe a Final Fight reboot is the only option for a new and more adventurous one of these!

    [edit]
    Oh, but your real question was whether this opens the door for more reboots. I'd say the answer is yes. Any time something is a success the door opens for more of that kind of thing. This appears to have sold well, which means someone else can use it as an example of why their game will sell well. We might see a couple more good ones then some more mediocre ones (or just unusual ones like Toki), and then the trend will disappear again. But like with movie remakes - if it works, people are gonna do it!

    @EverydayPatrick#1560 And now I want a new Ape Escape.

    @exodus#1561 A block button (or any kind of defensive design mechanic beyond walking up or down beyond a very ambiguous range to avoid an attack) would be a huge improvement for the series. That‘s an excellent observation. It’s just gotta implemented better than what was in Guilty Gear: Isuka.

    I mean conversely, I don't think anyone was happy with Disaster Report coming back. I get the sense there that the gameplay is pretty close to the old games, but that the tone is a departure.

    But I am all for more obsolete genre's or takes coming back. I feel like, there's something with some of the better stuff being the Sega throw backs. Their stewardship of their legacy is such a mess. Yet there is so much gold to mine in their back catalog. See Sonic Mania, Wonder Boy, and SoR4. I know Square was letting people play with their dead IPs (Fear Effect). I guess my hope is that there becomes more of this synergy of indie studios getting a boost by getting to play with IP people have some connection to. So yah know, somebody make a new Shinobi, or Eternal Champions, or Blood Omen style Legacy of Kain.

    I think another demonstration of this trend is the recent release of “old school” FPS on PC like Dusk, Amid Evil or Ion Fury. I guess the Doom reboot is a more extreme example although it goes well beyond the simple spiritual homage.

    My most played game of the past twelve months Tetris 99 is an interesting sequel as well. It’s the first game that really got me into Tetris. I am sure a lot of kids discover Tetris nowadays with Tetris 99 and wouldn’t know how old this game is ; Tetris 99 (along with Tetris Effect I guess?) is a good example of how differently we approach sequels of classic games compared to the N64 / PS1 era where everything relied on what 3D or physics should add to old concepts. It’s almost as if we did not trust the original mechanics back then.

    The game that truly broke ground that way, and probably made stuff like Tetris 99 possible, is Pac-Man Championship Edition on the XBLA. It had the right dev, the right approach, the right pricing and the right delivery method.

    Another striking example of this, although much more mainstream, was 2006’s New Super Mario Bros. The title said it all, but the entire premise and design and marketing campaign of the original game was intended to evoke the memory of playing the original Super Mario Bros two decades earlier. Then it somehow turned into its own subseries.

    I don’t really know where I was going with this rambling, but we are going to see more of these for sure. Windjammers 2 is coming this year, for a start.

    I guess you could also call the new Tony Hawk 1+2 remake a reboot of sorts - it‘s not a sequel per se, but it’s a remix for sure, and shows how western properties might do something like this. I guess we don‘t often consider remasters to be a part of that, but in this case, with the new “old skater” models and all it does feel like they’re recasting the series in a different light.

    “Bare Knuckle IV”/“Streets of Rage 4” does a lot of tasks right and a few flat out wrong. Okay, the good parts. Thank goodness they respected Koshiro Ayano-san‘s wish of not placing in moe as much as I like them. This is “Bare Knuckle”/“Streets of Rage”, not “Streets of Kyun”. Another part the new crew did right is being able to choose between the new tracks and the old school tracks, and I love how the unused tracks from “2” are used here, as I asked Koshiro Yuuzou-san on Twitter if he can somehow add the unused tracks somewhere because those are good tracks that can’t be wasted. The story‘s there, though incorporating music is brilliant. Even though I still prefer Ayano-san’s and Ariga Hitoshi-san‘s art, the art here’s not bad. The game has more control options than most games today, and this is very important because if I can‘t get the layout of my liking, there’s no point of playing the game, as I can get the same frustration by watching a sports rival team win. The familiar mechanics are there, and you also have a new wrinkle or two such as a separate pickup button and the return of the old characters.

    The bad parts. I don't like the grading system, as it feels like a waste of space. There are parts of the game the structure feels off, and a critical example of the flaw is the chicken/whole bar food item not being there for every player before or during a boss fight. An addition that I like is Donovan and his clones being able to pick up weapons (don't recall this mechanism being in "2" or "3"), but I'll forever hate the super armor on the enemies. The worst part of the game is that while "2" feels settling challenging for the lack of a better phrase, "4" feels as one of my brothers said, "annoying challenging", and this is the case on the normal difficulty. The final boss scenario so screams SNK Boss Syndrome, it felt like hearing ("Azumanga") Yomi sing to be flat out blunt.

    To answer the question of "Is there room for revived series sequels?" there is if the project's done right. Is this project done right? I suppose, though I can't say or type the response convincingly. Maybe with the removal of super armor, I can, but I can only bring out the response with a thud, not a bang.