In the past if I have developed an obsession with a game I’ve tried to hold off on binging the entire thing in one sitting, I’m a grown ass man, I’m better than that. Obvious exceptions have been made for franchises that give me immeasurable nerd boners, like Star Wars, or anything with a Viking or 2 in. Overall though I take pride in my ability to limit myself and get the most joy out of things. Then along came Streets of Rage 4.
Now I’ll get it out in the open off the bat, I never played the other Streets of Rage games, arcade beat em ups weren’t a big part of my life, in fact the only one I remember playing religiously was Turtles in Time (which we can all agree was fucking rad right). Streets of Rage 4 wasn’t even on my radar, it passed me by like a submarine passing a under a kid in a turtle floatie at the beach. Out of no where Luke came to me telling me the game was available on Xbox game pass and I should download it, so we could play together. Luke suggests games a lot so normally I download them, and we play maybe one game then never talk about it again, but there was something about the way he talked about this one. Like an excitable kid at Christmas, He chattered away about his fond memories of the series and how he loved that leading man Axel Stone shared his last name (pretty vain but then I remembered that I make every create a character look just like me sooooo). Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I downloaded this updated beat em up and we both set to work.
Immediately I was taken in by the colours, style and banging synth soundtrack! The title screen alone got me hype as hell! Getting into the game Luke obviously went with veteran boy Axel Stone while I brought in the new blood (apparently) Floyd, a man who looks like a cross between Dwayne Johnson and Jax from Mortal Kombat. Almost from the get go I was making mistakes, having not looked at any tutorials and just jumping right in, I started firing off special moves like a super powered machine gun without realising that each one siphoned off my health! After this rampage of sacrificial power, I realised my mistake and started to be, if anything, too frugal with the special moves. We trudged on through the various levels, from the synonymous streets all the way to the villain’s sweet high rise. The road was paved with the bodies of our defeated foes, some beaten to death, others knocked out by lead pipes thrown willy nilly by the pair of us, bins were beaten open to retrieve the delicious health restoring chicken or bags of cash money within and me and my tag team partner laughing the whole time. Most of the laughter came from Luke, in his infinite wisdom, leaving the friendly fire on, leading to more than a few moments of us accidentally laying the hurt on one and other while our foes watched.
It was an addiction, we played non stop for about 3 hours, and being a short arcade beat em up this was all we needed, watching the credits roll the haze broke and I realised what had just happened, like a drunk waking up from the night before, I’d just beaten a game in one sitting and loved every second of it. The art, action and soundtrack all came together and kept me engaged and distracted for the run and as a bonding exercise men and Luke had a whale of a time throwing hands and dragon punching fools into new week. Finishing the title had extra significance to my co-op partner too, as immediately after the credits ended we both unlocked the original Axel Stone in all his pixelated glory! This wasn’t a hard game to finish in a single run and I’m more than confident that everyone who plays this title will do the same, it’s the draw of an arcade game, they are built from the ground up to be played continuously and reward you for doing just that with a smooth experience from start to finish.