It had been over 25 years since the last Streets of Rage hit Sega Megadrive in 1994, but Streets of Rage 4 managed the retro remake tightrope balancing act of feeling both familiar and fresh. No mean feat, considering all of three studios – Dotemu, Lizardcube and Guard Crush Games – collaborated on the game.
"We definitely felt some pressure but we were confident about our decisions as they seemed in line with what fans expected from the beginning," Cyrille Lagarigue, Main Programmer at Guard Crush Games, told DailyBits.
"Even if we knew where we were going, these games mean so much to so many people that I think the expectations were high from the moment we announced the game," added Ben Fiquet, Art Director and CEO at Lizardcube. "Being able to do a proper follow-up to the license in the hearts of the fans is actually what I hold dear."
The developers also learned a lot of lessons during development, lessons that are reflected in the upcoming DLC Mr. X Nightmare.
"I underestimated how important positioning was in a Beat ‘Em Up game," said Jordi Asensio, Lead Game Designer at GCG. "I knew it was important but I didn't know it was the fundamental of almost all gameplay elements."
"Level design for a Beat 'Em Up is hard; it has to be properly paced and always bring something new and interesting," added Lagarigue. "I would prioritize that sooner in production."
Streets of Rage 4 earned critical acclaim, and sports a Metacritic score around 85% on all platforms. The developers hope that the DLC can help push that score even higher, since it both improves the game and shows that they are more inspired than ever.
"We noticed that the depth of the gameplay was not obvious for a lot of players, so we added a training mode to make that more accessible," said Lagarigue, who admits they also shelved original plans to include Survival Mode from launch, instead integrating it into the DLC.
"It had so much potential that we thought it was a shame to not have the time to work on it more, and it was better to polish the game's campaign as much as possible, so it was decided to offer it as a DLC, so we could put almost a year of development on it!"
The DLC comes in two flavours: A free update for all customers, and a premium offering for players who just want more. Why give away the goods? The developers wanted to reward early adopters for helping make Streets of Rage 4 a success.
"It made sense to add as a free update all the content that a first time player should have access to, including the training mode and color customisation," added Lagarigue. "What is included in the paid DLC is only the new content, for those that like the game and want more content."
Streets of Rage 4 has excellent character design, and one of the most memorable characters is the boss Estel Aguirre, who hunts the players throughout the story. The DLC makes her playable, and she brings a new and very different fighting style to the eclectic mix already on offer.
"We tried something different with a grab stance," said Asensio. "Every character can vault over a grabbed enemy. Estel is more of an in-your-face character, so she doesn't vault over enemies but drags them to the other side with a firm clinch grab."
"She can also throw grenades and use knives better. She even spawns a combat knife with one of her star moves. So the character has a quite unique feeling."
Fighting game series are notorious for guest characters, with Mortal Kombat featuring a rogues' gallery of horror movie heroes and villains, while Soul Calibur has featured Star Wars crossovers. Could Streets of Rage do something similar?
"[…] My favorite would be Terry Bogard from Fatal Fury. I want to Power Geyser punks in the street," said Asensio.
"I think Ichiban Kasuga, the protagonist of Sega's latest Yakuza entry," added Fiquet. "He would definitely fit perfectly."
"Son Goku from Dragon Ball, because it would not make any sense, but probably be fun," said Lagarigue.
Streets of Rage has now been revived for a new generation of players. How will the developers carry on the torch from here? Imbert says there are no plans for a sequel or further DLC at the moment, the teams still have lots of ideas for features they know would make the game even better.
"A battlefield mode where you can play with 100 players at the same time," revealed Lagarigue. "It would require more than two years of development for a full team!"
"We cannot wait to see how people react to the DLC, maybe it will give us some ideas, who knows.”