It may have taken 25 years, but this arcade beat 'em up is so much fun and so packed with excellent gameplay that it's a must have for any action fan. Like many other arcade games, Streets of Rage 4 is a good vs. evil tale that's incredibly easy to get into thanks to a simple control scheme that's incredibly deep. You only have a few buttons to pull off attacks, and you can button mash your way through some parts, but it's the timing and combo of button presses that unleash strong blows. Rage 4 even adds a risk/reward feature with its special offensive and defensive moves. These are incredibly powerful moves at the cost of some health from your character, but if you manage to strike enemies without getting hit, you can regain that lost energy. And while this is great as a single player game, it's even better as a multiplayer experience, where you and friends can take enemies on and juggle opponents in a destructive ballet of fists and feet. It's almost as good as the classic arcade machines without needing a roll of quarters to keep the fun going.
But speaking of arcades, the extra content that's been packed into this game shows just how much of a love letter Rage 4 is to the franchise and arcades in general. Arcade mode really tests the teamwork and skill of you and your friends removing the option to continue and only giving you a handful of lives. The Boss Rush is also a lot of fun, and lets you perfect your strategies against each boss, one after the other, until you complete the gauntlet or fall in battle. There's also plenty of galleries showing the development of characters, environments, and even how the developers managed to bring back some of the classic characters to this updated title. That's right – there are unlockable characters like Skate and even the pixelated versions of Axel and Blaze included, along with the options to revert the soundtrack to the classic 8-bit tunes and a CRT filter to present the grainy screen lines found on arcade cabinets. The biggest flaw here is that the Battle mode is pretty simple, and unless you're playing friends that have an opinion about who's really the best fighter of the bunch, you're not going to spend a lot of time here. But even this issue is surpassed by the newly added Mr. X Nightmare DLC, which adds randomly generated stages and challenges to players. As you clear a stage, you gain new bonus skills, such as adding poison or fire to your combo moves, or rockets as you launch a special attack. The more stages you clear, the more points you get, which will unlock new weapons, moves, and other items, all of which can be brought into the full game. What other game lets you move from a fighting arena to an 8-bit street and an aircraft carrier, all while tossing challenging fights at you as you level up your character? it breathes a ton of life, replayability, and depth into the gameplay, and makes it something you'll come back to over and over again. Other arcade games should take notes from this one, proving that there's plenty of life to be found in on these digital streets.