One of the bigger announcements before PAX West arguably was that Windjammers 2 is being made. Having a brand new sequel to a game that originally was released 24 years ago just isn’t common. However, Dotemu seems to want to buck that trend.
Merely a week later, it was revealed that Dotemu was also working on Streets of Rage 4. This was another sequel 24 years in the making since Streets of Rage 3. As giddy as I was for a new Windjammers, the latest entry in Sega’s brawler franchise sparked even more excitement. Not only that, Dotemu showed off both titles to press during PAX West. As a major fan of both properties, I couldn’t have been more psyched to get my hands on both of them.
Starting with Windjammers 2, it was pretty clear how early the game was in development. We had access to only a couple of characters — the prototypical power male and speedy female. The character select screen hinted at the return of old favorites and new frisbee-chuckers alike. The fresh animated style already was looking impressive in its early state, and the gameplay was as timeless as before.
My sessions with one of the developers had me victorious with previous experience. I was not prepared for the reveal of new EX moves, though, which evened our series. Making big plays from throwing tricky shots to parrying incoming discs rewards meter that goes towards making these powerful throws.
Streets of Rage 4
My appointment with Dotemu eventually led to what would be the main course — Streets of Rage 4. This is a game I’ve been waiting for since hearing about the Dreamcast tech demo almost 20 years ago. Now in front of me in 2018 was a project I never thought possible.
Like Windjammers 2, Streets of Rage 4 sports a modern coat of paint that hides the same type of gameplay classic fans love. Series staples Axel and Blaze were available in their modern redesigns. Their move sets were largely the same with a few additions. My time as Axel had me discover a jumping double kick that was good for initiating combat. Ultimately, however, this is a brawler that rewards good positioning and making the right moves against the proper enemies. In other words, the heart of the older games remains intact.
There were familiar faces such as the pink-mohawked, yellow jacket punks and fat, baseball cap-wearing guys. Also familiar were the music and sound effects, since the ones in Streets of Rage 2 were used for this early build. This along with special moves and the inability to dash told me how much the second game in the series will be an influence here. Although one improvement here is that special moves deplete replenishable health, which encourages their usage a lot more.
It’s clear how much Dotemu has grown from their simple porting days. The company has moved on to not only revive older titles in fresh ways but now to expand them. After having followed their history for the past few years, I can’t imagine anyone else handling these sequels.
Although Windjammers 2 is confirmed for Nintendo Switch, Streets of Rage 4 is not at this time. Judging by my talk with the developers and their previous releases, however, it’s a safe bet we’ll be hitting the streets with our Switches soon enough.
David has been involved in games media since 2012 running his own blog, YouTube channel, being a founding member of RETRO Magazine, and now as host/producer of ARGcast – Another Retro Gaming Podcast. He also dabbles in voiceover and is occasionally a stunt double for Jude Law.