They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, I don’t know who “they” are, but those people clearly didn’t play Streets of Rage 4 and Windjammers 2 at PAX East. Dotemu came to Boston with some of the most impressive titles on the show floor.
As a personal fan of both franchises, I have been beside myself with the fact new sequels are coming out. After some hands-on time and speaking with the developers, I came away very impressed and optimistic.
Starting with Streets of Rage 4, I played as the red hot badass Blaze while my partner went with Axel. These are the only characters revealed so far, but recent teases hint at a teenage Skate and possibly Roo making it in. Speculation aside, Axel and Blaze both looked great in the new hand-drawn animated style. Even the familiar street punks look better than ever compared to their Genesis roots. That’s coming from a proponent of pixelated graphics.
The classic beat ’em up action was there and felt super smooth to boot. Our heroes may have aged, but their old moves still hit as hard as ever. A new mechanic at play is that your health still goes down for using special moves, but can recover over time. If you’re a Street Fighter fan, think of this like grey health. There were also “star moves” shown which can be built up over time or gaining a star item. These are super powerful moves that are great to use on groups of enemies or bosses.
Case in point, my co-op partner used Axel’s fire tornado star move to pop the boss high up in the air. This gave me time to position myself where they would fall and juggle with my own star move. It was a hype moment as well as a testament to the satisfying juggle mechanics in Streets of Rage 4.
Stock music and sound effects from Streets of Rage 2 were being used in this build. There has been no word confirming nor denying series music composer Yuzo Koshiro’s involvement in the soundtrack. However, I was told that the music will still retain the style fans have grown to love.
Although not as beloved, Windjammers 2 is no less fun than Streets of Rage 4. The original disc-throwing sports title got an unlikely resurgence which is what prompted this even unlikelier sequel.
My main question was on how Dotemu would make what I already considered a “perfect” game even better. The answer was to add more to the simplistic nature of what makes Windjammers so much fun without muddying the core concept.
One prime example of this was the addition of the jump shot. This is the move seen in the below trailer where your character jumps up and catches a lob to throw down. It’s the perfect counter to those tricky lob shots if you can see one coming. That’s paired with more power moves, being able to send that same power move back, and more.
The new hand-drawn animation in Windjammers 2 has to be mentioned also. It’s similar but different enough from the style used for Streets of Rage 4. There are some rough edges that need to be ironed out visually, but the idea is clear as day. It complements the fast and frenetic nature of the game very well so far.
One fun moment happened when speaking with the developers for both games. When asking about any potential cameos (Streets of Rage characters in Windjammers 2), they both started brainstorming adding the flying disc as a weapon in Streets of Rage 4. It was a brief moment of excitable energy that could potentially turn into something special come release.
Streets of Rage 4 and Windjammers 2 are both scheduled for 2019 releases. No platforms have been confirmed yet, but Switch seems all but guaranteed at this point.