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Dotemu @ PAX West: Streets of Rage 4 & Windjammers 2 Preview

/ Sep 7th, 2018 No Comments

Streets of Rage 4 preview

Holy $*%*! Dotemu came to PAX West to burn down the house.

After announcing the surprising sequel to Windjammers prior to PAX West, the retro-minded publisher announced the revival of Streets of Rage four days before the event. It was like Christmas came early.

What better way to spend my time at the show than being away from the show floor checking out both Streets of Rage 4 and Windjammers 2? Honestly, there is no better way to spend your time than throwing a virtual disc around or beating up some street toughs.

Time to Hit the Streets Again

As a young boy who grew up as a Genesis kid, Streets of Rage was my $*!t. My brother and I would spend hours playing it on the weekend after renting it from Blockbuster. We’d be glued to the living room TV trying to beat the game before school on Monday. Whether we beat it or we didn’t, we’d rent it again the next weekend because we were hooked. We repeated the process with each sequel until the Genesis became obsolete.

Now, Axel and Blaze are back.

It’s been years since their last crusade, but the streets are riddled with crime once again. If they want to take back the city, they are going to have to kick, punch and use deadly special attacks against the scum in an all-new adventure.

It is hard to describe how hard I geeked out when I watched that announcement trailer for Streets of Rage 4. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. What a force to make you feel like a boy again laying on your stomach in front of the TV playing a game you loved with your brother again? But why now? Why bring Streets of Rage back after 24 years?

Streets of Rage 4 preview

Axel and Blaze are back and better than ever!

When speaking with the people responsible for Streets of Rage 4, the answer was simple. Why not? However, it isn’t simply about making another Streets of Rage. Dotemu, Lizardcube and Guard Crush Games want to deliver what fans loved about the series but update it. It isn’t 1994 anymore, so why not give fans a new experience?

After playing the demo, Streets of Rage 4 isn’t throwing everything out. Characters still have their core combos, special attacks, throws, and friendly fire still remains. The combat feels right at home with what I played with my brother back when we were staying up past our bedtime. Yet, the controls are tighter. Melee strikes feel more visceral, specials feel more reliable, and throws feel devastating. It is the mechanics you love and remember, but tempered with much better controls and response time.

Streets of Rage 4 preview

You can recover health when using super moves by inflicting damage and avoiding getting hit.

What is new besides lush, vibrant hand-drawn graphics? The ability to juggle enemies and a cool recovery mechanic for special attacks. Juggling enemies is a huge game changer. It adds an immediate layer of depth to combat because you can do more combos to enemies if you juggle judiciously. More than that, it adds to the co-op strategy. If you and your friend are smart, you can juggle enemies back and forth to do some real damage.

In the original series, special attacks ate up your health. These powerful attacks were risky to use, but a great way to take out difficult enemies. Special attacks in Streets of Rage 4 still use up your health, but now you can recover that lost health without having to eat food. Lost health shows up as a green health bar next to your actual health bar. That greened out health can be recovered if you inflict damage on enemies and avoid taking damage. It is a good reward for strategic play.

Streets of Rage 4 is still very early in development. It was only announced on the Monday before I played it. Even still, what Dotemu showed off feels how you want it to feel for a Streets of Rage game, complete with returning enemies and some classic tunes remastered to match the beautiful new graphics.

Hype Up! Prepare to Jam!

My knowledge of Windjammers comes from watching Jeff Gerstmann and the Giant Bomb crew play hours of it in heated matches. I never got to play it when it came out as arcades were never my forte growing up. Dotemu blessed us when it ported the game to PS4, PS Vita and Nintendo Switch recently. Still my Windjammers skills were next to non-existent before I got to check out Windjammers 2.

Luckily, Windjammers gameplay is easy to pick up and the programmer for Windjammers 2 was extremely patient.

Windjammers 2 Preview

Windjammers 2 features HD graphics reminiscent of Udon’s Super Street Fighter II HD Remix.

A cool fact is Windjammers 2 retains all the core mechanics of the first game rebuilt faithfully by deconstructing the original code. Like Streets of Rage 4, Windjammers 2 aims to preserve what made the original great, but it isn’t too precious about adding in new mechanics and updating the experience.

Windjammers 2 is an intense and hectic experience where your goal is to score 13 points before your opponent by throwing a disc at their goal. You can trick your opponent with curved shots bounced off the walls of the court, done by using fighting game quarter circles. There are even more types of shots that you can use to get the edge on your opponent. Depending on where the disc is aimed, you can score 3 or 5 points per goal.

When you add in lobbed shots, you can disorient your opponent into making a mistake by dashing in the wrong direction. Missing a lob shot will cost you 2 points, a great humiliation. Lobs can cut both ways though because it gives your opponent an opportunity to use a charge shot that can be used to score an easy goal if you aren’t ready for it.

Windjammers 2 Preview

Windjammers 2 throws in EX Moves to further embarrass your opponent.

Dashing and EX moves round out your abilities, making something simple to pick up, yet endlessly deep. This is a one-on-one experience that tests your reflexes and your strategy. Planning your moves out to make your opponent screw up first is the key to success. There is no greater agony than dashing in the wrong direction and allowing your opponent to score an easy goal or missing a lob shot.

EX moves allow you to trip up your opponent by either blocking their vision or using a pre-programmed direction input to confuse him or her. Knowing when to use an EX move can help change the tide of a match.

Windjammers 2 is early in development as well. The demo only had two playable characters: one newer lady Jammer and the returning power house, K. Wessel. There still was enough there to tell it is on the right track to carry the torch.

Preserving the Legacy

Dotemu had one hell of a lineup for me to check out at PAX West. Hot off the heels of their back-to-back announcements of Streets of Rage 4 and Windjammers 2, I was lucky enough to get to play both. What became evident when playing each game and talking with the folks responsible for them is how much they care about their games.

The passion shone through for these two revivals of major licenses. There wasn’t an ounce of cynicism when discussing why they decided to bring back both Windjammers and Streets of Rage. It isn’t about a cheap nostalgia pop and cashing in on names that gamers remember; DotEmu wants to be a steward for these legacies, but it also wants to create what those experiences will be in modern day.
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Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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