For my money, there’s no better side-scrolling beat ‘em up series than the Streets of Rage trilogy developed for the Sega Genesis platform. The deep combat and excellent controls coupled with the outstanding soundtracks by famed composer Yuzo Koshiro are more than worth the price of admission, the first two titles in particular. They’re true classics and hold up by today’s standards. And speaking of that, after a lot of waiting we’re finally getting an official Streets of Rage sequel, announced 24 years after the last original console entry. What was the hold up and why did Sega, in its infinite wisdom, seemingly abandon the franchise only to embrace it now?
We may never know the true answers to those questions. However, if the rumors and reports throughout the years are true, some far more credible than others, there had been multiple attempts to bring the series back while Sega’s Saturn and Dreamcast consoles were being produced. These attempts failed, of course, but it’s interesting to look back and wonder what could have been, both good and bad.
Die Hard Arcade could have been Streets of Rage 4
Streets of Rage 4 was apparently Die Hard Arcade, a 3D Streets of Rage style game released in the arcades on Sega’s S-TV system in 1996-7 and later converted to the Saturn. This was rumoured to have been at one stage Streets of Rage 4 before Sega decided against an arcade sequel.
This rumor is pretty flimsy due to lack of hard evidence, but it’s plausible. While the move to an arcade sequel after being a Sega console and handheld exclusive franchise may seem bold at first, the fact that it was being developed on S-TV hardware implies a strategy. S-TV hardware specs are based off of Sega Saturn, similar to System 11 hardware based off of Sony PlayStation. Releasing for S-TV first could have helped Sega distribute more arcade units throughout the world (Like Saturn, it was far more popular in Japan than the west) and given it a popular arcade perfect exclusive for Saturn. Or maybe I’m giving Sega too much credit.
Is Die Hard Arcade worthy of the Streets of Rage name? While a competent brawler and responsible, in part, for bringing back quick-time events, I would not consider this or its sequel, Dynamite Cop, to be in the same league as previous entries in the Streets series. It’s not bad by any means, especially if you’re a genre enthusiast, but the full package is lacking in comparison to Streets of Rage’s pedigree.
Fighting Force was originally intended to be Streets of Rage 4, a Sega Saturn exclusive
Core Design had originally intended Fighting Force to be titled Streets of Rage 4, being pitched to Sega as a sequel to Streets of Rage 3. However, during development there was a change of plan, and the group decided it would be more worthwhile to create a multi-platform game. Predictably, this caused Sega to demand the Steets of Rage trademark be removed, and so the game was renamed Fighting Force.
Core Design has made some incredible contributions to gaming, and that can never be taken away. That said, the series really dodged a bullet if this well-circulated rumor is true. While I haven’t played Fighting Force or its sequel in some time, I don’t recall either being particularly good. While the first game received mixed reviews upon release, I imagine Fighting Force and its sequel haven’t improved with age. You couldn’t force me to play either game now and I’d fight you if you tried.
While apparently pitched as a Sega Saturn exclusive, it would never be released on Sega’s troubled console. But that doesn’t mean you can’t watch the tech demo:
Sega considered developing Streets of Rage 4 for Dreamcast
Streets of Rage 4 appeared very early in the Dreamcast’s lifespan, being presented as a technical demo. It shows the protagonist from the first three games, Axel walking and fighting various enemies, both from a classic side-on perspective and a first person view. Much of the demo is unfinished, and it is assumed the project was scrapped shortly after being shown.
Sega was firing on all cylinders creatively during the abbreviated Dreamcast era. This was Sega’s redemption console and it seemed open to mining its extensive back catalog for potential sequels on its 128-bit monster. A tech demo for Streets of Rage 4 was produced and apparently rejected by Sega. View the footage:
I imagine a completed game would resemble something similar to Dynamite Cop or Zombie Revenge, both similar to what the developers seemed to be aiming for here.
While there isn’t much known about the Dreamcast version’s development, famed composer Yuzo Koshiro claims Sega approached him about producing the soundtrack. Enthusiast site Destructoid caught up to Koshiro back in 2013 and asked him about the possibility of Streets of Rage 4.
He explained to us that he was contacted about the project about ten years ago, at which point the team made a prototype that was subsequently rejected by Sega, and he hasn’t heard any rumblings about it since.
I took the opportunity to ask him what kind of soundtrack he would envision for a new Streets of Rage game if it were to be made, to which he responded, “Modern club music,” but more emotionally varied than the high-speed trance music found in the street racing Wangan Midnight franchise.
This is interesting, although it’s worth pointing out the timing is off by several years if he’s referring to the Dreamcast version. Sega was completely out of the console race by 2003 and wouldn’t have actively been producing new Dreamcast games at that time. Although, the only known prototype for Streets of Rage 4 was produced for Dreamcast, and he would only be off by a few years. Is this a case of bad memory or a hint at yet another Streets of Rage 4 attempt?
While answering that question may be fun for historians and Streets of Rage fans, it’s largely irrelevant now. The rumors are over as are the false starts. We’re getting a new Streets of Rage, and that’s a great thing, assuming it’s actually worth the wait.