App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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The question you have to ask yourself before you consider buying Streets of Rage 4 for iOS is whether or not you're ok dealing with the same issues that seem unavoidable for 2D brawlers. If the answer is yes, this game is likely the definitive beat 'em up experience you can get on the App Store. Just know that for all it gets right, the game still comes with all of the control challenges you can expect from trying to navigate and fight with 2D characters in 3D spaces.
If you're at all familiar with the lineage of the Streets of Rage series, then you know that Streets of Rage 4 is a long-awaited sequel to a beloved series of titles that last released on the Sega Genesis back in the 90s. A big part of these games' popularity had to do with their style and music on top of the way they played.
Fast-forward to now, and Streets of Rage 4 really tries to stay true the series lineage, offering fairly straightforward and competent gameplay wrapped in a really stylish and slick-looking package. I'm not sure the overall aesthetic feels as in-tune with any particular subcultures in the ways that the previous games were, but the distinct style it has avoids relying too much on nostalgia which helps it stand on its own merits.
As for the game itself, Streets of Rage 4 is perhaps the most complete and balanced brawler I have encountered. From the very start of picking your character and playing through the first stage, you encounter a level of variety and balance that puts most other beat 'em ups to shame. Although later levels definitely run a little dry on new enemies or situations to put you in, the mixing and matching of what you've previously encountered makes for satisfying combat challenges that still feel novel.
On iOS, mastering combos via touch can be challenging at first, though I found myself perfectly capable of completing the game on its default difficulty without having to use a controller or any of the game's built-in assists you can turn on to make the game easier. The port itself looks incredible and includes a bunch of fun and useful customization options, ranging between scaling and moving the touch UI to turning on video filters to make the game look like it might have back in the 90s.
I can't think of an action brawler on iOS that really rivals the amount of depth and variety as Streets of Rage 4, but that doesn't mean the game is able to sidestep some of the genre's most irritating and endemic issues. As with seemingly all games of this ilk, it's difficult to tell when you are actually lined up with enemies and vice versa, which can lead to irritating defeats.
There's nothing worse than getting countered by a basic enemy because you thought you were about to tear into them only to find yourself punching air and leaving yourself exposed. Streets of Rage 4 somewhat exacerbates this issue by limiting the amount of lives you get to clear levels, as missing enemies due to perspective can very well be the cause of you having to retry an entire stage from the beginning. In fairness, this kind of perspective trouble just seems unavoidable for anyone making games in this style, but it's still worth pointing out that this continues to be an unsolved problem here.
The bottom line
Streets of Rage 4 is a stylish and satisfying brawler that does just about everything you can do with brawlers better than the competition. It is still very much one of those games though, so don't go in expecting something revelatory. The best news about Streets of Rage 4 is it hits iOS in a completely uncompromised form, allowing you to carry around an incredible beat 'em up and whip it out just about anywhere.