Streets of Rage 4/Development
From Sega Retro
- Back to: Streets of Rage 4.
|Streets of Rage 4 development|
|Missed release date(s): 2019?|
After the critical success of the remake of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap by Lizardcube in 2017, Lizardcube and Dotemu asked Sega Japan to trust them with another IP from the Mega Drive era, in particular the revival of Streets of Rage. The deal concluded successfully with the production starting early 2018 for two years and a half. As they didn't have any experience in doing beat-em-up games, Lizardcube on art direction joined forces again with Dotemu (Windjammers 2), this time for game design and production and not just a digital publication, and with Guard Crush Games to provide an improved version of their engine used in their 2009 game, Streets of Fury, and its extended edition in 2015.
It looks like Jordi Asensio, co-founder of Guard Crush Games, was instrumental in the actual inception of this project. Before getting involved with Dotemu, he tried to contact Yuzo Koshiro 古代 祐三 to kickstart the project and then talked about this idea to people at Lizardcube at an indie event. With those contacts, he realized that the desire to produce the game was there from both parties. After a while, he got engaged at Dotemu to work on Windjammers 2 and got the word from Omar Cornut, co-founder of Lizardcube, that the negotiations with Sega on a new Streets of Rage were ongoing and about to be settled. Asensio then involved his old teammates at Guard Crush Games to present a proof of concept based on their beat'em up engine, which obviously got the approval from Lizardcube and Dotemu. The deal finally got settled with Sega Japan after workshops based on demonstrations using the Guard Crush Engine.
Ben Fiquet, CEO of Lizardcube, also partly corroborated those facts. At the release party of Wonder Boy in April 2017, he talked Cyrille Imbert, CEO of Dotemu, into reviving the Streets of Rage franchise. During the development of Wonder Boy, Cornut was the programming driving force behind and, as he went back to its personal projects right after the game's release, he wasn't available to work on the same kind of remake for Streets of Rage 2. That's why Fiquet proposed to go for a new iteration in the franchise instead, without much hope. This project still got Imbert interested and, as the publisher, he then tried to pitch for Sega involvement anyway at first with preproduction materials provided by Fiquet, an attempt that surprisingly succeeded.
Artistic direction was once again led by Ben Fiquet along with Julian Nguyen You as the background artist. They decided to set the story of the new game 10 years after the last episode because the fans have grown up since and the whole thing with young, fiery kids in the streets wasn't working any longer with the way the fans are now. This also gave more leeways to re-imagining the old characters, which have all been hand-drawn frame per frame as 2D art, a very time-consuming process requiring about 1,000 frames for each playable character and 300 to 400 frames for each enemy. One of the new characters, policewoman Estel, has been inspired by a real policewoman that did a strong impression on Ben Fiquet when she broke into his building once for an operation she was in charge, along 2 ripped male partners. Some backgrounds are inspired by real places:
- The encounter with the first boss Diva is set at a place looking like the Viaduc des Arts, in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, France.
- The backyard where we meet the fifth boss Barbon seems to be set next to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA.
- The stage map displays a Manhattan look-alike island.
For the sound aspects, the studios contracted early with Olivier Derivière, who quickly convinced the development teams to integrate an adaptive soundtrack, similarly to his work on several other video games (A Plague Tale: Innocence, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Dying Light 2). He mostly tried to do a continuation of the musical trend impulsed by the original SoR trilogy by incorporating the 25 years of club music between 1995 and 2020 into Streets of Rage 4, which also meant giving some dubstep coloring to the game soundtrack due to its strong popularity during the 2000s and early 2010s despite being largely out of fashion by 2020. It could also be because the sound work of Yuzo Koshiro on the original SoR trilogy heavily influenced some artists at the origin of the dubstep musical trend. The cinematic tracks were in the hands of another French composer, Henri-Pierre Pellegrin a.k.a. H-Pi (TrackMania, Pro Cycling Manager 2014, Styx: Master of Shadows). The studios first reached out and met Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima 川島 基宏 the day after their concert Diggin' In The Carts in Paris on 27 September 2018, and successfully contracted for their participation in the game soundtrack through the company Brave Wave Productions after they both could try a demo of the game in June 2019 at BitSummit in Kyoto, an indie game showcase in Japan. Brave Wave Productions also gave the opportunity to have other legendary Japanese guests like Yoko Shimomura 下村 陽子 from Street Fighter II, Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy XV fame, Keiji Yamagishi 山岸 継司, well known for Ninja Gaiden, Tecmo Bowl, and Captain Tsubasa Vol. I & II, and Harumi Fujita 藤田 晴美 who worked on Ghosts 'n Goblins, Strider and Final Fight. This all-star sound team is completed by other guests from North America, contracted through the company Mutant Ninja Records: David Scatliffe a.k.a. Scattle (Hotline Miami 1 & 2, Furi, Super Meat Boy - console versions), Matthew T. Hudgins a.k.a. XL Middleton, Cristóbal Cortes a.k.a. Das Mörtal (Hotline Miami 2) and Jasper Patterson a.k.a. Groundislava (several VGM remixes).
With this many artists contributing to the game score, specific assignments were decided early to avoid having musical tracks completely out of tune with each other. So, Derivière was the main composer creating tracks for the different levels with each guest composing the track for a particular boss, giving to bosses different personalities and unique moments. But Koshiro's creations remain the link between all the parts:
- Players are welcomed in the game with a musical introduction and menu tracks by Koshiro,
- The first level starts with a track by Koshiro, leading to the first track by Derivière,
- Each level ends with a track by Koshiro,
- The game ends with compositions by Koshiro.
In a more subtle way, Kawashima's tunes also pervade the whole game.
The game also offers an option to use the classic soundtrack to replace the modern adaptative soundtrack. However, the 3 studios only got the rights on the soundtracks of Mega Drive SoR2 and Game Gear SoR, leading to a bit erratic experience.
Several ideas have been scrapped during the development process:
- They wanted to include a level riding a motorcycle between the levels Underground and Chinatown but doing such a stage would have required to develop specific features and spend several weeks/months of development for a very short experience in the game. So, they decided to concentrate on the truly important aspects of the game.
- They didn't bring Skate back into the story because an adult Skate would be too close to Adam in terms of gameplay. As Adam was an obvious must-have in the game, they left Skate out, and more so with Cherry to balance the roaster.
- They had planned a cameo for Skate but they didn't want to commit to a character design without thinking of his gameplay potential as they knew that people would want to play him. So, this is the second reason for leaving him out this time.
- They didn't make a 4-player online co-op because it would have delayed the game too much, especially as it was a simultaneous multi-platform release. Also, this would have made matchmaking more complex. But on PC, a 4-player online co-op is still possible by using Steam's Remote Play.
- They tried to include cooperation moves like in SoR and SoR3 but they ended removing them because it was causing too many problems, especially when playing in co-op with 3 or 4 players.
This last idea has been revisited and finally implemented in the R08 major update of 10 March 2023.
Missed release date
Some in-game clues strongly suggest that the game was initially due for late 2019 to celebrate the 25th anniversary since the last iteration in the franchise:
- The main soundtrack of Stage 10, leading to the boss DJ K-Washi is called 25 Years Ago,
- Thig big food item can take the form of a big anniversary cake with the number 25 on top of it.
Indeed, Streets of Rage 3 has been released worldwide in 1994. A release for SoR4 in 2019 would have led to a gap of 25 years between those 2 episodes. With an actual release date in April 2020, the develoment team thus got a 4-6 months respite to finish SoR4 under this assumption.
This 25th anniversary cannot be about the whole franchise as the first episode was released worldwide in 1991, leading to an anniversary in 2016 while Lizardcube was still working on Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap.
- @BenFiquet on Twitter
- @BenFiquet on Twitter