Possibly one of the biggest surprises this year has been Streets of Rage 4, and how well the developers — Dotemu, Lizardcube and Guard Crush Games — have managed to not only recapture the magic, but update the beat-’em-up formula to fit today’s modern gameplay advances.
With that in mind, we reached out to the Streets of Rage 4 devs to talk about their inspiration, the amazing art style they used for the game, what’s in store for them, and more! Here are the devs who took out of their time to answer our questions:
Cyrille Imbert, CEO and Executive Producer at Dotemu & The Arcade Crew
Jordi Asensio, Game Designer at Guard Crush Games
Ben Fiquet, CEO and Art Director at Lizardcube
Cyrille Lagarigue, Game Programmer & Designer at Guard Crush Games
Beausoleil “bo” Samson-Guillemette, Graphics & Tools Programmer at Guard Crush Games
MP1st: How did the process of getting approval from SEGA for the license came to be? Care to share that story?
Cyrille Imbert: The process was pretty simple actually. Once we had a solid pitch with the first artworks, I went to Tokyo and presented it in person to SEGA’s licensing department. They were very receptive and positive about the project, which was a good sign. A couple of months later, we managed to fine tune the last details and SEGA gave us their approval.
MP1st: Streets of Rage 4 has been reviewed very highly overall, has this reflected on the sales figures? Has the studios recouped their investments?
Cyrille Imbert: Quality has always had a huge impact on sales in our industry. If your game gets good reviews, it doesn’t mean it will necessarily sell super well, but if you have bad reviews then it’s certain that you’ll lose a lot of sales. In the case of SoR4, the teams did an outstanding job and the reviews from both players and journalists reflect that, which is great! That really helped for the word of mouth for sure, and we are super happy with the results. We’re hoping to share more details on that in the upcoming days.
MP1st: Are you planning on doing more sequels/remakes? Golden Axe is a franchise that some have thrown around when it comes to reviving beat-‘-em-ups. Has the studio thought of that or any existing IP?!!
Ben: Sequels and/or remake are actually great to work with. You can learn so much just by trying to replicate and enhance an older game. Of course, we always think of cool IPs to go on, but they have to matter to us personally before we really consider it.
Golden Axe is an amazing license. So are Landstalker and Shining Force, which I’d love to tackle. But at some point, maybe an original IP would be great too.
Jordi: Though I would love to work on any old school franchise, we have nothing planned at the moment. If we can, we hope to find more ways to support Streets of Rage 4.
Cyrille Imbert: Yes, we are currently working on Windjammers 2 and three unannounced projects similar to SoR4 and WJ2 (with different teams). So stay tuned!
MP1st: Is the studio looking to move on to next-gen development?
Ben: Lizardcube is making games, the platform matters not. Sometimes there are unique hardware features to take into account but overall, I hope to bring the games to whatever platform players are comfortable with.
Bo: Same goes for Guard Crush. We didn’t feel restrained when making SoR4. Sure there are some limits that we had to respect, but I’ve seen projects with much more constraint. We didn’t have to spend half our time counting cycles or chopping backgrounds into repeatable tiles. What I mean is, the game wouldn’t have been that much different on a next-gen platform. And I think it is a good thing. For some years now, the industry has looked at other, better ways to improve gaming platforms rather than only making them bigger and faster.
MP1st: What do you think can the PS5 and Xbox Series X offer that this gen can’t aside from upgraded visuals?
Bo: For one, loading times. With their powerful SSDs, it might finally be the return of instant-loadings like we had in the Genesis or SNES era. PS5 is also supposed to have very advanced audio. I don’t know if Xbox will have an equivalent, but it’s an area we often forget about, so it’s nice to see some advances there.
MP1st: As developers, why do you think Stadia has failed to take off?
Bo: I think it’s still too early to say it failed. I think there’s still a lot of potential for the idea of instant play, as well as not having to download and install a game. It could also allow for unlimited processing power, outclassing anything a normal person could buy. There’s also the social aspect, where you can transition from watching to playing games seamlessly. It’s a totally different beast compared to your regular console, so we’ll have to see how many gamers skip a new console in favor of Stadia.
MP1st: On the matter of local and online play, how important do you see these features being? Games rarely go the local route, so it’s pretty nice being able to play with someone right at home just like the old times.
Cyrille Lagarigue: Local play was a no brainer for a Streets of Rage game. It is a game that is played best on the couch with friends, and we tried to expand on this experience with an expanded battle mode as well as the 4 player mode to have kind of a party game experience.
MP1st: Are you guys already planning Streets of Rage 5?
Bo: Already during development there was stuff we’d push to a purely hypothetical SOR5. But from theoretical concepts to actually planning a project like that, that’s a leap we haven’t made.
Cyrille Lagarigue: It is far even from the planning phase, and we still have some work to do on SOR4.
Cyrille Imbert: As Bo and Cyrille said, there is nothing is planned for now.
MP1st: In our review we mentioned how beautiful and stunning the visuals are. We feel it was a natural evolution from the Pixel designs of before. Was this always the direction the team wanted to go with? Why go this route over others?
Ben: Thanks! First of all, I think the art style was not driven by what could be, but what we were strong at. Lizardcube is more capable of offering hand drawn art and animation than anything else. It also reflects a personal taste ; I wanted to see these characters that I love evolve in the way I pictured in my head as a kid.
And truthfully, I think it helps a lot of newcomers to appreciate an old license without the threshold of the established pixel art.
MP1st: How’s post-launch content looking? Is there a process where you look at the community’s feedback and go based on that, or is there an outlined plan the team has set?
Cyrille Lagarigue: We have had an idea about what sort of content we would want to add for some time now. When developing a game, you always have a lot of things you want to put in, but you have to be reasonable with the project’s scope … Now that the game is out, we’re considering how people play the game and the community’s feedback on social networks and tweaking our plans to steer potential added content toward what it seems people would want the most.
Jordi: I’m listening to feedback from players, and I watch livestreams everyday. We’ll make patches that take most of that feedback into account. We’re already working on a big balance patch as we speak.
We’d like to thank the fine folks over at Dotemu, Lizardcube, and Guard Crush Games for taking the time out to answer our questions. Streets of Rage 4 is out now for the PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.