In 2020, publisher Dotemu made dreams come true for countless fans of classic beat’ em up games. The release of Streets of Rage 4 marked the first entry in twenty-six years for the series, a long time for a video game franchise to lay dormant. Long enough, in fact, that fans had grown impatient and began creating their own unofficial follow-ups. But the absence of offerings during these years wasn’t for a lack of trying, as there are at least two known attempts by Sega at bringing the series back. The attempt we are looking at today is one we can all be thankful did not pan out.
In the mid-1990s, developer Core Design conceived a 3D beat ’em up game called Judgment Force. During development, they pitched the game to Sega as a possible fourth entry in their iconic Streets of Rage series. The idea was for it to be a Sega Saturn exclusive, but Sega decided not to move forward with the deal. In light of this rejection, Core decided to proceed with development, opting to make it a standalone title for release across multiple platforms. It was renamed Fighting Force, and publishing ended up being handled by Eidos Interactive, which had recently acquired Core Designs. In 1997, PlayStation and Windows versions were released, followed by a Nintendo 64 version in 1999.
Unfortunately for Core and Eidos, Fighting Force was a bit of a disappointment for players. Despite receiving praise for its interactive, destructible and environments, the developer’s early attempt at transitioning the beat ’em up genre to 3D was rough. The game was criticized for its repetitiveness, awkward controls, and lack of innovation. It did receive a sequel (Fighting Force 2) in 1999 for the PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast, but plans for a third game were scrapped.
While I’m sure Fighting Force has its fans and devout defenders, it’s hard to deny that 2020’s Streets of Rage 4 is a more fitting follow-up. It’s a series that’s best suited for 2D gameplay, and a subpar 3D attempt would be a stray spot of tarnish on an otherwise fantastic franchise.