This month we see developer Secret Base bring Streets of Red: Devils Dare Deluxe to the Nintendo Switch. It’s a modern-day homage to the 16-bit era of side-scrolling beat ’em ups akin to the likes of Streets of Rage and Double Dragon. It is also available on PlayStation 4 and Steam depending on which format you have at your disposal.
The year is 20… something and its time once again for the Benny arcade EXPO, one of the worlds biggest video game events. Reporter Anthony has been waiting two years for this moment, the stage is set until something hellish happens! The world has gone to a dark place, zombies begin to walk the land and just like that it goes from bad to a total shit storm. Enter our unlikely heroes, Kingston, Queenie, Jackson and Axel with additional unlockable characters Anthony and Jonathan. Trapped inside the event they are guided by a red fairy who is willing to grant them the powers to survive this horror in exchange for a small price. Naturally, red fairy wants the souls of all the zombies they kill, seems reasonable if a little sinister.
The game is set across four levels, the sewer, train, hallway and road each of which is split into a number of stages. Completing the story mode is not the end of the game though as Streets of Red is designed to be played over and over again, each time offering up the potential for new content. The ever-growing level selection works to keep the gameplay from getting old, while the combat system allows for plenty of depth. Make no mistake, you are going to die and it’s going to happen a lot. Another way to play, besides the story, is in the form of survival mode which does exactly what it says on the tin. The addition of co-op adds to the fun allowing for up to four players to get involved.
With a character selected the first step is to visit the convention which acts as a tutorial, running through the basics move sets and some of the specials. The majority of moves are shared across the characters just in different guises. Controls work well with its simple Smash Bros style setup, meaning the game is easy to pick up but offers a reward for mastering. It gives the option to use the analogue stick or broken d-pad for movement which is my only gripe, to be honest, as always on this format that’s more an issue with the Switch opposed to the game itself. You are rewarded for every kill made so learn your moves and learn how they can help you earn a living, literally. Perform a fatality for some extra cash, and perform a bunch of fatalities to get a free meal. This really helps in the later levels when the difficulty ramps up.
Streets of Red looks and sounds great, especially on the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode. Graphically designed to look like an old school 16bit game of the likes it’s mimicking that has been given an almost monochromatic makeover. It makes the red blood, which is one of the few other colours used, really stand out and have a greater impact. The game can be pretty graphic at times, one of the enemy zombies weapons is to throw a fetus at you whilst others pretty much just try to eat you. Streets of Red sounds great too, with a fittingly spooky retro soundtrack, funny voice-overs usually harking back to some gaming or movie reference and realistic sound effects.
As just mentioned, for me one of the best parts of the game is all of the references to games, movies and more that Secret Base have packed in here. I’d say it just goes to show how passionate the development team are for all things geeky. I found it interesting enough to want to play the game through a number of times and start some sort of list with my findings. I’m roughly on my fourth complete playthrough, I know that this isn’t going to be a definitive list and obviously much of it I’m just guessing at here!
A word of warning
Right from the off, the opening screen of the game is a logo stating ‘Gamers don’t use drugs’ a play on the FBI warning ‘Winners don’t use drugs’ which was included on all arcade games from 1989 – 2000.
The main characters certainly have connections to other games. Axel has a sword, shield and move set much akin to Link from Zelda. We can even track his name back to Streets of Rage?. Kingston, for me, looks to be based on Arthur from Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, while Jackson for sure is a teenage mutant ninja turtle. Queenie could be mistaken for Tron Bonne from the Mega Man series, as comes complete with giant Mech. Leaving unlockable Anthony as a Ryu / Ken style character and Jonathan looking very much like Rambo.
Ivan the Red Fairy
The aptly named Ivan is a red fairy and it’s safe to assume that he was based on Navi from Zelda. The character design is similar and well you know the name is the same… just backwards.
Some that instantly stuck with me, in the hallway levels you encounter a screaming rounded blob of a ghost not too dissimilar to Slimer from Ghostbusters. The many zombie dogs could easily be from Resident Evil or is that my brain working on overload. There are a number of different Alien enemies besides the bosses, the facehugger and egg sack are to be found towards the later levels.
Of the bosses, I have encountered all can be referenced back once again. First up you fight a big fly guy in a sewer, Professor Baxter Stockman from turtles perhaps? There is also a Jason looking character complete with hockey mask and machete in the subway level. Another two bosses are based on the Terminator, with a standard T-800 looking guy screaming Arnie quotes and a massive Hunter Killer. Throw in a couple of Alien / Predator styled bosses for good measure and then the final, final boss (that I know of) performs a move which is just Bison’s (Vega in Japan) psycho crusher.
You are encouraged to kill everyone in style and by doing so earns additional money, life and a message pop up stating ‘fatality’. A reward for a decent kill streak also gives you an MK style ‘toastie’ as approval. Axel has a spear upgrade, similar to Links hook shot but notably he shouts scorpions line ‘get over here’ when using it.
At the end of each section, you are given the choice to upgrade at a cost, these range from Onion Master (from Parappa), a Sonic running shoe upgrade to increase speed to a Soul Stone.
There are references to a multitude of other things in Streets of Red, even He-man and Zombies ate my Neighbors get a nod, no doubt as I continue to play I will find even more! So watch this space and feel free to tell me any that you find, maybe this could branch off into its own blog?
This is a great, great title and anyone who has an interest in modern retro gaming done properly should try this game… even just to help me find more game/movie references. For the asking price of £6.29 (UK), you are going to be hard pushed to find another game of this quality that’s crafted with such care and attention to detail. With all of the in-game achievements and unlockables, there is plenty to keep you coming back time and time again. It’s a highly enjoyable experience in single player and even better with friends in co-op mode.
Beard Score: 8/10
Genre: Arcade, Action, Fighting
Players: 1 – 4
Publisher: Secret Base
Format: Steam, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch