We've all been there: pint in hand, weeping into your beer as your best friend tells you that every breakup happens for a reason. However, after the years go by you might start to remember those times more fondly, wearing rose-tinted glasses. Normally when you take a trip down memory lane with an ex you'll realise one of two things: "I've really missed you" or "wow, I've moved on". This is how we approached Raging Justice, with the feelings of nostalgia very much flowing.
The Streets of Rage games were a hugely popular series of side-scrolling beat 'em ups that were massive in the '90s, and so the team at Makin Games have taken it upon themselves to try and tap into our sense of nostalgia and bring the genre back. While the world has undoubtedly moved on, fans of the old classics have been crying out for more modern outings in the vein of Fighting Force and Double Dragon.
Raging Justice takes us to a world which fans of the genre will be all too familiar with. Chaos has ravaged the streets of a city (which really could be any city in the world), and it's your job to clean them up. Don't worry though, because by cleaning we don't mean you have to get your mop and bucket out, rather it's time to sweep the streets with your furious fists. And boy is that fun.
You need to punch, kick, and throw your way through hordes of baddies as you scroll from left to right. You can dash and use special moves to take apart your foes, and this retro-flavoured violence feels pretty satisfying as a result. Along the way you can also pick up and use a variety of weapons to take down your opponents, including knives, guns, and lawnmowers... yes, lawnmowers. These items have a limited use and do extra damage, but they really do help you on your scrolling stroll through to the end of each level.
The animations can be a little bit robotic and clunky at times, but they don't really detract from the action. More so, it feels like a better-looking homage to the games of yesteryear, and the overall art style looks pretty sweet, despite its limitations. The generic baddies, for example, would look very much at home in Streets of Rage, but that's kinda the point. In particular, the animation for the attacks and dashes reminded us a little of the old Mortal Kombat games, and the music is just as nostalgic.
It's very referential and ultimately Raging Justice does nothing new, and perhaps it should have. It's just the same tried and tested formula, but that's probably because it has been so long since we've last seen a title like this, and it does still manage to feel quite fresh. The whole title has a feeling of familiarity, even down to the player's options when it comes to which character they should use to bring justice to the streets that are indeed raging with chaos.
You can choose from three: cops Rick Justice and Nikki Rage (hence the titles), and street punk Ashley King. This trio of characters each has different qualities such as increased speed and power, although swapping between them only makes a subtle difference to how you play the main game. That said, the controls are really intuitive and help you on your reign of destruction, as you chain combos together and mash buttons while inflicting violence on villains.
You have the choice to play good or bad cop. If you play the friendly officer, you can arrest and handcuff the street punks, earning a little bit of food to get back your health. If you play the bad cop, you knock out your opponents to the ground and kill them, sometimes earning money.
At the start of each level, you get a series of challenges which include making a number of arrests, having no lives lost, and a certain amount of money collected. This does give the game some replay value.
There are nine levels in total to play through and each area comes with a boss fight. Like we've seen in the games that inspired it, some of the bosses in Raging Justice are bloody difficult and, at times, they can be downright frustrating. They come with unstoppable attacks and huge life bars; you can fight back using things like your special attack (which actually lowers your own health as well), or the weapons littered around the place, but it can be pretty hard.
The difficulty is one of the things we have to highlight because even on the easiest settings it's still quite a challenge at times. While being difficult can be good if it's done right, it sometimes feels like the game is weighted too heavily against you. On top of that, some of the challenges seemed a little bit too tricky to complete. Perhaps we would have been better incentivised to tackle these challenges with the promise of some added flavour but, much like the games that influenced it, there isn't much in the way of a story and the dialogue that is there is all very skippable. Button bashing really is the name of the game, and there is very little to think about. A lot of people are going to love the arcade feel, but it's not going to set the world on fire.
When you're done with the main story, you can continue the fun via a wave-based brawl mode. This also adds to the replay value on offer. The thing we enjoyed the most is the local co-op, though, so if you've got an extra pad you should definitely get a friend over and relive the fun of growing up in the '90s with a Mega Drive.
All in all, it's a solid beat 'em up that will get fans of Streets of Rage reminiscing. If you're a fan of the genre then, considering the price, it's worth picking up. It'll provide you with a fair few hours of good wholesome side-scrolling fun. That said, it's not going to win over any new fans, as Raging Justice is firmly aimed at nostalgic players, and in the era of remastered re-releases, who can blame Makin Games for trying their luck.