I've got red in my ledger...
The roguelike genre has never been something I've been drawn to. The prospect of losing ones progress upon death is generally a gameplay mechanic I tend to avoid. Difficulty, challenge, these are concepts that don't concern me when it comes to video games. I am often one to be engrossed into a game due to its characters, its story, and its combat and action. I can totally understand the appeal of difficult games, those that put your skills to the test, but again, it's not why I play video games. While I discovered Streets of Red through gaming critic Jim Sterling, I was somewhat hesitant to download it as the game does contain a feature that will delete your save file upon death, should you not be able to afford the revive. With the game costing less than $10, I gave it a shot and it's probably one of my favorite Switch games released thus far.
Streets of Red is your typical side-scrolling action fighter in the vein of Double Dragon, Streets of Rage and a personal favorite of mine, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game. You progress from one side of the screen to the next beating up bad guys, bashing crates to discover food items that will grant you a little bit of health, and then ending the level with a potentially fun and engaging boss battle. While the death mechanic may turn you off from playing it, as it almost did to me, it actually looks to recreate the same feeling of what it was like to play these games at an arcade. Back then, before consoles were able to recreate these games, you tossed a few quarters in and you shared this brief connection with your digital avatar. If you died, it was game over, and you simply put in the last bit of change to hopefully push a little bit further.
Developer Secret Base has certainly spent a lot of time getting the tone and action of this game just right. The visuals pop due to highlighting the red elements of the game and muting the rest to ensure those highlights truly pop. There are foreground and background elements that add to the world-building, and the level design will change depending on the order you progress through the game's four levels. This changes the replayability of a typical game like this to allowing additional hours and hours of experimentation to how the design of not just the levels themselves flow, but the amazing boss encounters as well. Even a few playthroughs in, I am still seeing new levels that I haven't yet explored.
I mentioned before that I became aware of this game through Jim Sterling, and it was because he had been discussing that he is in fact in the game, as a boss. There are a few bits of dialogue from him as well, spouting off his "Thank god for me" line that he says at the end of each Jimquisition video. His encounter during the Hallway level is fun, but choose to do that level last and his battle is extremely upgraded. The final encounter with him has you throwing Jim-bots at a screen, a boss called "The Internet". It took me a while before I even knew how to defeat this foe, but after a few lucky breaks at tossing the Jim's at the screen, you can bet I thanked God for him.
The fodder that comes your way before those bosses will vary from armless zombies, zombie dogs, ghosts that resemble Slimer, and one particular type of zombie lady that seems to throw their undead baby at you. The screen can fill up with a solid number of enemies at once and with the various combo attacks and special moves your character is capable of, this can work in your favor. As you bash down and kill these minions of the undead, you can perform a fatality on them, a special attack that will grant you more cash and rewards. If you perform a fatality on multiple enemies at once, this turns into a massacre and will reward you with even more cash and even a food item.
To perform these moves, you will need special energy that can either drop from defeating enemies or on its own as your meter will gradually fill back up. You special meter can be used for special attacks offensively or defensively should you be taking damage. The combat here is very straightforward and doesn't bog itself down with complex systems or combat mechanics that require some form of controller gymnastics. As you complete levels and earn cash, you can purchase new upgrades for each character that increases either the damage you deal to your foe or enhances the ability further. As your cash is shared, this can create a playful sense of tension between co-op partners, making you debate who gets the upgrade this time and who must wait until the completion of the next level.
Streets of Red is essentially a revamped version of Devil's Dare that was released a few years ago. While it is a sequel to Bite Jacker, the game shifted from that of an isometric shooter to a side-scrolling beat-'em-up. This version features the same character line-up it did in Devil's Dare with only a few bosses seeing a change, from what I have noticed anyway. You can choose from Kingston, Queenie, Jackson, and Axel, as well as two additional characters upon first completing the game. These characters are living out their cosplay fantasies, so seeing resemblances to that of other gaming characters is fully intentional. Axel, for example, rocks a very noticeable sword and shield from The Legend of Zelda and even mimics the "Get over here!" chain attack from Mortal Kombat's Scorpion.
Upon death, you will spend the cash you have earned to revive your character, and considering this money is shared, this can really affect playing with a full group of four players. The first few revives are cheap enough to not worry too much about it, but the more you use it, the more costly these second or third chances are. If you cannot afford the revive, then you are presented with having to delete your save file, losing all progress on that character. With Streets of Red being roughly a 2-hour game, that doesn't really sting as much as putting hundreds of hours into a Diablo 3 character only to see them wiped from existence. At first, playing as Queenie, I died a few times, but after switching to Jackson, I found my groove and was able to complete a playthrough of the game. Finding the character that is right for you is a must and can lead to more enjoyment of the title.
Streets of Red: Devil's Dare Deluxe only glitched out on me once, during one of the later levels. My character performed the defensive move you can unleash when surrounded and then wasn't able to move after that. While I could drop kick, it wasn't until I was knocked off the level that it fixed the glitch and I was able to continue kicking ass. The only really big complaint I have is that you can take damage when you've been knocked down. I had the Fly boss hit my body twice while on the ground, and then a third time knocking me off the platform. I went from having 65 health down to 5 after I respawned from the fall.
While the title won't revolutionize the world or start a trend of bringing back the genre to its arcade highs, Streets of Red is a satisfying few hours that can be enjoyed on the go via the Switch or just chilling back on the couch on the big screen with a few good friends. The fighters, the menu's, and so much of this game is baked in nostalgia that even now, after completing the game a few times, I am always seeing numerous nods to gaming's past.