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Triforce of Power: The Tale of the Tragic King Ganondorf

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The Legend of Zelda series is filled to the brim with mythical characters, but there are none more important to the lore than the intertwining fates of three: Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf. While Link and Zelda manifest as different people in each installment, related only by ancestry, Ganondorf remains the same man, which allows for a metamorphosis of character through each game. While his alter ego, Ganon, appears in a majority of Zelda games to date, Ganondorf has only shown up in Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess.

Below is an analysis of the evolution of Ganondorf — from his ancient origin to his fallen fate, this is how the bandit king would become known as The King of Evil.

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A Tragic Origin (Skyward Sword/Ocarina of Time)

Ganondorf was born into the Gerudo tribe of female thieves and raised by a surrogate mother/witch, Twinrova, to be their king. The Gerudos themselves are cruel and dangerous warriors and no doubt raised Ganondorf to share these very characteristics. It is assumed that, during the period when no male king is present, that Gerudos reproduce by using Hylian soldiers. Thus, Ganondorf, along with many other Gerudos born around the same time, has Hylian blood in him.

The desire to seize is a trait given to him through his Gerudo blood, but his craving for power is engraved into his fate. At the end of Skyward Sword, when Link defeats Demise, it is stated that an incarnation of him will follow the descendants of both Link and Zelda and torture the inhabitants of the land. This is an obvious reference to the constant threats of Ganon; however, it should not be assumed that only Link and Zelda’s descendants were punished for the killing of Demise. There was another person who had just as much to do with Demise’s fall as the heroes did.

If the conflict between Princess Zelda, Link, and Ganondorf were turned into a high school play, it would be like the rivalry between Link, Zelda, and Groose. Each character is analogous to their Ocarina of Time counterparts — Groose being the rival of Link while still displaying a great amount of strength, cunning, and motivation as he helps Link to defeat the Imprisoned. In fact, if it wasn’t for Groose, Demise would have awakened much too early for the heroes to prepare. Groose may as well be just as responsible for his death.

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It’s not a coincidence that Groose plays such a vital part in Skyward Sword. With his darker skin, red hair, brute strength, and red jewel on his chest (a color representing Din, the goddess most recognized with the Gerudos), it could be that Groose is the beginning of the Gerudo line. Demise’s plan is also to punish Groose’s descendants by sacrificing one in particular to be the host of his evil spawn. Ganondorf is being punished by his ancestor’s original sin, so to speak, and because of Ganondorf’s actions, the entire Gerudo tribe is eradicated.

A Power-Hungry Fool (Ocarina of Time)

The first chronological appearance of Ganondorf is in The Legend of Zelda’s first venture into 3D. Ganondorf is the king of a tribe of desert bandits known as the Gerudo. Every 100 years, a male is born into the Gerudo tribe, which consists of nothing but female bandits, and he becomes their king. After the Hyrulean Civil War, Ganondorf forms a relationship between the Hylians and the Gerudos. By gaining the trust of the King of Hyrule, he enters the Sacred Realm through the Temple of Time (previously opened by Young Link’s possession of the Sacred Stones) and takes the Triforce of Power. Using his piece of the Triforce and his army of Gerudos, Ganondorf easily usurps the King. He remains in power for seven years until Link awakens to defeat him and banish all evil from the land.

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In OoT, Ganondorf has a very arrogant and intimidating disposition. He is young, strong, cunning, and manipulative, and he knows he is destined for something great. He betrays the trust of the king to find his way into the Temple of Time. He attacks the kingdom at full force, knowing that the army of Hyrule is still recuperating from the Civil War that took place a few years before. Through all this, Ganondorf still sees his successful overtaking as destiny rather than fate — a fate set in motion ages before his birth.

Demise’s resurrection is fulfilled when Ganondorf uses the power of the Triforce to transform himself into a monster of unimaginable power, Ganon. This would be the beginning of the reoccurring plague that Hyrule would have to endure for ages. However, even with his share of the Triforce, the might of Courage and Wisdom proved too much for Ganon. Thus, Ganondorf was sealed in the Sacred Realm.

Like Demise before him, Ganondorf vowed revenge on Link and Zelda’s descendants.

A Humbled King (Wind Waker)

Ages after the events of Ocarina of Time, Ganon escapes the Sacred Realm and wreaks havoc on Hyrule. Unfortunately, no hero came about this time, leaving the Sages to fend off the threat by flooding Hyrule and everything in it. The descendants of these Ancient Hylians took to the mountaintops (now islands) and began a new era. The history of the once great kingdom became nothing but a legend.

Ganondorf began to rebuild his troops in an attempt to find the other two pieces of the Triforce beneath the sea. A portal to Hyrule opened where Ganondorf held both the Triforce of Power and Zelda’s Wisdom. Link would battle Ganondorf in the sunken Hyrule Castle to prevent him from successfully completing the Triforce and gaining fearsome power.

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Ganondorf in The Wind Waker appears older than he does in OoT, and also wiser. He carries himself much more regally and speaks in an eloquent and poetic manner rather than the brash way his younger self spoke. Age has certainly granted Ganondorf experience, but it also allows him to see matters more sensibly. Whereas Ganondorf during the events of OoT seemed to run on blind hatred; Ganondorf in WW is driven by a hatred that stems from deep cynicism.

Ganondorf has attempted twice to forge together the Triforce, and both times he had been met with extreme punishment from the Sages. He built a cynicism inside him not just toward the Hylians, and not just toward the Sages, but about his own fate as well. He now realizes that he has no control over his fate — it was something that had been foretold since birth. Even death and imprisonment can not wash it away.

“It can only be called fate. … That here, I would again gather the three with the crests.”

When Ganondorf turns into Puppet Ganon, it’s an obvious metaphor for the position he finds himself in. He’s nothing but a puppet controlled by the remnants of Demise to fulfill a vengeful prophecy created ages ago. The only way Ganondorf knows how to break this curse and end his fate is to fulfill it. When the Triforce becomes whole, he wishes to rule Hyrule, a forgotten and ancient land. If he was still the power-hungry fool he had once been, he would have wished to rule the entire world — to dominate over the descendants of the Hylians residing above the waves — yet he desires only to break the curse. Ganondorf even states that he has no wish to kill Link or Zelda. He just wants to take the Triforce. In this manner, he chooses to rule an empty, forgotten land in spite of his fate.

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After Ganondorf has a sincere moment, speaking to Link about the state of his people and his own intentions, he headed for the Triforce to make his wish come true at last. The King of Hyrule, however, took the Triforce for himself and wished that Hyrule would be sealed away forever, along with the evil Ganondorf. He couldn’t do anything but laugh and sought instead to end his cursed brethren by his own blade. He failed to fulfill his fate for a third time. Ganondorf, in turn, laughed quietly to himself as he was freed from his fate.

An Unrealized Destiny (Twilight Princess)

After Ganon was defeated, Princess Zelda sent the Hero of Time back to relive his childhood. When Young Link met the young Zelda, he warned her of what Ganondorf had planned to do, which confirmed her own suspicions. Zelda informed the King, which led to a Hylian invasion of the Gerudo Desert and the capture of the Gerudo King. The Hylian army desecrated the Gerudo’s holy Spirit Temple and modified it into a makeshift prison to house all of the desert thieves, dubbing it the Arbiter’s Grounds.

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The Sages had planned to execute Ganondorf by sword; however, the Triforce of Power awakened inside of him, allowing him to break free and kill the Water Sage. In an act of desperation, the remaining Sages imprisoned Ganondorf in the Twilight Realm.

After 100 years in the Twilight Realm, Ganondorf convinces Zant, who had been refused the Twilight throne by Midna, to take over the Light World and seize the Kingdom of Hyrule. With the castle in his possession, Ganondorf now had the means of making the Triforce whole and realizing his true fate.
It should be noted that in this timeline, Ganondorf never transformed into Ganon. He was captured before his armies even stepped foot in Hyrule. In fact, Ganondorf and his people were imprisoned merely on the words of two children. Ganondorf is just as arrogant and cunning as he was in OoT as he never had the humbling experience that his WW self had. Fueled by the pent-up desire to rule Hyrule and his true power still chained inside, Ganondorf became even more disobedient and short-sighted. He planned to lie, cheat, and steal his way to the Hylian throne.

Ganondorf finally realizes the extent of his power by unleashing Ganon, but like his OoT self, he is slain by Link. Perhaps showing a little more reserve, he opts to battle Link in a sword fight in his Gerudo form. After being defeated, Ganondorf echoes the words he said in OoT and also those of his master, Demise, by saying that Link and Zelda’s descendants will be plagued with his presence. However, much like the WW version of himself, he dies instead of being imprisoned, leaving the inhabitants of Hyrule to never fear a return of the Gerudo King again — his dying words never to be realized.

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From this timeline, Ganondorf is never seen again, but Ganon is reincarnated hundreds of years later during the events of Four Swords Adventures. Ganondorf died a fool with a heart full of vengeance, never to be quenched. He was perhaps blessed with the naivety of believing he was in control of his fate. He died never realizing the role he played in a legend much bigger than himself.

An Undying Evil (A Link to the Past/The Legend of Zelda/The Adventure of Link)

In a history where Ganon defeats the Hero of Time, Ganondorf fulfills the fate given to him by Demise. Transformed into Ganon, he returns time and again to wreak havoc on Hyrule. Ganondorf, the Gerudo King, would be forgotten through time, and the King of Evil, Ganon, would take his place in the winds of the declining kingdom.

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For more Zelda, check out our month-long Spotlight celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the franchise

 

Gamer, Writer, and a lover of pro-wrestling. Being born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona he took up gaming and writing at a young age to shield himself from the blazing heat. Ever since he first got his hands on Sonic the Hedgehog 2 at the age of 3, gaming has been apart of his life and wishes to revolve his life around the industry and the art of writing. When he's not gaming, he's attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU or watching some pro wrestling!

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PAX South 2020 Hands-On: ‘Ghostrunner,’ ‘Everspace 2,’ and ‘Wrath: Aeon of Ruin’

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‘Ghostrunner,’ ‘Everspace 2,’ and ‘Wrath: Aeon of Ruin’

We’ve already covered a wide variety of the games on display at PAX South this year, from retro revivals to unorthodox romances to everything in between – and we’re not done yet! In this next roundup article, we cover three more ambitious, action-packed games: Ghostrunner, Everspace 2, and Wrath: Aeon of Ruin.

Ghostrunner

Ghostrunner

Ghostrunner was one of the most in-demand games at PAX, and after playing it, it’s easy to see why. This first-person action slasher, developed by One More Level and produced by 3D Realms, lets players dash through the air, run across walls, and slash through enemies at blistering speed all while exploring a dystopian cyberpunk world. It’s gorgeous, lightning fast, and feels amazing to play.

Ghostrunner begins in a broken future, where the remnants of humanity have hidden away in a single condensed tower. Naturally enough, you’re put in the role of the one rebel who dares to rise up against the forces oppressing humanity. As you begin your uprising, you’ll also encounter a grand mystery – why is humanity the way it is now? Just what happened to the rest of the world? And what’s that voice you hear in your head?

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My demo didn’t offer much illumination to these mysteries, but the 3D Realms team assured me that the story plays a significant role in the main campaign. What my demo did offer, however, was a look into the fast-paced, brutal gameplay that defines the game. Combat is so dynamic in Ghostrunner. Your arsenal of moves is massive and varied – of course you can run, jump, and slash with your katana, but you can also run along walls, dash over chasms, slow down time to dodge bullets, and more.

When all the moving pieces flow together, Ghostrunner achieves a visceral, almost hypnotic flow of battle. There are a few obstacles to this feeling. The controls took a bit of getting used to on my end, but that would be because, console peasant that I am, I’m not used to playing 3D games on a keyboard instead of a controller. Also, this may be an action game, but at many times it feels more like a puzzle game. With bloodthirsty enemies scattered around each environment, you’ll often need to take a step back and methodically evaluate which abilities to use in each situation. This can take some trial and error – it might have taken me more than a few tries to clear out the final wave of enemies. But when the solution works out, it’s a beautifully exhilarating feeling, and that’s what sets Ghostrunner apart.

Wrath: Aeon of Ruin

PAX featured plenty of retro-styled games, but not many quite like Wrath: Aeon of Ruin. This retro-style FPS is a throwback to the simpler, faster days of shooters, built entirely in the same engine as the original Quake. It was even based off the work of Quake community modders. If you’ve played any classic FPS like the original DOOM or Wolfenstein, then you should have a good idea of how Wrath plays: it’s brutal, lightning fast, and action packed.

My demo got straight to the point. After teleporting me to a distant hellscape, I was faced with a horde of demons, ranging from simple skeletons to more aggressive ogre-like enemies and flying laser monsters. Thankfully, I was also given an assortment of weapons to take these creatures down with, including a simple handgun, a powerful blade arm, and my personal favorite, a shotgun. Each one of these felt good to control, and like any good old-fashioned shooter, they gave me a great feeling of power.

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Like any good, brutal FPS in the vein of Quake, Wrath features an insane amount of mobility. Movement is extremely fast and fluid, allowing you to zip across and above stages with reckless abandon. This extra speed will be necessary, especially considering that enemies can slaughter on with reckless, overwhelming abandon.

Of course, being built in the original Quake engine, Wrath is a delightfully retro treat to behold. It features all the signature hard polygonal edges of PC shooters from that bygone era, but with the added smoothness and fluidity of modern hardware. The game feels great to play and is a unique treat to behold. Wrath is currently available on Steam Early Access, and there’s plenty of new content that can be expected throughout the year, including new levels, enemies, and even a full online multiplayer mode. Stuffed with violent retro action, Wrath: Aeon of Ruin is absolutely worth watching out for.

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Everspace 2

Space is the final frontier, offering limitless exploration This’s the exact feeling that Everspace 2 captures. This sandbox open world space shooter dumps you in outer space and leaves you to figure out the rest, allowing you to fight, scavenge, and explore as you will, all with an incredible amount of freedom.

It’s a remarkably beautiful game too, boasting of extremely detailed 3D graphics that wouldn’t look out of place in a full 3D AAA experience. It’s extremely ambitious, offering a wealth of customization options through parts that can be scavenged from fallen space craft or space debris. There’s alien life to discover and a wealth of locations to explore, with the full game apparently featuring more than 80 unique environments.

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These environments will always be interesting to explore thanks to a mix between handcrafted worlds and randomization. The original Everspace was a pure roguelike, and as developer Rockfish Games told me, this constantly changing design has often been fundamental to previous great space shooters. Although Rockfish opted for an intentionally designed open world for the sequel, they want to maintain some of those same roguelike elements. That’s why whenever you venture through the many galaxies of Everspace 2, the galaxies and planets will be the same, but the items you find or enemies you encounter within them may change each time.

It took me some time to get used to Everspace. It immediately offers a great amount of freedom, with the demo simply dumping me in space and only requiring that I take down some enemy units and pick up some loot. Yet once I got the hang of the controls and the environment, it became extremely fluid and natural to zip through space, upgrade different components, and experience all the free-flowing action that it has to offer. Space is the ultimate freedom, and Everspace 2 is set to represent that.

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PAX South 2020 Hands-On: ‘Windjammers 2,’ ‘KUNAI,’ and ‘Young Souls’

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PAX South

PAX South 2020 attracted tons of exciting publishers to San Antonio, and even with such a crowded lineup, the DotEmu and Arcade Crew booth easily stood out as some of the show’s very best exhibitors. Streets of Rage 4 might have been their standout demo, but the French boutique publisher and developers brought a fantastic selection of games to the show, including their signature retro revivals and some promising original indie games of their own.

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Windjammers 2

Sequel to the much-beloved arcade classic, Windjammers 2 takes all the hectic frisbee-throwing action of the original and updates it for the modern generation. For those unfamiliar with the art of windjamming, it’s effectively pong, but instead of balls, you toss discs back and forth across the court. It pits two players against each other on opposite sides of the court, tasking you with mercilessly hurling your disc back and forth until it gets into your opponent’s goal.

You can just throw the disc directly at your opponent, but Windjammers 2 gives you many more options besides that. To really excel at the game, you’ll have to make use of the most extravagant moves you can, dashing across the court, leaping into the air, tossing the disc above you before slamming it down into your opponent, to list only a few of the uber-athletic abilities at your disposal. The game can move extremely quickly when both players take advantage of these capabilities, yet things never feel overwhelming. I always felt in control of the action, even when my quickest reflexes were put to the test. It’s fast-paced disc throwing insanity, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

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Just like the rest of DotEmu’s catalogue, Windjammers 2 combines classic gameplay with gorgeous modern aesthetics. It has the same hand-drawn style that makes other DotEmu titles stand out, like Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap. The original Windjammers was a time capsule of garish 90s style, and that design is retained for the new release, with characters looking even more colorful and absurd than ever thanks to the revitalized art and animations. Hectic to play and beautiful to behold, Windjammers 2 is already set to be a multiplayer hit.

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Young Souls

Streets of Rage 4 was certainly the premier beat ‘em up on display at DotEmu’s booth, but it wasn’t the only one. Alongside this retro revival was an all-new take on the genre: Young Souls, an extremely stylish action game that blends fast-paced fighting with deep RPG customization and a charming, emotional narrative.

Beat ‘em ups might not be known for deep storylines, but Young Souls aspires to something more. Along with its satisfying combat mechanics and plentiful flexibility for character builds, it also boasts of having “a profound story with unforgettable characters.” While my demo didn’t give me much of a look at this deep narrative, it’s reasonable to assume that the story will at least be quality, since it’s penned by none other than the author of the Walking Dead games, Matthew Ritter.

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However, I did get a substantial feel for combat. Young Souls features more than 70 monster-filled dungeons, and I got to venture into two of them in my demo. The action feels weighty and solid when going up against enemies, yet precise at the same time. Like any classic beat ‘em up, there’s a mixture of light and heavy attacks, along with blocks and powerful special moves, along with items and spells to exploit during combat as well. In between battles, you’re able to deck your character out in equipment and items, allowing for an element of roleplaying depth that isn’t typically associated with action games like this. In my short time with the game, it was fun to experiment with different character builds, which could determine the speed and abilities of my fighter, promising combat for the final game.

I played the demo both solo and co-op; in single-player, you’re able to switch between the two twins at will, while two players can each take control of a sibling. In both playstyles, the gameplay was just as visceral and satisfying as one would expect from a classic-style beat ‘em up like this, but the addition of a deep story and RPG mechanics put a unique spin on this entry. That’s not to mention that, like every other game at the DotEmu and Arcade Crew booth, it’s visually beautiful, featuring stylish 2D characters in 3D environments that are all rendered in gentle, washed-out colors. Young Souls might not have a release date or even any confirmed platforms as of now, but it’s absolutely worth keeping an eye on in the meantime.

KUNAI

KUNAI takes the typical metroidvania formula and boosts it to hyperspeed. It has all the hidden secrets and massively interconnected world exploration that you’d expect from the genre, and it gives you the ability to speed through that faster and more dynamically than ever. Its main gimmick is right in the name – by giving you two kunai hookshots, you’re able to traverse up and down your environments with speed and freedom, making for a uniquely vertical method to explore.

KUNAI starts out with the end of the world. In a dystopian future where technology has taken over, you control Tabby, a sentient and heroic tablet that’s dead set on liberating the planet. This serious plot is filled with plenty of personality, however, from the silly faces that Tabby makes in action to the charming dialogue and quirky character designs. This personality is rendered in appealing detail thanks to the game’s simple yet effective pixel art.

PAX South

It’s in the gameplay where KUNAI truly shines. With the eponymous kunai, you’re able to latch onto vertical surfaces. Combine this with the additional abilities to dash, bounce off enemies, or wall jump, and it provides for a uniquely dynamic method of exploring the world. Using the kunai feels easy and intuitive, fast enough to gain speed but never too floaty. It’s a balanced approach to speed and movement that never gets out of control, resulting in what it is perhaps the best-feeling movement of any metroidvania I’ve played recently. My demo was brief, and ended very soon after first getting the kunai, but the gameplay felt so smooth and natural that I can’t wait to experience more of it. Thankfully, it’s not long to wait, since KUNAI hits Switch and PC on February 6.

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PAX South Hands-On: ‘Streets of Rage 4’ Balances Legacy and Innovation

Streets of Rage 4 embodies the original series’ elegant, action-packed design and revives it for a new generation.

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Streets of Rage 4

From the moment I began my demo with Streets of Rage 4 at PAX South, it felt like coming home. It might have been more than two decades since the first three games in the Streets of Rage series perfected the beat ‘em up formula on the Sega Genesis, but courtesy of developers Lizardcube, DotEmu, and Guard Crush, this legendary series is back and in good hands. This brand new entry aims to recapture all the style and balance of the originals, while introducing innovations of its own. If my demo is any indication, the game is set to achieve that.

Streets of Rage 4 uses the same elegant level design that set the original trilogy apart back on the Genesis. The gameplay is simple: keep walking to the right, taking out every enemy in front of you with all the jabs, kicks, jumps, and special moves at your disposal. If anything, the controls feel better than ever before, with an added level of precision and fluidity that simply wasn’t possible on older hardware.

Streets of Rage 4

That’s not to mention the new move sets. Beat ’em ups might not be the most complex genre around, but Streets of Rage 4 adds the perfect level of depth to the combat. It has the same simple jabs and kicks found in the original games, but spiced up with the potential for new combos and even a handful of extravagant new special moves. With new and old fighting mechanics, this new entry features plenty of room to experiment with combat but never loses the simple, arcade-like charm of the originals.

Streets of Rage 4 revives the series’ rage-filled and action-packed style for the twenty-first century

The demo included series staple characters like Axel and Blaze, yet I opted to play as an all-new character: Cherry Hunter, a guitar-wielding fighter whose move set felt very distinct from classic characters. Her movement is speedy, certainly faster than Axel but slower than Blaze, and her guitar provided for some unique melee moves. Like the new mechanics, her addition to the character roster helps shake up the Streets of Rage formula just enough, while maintaining the core beat ’em up simplicity that made the series special in the first place.

Streets of Rage 4

Streets of Rage 4 might innovate in a few areas, but one thing that’s clearly remained true to form is the difficulty. It boasts of the same old school difficulty that characterized the original games. The classic and brand new enemies are just as ruthless as ever, mercilessly crowding in around you and can easily overwhelm you if you’re not careful. However, just like the originals, the fighting feels so satisfying that it’s easy to keep coming back for more action.

Amid all these changes and additions, perhaps the most obvious (and controversial) change is the visual style. While the original series used detailed pixel art, Streets of Rage 4 instead boasts of an extremely detailed handcrafted art style, in which every frame of character animation is painstakingly drawn by hand and environments are colorful and painterly. Thousands of frames of animation go into each character, and the effort certainly shows, making every punch, kick, and other acts of violence a breathtaking sight to behold.

Streets of Rage 4 reimagines this classic series for a new generation, reintroducing the best of the beat ’em up genre for players of all backgrounds and experiences.

Some fans have complained that the game loses the series’ spirit without pixel art, but DotEmu marketing director Arnaud De Sousa insisted to me that this simply isn’t the case. Pixel art wasn’t an artistic choice back then – it was a matter of necessity. If the developers could have designed the game to look exactly as they wanted, regardless of technical limitations, then it likely would have looked just like the luscious hand-drawn visuals of the current Streets of Rage 4.

That’s not to mention that, as De Sousa emphasized, the Streets of Rage games are defined by looking different from one another. The third game looks different from the second, which looked different from the first – and now this new entry has twenty years of change to catch up on. Thus, it only makes sense for this new entry to adopt a radically new graphical style after all this time.

Streets of Rage 4

Streets of Rage 4 reimagines this classic series for a new generation, reintroducing the best of the beat ’em up genre for players of all backgrounds and experiences. The difference between De Sousa and myself is perfect evidence of that. He grew up playing the games in the 90s, whereas I wasn’t even born when the original trilogy became such a phenomenon and only played them years later in subsequent re-releases. Yet here we were, standing in the middle of a crowded convention and gushing about decades-old games. We might have had extremely different experiences with the series, but that didn’t stop us from appreciating the joys of stylish beat ’em up action.

“A good game is a good game,” De Sousa told me, “no matter how old.” That’s the attitude that Streets of Rage 4 exemplifies. It revives the series’ rage-filled and action-packed design for the twenty-first century. And with a release on all modern platforms, more players than ever will be able to rediscover the simple pleasure of wielding your bare knuckles against thugs of all types. Between the new art style and the solid gameplay, Streets of Rage 4 is looking like an incredibly welcome return for this iconic franchise.

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