1994-2014

For twenty years after the release of SOR3, there followed a period I will refer to as the 'Wilderness Years' - with no official sequel from Sega, reboot, or anything. Fans waited and waited to see the SOR franchise brought back to life on next-gen systems with each console generation, from the original Saturn/PlayStation era through to today's PS4/Xbone era. And still we wait.

However, numerous details of attempts by Sega to bring the franchise up-to-date have been revealed over the years, and this article provides a complete history of everything we know so far.


 

The original Streets of Rage was a commercial and critical success, and its sequel Streets of Rage 2 became one of the best-selling and most popular games of the 16-Bit Era, widely regarded as a must-own game for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. To capitalise on this success, naturally Sega commissioned a sequel. However, 1994's Streets of Rage 3 turned out to be a commercial flop and achieved lower review scores than its predecessors, selling relatively few copies as a result (to the extent that Sega discontinued factory production of the game in early 1995). Back in those days before the widespread use of the internet, getting your hands on a copy of SOR3 was nigh on impossible if you weren't an early adopter of the title.

 

The 32-bit Attempts - 1996 & 1997

Streets of Rage 3 was clearly intended to be the final Genesis/Megadrive Streets of Rage game. The graphics & gameplay could not be pushed any further under the 16-bit hardware, and so the next logical step was to create any new Streets of Rage game on the Next Generation consoles that were released in late 1994. They chose to revive the franchise on its 32-Bit system, the Sega Saturn. Sega clearly intended to update the series to the 32-bit console; both Shinobi & Golden Axe, Sega's other classic franchises, received Saturn updates (both sadly crap). But instead of trying to develop the sequel in-house Sega tried to purchase the half-completed Judgement Force from Core Design (of Tomb Raider fame) and turn it into a game called Streets of Rage 3D:

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Streets of Rage 3D featured all-new playable characters Hawk, Mace, Hammer and Vulcan. None of the original cast were present (Axel, Blaze et al), but it appears these new characters were still based on the original designs (Axel's name was originally 'Hawk' in early betas of SOR1). This game was intended as the 3D continuation of the Mega Drive's SOR franchise, but Sega pulled out of the deal and it ended up being dropped at the last minute. The game was later released as Fighting Force for PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and PC.

This deal never happened, and Sega apparently gave up on the idea of a Saturn sequel (probably because the sequel would need to be 3D, and the Saturn was woefully underequipped for 3D games). However, the Saturn was a far superior 2D machine to the PlayStation and I think Sega could and should have took advantage of this to create a 2D Streets of Rage masterpiece with some stunning animated visuals. Treasure's little-known Saturn classic Guardian Heroes (see screenshot) is an example of what Streets of Rage 4 could have been like.

 

Another aborted attempt at Streets of Rage 4 was apparently Die Hard Arcade, a 3D Streets of Rage style game released in the arcades on Sega's S-TV system in 1996-7 and later converted to the Saturn. This was rumoured to have been at one stage Streets of Rage 4 before Sega decided against an arcade sequel. This could have a been a good Streets of Rage 4, as it mixed the standard action with elements of Sega's Virtua Fighter, giving the fighters lots of moves and combos.

Ultimately though, nothing came of Sega's early attempts to bring SOR4 to the Saturn.

 

The Death of Dreamcast Streets of Rage 4 - 1999


A few years later, after the release of the 128-Bit Dreamcast, Ancient & Sega once again began early concept work on Streets of Rage 4. A rough playable section was produced, which showed the game had evolved into true 3D and incorporated a first-person fighting mode. Yuzo Koshiro was also brought on board to produce the music.

 

 

 

Download leaked SOR4 Concept Videos:

 

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

Video 4

Video 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, executives from Sega of America, unaware of the series' history and fanbase, shot the idea down on the basis of its genre alone. The side-scrolling beat'em up had rapidly gone out of fashion in the mid-1990s, and attempts to bring the genre into 3D (such as Fighting Force) had been unsuccessful. This meant that Sega were unwilling to commit to a game that in their eyes had little chance of making a good financial return (despite the fact that a Streets of Rage sequel would pretty much sell itself). Sega decided that this game was a bad idea. The development was cancelled, and Streets of Rage 4 entered a long limbo period, becoming nothing more than a dream for the millions of fans who wanted to see the franchise continued.

 

 

X-Box Bound? - March 2001

 

There were talks about bringing the SOR franchise back for the original Microsoft XBOX console in 2001. Sega had shifted its focus to software after pulling out of the home console market, and in an online interview Yuzo Koshiro said that "now Sega teams are independent we'll replan it and bring it to Hitmaker first. If they're interested in making it for Xbox and make a contract with us, I want to restart the plan". He also talked about some ideas for the game: "I'm thinking about a first-person mode. And needless to say, in 3D. And the game will connect online for multi-play" and "My sister [Ayano Koshiro, Ancient art designer] designed five new characters for SoR4 already".

In this IGN-Dreamcast interview with Overworks , Noriyoshi Ohba states that "I'm thinking of developing more games for the U.S. market like the "Revenge of Shinobi" series and "Streets of Rage" series, which I once worked on for the Genesis". In 2002, Overworks released a PS2 game which was a continuation of the classic "Shinobi" series. Did this mean that Overworks would next be developing a new Streets of Rage game? Sadly, it seems nothing came of that.

 

Seventh-Generation Attempts - 2008-2010

Nothing was heard again until 7 years later, when, in early 2008, Sega ran a poll on its website about which classic franchises fans would like to see resurrected on next-gen systems. It was a close call, but SOR came second place, closely beaten by NiGHTS into Dreams (which was subsequently given a sequel for the Nintendo Wii console). The results of this poll did not go unnoticed, as Sega execs began to develop ideas for a next-gen, online SOR game later that year.

In 2008 Sega was actively participating in discussions with a third-party developer, BottleRocket Entertainment, to produce a game called "Streets of Rage Online" for next-gen systems, most likely the XBox360 and PlayStation3. Artist Roger Robinson, of Marvel Comics fame, was asked to produce some concept art for the proposal, but unfortunately the whole thing fell through not too long after. Roger Robinson later 'declassified' the art he produced (BottleRocket Entertainment went bust and their other game, a Splatterhouse remake, was picked up by Namco):

SOR Online Concept 2: Street Thug - View image

SOR Online Concept 3: Axel - View image

Once again, the possibility of a next-gen SOR was shelved, and it was back to the drawing board.

In 2009, Golden Axe was given a next-gen revamp on Sony's PlayStation 3 console. Like Sega's previous attempts at resurrecting 'Altered Beast' and 'Shinobi' on the PS2, this game was notoriously awful and a discredit to the Mega Drive originals. But still, there was no sign of any SOR4. That said, by this point Sega seemed to definitely have its mind set on resurrecting the game, and perhaps in a tentative first move the original SOR trilogy was released on a "Sega Classics Collection" on the PS3 and XBOX360. They were also released on XBox Live Arcade and Wii Virtual Console through streaming, digital distribution. Additionally, the original SOR title was given a release on mobile phone and iPod. Then in Japan they even produced a java-based SOR remake for cell phones called Bare Knuckle Mobile. It seemed that Sega was doing everything the SOR fans wanted - EXCEPT MAKE SOR4!

In a January 1, 2010 podcast from 1Up.com (4 Guys 1 Up), Sega of America studio director Constantine Hantzopoulos mentioned that he and the development team Monolith were considering a new Streets of Rage game using the 'Condemned' engine for their next project (at the time). He stated that "Escape From New York" was the main inspiration for an open world (sandbox?) style game. Download the podcast here (He talks about it at the 40min 40sec mark.) However, this idea was apparently shelved also...

Then, In March 2010, Sega's boss in the West, Mike Hayes, alluded to the possibility that there was still a chance for the now-mythical sequel to see the light of day - and that it would be good. He said in a CVG Interview : "It's important [with] our old IP that is respected, we need to deliver a good product. And in some instances we have done that - look back at when we re-did Sega Rally. It scored well and was moderately successful commercially. But then with other great franchises like Golden Axe we didn't produce a great game at all. Going forward, if we're going to look at any existing IP to bring out the locker, we have to make sure we get the quality to a level we now expect. I'm not saying which IP it would be - a Streets Of Rage, a Crazy Taxi, whatever. What we have to do now is build something that is 85 per cent plus [rated]. We can't just get away with PR."

 

Early 2012 - More Cancelled SOR4 Images Surface

In late February 2012, it emerged that yet another attempt (Third now???) at a next-gen SOR title was in the works by Grin Barcelona, the satellite studio of Swedish developer Grin, as far back as 2009 (which would put it straight after the failed Bottlerocket attempt), but once again the game was cancelled due to the company going bankrupt. Grin Barcelona had set upon a true remake of Streets of Rage, to be published by Sega. It was intended to be similar to Grin’s own Bionic Commando Rearmed, and released as a download-only title, presumably for XBLA and PSN. Work on this game didn’t last long, however. Only a handful of screenshots and art, below, were unearthed, but apparently a build of the game still exists somewhere.

       

 

 

December 2012 - Shelved SOR remake footage leaks online

 

At the end of that same year, it emerged that a new Streets of Rage game was being produced again, this time undergoing the 3D re-make treatment at Scottish developer Ruffian Games. Leaked footage of the game, which had unfortunately been cancelled (again!) was confirmed as real by a member of the Crackdown 2 team, and you can watch it in full right here:

 

 

 

Ruffian Games said of this: "Here are some scenes from a playable prototype. It was something we built very rapidly and represents pre-pre-pre-pre (lots of pres) pre-Alpha quality. Even so it has a certain charm :) What's the story behind it all? Like a lot of developers we work on a lot of different prototypes, they're just not usually shown in public. In this case an older version of the same video was leaked last week which came as a bit of a surprise if I'm honest. As it had no sound I thought there wouldn't be any harm sharing a version with audio. Beyond that there's not a lot more I can say unfortunately :) "

 

One of the team members who worked on the prototype, Sean Noonan, later spoke about the video in a YouTube blog:

 

On Twitter, speaking directly to SOR Online, Noonan also revealed the following

things about the ill-fated project:

  • It was intended as part reboot, part direct-sequel to SOR3. "Use audience knowledge of the series and build upon it."

  • The protagonist in the video was a rough attempt at a contemporary Axel. Devs were unhappy with it and intended to change it.

  • Playable characters were to be Axel, Blaze, Max and a new character, a martial artist known as Mark Li.

  • This very website, SOR Online, proved useful to the devs during development :)

 

 

 

 

 

Yuzo Koshiro gets the SOR Online fan community involved - January 2013

 

At MAGfest 11 (Music and Game Festival) in January of 2013, Yuzo Koshiro made his first public DJ performance in the USA, and also gave a Q&A session. During that Q&A, SOR Online forum member VenusHeadTrap (aka Griffin Tremaine) asked Yuzo about SOR4 and whether Yuzo could 'speak with Sega' about it. Koshiro's response was to urge all fans to write and email to Sega, demanding that they release the long-awaited sequel once and for all. He also revealed that his voice was used for Axel's 'GRAND UPPER' move. You can hear an audio clip of VenusHeadTrap's question to Yuzo Koshiro here.

 

In response to this, Matthew Drury, webmaster of SOR Online and creator of the SOR4 Petition to Sega of America , personally delivered the 249-page petition (which had been running for 7 years and consisted of 3000 fan signatures) to Sega of America's headquarters in San Francisco. He also began an email campaign to Sega's PR department, rallying fans together like never before.

 

 

Backbone Entertainment's Pitch Emerges - May 2013

 

Unfortunately, Sega chose not to respond to the fan petition on SOR4 and remained silent on the issue. However, just four months later, another failed SOR4 pitch emerged, this time from Backbone Entertainment, who had previously released the SOR Vintage Collection. Concept art for Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding, and Adam Hunter – the original trio from Streets of Rage – plus a Syndicate punk, was shared by former Backbone Entertainment artist Arvin Bautista. This was the FOURTH attempt at the game in as many years?

 

     

 

 

Either Sega's standards are set really high for this game, or somebody in the organisation really doesn't want it to see the light of day.

 


The current status of Streets of Rage 4 is unknown, but it seems very likely that Sega will start work on this game again soon, if they haven't already. Their releases and behind-the-scenes activities over the past five years seem to indicate that they have been testing the market for its response and demand to SOR games, and decided that outsourcing to a third party for a download-only title is the best way to go. The evidence suggests this has been their idea for some time now.

It has now been almost 20 years since the release of SOR3. Come on Sega, enough is enough. Pull your finger out and revamp this awesome series!

 

We will keep this site updated with any new developments on the game...

 

 

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