Usually, when you see a demake, it’s an unofficial game made by fans of the original. Unfortunately, these projects are typically shut down by the developer, with one big exception. SEGA stands apart as remarkably supportive of these fan passion projects, occasionally allowing them to inspire official titles like Sonic Mania. So, in that spirit of the demake and in celebration of SEGA’s 60th Anniversary (!), SEGA has given both the Yakuza and Streets of Rage franchises to Empty Clip Studios to create the mashup that no one knew they wanted: Streets of Kamurocho!
The 16-bit Tojo Clan is in crisis! Akira Nishikiyama has assassinated the Third Chairman, and the only two who can set things right are the Dragon of Dojima, Kazuma Kiryu, and the Mad Dog of Shimano, Goro Majima!
And… that’s it. We’re not exactly talking about a super complicated plot here. Streets of Kamurocho is essentially the version of Yakuza that would have existed on the Sega Genesis back in 1992.
I admit that I did feel a hint of disappointment when I discovered that SoK isn’t an entirely original 16-bit game. It’s actually a full reskin of the first stage of Streets of Rage 2. Anyone familiar with that game will immediately recognize that the level layout and item placement are identical to the beloved classic. On top of this (literally), playable characters are stuck using the move set of Streets of Rage primary protagonist, Axel Stone.
While all this might sound like a criticism, it’s far from it. This game is meant to be a celebration of two of SEGA’s most enduring franchises, and in that respect, it’s a roaring success! Seeing 16-bit versions of Kiryu and Majima walk the pixelated streets Kamurocho, beating up Chinese Mafia and Yakuza Punks alike, will instantly put a smile on your face. The single stage is packed full of Yakuza references, with instantly recognizable locations like Serena, Shangri-La, and Bacchus. And hearing a chiptune version of “Funk Goes On,” the Yakuza battle theme, is an absolute delight!
The foundation of SoK is the classic Streets of Rage 2, generally considered the pinnacle of the series. In fact, its gameplay acted as the inspiration for the modern revival of Streets of Rage 4 that came out earlier in 2020. As a 16-bit side-scrolling beat ’em up, it focuses on the genre’s fundamentals, with a punch, jump, and special attack. But boy, does it ever nail those fundamentals! Every hit feels solid, with perfectly timed sound effects reinforcing the bone-crushing punches and kicks. In this way, it’s a perfect match for the Yakuza series. Even today, SoR2 regularly appears on “top 100 retro games of all time” lists, and for a good reason. It’s simply a blast to play.
Streets of Kamurocho comes across more like a demo of a new game or proof-of-concept. It’s only one level long, with two mini-bosses and one final boss from the first Yakuza game. Once you finish the level, you start it again, this time at a higher difficulty level. Seeing as this is an entirely free game meant as a one-off, you really can’t complain about the incredibly short length. It’s a perfect little retro dip into a classic arcade beat ’em up with a fresh coat of paint.
If you are a fan of Yakuza or Streets of Rage, you’re going to be in for a treat. And on top of all that, it’s 100% free! Be sure to pick it up before it vanishes from Steam on October 19th at 10am PST (at least for now). My only real complaint about Streets of Kamurocho (aside from not being able to kill enemies with a bicycle)? It desperately makes me want a full-length Yakuza game in the Streets of Rage style! How about it, SEGA?