Streets of Rage 2

As far as side-scrolling beat’em up games go, Streets of Rage 2 might be one of the best.

I’ve always held a high regard for the genre, specifically Konami’s line which took a formula based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and replicated it successfully to other brands such as the Simpsons and Marvel.

Sega’s flagship series features no such branding, but closely mirrors the edgier marketing of the Genesis at the time – as well as the pop culture trends too. In the early 90’s, action movies were all the rage, as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone cranked out box office blockbusters such as Terminator 2, Demolition Man, True Lies and many more.

With action, explosions, and the occasional ninjas all the rage, it’s hard not to see the inspiration for the sequel to the successful Streets of Rage. This title adds on more playable characters to start, and retains much of what made the first game so good.

Namely, the soundtrack to this game thumps.

The Genesis lacked the same audio processing as the Super Nintendo, but you’d never know it playing this game. Sega’s console also lacked a more diverse color pallet as its competitor, but that aside, Streets of Rage 2’s audiovisuals are quite possible the best of any Genesis game. Ever.

The stages take notes from other games in the genre, with a nod or two to TMNT perhaps, albeit coincidental.

The isometric elevator level? Sure. The pirate ship level? Maybe… Streets came out only a few months after Turtles in Time. Other stages draw inspiration from fighting in back alleys, a baseball stadium, and an arcade (which features the Japanese port’s namesake of Bare Knuckle on the machines as an Easter Egg.) There’s even a stage which is very Contra-like that feels as if it was ripped from the movie Alien as well.

None of this stuff takes anything away from the game, as it only enhances the culture surrounding it. SOR2 also puts some SNES-style movement throughout each level, visually surprising the heck out of me with background and foreground movement, and a solid number of enemies on each screen. Some of those opponents include enemies on motorcycles or others who throw bombs from the background.

The action never stutters, at least not in my single player implementation.

The HUD is a nice touch as well, showing the names of recurring bosses with a health bar indicator too. Gone are the days of figuring out just how many times you need to punch/kick a boss to beat it!

But punching and kicking aren’t the exclusive moves to SOR2. No sir, we have your usual jumping karate kicks but in addition, grappling knee strikes, suplexes, and special moves (which replaced calling in backup police with a rocket launcher) give the game some diversity and makes it seem as though you’re truly kicking ass!

Knives, pipes, and a samurai sword are among the weapons you can pick-up. You can also find money, apples and a fully cooked turkey on a plate by breaking barrels or other in-stage items: yes, young ones, that was a given in this era of games too and didn’t feel out of place as it might some nearly 30 years later!

Regardless, the controls for this game are incredibly tight whereas other brawlers may see you miss punches and take unnecessary strikes, SOR2 seems to “hit” on all cylinders.

While the level of difficulty ratchets up depending on the level you’re on, or the options screen where you can set it, the game is a blast to mash buttons through and still feels fresh for replayability. If you’re a fan of any sort of games such as those mentioned, or Capcom’s Final Fight, I would highly recommend Streets of Rage 2 finds a way into your retro gaming backlog… and please do move it to the top of the list!

Streets of Rage

From the moment the menu screen starts, you realize Streets of Rage isn’t your typical beat-em-up.

Modeled after games such as Double Dragon, Final Fight, and Komami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and its many arcade clones) Streets of Rage is Sega’s take on the genre which has a unique albeit cliche feel from the early 90’s.

The story centers around some type of criminal enterprise overtaking a city, and a group of souped-up cops fighting to take it back.

Honestly, aside from the video game inspirations noted above, scenes and levels throughout the game will remind you of movies such as Big Trouble In Little China and Scarface. Yet, the game feels fresh and not like a complete rip-off.

That’s due to tight controls – as with the others in the genre noted, you can move in all directions, clearing each level of many palette-swap enemies which fill the screen from both sides (and often of of it).

Weapons are dropped, and can be picked up, by your protagonist. Your attacks vary between Sega’s three buttons: a strike, jump, and special attack. The strike can be a kick, punch, knee or any combination of such with a jump. The occasional judo throw or wrestling suplex also enters the fray.

It’s also refreshing to see your character able to attack on both sides without needing to face their target necessarily.

While limited in number, a special attack will cut to a cop car pulling up with a bazooka – the rocket of which pretty much disposes of everything on the screen.

Bosses are a mixed lot. There’s a larger skinny punk with a mohawk and claws, a fat guy who breathes fire, and a pair of what I assume are ninja ladies who are a major PITA to hit (as they constantly move by jumping forward/backward).

Levels are referred to as “rounds”, eight in all, with a boss at the end of all but Round 7; and with good reason. When you reach the big bad at the end of Round 8 he sees “potential” in you and gives you a choice of joining his “syndicate” or fighting. If you choose to join, a trap door opens and sends you back to Round 7 to start all over!

If you do battle, you’re basically up against Tony Montana with a few extra henchmen lurking.

The controls are overall crisp, the graphics (even by Sega standards) are arcade quality, and the soundtrack absolutely thumps with riffs ripe from the era it was developed.

As far as beat-em-ups go, this game is a great one to pick up, and easy to get started with at that. But the usual difficulty additions are there, including harder enemies to defeat as the game goes on and an annoying timer you have to beat too.

Yeah, this might be the worst timer added to a game since Ninja Gaiden!

Regardless, if you’ve never played Streets of Rage and are a fan of games in this genre, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Pick it up and check it out NOW!