While there are surely a lot of more in-depth games to sink your teeth in, such as RPG’s and Point and Click games, there is nothing wrong with simply taking upon yourself a comfortable stroll and pummel people with fists and weapons (in videogames of course). Final Fight was one of the biggest beat’em ups for the Super Nintendo and Sega answered this with their own series called Bare Knuckle. Renamed Streets of Rage overseas, it saw numerous releases and despite this, the best and most noticeable version was for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Is this still worth a playthrough or is it too simple?
The story sets up only the setting, almost like an 80s cop movie. The once peaceful city has been taken over by a secret criminal organisation, including the police force. Three ex-cops, Adam Hunter, Axel Stone, and Blaze Fielding have taken upon themselves to rid the streets of criminals and save the city. After being shown their ID’s that includes both their fighting-skills and hobbies, you are set to pick one and fight to save the city. The story is short, simple and gives you a good enough reason to be violent.
Old, but pulls some punches
Streets of Rage is really a trope of its kind, with you moving in one direction and the objective being punching people until they disappear from the screen. The characters control well and simple, with only 3 buttons and the D-pad to worry about. They have 3 stats to them, “speed”, “jump” and “punch”, which make the characters differ from each other. It is noticeable when you try them out, both in their animations and how they fare against the numerous thugs, but at the same time; they don’t differ enough to make you ponder for long on whom to choose.
You have a decent moveset, with a jump, jump-attack, 4-hit combo, calling for backup as a super move, grab enemies by walking into them and from there: choose to pummel, throw or suplex them. You can also change which position you are holding a person, making it easier to choose where to throw or how you wish to finish them off. Enemies can also grab you, but then you can kick to defend yourself and throw the enemy holding you over your shoulder. Calling for backup is assigned to its own button and will call for a police-car to fire 1 of 2 weapons to kill every enemy on the screen or, at the very least, damage them a lot. These can only be used ones for each life you have, unless you can acquire more. There is also the possibility of pressing both the jump and attack-button to attack an enemy that might be behind you, however your punches are quick and have good enough length, so this was never useful. Punches can also stun enemies and this can be misused a bit if you don’t finish a combo. However with plenty of enemies on the screen, it is hard to do so.
The enemies are tough in general and differ from each other with their own tactics. Some rely more on throws, other on weapons and some jump around. What makes them a bit harder is that they are somewhat defensive by circling around and taking some distance from you, only rushing in if they think they can catch you off guard, making them a bit less predictable and more of a joy to fight against. There are some returning ones later on that will simply just have changed colors, but be harder and more dangerous versions of the previous color. The bosses are usually a treat, but a couple of them can be really hard and almost to the point of unfair. The third boss especially, is fast and shoots fire and can be a bit too much. The others, while definitely a challenge, fare a bit better and are more balanced. In fact, they will all eventually become regular enemies you will have to fight in the later stages, except for the last boss.
While this is a challenging game that you might not see the end of due to only having 3 continues, it does throw you a bone from time to time. Punching through urban-objects, such as telephone-booths and stacks of tires, will let you find food to restore your health with, sundaes to get an extra life, dollar-bags for points that can also lead to extra lives, police cars for more times the police backup can be used, and weapons. The weapons range from throwing knife, to lead pipes, and all are useful with good length and dealing good amounts of damage. They can be dropped and disappear if you are knocked down by an enemy, so it is important to not get too cocky.
The levels themselves are similar to each other in layout for the most part. Some levels will have traps or take place in smaller locations, but the obstacles are easy to avoid and can even be used in your favor. With 8 stages to traverse through, it is a good thing that they have a lot of enemies on screen to keep you occupied with. One of the best parts about this is that you can play through the entire game with a friend for co-op. This is a great thing to have, since while fighting alone is not a bad option, you will definitely have somewhat of an easier time with someone by your side. I put it like this since you can hit and even grab each other, which is an annoyance.
Streets of Rage is really by the numbers when it comes to beat’em ups, but it is solid in its execution and does everything well. While it could have used a bit more, what is here is well done and will provide a good, traditional experience with its own minor and unique elements.
Gameplay Score: 7/10
Born in 1991 and still got some strength
The music is really cool and uses the Genesis-twang well. It focuses mostly on beats and drums, with faint tunes from keyboards and voice-samples complementing them, and giving it a somewhat 80s-90s feel, with pop and chill-tech being the main genre it tackles. From the more calm street-tunes, to the hectic boss-fights, it is a really nice soundtrack. The sound samples of punches and attacks with weapons are satisfying, but nothing outstanding. The grunts and screams from both enemies and the playable characters are recognizable, but a bit poor in quality. It is impressive for the system at the very least.
While the characters and enemies have good designs to them, they are be a bit too small to really appreciate fully. This gives them room for a lot of things happening in the stages, but bigger sprites would have been welcome. The enemies differ from each other well, but are guilty of using some stronger versions by simply mixing up the colors. Most of the character animations are done by 2 frames, making them quick, but not impressive. The stages however fair much better. They have a lot of detail to them, from the parallax-scrolling backgrounds where you can see the city far off in the distance, to small animations on a poster, showcasing it being effected by the wind. Each stage feels alive, making the repetitive enemies much less noticeable.
Presentation Score: 7.5/10
Good- or bad-guy
There is the possibility to get different endings depending on the last stage and if you are with a buddy or not. It gives a reason to play the game twice, and being about one hour long, it makes for an enjoyable ride that is worth one more go. Being also easy to pick up and play, will give it some boost to revisit, and you might not even be able to beat it the first time.
Extra Score: 7/10
You might have noticed a small word throughout this review: solid. Streets of Rage is simply that. It doesn’t break any new grounds or have anything unique to itself, but it knows what to do and with smart enemies, a good moveset and a presentation that has not aged too badly, it is still a game that can pull some punches and be enjoyable, making it a classic worth revisiting.