It has been a year since the events of the first Streets of Rage. After a big celebration at a nightclub, the three heroes from the last game go their separate ways, with Axel and Blaze moving out of town and Adam joining the police force once again. However, just the next morning, Skate, Adam’s younger brother, calls Axel and tells him that someone vandalized their home and kidnapped Adam. Mr. X is behind this and the criminals are about to take over the streets once more. Axel, Skate, Blaze, and their friend and professional wrestler Max, are out to save Adam and the city. After such a solid start with the first game, could the sequel improve upon its predecessor? Yes!
Been hitting the gym!
Like its predecessor, you once again go from point A to B and knock down everyone you come across. However, this time you have much more to work with: the character roster has gone from 3 to 4, with all of them having more stats than before: Power, Technique, Speed, Jump and Stamina, all being pretty self explanatory. All characters differ quite a lot due to this, but also through how they play, with some having uppercut-attacks and others being able to slide. Every character is useful and even our heroes from the last game have gotten some more unique attacks.
Moves have been expanded upon, with double tap left or right being used to do a minor special-attack, 4 hit combo-attacks that are more varied, 3 different jump attacks depending on if you hold the d-pad forward, down or not, different throws and grab-attacks, and 2 super moves. The first super move can be used in one direction that will cost some HP and either do massive damage to one person or multiple in a straight line. The second super move, attacks everyone around your character and will cost a bit of your health if you hit anyone. These are incredibly strong and useful, but also a risk due to making you lose health. All the attacks are different for each character and all are useful. Even pressing jump and attack, for attacking an enemy from behind, is much faster than the last game, making it a useful addition. Gone is throwing a person over your head when grabbed, so this time you will have to rely on a super move to get you out of those situations. I do miss it, since it required some skill to be used, but it is not a big loss, especially compared to everything else that was added.
You won’t have to just punch and kick your way through however; the weapons return and there are even some new ones, such as swords and kunai. All weapons are strong, can be used for melee-attacks or thrown at enemies, but if you throw it away or get knocked down, the weapon can be lost. Other pickups you can find in breakable containers on the streets, are health-restoring food, 1-ups, and money bags & gold bars for points, which can once again lead to an extra life.
The enemies are more balanced and while still defensive in their approach, they are also a force to be reckoned with. Being so defensive, I said in my review for Streets of Rage, added to the game so it did not feel repetitive, and it stands true here. They can even pick up weapons and use them against you, which is a really nice touch. The bosses are still hard, but much more interesting due to your movement being so vast, making these fights almost feel like a one on one battle, similar to a fighting game. All enemies are guilty of using colors to determine if they are stronger versions of the original, but they are also much more dangerous and faster, and there is a huge variation in enemies in general.
This is a hard game for sure, but only because it demands you learn as you progress, as a game should. Each stage changes up the enemies you fight and obstacles you dodge, such as motorcycle-thugs driving through streets and ninjas hiding in the background throwing grenades. These are a nice addition, but small, making it so you never deviate from beating up criminals. The stun-attack from the last game (where you punched without finishing a combo), is unfortunately here as well, but it is much harder to misuse since enemies will try to attack from behind and they can easily break from this stun-move.
Everything has really been hitting the gym and it shows, with more moves, characters, tougher and more balanced enemies, and more focus on beating up everything. There is even co-op that is a blast, and while you can still attack and even grab each other like last time, it is still a great addition.
Gameplay Score: 9/10
Strolling through a diverse city
What an upgrade it got. This game is beautiful with a bunch of colors and details to it. The characters are much larger, really well detailed and the amount of enemies that can be shown on the screen without it ever slowing down is impressive. The variation to the enemies is really good, even when the stronger versions of enemies are simply palette swaps. Each stage differs greatly from each other and complements the urban look well without ever getting stale, and they even vary a lot in progression inside the stages themselves, such as one where you go from an amusement park, to a pirate-ship and over to a haunted mansion. The backgrounds also have lovely, small animations, with glowing lights from the city, and enemies resting on benches.
The music is composed by Yuzo Koshiro, the man behind the soundtrack for Revenge of Shinobi and Actraiser to name a few. Alongside Motohiro Kawashima, they made a soundtrack with a great mix of electro, techno and breakbeat, giving it a great blend that fits with the urban locations the game takes place in and is an impressive use of the Genesis-twang. Both the visuals and soundtrack are perfect and impressive for the system.
Presentation Score: 10/10
You got a friend?
The multiple endings are gone, which is a shame. Luckily, with more characters that differ more from each other, fun co-op, and the game being a blast in general, going for another run is always fun, especially since it is only about 1 and a half hours long. There is also a duel mode, where you can fight one on one against each other. It is a bit shallow, but also amusing.
Extra Score: 8/10
Streets of Rage 2 improved upon what the first game established and then some. With more moves, more enemies, lovely visuals, an awesome soundtrack, and co-op, I could not ask for much more. Even if it is not as customizable as, say, Scott Pilgrim vs The world or Castle Crashers, it knows what it wants to do and does it tremendously, making it easily stand the test of time.