The world of Streets of Rage, Write a review they said. I'll do Streets of Rage I said. I used to enjoy playing it, it will be fun and easy I said! Wow! How I underestimated that. Streets of rage 2 has to be one of my most favourite games EVER! So I do apologise to folks reading this if some biasing comes along during this article.
What was it about the game I loved? Well, this was back in the 90's so the wonderful 16bit graphics styling was in, controls were nice and simple (just like me) and the game had one hell of a sound track very reminiscent of the Shaman (Still one of my favourite artists now) just listen to 'Move any Mountain' and you will be able to see yourself fighting through the hoards of bad guys.
What I didn't expect to see when I started reminiscing was a whole world opened up by Streets of Rage. A great location to find almost everything you ever needed to know about SOR is http://soronline.net/main.htm.
Also available is the brilliant Streets of Rage Remake, one of the best!
So what has the SOR world opened up?
Well, there are the 3 games we all know and love, these have been ported to other saga consoles including the Game Gear, they can be played through the Megadrive Collection on Xbox 360 and PS3. More recently, they have been converted to IOS and SOR has now even been converted to 3D on the Nintendo 3DS. Never saw that happening back in the 90's.
Since the game launch, there has been Fan Art and Fiction, Comics, Novels, A Movie, even Fan Games.
A couple of attempts have been made to remake the games with upgraded graphics but SEGA have sadly quashed these games. A sad loss as they could have taken up the projects and released them under licence. In the Mean time though, let's have a look back to where it all began.
Streets of Rage 1 Megadrive
SOR also known as Bare Knuckle: Ikari no Tekken in Japan or Bare Knuckle: Furious Iron Fist was launched to compete against the launch of the SNES which was due to provide some awesome games with its superior hardware to the Megadrive, SEGA a needed to prove that the're 16 bit console was capable of producing games with graphics and sound just as good as the new rival.
In essence, SOR was really just a clone of Capcom's Final Fight. Sensibly though, SEGA a kept the 2 player co-op option (sadly missing from many of today's games - take note developers) this gameplay concept was further backed up by the other gaming influence - Double Dragon.
I mentioned about the music....... Yuzo Koshiro was the composer for all the SOR games he admitted that he was very influenced by the 'club music scene' of the 90's and that really pulls through. Listening to it again, takes me back to how much I loved just listening to it. :-)
So, Megadrive version begins with a little story line and then, you are in.
A choice of 3 characters......
Adam Hunter - a muscle bound strong man - powerful but slow.
Axel Stone - Midrange - a good allrounder
Blaze Fielding - Weaker but fast - admittedly my favourite character as better for finger bashing.
So playing through, as always, the difficulty curve has been set just right so each stage is slightly harder than the last but not by too much. The end of level bosses become noticeably harder but that is to be expected as they become as they should be, more of a challenge.
Some nice touches are added to the surroundings such as the corner of posters flapping in the wind, even rain and wind effects and the way that Blaze amusingly flicks her hair at the end of each level.
The special move is quite a nice touch as each character calls on the police squad car who then fires a weapon such as a mini gun or bazooka into the middle of your fight. Not giving enough fire power to take out the bosses but certainly does enough damage to help.
Working through the game, about the hardest characters are the final stage versions of Blaze all dressed in Black as Without access to the special move, they are nearly impossible to catch. I do find it amusing though how in many of these games, there are always the dominatrix characters. I wonder if this is an in-joke in the industry?
Looks wise, this doesn't do too bad at replicating in 8 bit what the Megadrive created.
Sound is beepy but gives a good pumping track.
Gameplay...... Well, this is where the game falls down a little. The whole game feels a little clunky. I found that playing it, it was all too easy to become trapped between a couple of people or pushed towards the edge of the screen loosing life at every hit. Good for a bit of retro gaming but that is about it.
SEGA a have released several games onto IOS now. In particular, a range of Megadrive games so it is no surprise that all 3 are now available on IOS. However, it is worth noting that these are a little old now and are sadly only iPhone 3GS resolution. However, the new iPhones and iPads upscale the graphics.
Playing in IOS, you have 2 modes to use. Full screen with overlaying buttons which looks great but your fingers do block some of the view or reduced mode where you no longer block the view but the screen is much smaller. A little too small for the iPhone I think.
Speaking of which. Playing on the iPhone, I find that the buttons are a little small for big thumbs and I am not sure if sometimes buttons are not responding or if I am simply missing them. Other than that, it is identical to the Megadrive version and looks very clear.
iPad Mini. Spot on. The buttons are just the right size and with the screen reduced in size, and judging by the reaction time of pressing the buttons, there are no delays so I am assuming my issues with the iPhone are down to missing the buttons.
Full sized iPad. This time, the buttons are too large. Strangely making me feel like I am in a techy version of the 3 bears. There is a multiplayer option available over wifi or Bluetooth but interestingly, this doesn't seem to work on iPads.
3DS. Now this is by far my favourite version of SOR. Where the PS3 version is also a perfect port, the 3DS version keeps the perfection but adds that extra dimension. The depth simply adds to the enjoyment.
Streets of Rage 2 - Megadrive.
Very shortly after SOR was released and being such a success, SEGA released SOR2 (The Requiem of the Deadly Battle) Graphics were much cleaner and more detailed in this version. The character Adam Hunter was replaced with 2 new characters Max and Skate. The sound track too was beefed up further and the Shamenesc tunes really shone through.
An extra duelling 2 player mode was added and rather than special moves that reacted in a similar way to Golden Axe, the special moves were more reminiscent of Street Fighter 2.
Playing the game is again great fun in co-op mode with the storyline continuing from SOR1. Some nice added bits in SOR2 include health bars for all the enemies so you know exactly where you stand be it a boss or not again, just the right level of difficulty to keep you on your toes. IOS and PS3 versions again provide excellent versions of the game. Perfect to the Megadrive versions.
The conversion to GameGear for SOR2 is much better than SOR1. Though the programmers had to make do with the 8 bit architecture, they did a very good job. Controls are more responsive, collision detection is more accurate and it feels altogether much more playable.
Streets of Rage 3
After the successes of the SOR games, SEGA got greedy and decided to release a 3rd game but this time there was nothing particularly new other than a new dash move added and that the game itself was more frantic to play.
Blaze now wore silver, (silver? Really? who on earth goes out to fight in the streets waring silver?) and the music to be fair...... Bloody awful! And what's with the spray on tan?
Playing it wow this is sooooooo bad! Everything says cheap dash for more money. Poor through and through. To be short and sweet. Just don't bother to waste your time. I hope the team who put this out got a big telling off and no wonder if didn't do well.
On for the future then.
There have been several failed attempts to put together Streets of Rage 4. Some have been the possible beginnings of the equally mediocre game Final Fight, while others have been put together by fans of the game series but then quashed by SEGA rather than helping push the series forwards.
2 prime examples of this are Streets of Rage 4 HD and Streets of Rage Silent Storm. Hopefully, Sega will note that there is a market for an updated Streets of rage but it needs to follow the original format 2.5 D at the most. Perhaps the retro market on Mobile devices would be an ideal platform for this.
Overall, at the moment I would say that SOR2 is the top game of the series but who knows what may come for the future. Unlikely but we can hope. ;-)