GameSpite Journal 12: Streets of Rage

Few games represent the Genesis quite like the Streets of Rage trilogy. Find any random Genesis-owning household circa 1994 and you’d be likely to see at least one of the three cartridges among the collection, probably sandwiched between a copy of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and the port of Mortal Kombat with the uncensored blood. Get any former Genesis owner to start waxing nostalgic about their experiences with Sega’s second U.S. console and they’d probably dwell on memories of teaming up with a buddy and pounding the ever-loving crap out of various thugs and ne’er-do-wells with the aid of Axel and company. But the ugly secret of Streets of Rage is that the first game really wasn’t very good.

Sega was no stranger to beat-em-ups when they created the original Streets of Rage, having given the world the likes of Altered Beast and Golden Axe a few years prior. But in many ways both of those titles were largely arcade tech demos, designed to treat players to exciting, cutting-edge visuals in exchange for fistfuls of quarters. As actual “games” they were pretty lousy, featuring stiff controls, poor hit detection, and unbalanced difficulty. Despite being created solely for consoles, the original Streets of Rage wears its arcade heritage on its sleeve. Just like its predecessors, it too seems designed to quickly drain players of their lives. Cheap hits abound, and boss fights typically come down to battles of attrition, where the key to victory simply involves properly timing the screen-clearing special moves.

Arcade games can, to a degree, get away with this kind of behavior. After all, they’re there to take your money, so you know what you’re getting into when you pop in your first quarter. Getting angry at them for doing so would be like getting angry at slot machines for not paying out more often. Console games, though, have no such excuse. Good console games need to require skill to surmount their challenges, not luck. Arcade games of the era also had the advantage of additional hardware that home systems simply couldn’t match. Golden Axe and Altered Beast might have been crummy games, but they at least looked pretty nice, featuring large, detailed sprites and intricate backgrounds. By comparison, Streets of Rage is an ugly game. Its sprites are tiny, and its graphics overall have that muddy quality seen in many early Genesis titles.

In its day, the original Streets of Rage gained popularity primarily by providing Genesis owners with a console game that aped the likes of phenomenally popular arcade brawlers like Final Fight and Double Dragon. Sure, it was a pretty poor substitute, but it was essentially the only one Genesis owners had. Other than its admittedly solid soundtrack (a techno mixture composed by the outstanding Yuzo Koshiro), it really doesn’t have much to recommend it today. Thankfully, it was at least an important building block of great things to come.

Article by Mike Zeller

GameSpite Journal 12Streets of Rage

19 thoughts on “GameSpite Journal 12: Streets of Rage

  1. While my only experience with the first Streets of Rage has been watching the attract demo on the Streets of Rage Sega Vintage Collection’s trial, I can tell it’s a game that hasn’t aged well. It’s amazing how its sequels went from that to being the best brawlers on the platform.

    I’m sure I’ll give it a shot if I unlock SVC: Streets of Rage, but if I do, it’ll largely be for the Japanese versions of the games. Especially Bare Knuckle 3, which is like a whole different game with a more forgiving difficulty level and its “bonus” characters.

  2. Wow. Hafta admit I’ve been waiting weeks for this to be posted ever since I read the print version. This article barely talks about the game and gives the impression that you only played it for like 10 minutes.

    Streets of Rage was amazing for the time and I still find it very playable today. The music is fantastic and I’ve been rocking the boss theme on my phone for years. You could have at least mentioned the PR battle between SoR and the SNES 1 player Final Fight. Nostalgia might hafta do with why I think this game is greater than it might be, but I woulda rather have read anything than you just putting down SoR and its genre.

    SoR was arguably rather easy, too. Think you’re confusing SoR with Double Dragon? Maybe you downloaded Double Dragon Neon instead of the SoR XBLA pack on yo X360?

    Naked BoB

  3. How come so many of these Sega game articles seem hellbent on propping up the SNES/Nintendo than actually talking about the Sega games themselves?

    Its honestly seeming more like the kind of “reporting” Fox News does on Democrats than anything else.

    SoR 1 was a decent game. Pretty much on par with Final Fight.

    The 8 and 16 bit console wars ended before Clinton’s 2nd term. That is 12 years ago. Why not talk about the games instead of trumpeting how much greater and more popular Nintendo’s stuff was?

    Many of these articles are seriously like Grade Z versions of what Hardcore Gaming 101 does except they don’t also sell them in bookazine form.

  4. Most of the GS12 Sega articles are rather enjoyable and informative. There are a handful, like this guy’s SoR articles, that really rubbed me the wrong way, though.

    Find it really funny that he used Golden Axe, Altered Beast, and SoR1 for his examples. The Genesis/MD versions were slow as molasses. When I think of cheap hits, games like Mega Man or Ghost n Goblins come to mind. Definitely not these three Sega titles. Maybe he just experienced them through YouTube speed runs?

    Naked BoB

  5. Really don’t agree with a lot of this article. Streets of Rage was a pretty easy game and there was no cheap hits from bosses or likewise if you got their pattern down. I get the feeling the author only gave the game a cursory glance before writing it. I still think it holds up in the gameplay department even if the visuals look shoddy.

  6. Love the Genesis series here and always glad to hear a dissenting opinion. Looking back, the original Streets of Rage certainly wasn’t a “great” game, but even today, I find it hard to say it wasn’t good. It was, to me at that time, a pretty darned good mixture of Final Fight and Double Dragon (who knew you could mix things that were so similar?). One thing that I don’t remember from Streets of Rage that actually improved the experience was prolonged insta-death areas (I’m looking at you Double Dragon stalactites and every last tongue of flame in Final Fight). Granted, I haven’t gotten that far in the game in quite some time, as I mostly play it on my iPhone now, to my everlasting shame. But if a random recommendation from an internet nobody with an Old English name means anything to you, give Streets of Rage a try!

  7. All this bickering makes me kind of glad my own blog doesn’t get much traffic.

    As for Streets of Rage, I have fond memories of the game, and it really did fill a gap in the early Genesis library that titles like DJ Boy, Street Smart, and Mystical Fighter couldn’t. I first played SoR at a Sega-sponsored event held at a mall in Detroit, and was absolutely thrilled with it… I couldn’t wait to pick up a copy for my brother and myself. I was satisfied with it overall… the characters were a little shrimpy and the colors garish, but the control seemed fine to me, and the vaulting play mechanic added depth and excitement to what would have otherwise been a retread combat system.

    It’s true that the game was instantly obsoleted by Streets of Rage 2, which doubled the size of the characters and replaced that cheesy napalm-launching police car (capable of driving through the fifteenth story floor of a skyscraper!) with more satisfying character-specific special moves. However, it got me through those first couple of years of Genesis ownership, when most third parties were hesitant to embrace the system and the licensees who did weren’t producing top-shelf software. I can’t begrudge the game for that even if it’s aged like fine cabbage.

  8. I think that we should hold cheapness against arcade games. For example, it is possible to one-credit Sunset Riders, but almost impossible to do that with contemporaries Ninja Turtles and Simpsons, unless you go crazy with the jumpkicks. While I like the two later games, I respect Sunset Riders more. Even worse is X-Men, Since the limited move set makes every fight a war of attrition.

  9. For the record, I played the whole game, and I stand by my assertion that it’s pretty terrible. Streets of Rage 2, though, is amazing, which you’ll hear me say whenever Jeremy posts my next piece. They are plenty of terrific Genesis games, but this isn’t one of them. Everybody just needs to relax a bit.

  10. Golden Axe and also Streets of Rage are awesome. The person who wrote this article had his soul eaten by a Lich or something. Altered Beast is a thing of beauty and simplicity. What’s wrong with you man?

  11. I’d expect Streets of Rage 1 was one of those “You had to be there” games. I certainly won’t deny it has its awesome traits (This is the game with an alternate ending where you can become a crime lord and fight the other player, right?), but I didn’t have my own Genesis back in the day so I don’t have all the rose-tinted nostalgia some others do for it.

    SoR1 may be fun for a history lesson, but it looks hard to go back to when its two sequels surpassed it in nearly every way. Still, framerate and lower res graphics aside, it still looks far more interesting than most of the Golden Axe games do. I’ve tried to enjoy those, but found myself longing for a Capcom or Konami brawler instead when playing them. Or Streets of Rage 2.

    Did I mention Streets of Rage 2 is awesome? Great soundtrack, scenic stages, nice and colorful visuals, button motions for some special attacks…Really cool stuff for a console brawler.

  12. While I don’t necessarily agree with the author’s conclusion (I personally have a soft spot for the game), I can see where the criticism comes in. I mean, it’s not nearly as smooth as its sequels or Final Fight, nor is it as technical as the Double Dragon games.

    Oh, but the music. I used to think SoR2 had the better tunage, but I’ve flip-flopped recently and gone back to the first. They’re both seriously amazing stuff.

  13. I’ll echo the other comments and say that SoR wasn’t as pretty or smooth as Final Fight, but it certainly filled the void created by the gimpy single player SNES port in ways that crap like Rival Turf had no chance of doing and is worthy of analysis as its own beast. The sprites actually resemble Super Double Dragon more than anything and there are some really cool environments to beat people up in like the broken down bridge and the factory.

    I had a ton of fun playing this with friends, but like others have said, it’s hard to go back to it when SoR 2 is right there. The bosses are also very frustrating in points; I recall running out of time trying to fight the two Blaze clones one time because they simply keep flipping all over the place. Once you get the patterns down, however, it’s all gravy.

    The music? Still top notch. The sound effects are great too. Any time I think of this game, I hear the jumping sound in my head for some reason.

  14. @Tato: Man, I hated those two. Especially in the last stage, where you couldn’t call in your screen-nuking support.

  15. I knew this piece would be contentious when I edited it, but I trust Mike when it comes to brawlers… even though I rather enjoy Streets 1 myself. I don’t think it’s quite as bad as all that, but it definitely pales in comparison to its sequel.

    And just to clear the air about the supposed Nintendo bias… I was worried about that as I assembled this issue, but in rereading the text for edits I realized the picture these articles paint isn’t “Nintendo had better content” but rather “Nintendo won the marketplace in the end, and Sega’s rivalry ultimately has to be painted in light of the stark reality that they chose to retreat from the console race.” Sega pitched itself as the cool alternative to Nintendo for so long the comparisons are difficult to escape — hoist by its own petard to a certain degree — and both companies have a sort of yin-yang relationship. This book doesn’t condemn though; it contextualizes, and the overall mood is incredibly positive and complimentary.

  16. The Genesis vs SNES debate is just ingrained into our heads. There’s no avoiding it, but it becomes particularly hard to ignore when there were just so many better alternatives on the SNES. I try to go back and play these arcade-y Genesis games and just have a really hard time. History was not kind to SEGA.

  17. Sorry, but I had a NES and a Gameboy, but I HATED the SNES for its total utter lack of truly exceptional arcade action. Give me M.U.S.H.A., give me SOR series and not the lousy SNES Final Fights, give me FINAL FIGHT CD PEOPLE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!, give me the Thunder Force series, give me love, but most of all just give me SEGA! This website is too Nintendo centered. Sega touched my soul, baby. The Sega Genesis spoke to me and it told me: “Baby, video games are art and Roger Ebert is a tool”. I also happen to like the not to arcadey Ecco series and also Chakan the Forever man which is rumored to make 12 year olds grow chest hair if they manage to finish it in a weekend. And Contra Hardcorps, people, talk about seminal total action hits. And Mercs, and the list goes on and on.

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