Unfortunately, we’ve now come full circle and returned to failure. While it’s not quite at the level of the original Streets of Rage, Streets of Rage 3 is still a disappointingly weak game in its own right.
On the surface, it seems to take a lot of positive ideas from Streets of Rage 2. The character sprites are all large, detailed, and very well-animated, maybe even more so than in Streets of Rage 2. The fighting also feels really fast and intense, something that’s definitely a plus in a brawler. But that’s also where things start to go wrong. The enemies move so quickly and take off so much health with their attacks that you’ll wind up burning through lives very quickly. Don’t be surprised if you use up a continue in the very first level. Apparently, in the reverse of how things typically went at this time in gaming history, Sega of America decided to drastically ramp up the difficulty from the Japanese release. The original Japanese release has difficulty about on par with Streets of Rage 2, but the American version gets absolutely brutal, particularly during boss fights. End-level foes practically fly around the screen, deftly dodging player attacks and countering with savage efficiency. The game is certainly still playable, but you should expect to practice a lot before you get anywhere near the ending. Much like the Genesis Contra game, probably the best way to actually enjoy the gameplay of Streets of Rage 3 is to just play the Japanese version. Plus, in that version the character’s outfits haven’t had their colors changed to the ugly tones you see in the U.S. release.
The other major misstep is, surprisingly, the music. Apparently series composer Yuzo Koshiro decided to develop some kind of random note generating software that wrote all the tracks for him. And the music does, indeed, sound like it’s just a random series of notes strung together and looped. It’s absolutely awfully. Compared to the soundtracks of its predecessors, both of which emphasized driving, rhythmic beats, Streets of Rage 3’s music is bizarrely dissonant and grating, emphasizing the worst aspects of the Genesis’s tinny sound hardware. I’m honestly not sure how anyone could enjoy this kind of stuff, but apparently the Streets of Rage 3 soundtrack has some kind of cult following. Regrettably, this is one aspect that isn’t any better in the Japanese version.
It’s somewhat strange that the Streets of Rage series has such a strong reputation among retro gamers, because at least in the West it only has about a 33% success ratio. As a baseball average that’s not bad, but for a game trilogy it’s kind of terrible. I suppose it’s just a case of the memory clouding properties of nostalgia. Plus, Streets of Rage 2 was really, really good. I suppose if I grew up playing the series, that’s the one that I’d probably want to focus on too.
Article by Mike Zeller
GameSpite Journal 12: Streets of Rage 3