Now we’re getting somewhere. Unlike its dud of a predecessor, Streets of Rage 2 is a game that more than lives up to its glowing reputation. The designers clearly took a long, hard look at the first Streets of Rage, realized it was complete garbage, and did everything in their power to make a sequel that rectified all of the original’s egregious mistakes.
Right from the beginning, the improvements are obvious. Gone are the tiny, fuzzy sprites, replaced by large, well animated characters more to scale with those seen in the Final Fight games. The characters were given enough detail that they actually have personality this time around instead of just feeling like generic ’90s street toughs. The locales, too, are more diverse than the generic cityscapes that largely made up the first game. Now the battles spill across a motorcycle-packed bridge, into an amusement park haunted house, through a baseball stadium, and even onto the deck of a ship. And while the music of the first game was essentially its only redeeming feature, even it has been improved upon, creating one of the most memorable soundtracks on the console.
One of the most effective changes introduced into the game is the insertion of some fundamental differences to the various playable characters. The characters in the first game were essentially, “the black guy,” “the white guy,” and, “the chick,” all of whom were functionally identical despite some slight differences in stats. And though two of those characters return in the sequel, the entire quartet has been tweaked so that playing one versus another is a completely different experience. Hulking wrestler Max Thunder handles totally differently from speedy rollerblade enthusiast and early ’90s cultural artifact, Skate. Plus, instead of everyone having the same screen-clearing special move, each character has a host of unique moves, several of which are executed by Street Fighter II style motion inputs. Finding the character that suits your play style is a much more important factor this time around.
Today there is somewhat of a pervasive attitude that beat-em-ups are the most derivative and generic of videogames, involving simply holding right and pressing the attack button repeatedly until the end of the game. But using the first two Streets of Rage games as examples proves just how wrong that train of thought is. Here you have two games within the very same series that feel like they come from totally different universes. Streets of Rage is stiff, uninteresting, and cheap, while its sequel is a smooth, satisfying experience from start to finish. Both games essentially boil down to walking right and punching guys, but the execution is what makes one borderline unplayable and the other the type of game that’s a blast to whip out when friends are around even twenty years later.
Streets of Rage 2 may not be the best brawler ever, but it’s certainly the best on the Genesis and ranks among the best of the 16-bit generation.
Article by Mike Zeller
GameSpite Journal 12: Streets of Rage 2
6 thoughts on “GameSpite Journal 12: Streets of Rage 2”
I love the genre, but only as much as I love the license associated with it – especially the Marvel games (most of them being bad to mediocre) and TMNT. And while I was always a Sega kid back in the day, I never understood the appeal of this game. It plays smoothly, true, but I still am not convinced it has ‘character’ or anything really setting it apart much. Between the three major generic brawlers (SoR, Final Fight, Double Dragon), I always preferred Double Dragon. Why? Who can say?
Maybe it’s time to try it again. I think I have a free version from PS+ floating around on my PS3 (or downloads list).
Oh, one more thing – this game does have one great soundtrack.
SOR2, while being a good game, has the same flaws that plague most beat em ups (even the better ones): repetition and uneven difficulty. The same types of enemies get reused over and over (only color-swapped and with bigger health-bars, which makes fighting them even more tedious) and later bosses tend to be cheaply overpowered, rather than “skilled”.
It has a great presentation and some neat ideas, like those SF2-special moves. Still I wish it was even MORE like Street Fighter with overall less enemies but more unique, versatile and balanced ones instead.
I guess that kind of ambition would have been too cost-intensive back then (and maybe would be even today).
SoR2 was indeed excellent, but you’re being too hard on SoR1. Maybe my friends and I were just open minded about games back then, but we loved the first game’s atmosphere and thought the hardest mode was hilarious for the dozen or so enemies it crammed onscreen. Dropping a cluster bomb on that many goons was like dropping a colony of ants into water and watching them struggle to survive.
I won’t deny that there are better brawlers or ones with more interesting themes, but a big part of tbe appeal of beat-em-ups is the spectacle. And on that front, Streets of Rage 2 shines…mostly.
The graphics are big and colorful, the music is catchy, the backgrounds are lovingly detailed, the characters have fighting game motion style moves in addition to the standard life draining special attack. It’s about as close as you can get to an arcade experience from a game that was never actually released in arcades, and it curb stomps SEGA’s other beat-em-up series, Golden Axe,* in practically every way.
It is totally front loaded, though. The second and third stages are the game at its best, and while it has it moments later on, by the fifth stage you see your first boss recolor and by the final every boss has been recycled with a different palette except the automated bull head alien from the amusement park’s H.R. Giger attraction.
But still, Streets of Rage 2 is one of the best console born brawlers I’ve played.
* Yeah, yeah, Revenge of Death Adder, blah blah blah. I’ll try it if SEGA ever gives it a digital release like the other Golden Axes.
Streets of Rage 2 may be my favorite brawler of all time. I’ll take it over any of the Final Fights, good as they are.
And that soundtrack. Oh, that soundtrack.
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