Let’s Talk About Streets of Rage 2

Streets-of-Rage-2-Title-Screen

You know what? I actually want to talk about why this series of games hasn’t had a proper sequel when they’ve literally had twenty years to make it and if it takes that long to make it a game then what you end up with is a Duke Nukem shitfest and OHHHHHH YES I WENT THERE but seriously that joke is old and I can’t believe we’re still having that conversation. It came out and it was shit, were you expecting it be- ANYWAY, off-topic. We’re here to talk about AMAZING games and you will not be surprised to know that I do indeed like this game. I suppose I go into two categories in my reviews: games that I like and games that I do not. I mean, so far I’ve given you ‘Let’s Talk About X GAME’ and ‘Let’s NOT Talk About X GAME’ and apparently that’ll cover the spectrum of my gaming existence. Works for me! Carry on!

 

Wait, wait, wait… was that REALLY the title screen? Why do I not even VAGUELY remember that? I mean… I could have sworn it looked completely different. I mean, I love to play this game but I suppose I’ve never really looked at the title screen for that long but still, you’d think I’d remember something like that… hold on a second.

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Turns out that IS what it looked like. Jeez. Well I’ll be damned. Ah well. Crisis averted.

ANYHOW. When this game came out, the fact that this was supposedly a sequel to Streets of Rage was something akin to taking a crappy 70s cartoon and turning into an anime show or something because to be honest, it doesn’t even look like the same style of game. The whole visual style was overhauled completely and a billion times better than the original which now looks like ass in comparison. I mean, it’s like comparing a kids drawing to the Mona Lisa. Unless your kid is Leonardo Da Vinci, in which case choose another child’s drawing. Seriously, stop trying to throw your kid’s artwork in our faces, we’re so over it by now. So rude. The other mums think so too; we’re here for an intervention.

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So here’s your motley crew for tonight: Axel, Blaze, Max and Skate (or Sammy depending on whichever version you played but THAT IS WRONG – SKATE IS A BETTER NAME). Axel and Blaze return for a second outing because of STORY REASONS and Adam doesn’t return because of STORY REASONS – instead you get mini-Adam or Skate because Skate is Adam’s little brother and he’s coming along for the ride this time. Then throw in heaving lummox Max who’s a ‘friend’ of Axel’s – ohhhhhh I see how it is (actually I really don’t) and you have the BEST SEQUEL TO ANY GAME EVER except for maybe Micro Machines 2 but let’s not have THAT conversation just yet.

HEFTY PLOT ALERT. Mr X is back and he’s kidnapped Adam so you’re going to go after him.

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Seriously. I just summed up the entire plot of the game in one sentence. I wish I could flesh that out a little bit more but I genuinely have no idea how to do that. I mean, I could say “Mr X, fresh from previously dying in the game before this one, has somehow inexplicably returned to life and is inflicting his form of revenge upon those that did away with him last time. As such, in order to trap Axel and Blaze, he kidnaps Adam and thus sets off a new violent chain of events across 8 levels including 2 elevators” but actually that would mostly be the game manual talking and not me. All you need to know is FRIEND GONE; GO FIND; KILL MAN WHO DID IT and you’re away.

Anyway, there are multiple changes that have occurred between this game and the previous one. Most of them are for the better.

1) The sprites are ridiculously amazing. We’re talking MEGA levels of amazing (or GENESIS depending on whether you’re American… Oh God, that wasn’t even a good joke, I apologise). You think back to what those first sprites looked like and if you thought those were pretty cool, you’re onto a winner here.
2) The music is EVEN better. I mean, the soundtrack to the first game was beat-droppingly gorgeous but fucking hell, if you wanted to know the secret to making a decent score, ask Yuzo Koshiro, a man whose skill is so widely recognised, they shove HIS name on the title screen instead of anyone else’s because EVERY TRACK = GLORIOUS. I actually think I might hurt myself with how good the music is. I won’t but just so you know, I could do and under certain conditions, I might do. I’m not going to tell you what those are and I now feel uncomfortable for having said it.
3) Here are two reasons in one as to why this game is better:
SHITBOSS

THEY AREN’T IN THIS GAME. THANK FUCK FOR THAT.
Seriously, anyone who HAS played the first game will know exactly what I’m talking about. These women were cheap as shit, jumpy, jumpy, fuck-you-up-in-a-heartbeat HARD AS FUCKING NAILS and they were the source of many lost lives and much pain for all gamers. I mean, yeah by all means make them hard as nails, I mean women totally are hard as nails but to make them hard as nails in terms of NOT BEING ABLE TO LAY A HAND ON THEM IN THIS GAME IS alllllllmost like a weird social commentary that I’d never thought of before… huh. NO. NO, NO, NO. These two were EVIL. The sequel did not contain them. It was infinitely better for it.
4) Every level had multiple layers to it. It wasn’t just one long level – you got taken into smaller rooms and had to travel along different corridors to beat the living shit out of random people laid out on the ground or benches or in front of benches on the ground for whatever reason other than they’re trying to kill you so try to kill them all first. The wider variety of level backgrounds and whatever just oozed class and made it much more evocative than simply walking across a bridge until you get to the end where some massive guy breathes fire at you. I mean there are guys breathing fire at you in this game too, but they’re not at the very end of a level and you do at least get to beat the crap out of them in a wider array of locales than just the end of a bridge. You never even find out what bridge it is or how you get off the bridge. How rude.
5) They extended the number of moves from just PUNCH-PUNCH-OTHER PUNCH-KICK to FORWARD-FORWARD-PUNCH moves and SPECIAL MOVES that take a little bit of health off because that’s how real life works apparently. Basically, they upped the possibilities moves-wise, even to the point of adding three different jump moves! Adam and Max are still shit at jumping. There is a boss that involves using a lot of jumping. They really suck at that. Although there are also characters that you CAN’T jump into so they’re not too shit for that.

And here’s a few reasons as to why this sequel isn’t QUITE as good as it could have been:

1) Oh yeah…

Megadrive-Genesis-Streets-of-Rage-2-Stage-05-9-BOSS-R.-BEAR

CHEESE AND BISCUITS, R.BEAR, STOP BEING A TWAT YOU KNOBJOCKEY BOSS AND FUCK OFF. SERIOUSLY. YOU AND YOUR CLONE IN THE FINAL LEVEL CAN JUST DIE ALREADY.
This boss was a pisstake in the same way that Level 5’s EVIL LADIES from the first game were. There is obviously some written law in the Streets of Rage universe where any boss on a ship (both of which are Level 5, interestingly) has to be the HARDEST BOSS EVER. You see what he’s doing, right? He’s butt-dropping you. HE. BUTT-DROPS. YOU. He does it regularly. Are you standing too far away? BUTT-DROP. Are you standing too close? BUTT-DROP. Are you someone on the screen? BUTT-DROP. Ugh. If you saved a katana sword from the stage of this part of the stage, you basically have this guy on the ropes but if you don’t, you’re going to need some face wipes soon enough.

I’ll wait.

Got it yet?

(BUTT-DROPPING)

There we go. On we go!

2) Why do these characters still eat food from bins? Who hides these things in the bin? Why do they look fresh? What… Why is this a concept? Who came up with that one? “Where can we hide the power-ups?” was the obvious start of the conversation at Sega headquarters. “Ooh, in a bin?” was the SUPER ‘obvious’ reply followed by a lot of awkward pauses before somebody LET THAT GUY DO THAT. God, Sega, you had ONE chance to change it and you blew it. I hope you’re happy with yourselves. What are we, animals? Eating chickens from bins. You make me sick… as would that chicken if I actually ate it.
3) No cops. You remember the cops from the first game who dropped napalm on everyone? Or rained bullets as player two, which is the only reason I played as player two in the first game. That move on the A button you saved for the boss battles? Yeah, they’re gone. Replaced by dragon punches, fireballs, corkscrew kicks and giant shoulder tackles. You either love it or you hate it.

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In reality, the whole emphasis on the game is to beat everyone else up as you go along until you reach the boss and while that might sound quite shallow and one-dimensional, that’s actually what makes it so good. It knows what it is and it does it very well. This sequel HAD to be this and nothing else. It was a fleshed out, double-sized version of the first game that righted the wrongs of its predecessor and it didn’t need to do anything too heavy or weird. It just needed to be the first game in a lick of paint with a mightier crunch to it. You really felt as though you were out there having a massive fight against those guys. The sound effects were meaty enough to feel as though they connected, an amazing feat given the specs of the machine and technology it had. It was sonically one of the most accomplished games on the system. Graphically, it was neat, tidy, clean and fluid. There were only eight levels, it could be done within an hour or so but to be honest, do you really want more than THAT? I mean, the whole thing would get repetitive after eight levels if it weren’t for that tense final showdown with Mr X and the way the atmosphere changes with that AMAZING music on this level alone is reason enough to not feel as though you’re just repeating the same thing over again for eight levels. If it was any longer, you’d be bored. It is, instead, a perfectly judged length.

Streets of Rage 3, on the other hand, is a different kettle of dead, rotting fish altogether. Oooooooh, seriously, you do not want to get me started on that game. Not yet anyway…

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