I have previous with the Streets of Rage games, I know. You might have read my reviews of 2 and 3 and you might have seen my disgust for the third one and my unbridled love of the second one but I’ve bypassed the first one, purely because I actually NEVER owned it. I only ever borrowed it and played it at a friend’s house so I suppose in a sense, it sort of fell by the wayside a bit. 2 was phenomenal to me. By comparison, the first game does seem like a it will be a bit flat.
HOWEVER. That’s not the actual reason that I missed out one. I feel as though I gave off how I felt about one in my review of SOR2 and as such didn’t really NEED to review it. But that would be unfair. That would be unfair to a game that, in retrospect, is actually very good. It’s not as good as SOR2, let’s put that out there. Of course it’s not as good as SOR2, that game was a major, major rehaul of this game so everything about it is GOING to be better. But as with most games that get sequels, you wouldn’t get the sequel without the first one in the series: the one that set it all up and ALLOWED that game to happen. So in reality, I have a lot to be thankful for.
Bless you Streets of Rage. Bless you.
And fuck you, Streets of Rage 2 for giving us Streets of Rage 3 afterwards.
Here’s something you probably weren’t sure I was going to say: if you’re going to play a Streets of Rage game, you should play this one. If you had to choose one, you choose THIS one.
That’s not to say that you couldn’t play the other two. But if you ARE going to play one first out of all of them, you play THIS one. Then you play 2. Then you play 3 for five minutes and go straight back to 1 or 2. Because 3 sucks.
YOU HEAR ME, THREE? YOU FUCKING SUCK, YOU PIECE OF SHIT SEQUEL. GO BACK TO YOUR KANGAROOS AND BULLDOZERS AND STOP BEING SO SHIT. AND TELL ADAM AND MAX TO COME BACK.
Plot time ahoy! Mr X, gaming’s most boringly-named antagonist, has basically overtaken the city and it’s time for you to go kick seven shades of shit out of him and his mostly-identikit flunkies that litter the levels. Axel, Blaze and Adam are your choices du jour and each one has a slightly different feel to them. Adam can’t move as quickly, Blaze can’t hit as powerfully and Axel can’t jump as well. Realistically, the lack of quicker movement doesn’t have that big an impact on the game so Adam FEELS like the better player in this game but all three are fun and responsive to play as and the combos they can pull off are all fun to watch and perform. On the other side of the coin, boomerang throwing bosses, fire-jugglers and knife-wielding maniacs are all out to try and DESTORY your very soul. And at points, you’ll feel as though your very soul is being beaten out of you. This game FEELS brutal. It feels as though everything that happens to your character is genuinely doing them damage. Far from the slightly slappy sound effects of the second game, the first game’s sound effects literally sound as though you are being pummelled. That’s not to suggest that getting beaten up in the second game didn’t sound as though it hurt… it definitely did. This game just had a different pummelling vibe to it. I don’t particularly enjoy being beaten up in either game in much the same way I wouldn’t enjoy being beaten up in REAL life.
Anyway, I doubt that I could spoil a game where you have to beat the bad guy and eventually you do but there is ONE thing that can change the game’s ending.
You arrive at Mr X’s hideout at the end of the last level and he’s MASSIVE. I mean… he’s HUGE as a character. He’s like that playground bully character in games who’s obviously the bully cos he’s huge. Taller than everyone else, broader, physically stacked in some way… basically he knows he’s bigger and he uses it.
Only he has a gun.
A motherfucking gun. This is the quintessential bully who uses cheating tactics to win. Your trio of characters bring their fists to the fight and he brings a fucking gun. I mean… logically, that’s probably a good idea but in the gaming sense, you see it and you HATE him for cheating and being a cheap twat about it. “OH THEY CAN PUNCH ME IN THE FACE, BIG WHOOP, I CAN SHOOT THEM IN THE FACE.”
Well y’know what, Mr X? You can fuck.
‘ave it. You ‘ave that you big bag of shit. Bullets flying everywhere, dramatically while Mr X slumps to the ground, tries DESPERATELY to get back up and then BANG. Potentially dead.
I say potentially. He comes back in the sequel with a bigger final lair so unless it’s some sort of doppelganger, he ain’t dead. He pretty much is in the third game but we don’t talk about that game. EVER. Stop talking about it. STOP IT.
Anyway, Mr X is dead and depending on whether or not you CAVE IN and choose to be his right-hand man/woman, you get an ending. Multiple endings. In a 16-bit game. MULTIPLE ENDINGS. Very few games featured multiple endings in the early days of gaming. The fact that you got an opportunity to CHOOSE something and it actually had an impact on how the game ended was AMAZING. PLUS… the best thing about it was that if you were playing with a friend and either you BOTH chose to be his right hand man/woman or one of you did… you had to fight each other to the death for the position. If you won the fight (and chose to be his sidekick) you got SENT BACK TO STAGE 6. ON YOUR OWN. FUCK THAT STAGE. THAT STAGE WAS FUCKING NASTY. THINGS COULD CRUSH YOU. YOU HAD THAT GODAWFUL FAT GUY BLOWING FLAMES OUT OF HIS MOUTH TURN HALF WAY THROUGH FROM STAGE 4 AND THEN YOU GOT THE SCRATCHY CLAW BOSSES FROM STAGE 2. UGH.
At least you didn’t get these girls again.
OH DO YOU WANT ME TO GO THROUGH THIS ONE AGAIN? THESE GIRLS ARE EVIL. THEY ARE PURE EVIL. I WANT TO DESTROY THEM AND THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO DO IT EASILY WITHOUT PHYSCIALLY TRYING TO PUNCH THE TV. YOU MIGHT HAVE TO DIE TO DO IT BUT IT’S WORTH IT.
You get them in stage 8 again anyway so have fun with that! Or don’t. No one ever has fun with those girls. Ugh.
UGH. FUCK OFF.
Here’s the thing that can really be a tipping point for some people. A lot of people have a thing about the second game being way too easy – even though they clearly haven’t tried it on hard setting or MANIA difficulty with the cheat code. Well, if you wanted a difficult Streets of Rage game to toy with, you go with this one. You don’t go for three. We don’t talk about that game. Stop talking about it! You’ve brought it up twice now! Stop it! LOOK. THAT GAME DOES NOT EXIST. OK? DONE. IT’S OVER. THERE IS NO THIRD GAME. FUCK IT. STOP TALKING ABOUT IT. God. Broken record or what? Jeez.
Streets of Rage is HARD. It’s not hard in the ‘you won’t ever beat it’ way. It’s what we refer to as a challenge. It’s a good challenge. It’s a reasonably fair challenge but even on easy, you’re going to find yourself dying a lot. Now, there are moments where that’s more based on the enemy AI and the occasional lapses in the game’s coding that makes it more difficult than it ought to be but for the most part, it’s difficult but the enemies, when they get to you are pretty relentless.. If you get surrounded by two characters pummelling, you might as well say goodbye to that life bar. It’s gone. It’s dead. Like you will be. They’ll do it on any difficulty.
The combat mechanics CAN feel slightly woolly at times and the grabbing of enemy characters is often wriggled out of incredibly quickly so you have to really be ON IT when you grab a character. Jump over them, back suplex them, do it quickly or they’ll punch you in the head. Only one enemy character can throw YOU and they’re bastards. You CAN land on your feet if you’re very good but it’s MUCH harder to accomplish than it is in SOR2. It feels a bit more satisfying when you do manage to do it.
The graphics are bright and vibrant. They’re not uber-impressive. The character sprites are bit small but they look fine. They move well. They’re functional and you never feel as though you lose track of things as you’re playing. They don’t disappear in the background, which are stunning by the by, and there’s a definitely gritty, urban feel to things that the game we do not speak about does not possess because it went the post-apocalyptic-style grey-everything route. This game was bright and in your face and even when it was a bit more grey and street-like, they managed to make it look vibrant without making you squint at the screen. It probably helped that the main characters were primary colour hues. DESIGN CHOICES.
And then there’s the music.
Look, google it for yourself. I ain’t going into it. I can give you a million superlatives without hyperbole. You need to hear it for yourself. It’s fucking superb. That’ll do.
And essentially what we ended up with was a game that GREW into something AMAZING. Streets of Rage is not the best game in the series but if SOR2 was a 10/10 game, SOR1 was 8/10 and it basically gave its sequel 8 automatic points of its ten. Sega just tweaked the sequel enough to give it those extra points. Otherwise, we’d have ended up with another 8/10 game. And when you HAVE one already, what’s the point in another one COUGH COUGH CALL OF DUTY COUGH COUGH because what else is there to it? The same game twice? Three times? What’s the point?
So thank you, Streets of Rage. Without you, we wouldn’t have the fantastic sequel. We wouldn’t have a game quite so accomplished and fun to play. You were fun to play too but what you did was lay the groundwork for something special.
And then someone came and fucking bulldozed the lot of it.