If you owned a SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive in the early 90’s, you are well aware of what Streets of Rage series was all about, its SEGA’s answer to (the then) Nintendo console exclusive franchise Final Fight (though it did get a SEGA CD entry). Its been well over a decade since the franchise debuted on SEGA’s 16-bit hardware, which is quite a long time.
Now as an adult can the game bring back those nostalgic memories that shaped my gaming habits or is Streets of Rage 2 just one of those games that I liked as a kid but aged badly? Or even worse, a bad port? Let’s find out
One thing that you either love or hate about retro games is that their story isn’t the forefront of the game. Nowadays we are used to overly cinematic video games but back then a few lines is all our imagination needed. The game of Streets of Rage 2 takes place one year after the original where you and your ex-cops destroyed the Syndicate that plagued your city with crime. But on the anniversary of your victory, Axel gets a call from Adam’s brother Eddie (aka Skate) that he has gone missing and not only that but gangs have started to occupy the city once again.
It is once again up to Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding, along with new comers Eddie “Skate” Hunter and Max Thunder to take down Mr. X and his crime syndicate once and for all. Does it sound like a plot from a cheesy 80’s cop drama? Of course. Streets of Rage very much embraced the look and feel of 80’s, which is one of the great qualities about the game and really gives it a unique art style and vibe.
How’s it play
What better way to start a review than talk about the gameplay aspect of the game. One of the things that I always admired about Streets of Rage 2 was how unique the developers tried to create each character and didn’t hold your hand while you played. While the fighting system isn’t super deep, its got enough depth that you will have to test out each character and understand each possible move. For example, each character has their own timing on combos. Stuff like forward, forward and hit have their own mini-moves for each character. There are so many different types of grabs and ways to approach each enemy that makes the meta of the game actually exciting.
There is one issue I have coming back to this game after so many years and its just how slow it all is. I guess it doesn’t help that the first stage has long walking sections, where you walk very slowly and wait for enemies to pop out. After you get past the first stage that feeling of slowness sorta diminishes due to all the action going on around the screen. The only person that can ‘run’ during the game is Skate, which is a shame because its something everyone on your team should be able to do (I know they fixed it in Streets of Rage 3). It is a very tiny critique on the original game, which is almost damn near flawless.
Each chapter (aka level) in the game has such a nice change in scenery that its still quite captivating to look at all the nice changes as you progress. The game also has much bigger and nicer looking sprites compared to the first game, which is a given seeing at this was SEGA’s first 16 meg cart game and it shows (especially compared to the first game).
That Music ♫
If you ask SEGA fans what they love about the Streets of Rage series, most of them will say Yuzo Koshiro’s amazing soundtrack and they wouldn’t be wrong. Yuzo Koshiro really did deliver an amazing soundtrack for the game, so much so that I have actually heard Streets of Rage tracks at parties (and no one even knew they were game tracks, oddly enough), really making the soundtrack have a legacy of its own. If any music in video games was ahead of its time, it’s this soundtrack with blushing house synth and eletro-funk that makes you want to tap your feet to the beat. Songs like ‘Go Straight‘ and ‘Dreamer‘ will forever be some of my favorite video game tracks of all time.
If you are reading this review and never even heard of the Streets of Rage series (shame on you), you should at least try to listen to the soundtracks somewhere online. These tracks are essential listening, not just for video game music, but music in general. Of course the full Streets of Rage 2 soundtrack is intact in 3D Streets of Rage 2 and sounds great on the Nintendo 3DS speakers.
Port exclusive features
This version of the game offers some things that your Genesis/Mega Drive version didn’t, including the ability to play the game in 3D. I have to say, this game actually looks really nice in 3D. The game allows you to choose a inward 3D or pop-out 3D. I prefer the inwards one because the popping out one hurts my eyes for some reason. Like always the 3D is completely optional but I’d suggest giving the 3D a try if you pick it up. Who knows, it might impress you.
One of the things that the Streets of Rage franchise is known for is its co-op gameplay, while on the SEGA Genesis you just needed two controls, this port being on the 3DS doesn’t allow for the ability to ‘just pick up a second controller’. The game has local network multiplayer, meaning you will need two copies of the game and two 3DS’ (or 2DS or New 3DS etc) to enjoy multiplayer action. But how does this mode work? Flawless, I tried it with a second 3DS and there was virtually no lag. So it does work as expected.
Like most other SEGA 3D Classics releases on the Nintendo 3DS, this game also has its own game modes. Sadly none of them are as interesting as options given in 3D Out Run or even as creative as having their own game modes like 3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Bros and 3D Fantasy Zone II: Tears of Opa-Opa. One of the two new gameplay modes introduced in this port is ‘Rage Relay’, which has you pick the four selectable characters in a order of your choosing, you start the game with 4 lives and each time you die you play with the next character in line (So if you picked Axel as #1 and he dies, your #2 selection comes to fight, lets say Blaze). While its clever, its nothing groundbreaking, but if you beat the game easily with your favorite character its always worth checking out for a extra challenge.
After you beat the entire game you unlock ‘Casual Mode’ which allows you to kill everything in one hit. Once the character falls, they die. Pretty simple idea I guess, but a bit lazy. All M2 did for this mode was move around how much damage your character does.. There is so much more they could have done that it makes me a bit disappointed that they didn’t do something like they did in other games. For example they could have brought Adam Hunter back as a playable character after you completed the game. How about new music tracks? M2 added a couple of new tracks to 3D Out Run and they sounded excellent.
Features that are in all SEGA 3D Classics return in this game like save states, ability to record gameplay, choosing between the Japan or International version, and even playing in a CRT-like television. Since all the usual inclusions you expect from M2 are back, you can also expect the usual complaints like lack of online gameplay (which playing co-op with anyone in the world would have been awesome), online leaderboard and the game not supporting widescreen is a big let down.
M2 delivers Streets of Rage 2 on your 3DS with eye-popping 3D, two new game modes, a intact soundtrack that makes you dance in your seat and a ton more. The game is just as fun as it was growing up and each character has their own pros and cons, giving them a unique look and feel. Textures seem sharper than they did on those old “boob-tube” TVs and the game’s local network multiplayer functions work as expected.
While the game has two new modes of play, they aren’t as creative as some of the past modes that M2 added with other 3D SEGA Classics, especially something like 3D Fantasy Zone II: Tears of Opa-Opa. The game is also displayed in its native 4:3 and no online modes (co-op or leaderboards) are present. It feels like M2 was really hitting their stride with all the awesome features in the last few SEGA 3D Classics, it almost feels like a tiny step back in terms of extra content in this release.
- Great single player, amazing in co-op
- Best soundtrack ever
- Great art style that pops in 3D
- Two new game modes
- No online modes (co-op or leaderboards)
- Extra modes not as good as past games
- No Widescreen support
“Streets of Rage 2 on your 3DS with extra game modes, intact soundtrack makes this a definite rebuy.”