What is the sign of a truly great game? Is it a developers ability to deliver a truly amazing story? Some outstanding visuals? A certain something that feels really original?
Or is it something that can stand the test of time?
Something that will still have you returning to a game years and years after its release, not out of blind loyalty, but because the game truly is that fun that you can still extract as much enjoyment out of the game as though you was playing it for the first time?
Back in the early 1990’s, Nintendo only really had one competitor. Long before Sony and Microsoft reared their heads, Sega were making consoles and the Mega Drive (or the Genesis to our U.S friends), critically, was quite possibly the victor in that generation of the console wars.
This may be a controversial statement when so many amazing titles came from the Super Nintendo during the 16-bit era, and although I was lucky enough to own both of the warring consoles, I found myself having a much larger collection of Mega Drive games that I would still play to this day given the opportunity.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet and such, many of these classics have found their ways to new and old audiences as downloadable digital content. Setting you back a few meagre £/$’s, you can own a plethora of timeless classics.
Of these titles there is always one that I am on the look out for, one title that I can never wait to own once again – Streets of Rage 2.
Sega’s answer to Konami’s popular Final Fight, Streets of Rage is fairly straight forward (what game wasn’t back then?) in that you start a level, you move forward, beat up the enemies as you go, until finally you defeat the boss at the end of the level.
Yeah, that is kind of the long and short of it, but just how much fun can be had from such a simple concept is truly remarkable.
Streets of Rage saw three entries in to the series but it would seem that Streets of Rage 2 is the game that holds a special place in the hearts of those of the 16-bit generation. So what makes Streets of Rage 2 so special?
Streets of Rage 2 gave a massive overhaul to the original Streets of Rage with much bigger sprites, enemy health bars, great variety of enemy designs (rather than palette swapping) and an amazing soundtrack that reflected the dark and violent undertones of the seedy streets.
The soundtrack had amazing influences from the techno and dance music of the era, and the stage and boss music is still some of the best I have heard in a game to this day. Composers such as Martin O’ Donnell may be able to craft some truly masterful, atmospheric orchestral works of beauty that set the tone of games such as Halo, but what Yuzo Koshiro managed to deliver with the Streets of Rage trilogy is a series of music that can be listened to today and without the game in front of you.
When playing Streets of Rage 2 and then going back to Streets of Rage 1, one could argue that Streets of Rage 2 looks like a remake of the original. The stages that succeed one another often follow the same theme as those found in Streets of Rage 2’s predecessor but this makes little difference.
From the moment the game begins, no tutorial is given nor is it needed. As mentioned previously, the format is simple and asks you to complete the game in the ‘lives’ and ‘continues’ provided, yet if you die and deplete all of the aforementioned lifelines – Game Over.
Now to those that aren’t aware what this means: Game Over means exactly that. Game Over. The End. No respawning at the last checkpoint, no “keep trying until you beat it”. No loading of a previous save. The game is over and you have to start all the way back at the beginning. A little harsh but that was the beauty of gaming during the 16-bit era: You either get good trying, or you call it a day!
So was beating up the thugs of the Crime Syndicate really that fun? But of course! During a time when videogame censorship and certification was relatively unknown, Streets of Rage allowed you to patrol the stages beating on your foes with your fists, lead pipes, swords, knives and grenades!
But the game really comes in to its own though when you partner up and tackle the game together.
For as long as I can remember, me and my brother have been an unstoppable duo on games. Choosing to always work together rather than verse one another. We haven’t come across a game we couldn’t beat and we are still on the lookout today for the next co-op game to test our skills. But it was the Streets of Rage trilogy, and Streets of Rage 2 in particular, that made us realise that working together, we could accomplish some great gaming feats. And so it was that my brother would always play the fan favourite – Axel, while I would alternate between the heroine Blaze and the brutish wrestler Max when I needed some raw power.
To this day we are still perfecting our strategy; taking it in turns to collect points to ensure that we gain additional bonus lives as our scores increase, assessing who has more health and lives before picking up the health items found in the environment. It was this game that taught us what it meant to work together and whenever we need to remember what teamwork is all about.
Streets of Rage 2 a great co-op game but at its core the game is simply just fun to play. Nothing is funnier than being a one man lead-pipe wielding psychopath and seeing how long you can last with a weapon before an enemy manages disarm you. Or seeing how many enemies you can take-out using suplex moves only. Overall the game is extremely fun just for the sheer amount of damage you can inflict upon your enemies in a not too over the top manner.
All of these features have ensured the game a long-lasting legacy that has stood unshaken for over 20 years. Many games have since copied the formula and although Streets of Rage may not have been the original game of this genre, many attribute Streets of Rage 2 as the pinnacle.
This very reason has been the cause for many people to cry out for a sequel to the Streets of Rage trilogy, but in the 20 years that have followed since Streets of Rage 3’s release – fans are still waiting.
For some, the love and passion for such a series, coupled with an everlasting wait for a return of the Streets of Rage heroes, has been too much and drove a small team of avid fans to create their own sequel, which included animated cut scenes similar to those found in Streets of Rage 3 and featured the entire roster of characters across all three games.
BomberGames, re-created all of the sprites and stages from scratch and even remixed the soundtracks to give the game a more up to date and uniform sound.
Eventually, 8 years of work came to a head and BomberGames released ‘Streets of Rage Remake,’ free of charge, for download on PC. The finished result was a game, which had multiple branching episodes and stages. Each gave different endings and results depending on your actions.
However, ‘Streets of Rage Remake’ was unfortunately pulled from the internet when Sega became aware of the game’s existence. Sega demanded that BomberGames cease future work on the project and remove it from being downloadable. This was a real shame not only for the guys over at BomberGames who put 8 years of their lives in to such a project, but for the fans who have been longing for another entry in to the series.
For now the future of Streets of Rage seems to be that it will live on through re-releases such as the Sega Vintage Collection’s on Xbox Live and Playstation Network, which consist of all three games.
For now however, myself, my brother and the thousands of fans around the world that remember such an amazing and generation defining title, will continue to hope that in the era of the remake that we live in today, we will one day see either a true sequel or a reboot of this outstanding series. Should this happen we hope it will stay true to its foundations, to show that what makes a really good game isn’t always some deep and convoluted plot but that simple, yet fun, gameplay should be at the centre of any classic title. No matter how simple the concept or the game itself, if you have fun every time you pick up a controller, no matter what the console and whether the game you play is over 20 years old – you my friend, are sitting on one of the greatest games of all time.
Why Isn’t Every Game Like Streets of Rage 2?
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