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The original Streets of Rage is a classic. It revolves around three ex-cops who take to the streets to fight a criminal syndicate using their fists, feet, and any melee weapons they can find. The game was followed up by Streets of Rage 2 which was developed and published by Sega. It released for the Genesis in 1992 and Game Gear in 1993. Much like its predecessor, Streets of Rage 2 is all about kicking ass and it introduced new characters and fighting mechanics. It’s often considered one of the best games in the series. For this review, we played the Genesis version from the SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis Classics collection on Steam.
Set one year after the events of the previous game, Mr. X and the syndicate are back and thirsty for revenge. They’ve kidnapped Adam Hunter so Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding, Axel’s friend Max “Thunder” Hatchett, and Adam’s kid brother Eddie set out to save him and bring the syndicate down once again.
Streets of Rage 2 does support up to two players and comes with multiple difficulty modes. You can walk, punch, kick, and jump. Each character has different stats in power, technique, speed, jump, and stamina and can unleash their own unique special attacks which do drain health so you should use them wisely. You can perform punches, kicks, jump kicks, combos, and grab and throw enemies around. You can once again pick up and use weapons for a limited time and the pick up item action is tied to the attack button which can be problematic at times. You can perform a variety of moves, every character can perform a unique move that deals a significant amount of damage, chain combos together, and there is more depth to the combat thanks to the expanded fighting mechanics. The basic goal of every stage is the same. Get to the end and defeat the boss. Defeating enemies grants you points and you are granted extra lives after reaching certain scores. If you lose all your lives, you can consume a credit to continue and your score will be reset.
Unfortunately, if playing with another person, both players can attack each other which can be annoying if you’re not trying for high scores. There is a mod in the Steam Workshop that removes this feature. It’s called Streets of Rage 2 – No Friendly Fire and it makes the two player mode much more enjoyable if you don’t care about scores. If you like attacking each other, Streets of Rage 2 comes with a Duel mode where two players can fight in any stage of their choosing.
Throughout the levels are objects that can be broken to reveal pickups like extra lives, money and gold which grant you extra points, and food which replenishes your health. You can also pick up weapons which will be dropped by enemies. Some weapons from the previous game return like the knife and lead pipe. But you can also use a kunai and katana and throw grenades if you can pick them up before they explode. The weapons can be a big help and inflict more damage than your basic attacks.
There is a bigger variety of enemies this time around. They’ll come in different outfit colors and they’re all named which is a nice touch. Several enemies and some bosses from the previous game return along with a new set of foes like Riders who arrive on motorcycles and Mifune who is a ninja-like enemy. Enemies will jump around, punch, kick, grab and throw you, some slide into you, and some can lob grenades from the backgrounds. You’re always going to be outnumbered and enemies will arrive from multiple directions. You can’t block so there’s no real way to defend yourself. You have to know what each enemy and boss is capable of and know where to move and when. Some enemies can block and move faster than you do and many of the bosses feel cheap. Not only can they deal a lot of damage but they can interrupt your combos and specials and immediately attack and grab you after recovering. Memorization and timing is the key to defeating bosses without losing all your lives.
There’s eight stages total. You’ll get to kick ass downtown, on a bridge, at an amusement park, stadium, on a ship, in a jungle, munitions plant, and at the syndicate stronghold. Instead of navigating through long continuous stages, each one contains multiple areas which keeps them visually interesting. You’ll beat up enemies on the streets before punching and kicking your way through a bar. At the amusement park, you’ll navigate through multiple attractions like a pirate ship and house of horrors. You’ll fight on lifts and conveyor belts and have to avoid hazards like these pod or egg things that explode when broken and enemies lobbing grenades. The stages are diverse and the further you progress, the more enemies you’ll have to face. The difficulty ramps up nicely and health items are placed in specific spots so encounters remain challenging and fair.
Streets of Rage 2 is a 16-bit feast for the eyes thanks to a colorful presentation and detailed environments and sprites. The backgrounds will include a mix of parallax scrolling, distant buildings, various objects, flashing lights, posters, and NPCs. You’ll see signs and/or posters with text that are funny or don’t make any sense probably due to poor translations. My favorites are “Do! Baseball!” and “It’s like boo!”. The house of horrors area includes a nice fog or mist effect and the screen will shake as you knock enemies on their asses. The electronic dance influenced soundtrack coupled with the bright and colorful presentation compliment the gritty action nicely. Like the first game, this oozes with late eighties and early nineties vibes. On the technical side, we did not encounter any issues.
As we were playing Streets of Rage 2, I began to think about what’s really on display. You’re walking around areas beating people up, stabbing them with knives, slashing at them with katanas, and beating them over the head with lead pipes. It’s pretty violent and I love it. It’s an amazing sequel that takes what was great about its predecessor and makes it better. We do think it’s more challenging than the first game mainly due to the new enemy types and their abilities. You’ll have to engage fast-moving foes, dudes that fly around, baddies that breathe fire, chicks with electric whips, and tough bosses, and each enemy requires a different approach and strategy. There’s a varied roster of characters with their own strengths and weaknesses and the number of difficulty modes ensure players of all skill levels can get through the game. It’s a fun, challenging, and rewarding experience. We would say playing with a friend is the best way to experience Streets of Rage 2 and if you prefer not to compete for high scores or simply don’t want to worry about getting in each other’s way, definitely try the No Friendly Fire mod.
We would absolutely recommend Streets of Rage 2 to fans of the previous game and genre. It’s one of the best games of its kind and improves upon everything established in the first game. Streets of Rage 2 is a sequel that doesn’t pull its punches and the result is a kickass game and a legendary entry in the genre. Definitely check it out.