I loved Streets of Rage (Bare Knuckle in Japan) as a kid, it might be the game I played most on my Megadrive. Road Rash and Aladdin come close, but I think the amount of time me and mates put in to SoR means it must be my top played title of the era and since starting this site I have played through it at least once every six months, but for some reason I have never gotten round to reviewing it.
So here we, one of my favourite games as a kid growing up.
A criminal gang (Crime Syndicate) have overtaken the once peaceful (unnamed) city with the help of corrupt cops. Adam Hunter, Axel Stone, and Blaze Fielding are rookie police officers who decide enough is enough, and they rage, on the streets.
Like all Beat ’em ups you then proceed to walk left to right punching, kicking and baseball batting everybody in the face that gets in your way.
As Streets of Rage is a beat ’em up the gameplay is simple, you have a pseudo-3D plane and you punch things. The gimmick here is that you get a special button that allows you to call a Police Car that fires a Bazooka/Minigun of Flaming Death, that kills everything on screen (significantly damages bosses), and is instantly better than the crappy magic in Golden Axe.
The three characters all play slightly differently.
- Adam has good power and jumping, but is slower.
- Axel has good power, can’t jump for beans, and is a speedy bastard.
- Blaze is weaker, but can jump better, and is quick.
To be honest, there isn’t really much of a noticeable difference between the stats, and all characters effectively play the same.
Streets of Rage can be hard, especially if you don’t know the exact mechanic to beat a boss. It has taken me 25 years to realise you’re supposed to use back attack moves to beat the female twins. Anything else ends up in you having your arse handed to you on a silver platter.
The difficulty settings are nice, as they don’t just “make boss harder”, instead it makes the standard fodder a little harder, it makes the fodder put up more of a fight, and it also makes more of the fodder appear on screen at one time, so you really need to be getting good at the game to try the harder difficulties.
Level 8 is my least favourite level, I didn’t forgive The Hyperstone Heist for a boss gauntlet level, and I don’t think I can forgive Streets of Rage. While all bosses can be beaten by using your special and getting lucky if you suck, Level 8 you have to fight all the bosses again, and without the special power. If you can’t figure out a boss mechanic you are going to have a bad time here.
You will take a lot of cheap hits in Streets of Rage, but it never becomes soul destroying like it can in others like Golden Axe. This is because there are tonnes of health pickups. Apples will give you a quarter of your health back, and Roast Turkey will give you full health. You also get extra lives through points accumulated, as well found hidden in boxes. It means one mistake won’t ruin a run, you’re able to recover from serious errors. It means you don’t have to be absolutely pro to beat it, and in two player mode you can bluff your way through the tougher boss fights.
Streets of Rage is still a pretty good game. It doesn’t really excel at anything, and there is a lack of depth beyond learning the boss pattern. Additionally, the differences between the characters aren’t significant enough to make each character play differently. Something that was fixed in SoR2.
As another bonus though, Streets of Rage didn’t suffer from the same strange censorship that the western releases on Final Fight had. Some women do need a good smack upside the head with a steel pipe.
At 50 minutes for a full run it is just long enough, though if you die on level 8 a second run is off putting.
Other games released later on the Megadrive and SNES are better, but Streets of Rage was bloody great at the time, and it is still a fun enough romp now.
Pros: the sprites are clear, the backgrounds are well designed, the music is ace, alternative ending,
Cons: ladybosses. Final Boss is a bit hard too
Back in the day
Scoring in the mid 90s across the board at release Streets of Rage frequently comes in the top 5 best Megadrive games.