I like Streets of Rage, it holds up in a way that Golden Axe simply doesn’t, and like the inevitability of the tide, I come to Streets of Rage 2, arguably the best of the trilogy.
With that, it isn’t a question of *IF* SoR2 is better, more a question of *HOW MUCH* better SoR2.
Oh, and I really like the Japanese title for the game, Bare Knuckle II: The Requiem of the Deadly Battle.
A year has passed since you defeated Mr X.
Blaze Fielding, Axel Stone and Adam Hunter meet up to celebrate their achievement. The next day, Skate, Adam’s younger brother comes home to find the family home ransacked and Adam missing. Axel and Blaze team up to take on the Crime Syndicate one more time to save their metaphorical brother. Skate tags on because Adam is his actual brother, and Max Thunder tags along because he is Axel’s wrestler friend, and they needed a 4th playable character that was the “strongman”.
SoR2 is a Beat ’em up on a pseudo 3d plane, so you walk left to right and punch things until they die. Gone is the gimmick of the police car special, where tapping the special button would bring a police car that fires a bazooka/minigun to kill all enemies on screen, and in it’s place is a special attack move.
The Special Attack will break you out of stun lock, but will remove a little bit of health. So it is very useful, and will get you out of a tight spot, but you will kill yourself if you overuse it.
There are 4 characters this time, and they all play completely differently unlike the first game.
- Axel: Good well rounded character, his “double forward punch” uppercut is amazing, but he still can’t jump for beans.
- Blaze: Is now the total all rounder, good at everything
- Skate: Awesome jump, awesome speed, weak as shit.
- Max: Big and slow, but hits like a motherfucker.
My only real criticism of Streets of Rage was that while the stats were different for each character, everybody played the same, bar a few minor differences. In SoR2 each character is TOTALLY different, so much so, that I can’t actually use Max. For me, Max is too slow. I can get to level 6 pretty much unscathed with all characters, but with Max I start dying around level 3-4. He is simply to slow to be able to beat on the numerous enemies that are appearing on screen at one time. His punch is also annoying short ranged, despite his HUGE arms, as he does a sort of karate chop for a punch. So he isn’t as useful as Hagger in the Final Fight series.
Skate is the opposite, but I can’t get passed level 6 with him. He is fast, but man is he weak. So for me, those two characters suck, but it does mean people with different play styles are able to play with a character that suits them, rather than very minor differences seen in the original.
There is stunlock, which I am not the biggest fan of, but SoR2 is clever with it. Yeah, beat on fodder with stun lock, it’ll even let you stun lock sub-bosses, but most of the proper bosses have a stun lock breaking move, that if you’re caught by, does huge amounts of damage to you. It is a clever solution to a common problem in beat ’em ups of the era.
There are 8 levels, because it is a Megadrive Beat ’em up, and there are always 8 levels. However, these levels are huge. Each level has 3-4 sections, that in some instances feel like full levels. Each section of a level is set in a different environment, and each section usually ends with a sub-boss, but it means some levels really do start to drag on, especially in the early levels.
For me, SoR2 is a MUCH harder game, some of the boss combinations you get level 6 onwards are just plain mean. On SoR1 you would get two of the same enemy, in SoR2 you get two different bosses, so you really are fucked at times. The Jet and Zamza combination is one I particularly struggle with, as Zamza destroys me on his own, with Jet, who stops me being able to pick him off at distance makes it frustratingly difficult and is where most people will gameover.
Apart from the last 2 levels, SoR2 always feel fair, health pickups are abundant, and you can rack up extra lives from points very easily. The problem is that by level 7 the ideas seem to have run out, and you are effectively doing a boss gauntlet for the last two levels.
This is where the game bevomed frustrating. Even on normal difficulty, expect an ass whooping on level 8, if you can get passed level 7 that is.
More and more enemies appear, and obviously as you progress, they get stronger, again, throwing in multiple bosses, and sub bosses, it is all a little hard.
This is where you start to realise you’re supposed to be playing in two-player mode. You really need two characters, with different stats/abilities to be able to deal with some bosses. While single player can be frustrating, you start to realise that each boss is designed around playable characters strengths and weaknesses. Again, in single player being punished by your opposite is frustrating, but in two player, you can counter each other, and easily pick enemies off.
I am actually in two minds whether SoR2 is the better game, their is more variety in characters, meaning there is more reasons to replay the game. But I hate 2 of the characters., though I can see these will appeal to others.
The game is frustratingly hard at times, and really is designed for 2 players, but in two player mode there aren’t many better games to play.
The game is longer than the first at about 80-90 minutes for a run instead of 50ish minutes, but again, I am in two minds about this. It is a good thing the levels change, and there is more of a sense of progression as you go from area to area, but it does feel a little boring on earlier levels fighting easy sub-bosses which, means the levels drag a bit. A simple solution would have been having 10-12 levels.
Having said all this, and as I don’t like to sit on the fence with these reviews, I would have to agree that SoR2 is marginally better than the first. While I don’t especially like some of the changes, I can see they make the game better and more rounded.
Just make sure you play in two player mode though, as man, it is hard on single player.
Pros: Music is still ace, Adam isn’t a playable character
Cons: Levels can drag, Zamza, I HATE ZAMZA! DEATH TO ZAMZA!!! It took me 24 years to realise it is Max on the box art for the game…
Back in the day
I can’t find many original reviews where SoR2 receives less than 90%, so it is fair to say this was a VERY well received game in it’s day. In fact, the worst review I hate seen was from Games Master, who gave it 88%.