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Streets of Rage (Genesis) artwork

Streets of Rage (Genesis) review

"Final Fight, Streets of Rage 2, and Guardian Heroes all feature hulking studs. Streets of Rage, on the other hand, features skeletal dwarves. If you're the sort who claims "Size matters most!", then don't look here. But if you're the type of chap who is simply out for an enjoyable hellbender through town and surf, then 'Rage provides plenty of action amidst well-drawn locales."

Set forth in the streets of a nameless city... a city quivering beneath the grinding heel of the madman crimelord, Mister X. You and a partner in punishment may select from three individuals, none of whom vary much (except cosmetically) from the others. However, such a trivial qualm is of no import! The two of you shall use two dozen forms of attack -- punch, elbow, suplex, leaping kick, uppercut -- to beat up and beat down many a street punk, lining up the one after the other to meet your fist.

Yes, when Capcom announced Final Fight as one of the premiere Super NES titles, Sega realized they needed a countermeasure. They needed an assassin. Targeting Final Fight's weaknesses (low number of techniques and lack of a two-player mode), Streets of Rage hit the scene, offering what Final Fight lacked, along with a splendid techno soundtrack from Yuzo Koshiro.

Unfortunately, 'Rage (known as Bare Knuckle for those across either ocean) paled in the graphics and control department. The difference in the visuals is a tale that's been told countless times before -- and I doubt anyone truly cares to hear "Final Fight looks better" once again.

So, just bear this in mind. Final Fight, Streets of Rage 2, and Guardian Heroes all feature hulking studs. Streets of Rage, on the other hand, features skeletal dwarves. If you're the sort who claims "Size matters most!", then don't look here. But if you're the type of chap who is simply out for an enjoyable hellbender through town and surf, then 'Rage provides plenty of action amidst well-drawn locales.

Alas, the control is rather poor; it feels unnatural, even a bit sluggish. When walking left and right, the characters' feet do not match their travel speed. Moving up and down is particularly slow, and jumping suffers from the notorious Mad Croft disease. You know the sort -- just as in Tomb Raider, press the jump button and then wait a moment or two for the action to occur. The short of it is, the game feels as though you are playing via remote control... an effect not present in Golden Axe or the later Streets of Rage installments.

Players with fighting game knowhow might very well be turned off by the slipshod controls. I myself was surprised upon revisiting the game, the shabby character motions rending my nostalgic, rosy memories petal by petal.

The punches, kicks, and throws, however, are all rapid-response and easy to manage. And there certainly are quite a few techniques available! The stand-outs are the ability to vault over an opponent's head, launching into a back body drop, or the ability to perform a judo flip to a street punk even after he grabs you from behind. Along with the two-person simultaneous mayhem, this incredible breadth of technique was the selling point for Streets of Rage (even featured in Sega's advertisements).

The punch-ups with the bosses are quite a bit more difficult than the street brawls. Sometimes, it's because they have projectiles and you don't (such is the case with a pesky, boomerang-tossing louse). In other cases, it's due to the computer's uncanny ability to toss your hero around the screen like a young girl's rag doll puppet.

Now, you might think it easier to take the stage leaders two-on-one with a friend. However, you must realize that when you bring a chum, the enemy brings along his mate as well. Yes, play co-operatively and you shall face not one, but two of the steel clawed Krueger-clone or two of the firebreathing fat man.

Most deaths resulted either from these malicious bruisers, or from tussles with a buddy; him tossing me into a pit (just to keep me on my toes), bashing him with a pipe for having stolen MY health-filling apple, and the like.

In any case, therein lies the appeal of the game: full friendly fire potential. Whether it's a backdrop or an armdrag, each and every move and combo may be belted out upon your chum, a far cry from other titles with "friendly fire" safety locks. If you want a single-player battle extravaganza, you'd best be off with Final Fight (fewer techniques, but more natural control) or, if you don't mind trading your trusted leaden pipe for a sword, Golden Axe (the daddy to the genre, and still a solid contender). But if you want a title where you can pummel both your partner and the occasional opponent, Knuckle has your number.

For what it is -- an assassination attempt upon the life of Final Fight -- Streets of Rage is a solid enough title. Compared to the steak-and-potatoes of 'Rage 2, Warriors of Fate, or other later brawlers, its flavor merely hints at better things to come.


Rating: 6/10

zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (March 06, 2005)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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