Streets of Rage 2 (Genesis) review
"And make no mistake ó losing the services of Adam was such a crushing blow to comrades Axel and Blaze that they needed to enlist TWO other vigilante crime fighters in an attempt to replace him. Skate is a skateboarder who Iíve never used or even considered using. Just look at the little pipsqueak and youíll understand. Max is a big, powerful guy who suffers from being the slowest-moving human being in the world. Sure, he can wade through Mr. Xís foot soldiers with ease, littering the city streets with broken bodies and shattered dreams, but put him against nimble, agile foes and things get ugly."
Watch out kids! Fathers, lock up your wives and daughters!! MR. X HAS RETURNED!!!
Bet that has ya shakiní in your shoes, doesnít it? Too powerful to be held back by minor inconveniences such as getting beat to death in the Genesisí first Streets of Rage game, the diabolical crime lord is back to create all sorts of havoc on all sorts of people ó mainly those poor souls that sent him to the afterlife in the first place.
In Streets of Rage 2, players no longer have the services of burly brawler Adam, as heís been kidnapped by the resurrected Mr. X and his seemingly limitless crew of lackeys. And make no mistake ó losing the services of Adam was such a crushing blow to comrades Axel and Blaze that they needed to enlist TWO other vigilante crime fighters in an attempt to replace him. Skate is a skateboarder who Iíve never used or even considered using. Just look at the little pipsqueak and youíll understand. Max is a big, powerful guy who suffers from being the slowest-moving human being in the world. Sure, he can wade through Mr. Xís foot soldiers with ease, littering the city streets with broken bodies and shattered dreams, but put him against nimble, agile foes and things get ugly.
Which brings us back to Axel and Blaze. Now, Blaze is a woman and Iím your normal red-blooded guy, so I donít control her. Itís just....weird....for me to use a female character to beat the crap out of a bunch of poor guys who probably are too busy mourning the fact they wouldnít have a chance in hell of hooking up with her to focus on not getting their collective asses kicked. On the other hand, since Iím bitter and hateful, controlling Axel and kicking the crap out of the occasional female goon brought a big ear-to-ear grin to my face. Obviously, Axel was the man of the hour for me. So far, so good!
The first thing I noticed was that dance/techno/crap tunes really arenít the sort of thing Iím cool with in a beat-em-up. After sending a slew of punks to an early grave while listening to the bastard child of the dance and elevator genres of music, I just felt....dirty. Now, the sound effects on the other hand ó I could get into those! Big fat guys laughed whenever connecting with a bellyflopping dive attack, karate experts released battle cries as they unleashed a painful flying kick and, of course, all of my foes gave a satisfying scream as they bit the dust. If only that confounded, out-of-place music wasnít threatening my sanity....
So I took out my frustrations on the hordes of chumps who advanced towards me much like lemmings do towards a cliff. Nice try, Galsia. Sorry about your luck, Donovan. See ya on the other side, Storm. I was putting the RAGE in Streets of Rage 2 with the hellacious ass-kickings I was delivering to one outmatched goon after another. But then, things changed.
As I progressed from one level to the next, I was introduced to what seemed a near-infinite assortment of new foes. Now some of these baddies were nothing more than palette swaps of guys Iíd been pounding from the moment I started playing. Letís face it, there really isnít much of a difference between Donovan, Martin and Gudden beyond a slightly-altered color scheme. All three goons slowly walked towards Axel and none had any real offense besides a stiff uppercut they almost never had the opportunity to unleash.
However, when the game did bring me a completely new foe to battle, believe me, I took notice. It seemed a number of these guys could almost be considered mini-bosses due to long life meters and very dangerous attacks. After getting sliced-and-diced by ninjas, whipped into submission by chicks, brutally beaten by martial arts experts and kick boxers, run over by flame-spewing fatsos AND then winding up with a blade in my back courtesy of a knife-throwing psycho, letís just say that I grew to appreciate the presence of hapless and hopeless Galsia a lot more!
And compared to a number of Streets of Rage 2ís bosses, even the toughest of these powerful foes are pansies! A few, like the airborne Jet, may be little more than annoying speed bumps, but theyíre the minority. Hulking boxer R. Bear is deceptively nimble, especially considering he looks more like Popeyeís nemesis Bluto than anyone with actual athletic ability. Roid-freak Abadede loves showing off powerful moves to his many screaming fans. Weird guy Zamza jumps around like a kangaroo on crack before slicing and dicing Axel with his claws. And thereís still KILLER ROBOTS! And MR. X!! What will our heroes do?
Most likely, theyíll get overwhelmed unless they possess amazing skill. Sadly, Streets of Rage 2 seems to drown in its own excesses in the final levels, as the designers seemingly got it into their heads to see just how sadistic they could make things. After four genuinely fun and diverse stages, the game started to get out of control. You see, low-level tools like Galsia and Donovan arenít the only guys who have dopplegangers ó sub-bosses and bosses do, as well. While back-alley brawler Barbon and the annoying Jet may not be particularly difficult to trounce, when their clones start popping up virtually every level, things can get frustrating. And when the gameís idea of a ďnormalĒ battle suddenly is to place Axel against a pair of martial artists AND two ninjas.....well, I still had a sore throat the next day from my screams of frustration and rage.
For those opening four stages, I found Streets of Rage 2 to be as good of a brawler as Iíd played since my fondly-remembered days of Final Fight-ing. However, it seemed like the designers just couldnít keep the momentum going for eight full stages and resorted to recycling bosses and seeing just how many brutal fights they could create. Over the last couple of stages, I didnít have much fun, as I found myself the recipient of one vicious assault after another....and another....and another. And the more diabolical the challenges got, the more angry I became ó until I couldnít wait to be done with Mr. X and get on with my life. Believe me, Iíve had to deal with enough frustration and other negative emotions in real life over the past few months to feel like putting up with that sort of thing in what should be good, mindless entertainment.
Streets of Rage 2 isnít a bad game ó I had a lot of fun going through those first few stages. Itís just that after a certain point, I found the challenges I was being forced to endure had become more a test of my willpower than anything enjoyable. Still, this gameís a hell of a lot better than many beat-em-ups Iíve endured. Itís just not the be-all, end-all Final Fight ďkillerĒ I was hoping to play.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 29, 2006)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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