Remembering the “Streets of Rage” Videogames

I was an avid gamer when I was much younger. From the ages of 6 to about 16, you couldn’t drag me away from my television and video game console. Growing up, my older brother was pro-Nintendo and I was pro-Sega. He had every single Nintendo system from the NES until Gamecube, while I owned every Sega console. We would argue and often compete with each other on which gaming brand was superior. While Nintendo did win in the end in real life, I still maintain that the Sega Genesis is one of the more enjoyable gaming consoles ever invented. There are many reasons why that is but one of the best examples is one side scrolling beat ‘em up classic.

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Following the success of classic arcade beat ‘em ups like Double Dragon and Final Fight, Sega created their own version for release in 1991 titled Streets of Rage (or if you’re in Japan, Bare Knuckle) for the Genesis. The game’s story was simple: Three ex-cops join forces to defeat an organized crime group taking over their city, headed by the villainous Mr. X (the most generic of generic villain names). Players get to choose from either Adam, Axel, or the female Blaze. After selecting your fighter, you go through eight levels of beating the crap out of everyone and everything using your bare fists and feet. Throughout each level, you can also pick up various weapons to use on enemies such as knives, lead pipes, and even pepper shakers to stun your foes for a few seconds so you can attack. You also get a sweet special attack you can only use once per life. The attack is you call for a SWAT car which launches a gigantic flame attack on your opponents, wiping everybody out on-screen. You’re thrust in different environments trying to track down the epic crime lord as you brawl through a beachfront, a factory, a cruise ship, and even up a hotel elevator. The enemies were mostly stock and the bosses were generic but it was just so much damn fun that it didn’t matter. The game was a major success for Sega and the game become one of the Genesis’ signature titles.

This was one of the first games I purchased for the Genesis. I remember renting it first at my local Blockbuster Video then buying it right after. Adam was my favorite player. I liked his jumping kick and his surprise back kick that could be hit without facing your opponent.

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A sequel was obvious and soon became not only one of the best games on Genesis but one of my favorite video games ever. Streets of Rage 2 was released in 1992 and the story here is Mr. X reemerging and kidnapping Adam. He then tries once again to take over the city. In addition to Axel and Blaze, players can choose from Max, an ex-pro wrestler and friend of Axel, and Skate, Adam’s younger brother who rides on roller skates. The gaming engine from its predecessor was greatly improved with the controls being a lot smoother and the character movements not being as stiff. There were a better assortment of enemies, harder A.I., more variety of moves with each player having their own special techniques, and stages that were more elaborate. This game also had a memorable soundtrack: the bar stage in level one is still one of my favorite video game songs ever.

Skate was by far my favorite character. He was the fastest one, being the only character able to run. He also had amazing specialty attacks like a diving headbutt, a multiple punching maneuver by jumping on an enemy’s back, and firing multiple kicks from a headstand position.

It should be noted that the first two games were also ported to the Sega handheld, Game Gear, in a much more stripped down fashion. Not nearly as fun as the Genesis equivalents but satisfying enough to kick someone’s teeth in on the go.

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The second game proved to be even more successful than the first. A trilogy was eminent and soon, a reality. Streets of Rage 3 came out in 1994. Rather than just release another game in the same vein of the first two, Sega experimented a bit. The game made use of cut scenes between levels to add more to the story and having players choose options that would effect which path they complete the game. Mr. X once again returns and uses a new company to front his illegal doings. With bombs scattered throughout the city, it’s up to our heroes to once again save the day. Like the previous game, new characters were introduced. While Adam and Max are nowhere to be seen, players can now choose Dr. Zan, a scientist who can emit electricity and you can later unlock a boxing kangaroo named Roo to play as. Some major baddies from the first two games return as well such as Mr. X’s bodyguard, Shiva. This one was generally a lot harder than the previous two with very tough enemies and traps that can defeat you easily. Despite adding depth to the story and characters, it’s not looked at as fondly as the others.

A fourth title was planned for release on the Genesis’ successor, Sega Saturn, but all plans fell through and the game eventually became, Fighting Force, a generic 3D beat ‘em up for the Sony Playstation in 1997. It was cool seeing what a game like Streets of Rage would look like in a three dimensional setting but ultimately, the game lacked any sort of desirable variety.

There hasn’t been a new Street of Rage game in 20 years but I refuse to rule out a future game. Hey, if something like “Altered Beast” can make a comeback after its heyday, I have faith this can as well.

Streets of Rage has to be one of the most mindless video games of all time and I loved every second of it. Its popularity is still talked about today.

Credit to Games4Win.com for feature image

Written by Matthew Reine

is a New Yorker with a strong passion for film and television. Also the biggest Keanu Reeves fan you know.

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