Electronic Theatre recently used this regular feature to take a look back at the original Streets of Rage, and the response was most certainly mixed. Many maintained that Streets of Rage remains as enviable a proposition today as it did back in the early ‘90s, while others accepted that some of the lustre had diminished over the years. There could will be a trick being played by the dreaded nostalgia, but one thing was agreed by all: Streets of Rage was good, but Streets of Rage 2 was better.
Arguably one of the first annual franchises from a major platform manufacturer, Streets of Rage 2 arrived just one year after Streets of Rage. During that time however, the scrolling beat-‘em-up genre had become flooded with ‘me too’ titles trying to earn a quick buck from the success of others. Streets of Rage may have redefined the genre, but in the interim dozens of rival titles had sprung into action and presented new arguments for just what the true appeal was. Streets of Rage 2 had to be something special to be seen as relevant as its predecessor.
Of course, that’s exactly what SEGA delivered. Streets of Rage 2 drastically overhauled the original Streets of Rage template in everything from visual design to combat system, special attacks to enemy variety. This was a videogame developed at a tome when the 16-bit consoles were coming of age, and it managed to capitalise on both the advancements made with software development and the bigger budget given to a practically guaranteed success.
Immediately upon starting the videogame it’s obvious that Streets of Rage 2 is a superior product than Streets of Rage. The opening sequence is far more detailed both visually and in terms of story delivery, and as soon as you begin the videogame true you are faced with four playable characters as opposed to three. Axel and Blaze return, while Max and Skate join the gang for the first time. Adam is no longer part of the crew but, to be frank, no one ever really missed him. Axel is all about those special moves while Blaze remains the all-rounder; Max is a hefty brute and Skate is the speedy trickster.
The videogame begins in similar surroundings to that of the original Streets of Rage, presumably as an effort to showcase just how far ahead Streets of Rage 2 has pushed. The gap in visual fidelity is significant, with the slums of Streets of Rage 2 exponentially busier, bursting with colour and incidental animation. And this commendable design continues throughout the majority of the videogame; there is the occasional weak spot, most noticeably in the second third, but by-and-large Streets of Rage 2 remains one of the most visually appealing videogames on the Mega-Drive.
The combat system has also been revamped significantly. While it remains a simple system of attack, special and jump as with the original title, the options available for combinations thereof have been expended greatly. Each character has their own unique combo, grapple and throw manoeuvres, and a set of three different jump attacks that vary in their usefulness given enemy positioning. Furthermore, the special attacks available to each character are all brand new: rather than calling in an ally from far away, the player can perform one of two available special attacks on local enemies at the cost of a small portion of health, as opposed to being limited to a specific number of uses.
Of course, the combat system could never hold a candle to more modern interpretations of the genre such as Sacred Citadel or Dungeon Fighter LIVE: Fall of Hendon Myre, but regardless it remains an enjoyable experience from start to finish. Streets of Rage 2 was often criticised for being too easy during its heyday, and while this remains true it’s far less noticeable given the modern industry agenda of creating videogame experiences that are designed to be completed rather than to challenge. Streets of Rage 2 is a videogame you will complete with ease, but you’ll most certainly enjoy the ride.