[Feature] Andy lays down the love for Streets of Rage 2

Published on January 9th, 2014



I have a confession to make.


For around a 30-minute period, about six weeks ago, I hated the Ready Player Two crew.


Now, don’t get me wrong, listening to a few episodes of the podcast now, as I have, you can tell that they’re all lovely people who are passionate about video games. This is almost never a bad thing.


However, they had taken to Twitter, seeking questions to answer on the next podcast. I asked what I thought was a perfectly legitimate question: With Streets of Rage 2 getting a release on XBLA, did that make it the game of the generation? After all, Streets of Rage 2 has arguably never been surpassed as the premier side-scrolling beat-em-up of all-time (I refer to the genre in its purest form. No RPG elements, as with Castle Crashers, Dragon’s Crown etc). Yes, my tongue was wedged firmly into my cheek when I asked, but I still expected that the game itself would be taken seriously as a classic of its time.


So, you can only imagine my horror, as my question was dismissed out of hand! The nerve! So, I sat fuming for around half an hour, wishing horrible 16-bit death on everyone involved, when it dawned on me. These poor ignorant souls didn’t need my scorn…they needed education!


So…El, Rich, Lewis, Ross…allow me to tell you why Streets of Rage 2 is brilliant, you utter bastards.





Streets of Rage 2 is the Godfather: Part II of video game sequels


Ask any film buff about sequels that are better than their predecessors, and you’ll get a very small and generally subjective list. However, one film is unanimously agreed upon as being superior to its predecessor, and that’s the Godfather: Part II. Similarly, you’d struggle to find anyone who thinks that Streets of Rage was better than its sequel. Granted, the original was a completely forgettable and terribly basic side-scroller (although, if you ask Lewis, he’d suggest that I’m being kind), but – if anything – that actually makes Streets of Rage 2 much more of an achievement.


Bigger is better


Graphically, Streets of Rage served its purpose, but even by 1991 standards, it had been left behind by games such as Final Fight and WWF Wrestlefest, which featured big, chunky, recognisable sprites. Streets of Rage 2 took its cue from those games and provided a plethora of bold, memorable characters – primarily the four available protagonists and the end-of-level bosses – which gave the game a style all of its own. Speaking of which…


Yuzo Koshiro is a goddamn genius


Streets of Rage 2 has the best game soundtrack of all-time. There’s no point trying to convince me otherwise, and this is a game that’s now approaching 22 years old. Part of the reason for this is that the soundtrack was legitimately ahead of its time. The Megadrive’s sound chip shouldn’t have been capable of delivering the soundtrack that Yuzo Koshiro composed, but he found a way to make it work and delivered a masterpiece of real swagger. Relevant and mature, it combined electronica with scuzzy, foreboding takes on funk, jazz, trance and techno, providing a sound a million miles away from the typically crunchy rock-like riffs of other games that predominantly featured mashing your virtual fist into enemies’ faces.


Wrecked for effect


Admirably backing up the soundtrack were a selection of meaty, hard-hitting sound effects. Sharp and snappy for punches and kicks, low and rumbling for throws, and smacking someone in the head with a metal pipe will never sound as satisfying as it does in Streets of Rage 2.






Side-scrolling with a side order of faux-verticality


Side-scrolling beat-em-ups have always generally suffered from the same limitations, albeit understandably so. The action takes place one screen width at a time, you can’t go back from whence you came, and you generally can’t go up or down into new areas (arguably, this would render it no longer a side-scroller, but open-world). Streets of Rage 2 played with the conventions a little by adding verticality-but-not-really-verticality through their elevator sections. There was something surprisingly thrilling about this, especially with new enemies essentially dropping in from the sky at random intervals.


Dem moves


The original game’s special moves list consisted of a smart bomb that could be used once a level, and was consistent across all three protagonists. Rubbish. Streets of Rage 2 gave each of the four protagonists one signature move and two special moves, as well as two suplex/grapple moves. It doesn’t even matter that most of them were basically cribbed from other fighting games (Axel’s “Grand Upper” is basically a grounded Dragon Punch, Max’s spinning double axe-handle apes Mike Haggar’s spinning clothesline and Blaze’s fireball is essentially Chun Li’s fireball), because they added some much needed variety to a generally basic genre.


Unlike the Jude Law film, this was good AI


Thanks to surprisingly customisable parameters in the options (1-5 lives and 5 different difficulty levels), the game could provide a great challenge, but the game’s AI ensured that it felt like a fair challenge, rather than a frustrating, cheap one. Yes, enemies had larger health bars, but they behaved in such a way that they could still be defeated with tactics rather than button mashing. Blocking your hits? Go for a throw. Punching you out of jumps? Use a dash attack. Being thrown when you get too close? Go for jumping kicks. It was actually pretty sophisticated stuff for a side-scroller at the time.





Friendly fire and the Duel


Streets of Rage 2 even provides ample opportunity for griefing your fellow player, as friendly fire is active at all times. Fed up of him/her taking all the money bags, gold bricks and/or health? Grab them from behind and back suplex them into the concrete. Worried that he/she is getting too close to your score at the top of the leaderboard, Grand Upper their last life off of them. Streets of Rage 2 even offers Duel mode, allowing you and a mate to face off “mano y mano” in Power Stone-esque one-screen fight to the death with various one-use weapons dotted around the place. Basic, yes, but surprisingly fun as a distraction.


So, there you have it. I hope I’ve made my case. If I haven’t? Well, frankly, there’s no hope left for you. Go back to enjoying Candy Crush, you soulless monsters…


Andy’s a top man to the RP2 cause, and writes occasional wordy wonders.
If it tickles your fancy you can follow his ramblings on twitter here: @PsychTyson
Or leave a comment below.

All images courtesy of Sega.
Available on steam, currently retailing at £1.99 http://store.steampowered.com/app/71165/
(Prices correct at time of publication)


  1.  Posted by Lewis Knight on January 9th, 2014, 21:46 [Reply]

     Streets of Rage 1 made me cry it was so bad.


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