After the highly improved sequel Streets of Rage 2, I was not surprised to hear about a third game in the series. However, I was caught off guard due to never hearing much praise for this installment, even compared to the first entry. It also looked quite similar to the second game, so I thought it was simply a minor upgrade or a different take on it. After some more research, I got both the Japanese version and the American version for reasons that will be explained throughout this review.
A bit more
Since the story is quite different between the two versions, I will just talk about the American version, since going into every detail will be a bit of a drag and the game is not even that story-heavy to begin with.
Mr. X has brought in Dr. Dahm to create an army of realistic robots to replace important officials in the city. With this, Mr. X plans to rule the city once again and has even dispatched his goons to bomb parts of the city in advance. Dr. Zan discovers this, and asks Blaze to join him in preventing Mr. X’ plot, who also asks Alex and Adam to join. Adam is unfortunately busy with his police-work, so Skate is joining in his stead.
The story is a bigger part of the game than before and it is a creative one. It is even shown through progression in the game with scenarios, such as if you save the general or not, or how quickly you can finish a level, affecting the outcome of the plot. These aren’t always clear however, and it can feel unfair to be judged on, since they are required for the best ending. The story goes a bit overboard with too much dialogue and really: with a simple plot like this, it did not need it. I think the poor story was caused by censorship unfortunately. The Japanese-version has more story to it and can even be grim at times. It is a shame we could not get the original, since what is here, is at times shallowly executed.
Story Score 5/10
Ruff around the edges
The graphics have seen more technical upgrades, with more detailed pixelart and neat elements in the background, such as chains reacting when someone is being slammed to the ground in a factory. The environments are also varied, but often uninteresting due to poor use of details and colors. At least the characters are well designed and while some have been borrowed from the previous game, they still look good or have even been polished to look better.
The soundtrack varies from catchy to terrible. The same composers from the last game returned and wanted to make “fast-beat techno like jungle” and from what I read: used a more advanced take on this style. It might be a bizarre dubstep that I don’t get, but I can honestly say that for the most part: I did not enjoy it and felt it was a terrible move compared to previous games. The sound-samples and voices are much more clear than before, but it does not help much for the music.
Presentation Score 6/10
Two steps forward, one knock down
Streets of Rage 3 is once again a traditional beat ’em up, where you go in one direction, killing everything in your way and end the stage with a bossfight. Many elements are taken from the previous entry, with double tap left or right to do a minor special-attack, 4 hit combo-attacks that are more varied, 3 different jump attacks depending on if you hold the D-pad forward, down or not, different throws and grab-attacks and 2 supermoves.
The first supermove can be used in one direction that will cost some HP and either do massive damage to one person or multiple in a straight line. The second one, attacks everyone near your character, but will cost a bit of your health if you hit anyone. As a new feature to them: you can wait for a meter to fill up, making it so it won’t lose any health to use a supermove. This is kind of neat, but not something I would miss. What is also new to the moveset, is double tapping up or down to dodge roll, all characters are now able to run, and you can, like in the first game, throw enemies over your shoulders.
All are welcome additions, especially for the American-version. Enemies are tough, come in groups even in the earlier levels, can drain your health quickly, and you have only few continues before it is game over. What is a shame is that the American version is not balanced for such encounters, even with plenty of moves at your disposal. They are much smarter than before, come at you from every angle, some can carry guns and with how many one screen can have, it can be overwhelming. It is possible, but it is like saying the last stage in Ghost and Goblins for the NES is possible: it does not mean it is well designed or fair.
Weapons return once again and they have also gotten one special-move to them with the use of a double-tap, which is neat, but not always useful. Max disappeared from this entry and we instead have Zan, who is no replacement for our powerful beast, but cool in his own right and bit more unique. There are again 4 characters to choose from with stats showing their differences in Power, Technique, Speed, Jump and Stamina, all being self explanatory yet again. All characters have their unique moves as well, so finding your favorite fighter, should not be too troublesome. The stages themselves have taken more inspiration from the first entry and have been filled with more traps, which is an odd choice. They might give some variety, but it feels unneeded. If they focused on balancing the enemies, it would have gone a much longer way. Even having a buddy alongside for the journey, might not get you much further and it can be incredibly frustrating, which is really a shame when the moveset has been upgraded so much.
Gameplay Score 5/10
Other ways to finish the fight
There are plenty of good extras for going back one more time, with different stages in the last part, giving the opportunity for multiple endings and there are even 2 hidden characters (3 in Japan). They are nice additions, but due to how unfair the game can be, it is unlikely anyone wants to go for another run, which is a huge shame due to how much more there is here.
Extra Score 7/10
To put it bluntly: the Japanese-version is the one to go with, as it has much better implemented difficulty, censorship is gone, better story and one extra character. If you go with this version, it can be easily recommended and while not as charming as the previous entries, it has a lot to offer both in replay-value and in the upgraded gameplay. As for the versions outside of Japan: I think there are too many beat ’em ups for this to be recommended. If you are glutton for unfair punishment and want to be tested to the max however, go for it. You can basically add 1.5 more points to the verdict, if you go with the Japanese version, but as a sequel to Streets of Rage 2, I expected more in general.