I never forget when the Wii launched. I was probably the only person that was not as intrigued with the motion-controls, the design, and the games as much, compared to one important feature: the Virtual Console. I loved the idea of having everything in one place and even play classics I never got to. I also moved a lot due to my studies, and older games intrigued me very much, so this was perfect for me. Why the love for older titles, is for another article, but it led me to discover plenty of old classics, including Streets of Rage. There is something wonderful about being simple in concept and straightforward. Punching every bad guy in your way with crazy moves and oozing with the 80s and 90s action-flick feel? I am always in the mood for that!
Takin on the challenge
Streets of Rage was basically Sega’s answer to Nintendo and Final Fight. With the first title, Streets of Rage, already having a lot to it in common. Actual co-op, being designed for home consoles in mind, and three playable characters. Might not sound like a lot, but it was more than what the original Final Fight for the SNES had.
It was a clear showcase on what “Genesis does what Nintendon’t”, as dumb as that slogan is to this day. Throughout these 2 series on the 16-bit consoles, it can easily be seen how there was a clear competition between Final Fight and Streets of Rage, as both had series that tried to evolve. Final Fight 2 added in multiplayer and more characters, and Streets of Rage 2 added better graphics, one more character, and moves to dish out. Final Fight 3 had super moves and more combos that were similar to Street Fighter 2, while Streets of Rage 3 had more emphasis on story and multiple endings. Isn’t it odd to think that the Sega CD got a port of the original Final Fight, but no Streets of Rage? I suppose Capcom wanted a piece of the action too.
If there is one thing all games have going for them, it is the co-op with multiple characters to choose from, and of course: laying the smack down on your opponents. Streets of Rage trilogy is an easy series to pick up and play, with enough moves to be fun and engaging, yet simple in concept to get right into. Even the original, despite not having as many movesets as the later games, still sports some unique ones, and enough variety to be engaging. The punches, kicks and special moves always felt satisfying and adding to this, was the soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro. He gave the series a beating and toe-tap electronic soundtrack that fits what the Genesis could produce, which is impressive as it is not known for its music-capabilities. The more focus on nightlife and the industrial towns, with plenty of colors, was also a great take to make it more badass and in tone with the older audience genesis was aiming at. The fact that especially the second game is fondly remembered, even to this day, is a testament to how fantastic it is.
The only, unfortunate downfall was with the third installment. It suffered tragic censoring in regions outside of Japan and it affected plenty of minor elements. It cut out one character, made the story confusing, which also made it not clear what to do to get to certain paths. And the worst of all: the unfair difficulty. It was a huge blemish on the game and hard to recommend unless you were a glutton for punishment. It is a shame the original version did not become available until the genesis-classic re-release on multiple consoles, but at least emulation did not leave it completely out of the picture.
Another element with the third game was the soundtrack that was an odd mix of the great pieces Yuzo Koshiro had, and some ear bleeding tracks that I hate to this day. I don’t know if I can blame the co-composer Motohiro Kawashima, but it is confusing. Actually, that’s the best way of calling the third game outside of Japan: confusing. I have no idea why all of these changes were made, especially when Mortal Kombat got a free pass.
Why no more rage in the streets?
What really hurts the franchise, however, was porting it to 3D-consoles, which I imagine was hard for any series. Even Sonic, Sega’s own mascot, had trouble going into 3D (Sonic R anyone?) and Saturn was more of a 2D-powerhouse. Instead of going the Shinobi-way and make its sequel also 2D, Sega wished to create a new Streets of Rage-game in 3D for the Saturn with Core Design as developers. However, due to Core Design wishing to port this title to other consoles, such as PS1, they dropped the title and called it Fighting Force.
I have yet to play it and the sequel, but they were no hits and got and got lukewarm to poor reception. There was also demo titled “Streets of Rage 4” that was shown for Dreamcast and made by Ancient, whom actually developed Streets of Rage 2 and 3. However, due to the new management at Sega being unaware of the series and its past success, they did not follow up on it and the game never advanced past the demo stage. A 3D remake was also in development by GRIN before they closed down, and even Backbone Entertainment pitched a new Streets of Rage game to Sega. Unfortunately, it too was never greenlighted.
But not all was silence from Streets of Rage. Some arcade games, SpikeOut and its sequels, have a resemblance to the Streets of Rage-series, and plenty of fan-games have been made as well. It has also been ported to XBLA, PSN, packaged with plenty of best-hits, including Sonic and Sega Megacollection, and even the first and the second game got remade for the 3DS. The possibility for a new installment is not too farfetched to be honest, as long as Sega gets other developers on board for support. Seeing how it is the first and the second installments that are best remembered, it could easily give a hint as to what they should be focusing on. With Sonic Mania soon arriving, an official Sonic-game made by two fans of the blue blur alongside with Sega, I can’t see why Streets of Rage would not have a chance.