With DotEmu announcing Streets of Rage 4 in conjunction with Sega, we at Orange Bison have decided to write a retrospective of the original Mega Drive/Genesis games. Last week we started with the original now it is time for the sequel Streets of Rage 2.
Image from Kotaku.com
One year after the defeat of Mr X, the trio of heroes from the original games have all gone back to their day jobs. Adam has rejoined the Police Force and now lives with his younger brother Eddie ‘Skate’ Hunter. When Eddie returns home from school he finds his house in ruins. A mysterious phone call tells him where he can find Adam who has been taken by Mr X. Now it is up to the brave heroes to save the city from the Syndicate and to save Adam.
The game was programmed by the same team as the original SOR, but they had more resources available to them as SOR2 had two times as much memory capacity as the first game. One of the big features added was the enemy health bar. In SOR only the main character and bosses had visual health displays; this in turn made SOR2 more inline with its main competitor Final Fight. Also added to the game were combo moves, this added more variety and gameplay opportunities. With the addition of combo moves, the animations were a lot slicker and less robotic looking giving the game a more realistic fighting style. Once again using your ‘special move’ drains a portion of your health so it needs to be used sparingly!
Like SOR, there are plenty of items to pick up and use, ranging from weapons like knives and baseball bats, to healing health items like apples and whole cooked chickens that are held inside barrels. In my opinion, even if I was low on health and starving, cooked chicken in a barrel does not sound appetising!
Even with the increase in sprite animations, SOR2 still keeps a 60fps level and all the characters and scenery are still beautifully drawn in pixel art. With the higher memory resource more enemies were able to be shown on screen, making the fights harder and more frantic. The boss character sprites are back and in the same large scale as the first game.
The First Boss in SOR2 is Barbon. Like most bosses he has a set pattern. He uses a more mid range approach; I found once you learn his attacks, defeating him should be easy enough. He gives a good challenge especially on the higher difficulties where he will also lift you above his head and throw you, draining a quarter of your health instantly.
The Music composed for the game was done by Yuzo Koshiro, along with three contributions from Motohiro Kawashima. It was composed using the then outdated NEC PC-8801 computer using Koshiro’s own audio programming language called MML (Music Macro Language). The soundtrack, like the original Streets of Rage, featured a very heavy electronic synth style, which for a game at this point was counted as revolutionary and once again cemented Sega at the forefront of gaming and its push especially in the US and UK as the system aimed at older children/teenagers.
Image from archive.org
The controls for SOR2 once again utilised all three of the face buttons on the Sega Mega Drive pad for the simple Punch/Kick/Jump and special move. Like previously stated, with the addition of combo moves, the game developed beyond a simple brawler and into a more sophisticated game like Street Fighter. Whilst the combos can be difficult to learn, I found once you mastered them they became like second nature and added a second and third layer to the game which adds to the addictiveness and overall gameplay. The controls also feel tight and responsive so there is no need to worry about ‘floaty’ controls which would ruin the tight gameplay on show.
Overall Streets of Rage 2 is everything you would want from a sequel. It built on everything that the original game laid down, whilst adding subtle and large changes which added to the overall gameplay without losing the spark that Streets of Rage had. The introduction of combo moves added extra layers to tactics and overall gameplay. It was something that fans had called for after Streets of Rage and it is good that Sega listened and took this on board. Enemy names and health bars being added also improved the overall gameplay.
Whilst there are many superlatives given to Streets of Rage 2, it is not a game with issues. Many of the main complaints lend more towards the lack of differing enemies and the over reliance on genre tropes i.e The two fat guys who like to steamroll towards the player. Another issue I found that is also present in the first game, are some of the weak sound effects for punching. Overall this does not detract too much from the game but is still useful to point out.
Thank you again for reading this series retrospective. Join us next time for the final part based on the disappointing third game Streets of Rage 3.