With the announcement of DotEmu’s new game “Streets of Rage 4” we at Orange Bison have decided to take a look back at one of the most popular franchises of the 16 bit Generation starting off with the 1991 release of Streets of Rage for the Sega Mega Drive.
Released in 1991 during the Arcade craze, Streets of Rage was vying for the title of top Beat ‘em up’; its main challengers were Capcom’s and Nintendo’s Final Fight that hit Arcades in 1989 and Homes between 1990-92.
Developed in house by Sega and coded by Hiroshi Momata, Streets of Rage takes all of the lessons learnt from other Beat ‘em ups’ to try to make the one that tops them all. Whilst some people have agreed that Streets of Rage is probably one of the best games for the Mega Drive, there are still the vocal critics who stand behind Final Fight – to be expected as a result of the console wars of the ‘90s. Everyone has their allegiance!
The plot of the game centres around the battle to take back control of the City from the Crime Syndicate and from the grips of Mr. X’s tight grasp. There to stop him are three brave heroes and ex police officers, Axel (Mixed Martial Arts), Adam (Boxer) and Blaze (Judo Master). Will they Stop Mr. X or will the Syndicate stop them…
Of course many people do not play Beat ‘em ups’ for the story, but more for the button mashing mayhem on screen. SOR does not disappoint in that regard. They dutifully have a great balanced roster of playable characters each with their own pros and cons. Axel is classed as the mixed player which means all his stats are equal. Adam is the ‘Heavy’ which means he is slower put hits hard and can take a hit. Blaze is the opposite she is quicker but has weaker punch. In many regards they can also act as a separate difficulty setting and adding the much need replay-ability.
The Enemies in SOR are the predictable ones from every Beat ‘em up’ and do not add anything new to the mix. Unlike Final Fight for the SNES, SOR can have more sprites on screen so whilst the characters are not as original as we would like that is remedied by the frantic pace and masses of enemies on screen. Enemies do not have names in the game itself, but are given names in the Japanese versions which are inside the player manual. Normal grunt enemies also do not have a health bar, that is kept for stage bosses only (thankfully this is remedied in SOR 2 and SOR3).
Throughout the stages are helpful items from pipes and bottle melee weapons to apples and chicken for health. There are also the rare 1-up item hidden in the levels.
At the end of every stage is a Boss fight and, as you can imagine, they scale in difficulty and health. The boss for the first stage is called Boomer. His main weapon of choice is his boomerang. The challenge comes from his kicks which drain a quarter of your health after every kick. Thankfully the player has a special move which is the ability to call in a police officer to fire a rocket this deals massive damage and also knocks the enemy to the ground making it easy to land the punches when he gets up.
The controls of SOR are very easy to understand and get the hang off and input lag is very minimal. Your character has the moves to kick, punch, throw if near the enemy and of course the one time per life special move. It does sound basic and whilst there are no button combo moves like in Street Fighter; SOR manages to still add tight enough game play that you would not overtly miss the lack of proper combos. For the best results, I would suggest using an arcade stick to get even tighter control and have the most purest of experiences.
The OST for SOR is incredible and still stands the test of time, every track adds a grittier layer that perfectly matches the scenes on screen. The opening theme of ‘Attack of the Barbarian’ should be classed as one of the most perfect opening songs to any game. It gets you right into the mood to fight and like I said before, stitches together all the aspects of the game.
Now I have stopped gushing over the OST, I can now mention a part of the game which is a let down and that is unfortunately the sound effects. Whilst they are better than the ones used in Final Fight, I still feel they lack any meat to them and in some cases i.e the screams sound nothing more than a garbled screech. This can be understandable as it was near enough a launch game in Japan, but it is still a disappointment in my eyes.
Overall Streets of Rage is a good starting game for the series. It lays out the story the atmosphere perfectly which is carried on in the subsequent games in the series. Whilst there are a lot of good points to this game there are some cons which I believe stops this game from making my personal Top 10 Mega Drive games.
Look out next week for Part 2 of the Streets of Rage Retrospective where we look at the sequel, Streets of Rage 2.