Streets of Rage 2

Streets of Rage 2
Streets of Rage 2 Cover
Platforms Genesis, Game Gear, Master System, Wii Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade
Genre Variety-less Beat 'em Up
MtAMinutes to Action 1
Score 7  Clock score of 7Gameplay: 8
Fun Factor: 6
Gfx/Sound: 7
Story: 0
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Streets of Rage 2 is often called the greatest beat 'em up and the must-play Sega Genesis game. Its popularity has lasted a long time in an age where the beat 'em ups are relatively rare (one of the latest being God Hand by the now dissolved Clover Studio). The entire series is reaching new fans now as Streets of Rage 1, 2, and 3 have all been re-released on the Nintendo Wii via the Virtual Console and on Xbox Live Arcade. Back to the game on hand though, beat 'em up games have a certain expectation associated with them: the story is not as important as the gameplay and the action should start right away. This is what I'm considering when reviewing and playing the game. Does the first hour of Streets of Rage 2 deliver what its genre promises while keeping the game interesting and fun? Let's dive in and find out.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I press Start and choose 1 Player mode. There's four characters to select from: Max, a scarred brute; Axel, a blonde tough guy; Blaze, a woman of the night in uniform; and Skate, an eight year old with rollerskates on. I choose Axel, the least foolish looking.

Streets Of Rage 2 Character Select

01 - Stage 1 starts! That was quick! I have to teach myself the controls through trial and error, but since there are only three buttons plus the D-pad on the Genesis controller, I figure them out quick enough. A starts off a multi-hit combo, B throws a single punch, and C jumps.

03 - Each portion of a level is timed like a regular fighting game, but the timer is reset after every mini-stage, so it doesn't look like time will be a problem.

04 - I pick up a knife and wail on some guys. It seems my combo reduces my energy... That's kind of annoying and wasn't eluded to at all. Guess I won't be hitting the A button much.

05 - A guy jumps out of the sewer but I grab him in the head and throw him to the ground! Awesome! Now I have a big old pipe for a weapon.

06 - I die when an idiot runs back and forth on the screen with a knife held out. Lame. I finally take him out with a well-timed drop kick.

08 - Boss time! This guy has bright red hair and a ripped body. He also has a few knives hidden away in his jacket and a few cronies to boot (but not in his jacket). I nearly get wiped out but I end up getting him into a corner and poke him to death.

Streets Of Rage 2 Axel Jack Pipe

10 - Next stage, this time in a bar. I die again from some sliding baddies in red jackets. This game is kinda hard. But I was never that good at beat-em-ups.

12 - I reach the bar where a woman in a blue cape is hanging out. Suddenly she throws it off and starts coming at me! She's got something like a chain whip. Her name is Electra, the next boss...

13 - I try to kick her when she's down and she flies up kicking me in the stomach. Doesn't really do all that much damage though.

14 - After I defeat her she gives a loud scream. I leave the bar and find myself in the rain. Did I mention I have no idea why I'm beating up all these guys? Well, I don't think I have. And I don't think I'm going to get an explanation.

15 - The game is making me forget my story woes and is instead throwing a big old ugly brute named Barbon at me. He hits pretty hard.

Streets Of Rage 2 Axel Rain Streets

17 - Barbon is actually blocking some of my punches, making the going kind of slow.

18 - Stage 1 is clear and I get an extra life for all the sweet points I received. Stage 2 starts off right away.

19 - A guy drives by on his motorcycle... but then never comes back for more. Guess his brakes are broken. Oh, they're back! And hard too, but they don't really have a lot of energy to back up their strength.

20 - One guy's bike actually explodes after I hit it. Fragile stuff.

Streets Of Rage 2 Axel Bikers Knife

22 - I eat a much needed turkey. Full health from the bird! New area, I have no idea where I am. There's some weird dancer guys and wires running along the floor.

23 - Oh! Boss time! This guy's name is Hakuyo, must be the yakuza! Okay, he wasn't that hard, but once I beat him all the guys along the wall come at me!

24 - I'm out of the truck now, that was a weird encounter.

26 - Someone left a turkey dinner in a road block. LOL! Some guy just flew across the screen like the Rocketeer!

Streets Of Rage 2 Axel Reid Skyscrapers

27 - In an unexpected move, the boss's name is Jet. He gives me a huge piledriver. Dropkicks seem like the best remedy so far.

29 - I finish him off with a pretty awesome flip over his head and then a huge headbutt. Stage 2 is done, and Stage 3 starts in a theme park. There's bums just laying on the benches! Time to clean up this carnival!

31 - The next area is the nearly extinct (at least in North America) arcade! Time to rustle up these high school dropouts. They're all playing a game called Bare Knuckle, which must be where they got all their training because these guys stink at fighting! (note: turns out Bare Knuckle is actually what the series is called in Japan)

Streets Of Rage 2 Axel Bare Knuckle Arcade

34 - The next area is a "pirate-themed" zone. I say that lightly because all there is are a few ropes in the foreground and the Pirates sign when I entered. Now there's some barrels! Hopefully I'll get to battle a real pirate. Robert Hamburger, I am your weapon!

35 - There's a sign that says pirates to the right. Right now I'm sparring with another Japanese guy. I beat him easily and arrive on a pirate ship! Awesome!

37 - Is this really a pirate ship? The guys look more like ninjas jumping from the ropes and wearing spandex. One of their names is Hanzou too...

Streets Of Rage 2 Axel Galsia Ninjas

38 - Back to the theme park, I'm pretty sure I see the Disney World castle in the background.

39 - Dang, that knife guy again! And Electra (now known as L. Lisa). I die for the first time in a while, this fight will be hard!

41 - Lisa goes down with a scream and now for Beano, the knife dude.

42 - Woah, fog effects in this next area! I destroy one of the blue orbs on the floor and get blown up - but it has a turkey inside so I recover health just fine.

44 - Holy crap a non-Human boss! This guy is like a big old skeleton head attached to the wall! Looks like something out of Contra. He can't really do anything except waggle back and forth but I still manage to die. Thankfully this game lets you respawn right where you died.

46 - I beat him and fight some more ninjas! Okay, now I'm fighting Blanka out of Street Fighter II.

Streets Of Rage 2 Axel Blanka Mist Fog

49 - I finally break him down enough to take out his first health bar. How cheap... Well, I guess I have like five health bars available to me.

50 - For the record, this boss's name is Zamza and he's kicking my butt. After dying twice I finally beat him.

51 - Stage 4 starts and it looks like I'm at Sega Stadium (home of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games? As an aside: seriously, who's idea was that?).

Streets Of Rage 2 Axel Sega Stadium

53 - There's a sign that says "It's Like Boo!" What the heck?

55 - Now I'm in the stadium, isn't there any security at this place? I'm getting mauled by sliders and die once.

57 - Oh crap, two more women bosses... They really remind me of Ivy from Soul Calibur, just not as kinky. The ladies are tough, but two more screams and they're gone.

59 - A big fat guy starts doing belly flops at me. I know time is almost up so I start doing my super combo which takes health away from me!

Streets Of Rage 2 Axel Bellyflop Sega Stadium

60 - I beat him with no time left! Phew! Even though time is up, I have to note that after you beat Big Ben, the pitching mound (we're on a baseball field) actually lowers and starts falling like an elevator! Hahahaha!

Streets Of Rage 2 Elevator Battle

Now for some scores out of 10!

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 1

Gameplay: 8
I've played quite a few beat 'em ups in my life and this one is probably one of the best playing 2D examples. I could have really gone for a higher variety of weapons available (I only ran into about four in an hour) and the fights ranged from too easy to pretty hard. Most guys went down in a couple of punches and others took longer, and it wasn't because I found some sweet strategy, beating bosses felt like I was more taking advantage of the game than anything else. But I guess that's the greatest fault of a beat 'em up, more of a problem with the genre than Streets of Rage itself. It was also annoying that the A button combo took away health, rendering it virtually useless in a game where health is the most important thing in the game. Most later games have remedied this by having some sort of "tech" or "combo" bar in addition to the health bar. Or just not make such a stupid gameplay decision and just let the character be awesome whenever they want without silly ramifications.

Fun Factor: 6
The game was easy, then it was really hard, then it was easy, etc. Streets of Rage 2 never really found a proper balance which is disappointing. I guess the thing to note is that it was always fun, but not over the top fun that I would return to again and again when I need my beat 'em up fix (this would probably be Battletoads or River City Ransom). The game could have used more variety: such as more weapons and special combos available at all times (maybe they were and I just never knew?). I suppose I only played through half the game as Axel so there are still three more characters to try out, but there's only so much time when playing the first hour.

Graphics and Sound: 7
The first thing I noticed was that the music was awesome in Streets of Rage 2! I was really getting into the old-school Casio beats and it fit the game well. The graphics are pretty good, the characters themselves are rather plain and aren't that memorable (though I wasn't playing as Blaze). The backgrounds, however, are pretty well detailed and look really nice. Too bad they're just way too repetitive, though I'm sure this was for various reasons (cartridge space and just plain art budgets come to mind). The sound effects did their job, but my mind just keeps returning to that scream the women blare out.

Story: 0
Okay, there was no story. Well, there was a story sequence, but it was presented to me before I pressed any buttons, so I don't really count that. That's probably the better way to describe a lame plot anyway in a game where you just want to beat punks up, so I'm not holding it against anyone. Stories in beat 'em ups are like stories in shmups, highly unnecessary, but can be pretty hilarious if done in stupidly awesome, easily skippable cutscenes between levels (see Giga Wing 2 for example). Streets of Rage 2 seems to take itself too seriously to be appropriate for the above. No story was better in my opinion.

Overall: 7
Streets of Rage 2 delivered on its genre promises: little story and quick to the action. The fun was sustained at a mild level throughout and the graphics were above average. The music seems like a classic and I can see that the soundtrack is popular online. However, the game still left something to be desired. Being a beat 'em up, the game was inherently repetitive, but the developers never ventured out and tried to do anything really creative. There are weapons but they are completely unoriginal and sparse. The battle system is simple and there seems to be a false layer of complexity with the cool combos that seem to be randomly pulled off. Streets of Rage 2 is a good beat 'em up but really only an average experience for a gamer like me. The first hour of it was enjoyable, but left little desire for me to continue on playing. For those wondering, I finished the first hour with one life left remaining and a total of 247,480 points.

Streets Of Rage 2 Character Art