Streets of Rage 2
  • Genre:
    • Beat 'Em Up
  • Developers:
    • Sega (GEN)
    • Biox (GG/SMS)
  • Publishers:
    • US JP UK Sega
    • Brazil Tec Toy (GEN/SMS)
  • Released:
    GEN
    • US 12/20/1992
    • Brazil 1992
    • JP 01/14/1993
    • UK 01/16/1993
    GG
    • JP 07/23/1993
    • US UK 1993
    SMS
    • UK 1993
    • Brazil 1995
Score: 85%

This review was published on 12/04/2017.

Known in Japan as Bare Knuckle II: The Requiem of the Deadly Battle, Streets of Rage 2 is a side-scrolling beat 'em up video game developed and published by Sega for various Sega platforms in the early 1990s. Initially, the game was released for the Sega Genesis in North America on December 20, 1992, Japan on January 14, 1993, and Europe on January 16, 1993. Shortly thereafter, a stripped down version came out on the Sega Game Gear in Japan on July 23, 1993, and North America and Europe in 1993. A similar version was also released for the Sega Master System in Europe in 1993. As its title unceremoniously implies, this is the sequel to the first Streets of Rage, which originally released on the Genesis about a year prior, and also got ported to the Game Gear and Master System. Streets of Rage basically ripped off Final Fight, a popular arcade game by Capcom that initially released in 1989. Despite being a rip off, Streets of Rage is pretty good. However, Streets of Rage 2 is more than pretty good.

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In the first Streets of Rage, a criminal organization known simply as The Syndicate, led by the mysterious Mr. X, terrorized a once peaceful city and even took control of its entire police force. Luckily, three former cops named Adam Hunter, Axel Stone, and Blaze Fielding successfully defeated Mr. X and took down The Syndicate. Life in the city soon returned to normal as the streets had been mostly cleared of crime. However, after a year of peace, evil has once again cast its shadow over the city. That's where Streets of Rage 2 begins; Mr. X is back and he wastes no time in commanding The Syndicate to do dreadful deeds. Thirsty for revenge, Mr. X kidnaps Adam in an attempt to lure Axel and Blaze into a terrible trap. Determined to rescue their faithful companion, Axel and Blaze spring back into action. Joining them is Max Thunder, Axel's pro wrestler pal, and Skate, Adam's kid brother. Together, the four heroes take their rage to the streets.

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Right away, you'll notice that the graphics have gotten a massive upgrade from the first Streets of Rage. Gone are the tiny character sprites from the first game, as they're now all much bigger, featuring greater detail and more frames of animation. The size of the regular sprites in this game is comparable to that of the bosses from the first title, and some of this game's bosses are even bigger. The color palette is more vivid, too, making every environment a delectable treat for the eyes. There are also plenty more special effects this time around, like how the water in the second stage has reflection and rippling effects. This game also continues the musical excellence that the series is known for with a whole new soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro, the same composer who worked on the first Streets of Rage and The Revenge of Shinobi. There are also more digitized speech samples, and they sound much clearer.

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A lot has changed, but the basic mechanics aren't that different from the first game. The d-pad still allows you to walk in eight directions on the ground, and the buttons are still reserved for jumping and attacking. Quickly tapping the attack button several times in a row triggers your basic combo, which remains your main method of dealing with baddies. Pressing both the attack and jump buttons simultaneously while unarmed does a backwards attack. Grabs and throws are also mostly unchanged; you grab enemies by walking into them, then either throw them by pressing the attack button in conjunction with the opposite direction on the d-pad, or beat on the restrained foe by tapping the attack button multiple times while holding forward on the d-pad. You can still vault over foes by pressing the jump button after grabbing them, and pressing the attack button while grabbing a foe from behind does a different attack. There's already plenty of depth here, but this game has plenty more.

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Naturally, there are some new moves. For instance, you can slam an enemy into the ground by pressing the attack button once all by itself after grabbing said enemy. There are also two jump attack variants per character, one for stationary jumps and another for moving jumps. Holding down on the d-pad and pressing the attack button during a jump does a downwards strike that typically combos nicely into a grab. Additionally, holding the attack button for a few seconds and then releasing it results in a powerful charge move. On top of all that, every character now has two unique special moves that function like the ones from Final Fight, in that they sap away a bit of your life bar in exchange for big damage. There are plenty of character specific moves that don't consume any health, though. Most of these character specific moves are executed by tapping forward twice on the d-pad before pressing the attack button. Speaking of different characters...

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There are four playable characters in Streets of Rage 2, which is one more than the first game had. As the intro suggests, the four playable characters are Axel, Blaze, Max, and Skate. Axel and Blaze return from the first game, but Max and Skate are new additions to the cast. Skate replaces his brother Adam, who was playable in the first game, but is absent in Streets of Rage 2 due to having been kidnapped. Like before, each character has different stats, such as Blaze being the balanced type, Max emphasizing power over speed, and Skate trading power for speed. Unlike before, characters are more than different looks and stats, because they now also have distinct moves. As his name implies, Skate uses roller skates to get around, which makes him the only character in the game capable of dashing via double tapping the desired direction. Meanwhile, Max is basically Haggar from Final Fight, possessing a plethora of devastating throw moves that nobody else has access to. The characters are well balanced, and more importantly, enjoyable to play as.

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Occasionally, you'll uncover weapons from within breakable objects or steal them from enemies, and as before, they greatly benefit you by increasing the range and power of your attacks. However, they're still temporary luxuries, because you drop them whenever you get knocked down or grab enemies, and they eventually vanish. The lead pipes and knives from the first game are back, but the beer bottles have been replaced with devastating katana blades. Other new weapons include kunai and grenades, the latter of which are thrown and explode on contact. Unlike the first game, certain characters are more proficient with specific weapons than others. For example, Blaze is capable of executing a special multi-hit combo with knives, while Max swings pipes and swords in a bigger arc that allows him to hit targets from both the front and back. Also, most weapons can be thrown as projectiles by pressing the attack and jump buttons at the same time. It's not a big deal, but the extra depth added to weapons does make them more satisfying to use.

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Eight stages filled with ruthless henchmen await you in Streets of Rage 2. That's the same number of stages as the first game, but they're thematically more varied here. You've got the prerequisite neon lit city streets, but there are also brash bars, big bridges, bodacious boats, beautiful beaches, and frenetic factories. There's even an amusement park with a pirate ship and an alien themed attraction, and a baseball stadium with a secret elevator that leads to an underground arena. The stages primarily scroll horizontally, but sometimes they scroll vertically, too. Of course, the enemies are the main attraction. Further ripping off Final Fight, every enemy now has a name and life bar that's visible near the top of the screen. That's good, because the enemies are more memorable this time. Of particular note are the bikers who ride in on their motorcycles in an attempt to run you over, ninjas that jump around everywhere, and fire breathing fatties. The bosses are also an interesting bunch; one boss is a guy with a jetpack who flies around the arena to attack you, and another boss battle pits you against two robots. Beating people up has never been more fun than in Streets of Rage 2.

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Like the first Streets of Rage, a second player can join the action at any time by pressing the start button on the second controller. While players are meant to cooperate together, friendly fire is still possible, so occasional shenanigans are likely to happen. Unlike the first Streets of Rage, there's also a "Duel" mode that pits both players against each other in a one-on-one duel, similar to a traditional fighting game. Every match is timed, and whoever wins two rounds first is the overall victor. If neither player is defeated before the timer runs out, then the one with the most health wins the round. Before each battle, you're able to select the arena and whether special attacks are allowed. Aside from visual and audio differences, the only real distinction between arenas is the type of weapons lying on the ground. Unfortunately, the rules of a traditional fighting game don't work well with the mechanics of a beat 'em up. As a result of that, this mode isn't very good.

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Given the fact that the Genesis is a 16-bit console and the Game Gear and Master System are 8-bit hardware, Streets of Rage 2 is pretty different on those platforms. This obviously means that the graphics, music, and sound effects are all much worse for those versions of the game, but there are other, less obvious differences. Because the Master System controller and Game Gear had less buttons to work with, the controls are more awkward. Both versions also remove Max as a playable character. Strangely, the Master System version omits support for two players, though the Game Gear version retains it. However, the Game Gear version is much shorter, potentially reducing the total play time to around half an hour. Despite all these shortcomings, the Game Gear and Master System versions of the game do have some exclusive areas, hazards, enemies, and bosses, making them worth checking out even if you've already played the superior Genesis original. They're also some of the best beat 'em ups available for the Game Gear and Master System, though that isn't exactly saying much.

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With all of the improvements, Streets of Rage 2 is unquestionably better than the first game. Besides the better graphics, music, and controls, there are also new moves, characters, and weapons. The improved core mechanics make the act of pulverizing punks even more cathartic than before. Plus, the decent number of enemy types and varied environments make this game less repetitive than the previous one. All of this results in a maelstrom of awesomeness. The only thing that sucks about Streets of Rage 2 is the competitive "Duel" mode, but its existence doesn't hurt any other part of the game. Outside of that miniscule blemish, Streets of Rage 2 is the best game in the series, and one of the best beat 'em ups of all time. Play it.

Word Count: 1,883

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