Guest Blog by Todd M @The Top Loader
There are so many games I can talk endlessly about, memories and stories are constantly running through my head. But today, I'm going to do something a little different. I grew up never owning a Sega Mega Drive and in recent years I've been able to go back and buy classic games that i never got a chance to own before. So here today I'm gonna take it to the streets to play a series of games that I have always admired from a far, a franchise that I may not have the most knowledge about and honestly most likely won't be telling you anything new , what a salesman I am huh. But, what i can tell you will be my most recent impressions of - The Streets of Rage.
How do you talk about a franchise that you are not that familiar with? Well you have to shoot from the hip or in this case punch from the waist up since that's what Axel seems to do a lot here as I watch his bare knuckles turn to flames. It may have the word street in the title but this is certainly no 1 on 1 fighter. What do I see when I first start to play? Well firstly I hear an awesome soundtrack, I've never been in a situation where I've been unsure whether I should be fighting.. or dancing since it compels me to do both. Sega really came out swinging and I was left dancing, but since i see a flurry of enemies heading my way I'm sure punching out a few combos wont hurt anybody - except maybe the bad guys - which is a good thing here because this is a Beat-em-up and it's pretty straight forward. For the most part anyway as sometimes you go up and down while throwing bad guys in the air and on the ground. There is a good balance of enemies that aren't too hard but aren't that easy, until you learn their pattern of course which is a must if you are to defeat some of the harder bosses like the very agile and bouncy twins - where's Chun Li when you need her?
With so many criminals coming at me from all the angles, I really do feel like I'm cleaning up the streets while fighting all this crime as they have me picking up broken bottles, knives, metal poles and anything else they can throw at you - even apples. How do you like them big apples?.. and this isn't even New York, I think? My mum always told me to eat my vegetables to get stronger, but she never mentioned fruit. But since they are just lying around my advice is take what you're given otherwise you'll be rolling with the punches - just food for thought. I didn't realize I was playing an environmentally friendly game because they even recycle! As the same enemies can be used many times over by simply swapping the palettes and filling the screen with the exact same enemies. But to be fair the palette swapping was a cross platform problem in many fighting games of the time who seemed to be involved in the biggest crime of that century with all the blonde haired, jeans wearing fighters with the same likeness including Cody Travers, Terry Bogard and Axel Stone all joining the brotherhood of the traveling denim pants. Bring in the fashion police I say and let the punishment fit the crime. This game could have come across feeling like a cheap knock off of its own when compared to Final Fight but somehow it didn't when it showed off what it's truly made of as it cleared the room and Kicked down the doors for more entries in the franchise to rush on through. But was as it as good as Final Fight? - I'm not so sure, which makes me ask:
Do you know what makes a great sequel?
The Answer - Everything the Streets of Rage 2 does as this game takes what made the original game work so well and then throws them on the steroids. They were lucky though since sometimes the use of steroids can result in some shrinkage. But there is nothing small with this sequel since everything has bigger better bolder bulging muscles that just gets everything so right when it could have easily gone so wrong. I don't want to feel left right out so - Go Straight - while fighting off hordes of the criminal syndicate through the bright lights of the cities, boats, bridges and baseball grounds to name a few. I do have to say I love the crowd control pole in these games and this isn't even a Grand Theft Auto game, where was the controversy back then with this game in comparison? excluding the banned Ashe character from the third game of course, but I wont go into that because breaking the region free you will find some differences between territories. Just tread lightly as it seems Mr X must have marked his spot all over his territory as it sure does feel crowded with the amount of enemies you face off with, especially by the later stages. I've never felt so popular .. or extremely un-popular, but fear not there is also a backhand move in case you hear any backhanded comments from the guy behind you which always comes in handy when someone talks smack about you behind your back.
What I like here is that some of these special moves do not take energy, unlike most arcade Beat-em up games at the time which would always make me not want to use the special attacks since you would lose too many lives. You don't always need to eat those healthy apples to prolong your life either, just a second joypad is all it takes to continue all pumped up to clear the round.. and remember its not counted as cheating if it's not cheating. Towards the end you will find yourself treading old ground by fighting bosses you have already beaten, that was the developers way of prolonging the games life without the use of apples or change of controller. Yeh the whole gangs here in the last levels, and as i get surrounded by an overwhelming amount of enemies red alerts go off in my head as I realize I'm going to have to strategize if want to command and conquer all the way up to the last two final bosses. You do have the option to join forces with another player, just make sure you don't end up fighting against your partner if you question his motives at the end game as your partner in crime will literally become a partner in crime. Mr X just sits there looking bored as i start to Shiver, I mean start to fight Shiva while X looks like he is sleeping until BAM! He jumps out of his chair with a machine gun shooting anything in his way, including his own men - it's always the quiet ones you have to worry about - you would think his men would want to keep me alive since I'm the one not shooting at them with a machine gun. I hope he treats his Mrs Y a little better.
As good as the sequel is, unfortunately the third time - for me - was not the charm. Streets 3 isn't as straight forward as the previous games and not because of the alternate paths the game offers. Technically streets 3 should be better since it has all the advantages, but with all the extras it gives you by building up your power meter it still feels like something is missing.. and again I'm not talking about Ashe but leaning more towards the balance that seems slightly off. Apparently the Japanese version was a little easier, and that right there should tell you something about the mixed opinions of what the difficulty should be. The same can be said about the music too as the words - DONT DO DRUGS - that those old arcade machines warned me about years ago comes flashing back to my mind. I just want to dance again, since that's how I find myself judging how good a Streets of Rage soundtrack is, by whether I can dance to it or not. Some say the music was way ahead of it's time, which I agree with since some of these tracks are way out there. Streets of Rage 3 certainly isn't a bad game by any stretch of the mile (no matter how grim I make it sound) it just fell victim to having to live up to its big bad-assed older brother. But there is a silver lining as there are clear improvements that have been made here so don't play your Rock n' Roll to me because the new Run n' Roll upgrade introduced is just fine by me and a great addition to the series. The other 3's in the fighting arena also took a similar approach as both Mortal Kombat 3 and Final Fight 3 seemed to learn to run at the exact same time - it must be a number 3 thing. Axel even upgraded his outfit sporting his new black pants as he finally ditched the denim, but hey at least they didn't give him leather because that would have been a clear downgrade.
Overall the whole Streets of Rage franchise shines bright under the street lights and never seems to get overshadowed by the excellent Final Fight. These are just my recent impressions and do bare in mind that I have dabbled a little with these games before in the past and never played the third game in the series at all. You may be asking - how has it taken me this long to play all the way through these games? I never owned a Mega Drive in my youth so for years many classic Sega games slipped through my gaming fingers, but luckily through the power of the online market I'm now able to go back and revisit the games I missed the first time round. Recently I went and bought the whole Streets of Rage trilogy after playing two exceptional digital ports that developer M2 brought to the Nintendo 3DS. Usually I'm not a fan of 3D gaming (or movies) but honestly I can't knock a good port down especially after finding out what lengths the developers went to in creating a literal virtual console named The Giga Drive to create these Sega re-releases. I would never recommend a port over the original source, but 3D classics really do give the originals a run for all that money lying around.
However, even once you look past the 3D you will see what's really at the core of this franchise and what makes these games so great - plain and simple fun. Fighting off hordes of the criminal syndicate never gets old as the struggle for power always rages on. Sega at the time was going through a power struggle of their own and had to question their own ability when backed into a corner as they realized they needed some back-up to pull out the big guns if it was going to blow Capcom's exclusive Final Fight away. Obvious to everyone and oblivious to no-one the Streets of Rage was their answer and became a true fighting force to stand up to and rival the turf that the Beat-em up genre king pin already owned. But in the end game and what ever multiple choices you were given to play the right path was always yours to make as the right decision to get the ending you want always comes down to your own instincts, and I'm pretty sure either way - when those credits roll I will be watching the sunset over those city lights tonight.
Guest Blg by: Todd M @The Top Loader
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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