Title: Streets of Rage/Bare Knuckle
Platform: Megadrive, XBLA, PC, 3DS, PSN, iOS, Wii VC, Arcade, PSP, PS2, probably more
Reviewed on: Megadrive
Genre: Beat em’ up,
Players: Single Player, Local 2 Player Co Op
Written by Whistler 5th March 2014
Around the time when I was a young pup just learning to walk and talk, I also seemed to have a knack (or early addiction) for playing video games; at least according to family members.
While it was till a few years after it's release that I was able to play Streets of Rage properly I played this game constantly along with with Golden Axe, Donkey Kong and Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (the joys of having several gamers in the family).
This title has been released practically on every modern day platform under the sun and with it's latest addition to the 3DS Sega Classic collection I figured it deserves a review.
Back in 1989 Capcom released the titan of 80s money grabbing arcade title Final Fight which according to those who came before me was the arcade game to end all others; a year later after Nintendo secured an exclusive home console port with Capcom, Sega gave their answer in the form of (yes you guessed it) Streets of Rage or Bare Knuckle in Japan.
While the case of Streets of Rage versus Final Fight seems to still be making it's way through the courts (seriously the internet is still flooding with this age old argument), Streets of Rage is still one of the best titles to be released on the Megadrive and is still a fun beat em' up that doesn't feel stale even after 10 years since it's initial release.
Streets of Rage follows the story of three vigilante cops who go on a brawl giving street justice in a city completely controlled by a criminal organisation with Mr X at the helm.
Through this one night they will fight in the streets, in some more streets and eventually all the way to Mr X's headquarters.
Before starting your urban crusade players can choose between one of the three heroes, Axel, Blaze and Adam. Each character has small yet noticeable differences in their strengths; Adam excels in Power and Jump but lacking the most in Speed, Axel has similar stats in Power is faster than Adam but lacks in Jump, and Blaze falling in Power but is the most versatile and agile of the group.
While the Super Nintendo port of Final Fight is visually better (and a bunch of SoR's characters are dangerously bordering copyright infringements), I personally prefer Streets of Rage's art style and animations; granted the sprites are nowhere near as detailed but animations are smooth and sprites take up much less space on the screen allowing for more movement and more enemies but do feel dated even for the time considering games like Golden Axe were released a year early with the same level of visuals. Levels are nicely detailed and often animated in some way so as to not feel too static like most side scrollers of that era.
Lending itself to the visuals and overall game is the catchy soundtrack composed by Yuzo Koshiro, from the 90s cop solemn yet hopeful intro, to the heavy techno beats with each boss battle, the soundtrack really helps set the mood and the atmosphere for the game. Sound effects from time to time feel like they could've been improved upon but overall death cries do their job, punch sound loud and painful and landing a kick to the face or throwing a thug always sounds more satisfying than it should.
Streets of Rage is a simplistic side scrolling beat em' up, player(s) will move from one screen to the other, beating up bad guys, picking up healing items and power ups until you reach the level's boss and then progress to the next stage. While game mechanics are on the simple side with one combo, a throwing move, a backwards suplex, jump kick and a special move there isn't a lot variety wise but with each character playing a little differently and how you chain these simple commands together for each scenario is where the fun comes in; the game is easy to pick up, but is a challenge to master on harder difficulties. There's even a couple of moves that aren't made obvious to the player, like a backwards bunch (rarely works but it looks cool), you can also if timed correctly negate a throw attack by pressing jump to land back on your feet, and with 2 player's enables you to throw you buddy to lead into a flying assault or hold the enemy so they can give them a couple of punches to the face.
Instead of Final Fight's special attack which drains a small amount of the player's health as payment, each life has a special point which once used calls for a police car to fire on your surrounding enemies which can be used to help you out of a tight spot or to save yourself from being face fisted by the boss; while others complain about this feature I prefer it in all honesty, it's your last resort that adds a bit more challenge as you can't just spam the special button and then just grab some chicken on the side of the road (for some reason I never questioned this as a child), plus the added tension as you progress through the stage as you have to decide between keeping the special for the boss, keeping it at the end of the stage to net you extra points or using it to save you from losing a life.
While the gameplay is basic there is the added replayability of two player not to mention two endings and three near end scenarios (choosing to side with Mr X in single player will see you having to replay 3 stages then replacing him).
Yes arguably Final Fight is the better game (at least the arcade version anyway), and yes Streets of Rage 2 did excel (so they say), but for me Bare Knuckle will always hold a very special place in my inner child with a mere hour to complete a single playthrough I have accumulated well into the 50-
Simple and fun,
Drop in 2 player Co Op.
Final verdict ,
Streets of rage still gets a 7.5 out of 10.