I have put this review off for far too long.
After years of planning, writing, rewriting, giving up several times, virgin sacrifices and ice cream bars, I will finally tell the world how I feel about a game that was a big part of my youth. A game that is awesome in every sense of the word. And, most notably, a game that is not a Nintendo game, but a *gasp* Sega Genesis game.
And here it is:
Streets of Rage 2 is not just an orgy of a game, but several orgies that morphed together into one super orgy. Even though it does have some flaws (because no game is perfect), it still is an amazing experience to play this game. Which is exactly what I say about every game that I can still pick up and play at anytime, even after all these years.
But it doesn’t hurt to repeat myself, though.
My discovery of this game (like most good things) happened by accident. Sleeping over at my cousin’s house, we would typically do one of two things: movies and video games. Needing to get our gaming itch scratched, my cousin asked if I’d ever played Streets of Rage 2. When I told him no, he slapped it into the Genesis and ordered me to play it. Within the first few seconds, I was hooked.
First thing that blew me away was the music. Holy fucking shit, this music is awesome!!
Even though I’m not a huge fan of the music in Genesis games, this soundtrack is absolutely fantastic, especially for a side-scrolling beat-em-up. It is exactly the kind of music that makes me feel like a badass when I beat the shit out of street thugs and hoodlums. Every tune in this game rocks on a level that cannot simply be measured, especially my favorite track, “Under Logic.”
Stage 1’s music sets the perfect mood for the game – Your friend gets kidnapped by a criminal conglomerate, and you swear to end this corporate menace. But you need to musically announce your violent intentions to those who stand in your way. You need something moving; preferably dance club moving. And that’s where Go Straight comes in.
It also greatly helps that each stage looks and feels unique. Even though your only goal is to kick as much ass as possible, the stages don’t look or feel like they’re repeating themselves. Fighting hoodlums in the foggy cave felt a lot more tense than the pirate ship, and a sunset stroll on the (soon to be blood-soaked) beach seemed a lot more inviting than making your way through a robotics factory. Graphically speaking, the artwork is good. It didn’t blow me away with jaw dropping awesomeness, but I liked it, nonetheless.
There are four playable characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. I could talk about how Skate is the most hated of all the characters, and that no one (unless drunk on a bet) would ever willingly play as him, but I would rather talk about my favorite – Max.
Getting the negative out of the way first, he is the slowest character to choose from, which has led me to many angry moments when fighting faster enemies. Especially those fucking ninjas. However, I love using him because he hits the hardest, and I typically gravitate towards heavy hitters in beat-em-ups. His back story is that he’s a pro wrestler, and his move set reflects that perfectly. Words will never express how much joy I feel when I get to suplex the shit out of everyone.
With the exception of Stage 6, I really enjoy the boss fights at the end of each stage. Abadede on Stage 4 is great because I get to use a pro wrestler against another pro wrestler, and Shiva near the end of the game is a phenomenal semi-final boss fight – almost to the point where I keep thinking he should’ve been the final boss. Stage 6’s boss fight, however, is a huge disappointment, because I had to fight Zamza and Jet – two bosses I’ve already killed in previous stages.
I know it’s a tradition in beat-em-ups to re-fight bosses you’ve already defeated in later stages, though this typically is utilized in a boss rush in the final level. Streets of Rage 2 has you fighting these bosses over and over again, and then again in a boss rush in the final level. I have no problem with this, except when it comes to Stage 6. Up until this point, each stage boss fight felt unique and brought something new to the table, because I have to use different strategies to take each one down. Stage 6 felt really lazy, and threw off a great formula.
My biggest issue with the game is when I kick or throw an enemy off screen. When I do this, they won’t come back immediately, which slows down the games steady pace. I can understand if I’m standing next to the edge of the screen, but why does it still happen when I retreat to the center, or other side of the screen? Even though it doesn’t make any sense, I can usually look past this. My biggest issue is still just a minor flaw.
Given that this game was released in the 1990s, I still get a kick out of finding health items (such as full turkeys) inside trash cans. Maybe it’s because a video game doesn’t have to make complete sense, especially when the end goal is to be fun for the player (or players – there is a co-op mode). Personally, I like to think that the game designers using trash cans and other such bins to hold food has some deeper meaning behind it.
Regardless, Streets of Rage 2 is a fun beat-em-up. Even 25 years after its release, it is still fun to pick up and play. If you somehow missed out on this excellent piece of gaming history, I implore you to correct that mistake. I have never regretted playing this game, and I don’t think you will, either.