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Streets of Rage

This city was once a happy and peaceful place…until one day a powerful criminal organization took over. This vicious syndicate had control of the government and even the police force. The city has become a centre of violence and crime where no-one is safe.

Amid this turmoil, a group of determined police officers has sworn to clean up the city. Among them are Adam Hunter, Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding. They are willing to risk anything…even their lives on the… Streets of Rage.

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Minimalistic. Simple. Yet beautiful and atmospheric, it’s the plot synopsis that scrolls over a night-time cityscape in the introduction sequence of Streets of Rage. Listening to the theme alone demonstrated how Yuro Koshiro’s score was ahead of its contemporaries on a platform constrained to synthesised music. The rest of the soundtrack further illustrated how Koshiro was one of the industry’s finest composers, setting the scene of the archetypical gritty urban city Streets of Rage was one of the founders of. A thudding bassline raises the curtains in the city streets of the first round, a rain-striken polluted beach is accompanied by a jittery broken bass and a solemn treble tune scattered throughout, and fighting on a fast-moving freight boat is done to the beat of an impressive techno-trance tune. It all creates a plateau of uncertainty and tension as a night-time city full of leather-clad punks and knife bearing bandits take the streets.

Streets of Rage is a game of mixed emotion but with constant action. An energetic start follows the solemn opening when booting and punching through the streets, neutralising rowdy street urchins. The second stage is far more gloomy in the back streets, yet nothing changes in the combat. Most enemies are straightforward, but enduring a heavy load of them on the screen at once isn’t so much. Throwing a herd of punks for a minute makes for a satisfying combat mechanism, even if fighting is a little unnatural, but it’s easy to not notice the damage your character is absorbing when methodically booting and throwing bit by bit. Pipes and knives are hidden in phone boxes, vents and tables, as are apples and joints of beef for extra health amongst other bonuses. When things get really tough a back-up enforcer can be summoned to clear the screen, useful but does use up a whole button that could’ve potentially been used for other combat moves.

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However a point will be reached where punch and throw combos need to be learned. Merely hitting B and C will leave your character grossly outwitted by one of the taxing bosses. And of course, the main protagonists best abilities need to be exploited wisely. Adam excels in strength but is slower than the other two, the female Blaze can jump higher and is faster but weaker, whilst Adam is a happy average between the two. Boss battles hold no mercy however. The majority are at least twice the size of any character, and possess lethal abilities. Certain bosses have rapid punching techniques or throw knives. The hardest bosses consist of a fire-breather who can shed a few lives, and a couple of cartwheeling ninja girls will seize any opportunity to hurl a fighter to death. Even bringing a friend along in the 2-player will not fool the bosses, they get even harder and mroe enemies appear on the streets.

Not many titles portrayed the pure urban grit as well as Streets of Rage did. The introduction scene alone brought a tear to my eye when I was a kid playing this. The dark night-time levels are fantastic, and the dilapidated urban scenery has been designed marvellously. The colours are dark, a few street lamps glow and crime has to be combated in every corner of the city, from the beach to the factory and from backstreets to an elevator to Mr X’s office. At the heart of an atmospheric composition is pure pick-up-and play bliss. Modern games need more of this kind of adrenaline fuelled arcade entertainment where hours don’t need to be spent learning how to “get to grips” with the game.

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Despite the revival of 2D games on XBLA and PSN, with many retro games receiving HD treatment, Sega’s back catalogue of franchises are either over-milked and even ruined (yes Sonic, Phantasy Star), or plain ignored (Comix Zone, Soleil, Wonderboy). A fourth version was planned on the Dreamcast but canned as the beat-em-up genre was no longer cool.

But that was then. Old-school is back and Streets of Rage is non-stop fighting action that certainly has a place amongst the Mega Drive’s defining games. Take advantage of the fact this franchise is over-milked and get this on whatever platform you can, there is no excuse not to play this.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2009.

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