Thunderbolt logo

Streets of Rage 2

First released in 1993 on the Sega Megadrive, the arrival of Streets of Rage 2 on Xbox Live Arcade was eagerly anticipated by many adoring fans of the original series. Finally gamers can get their teeth into one of the best retro fighting games and relive a cult classic through a straight port available on Microsoft’s impressive download system.

screenshot

With the sheer mass of beat-em-ups seen over the last fifteen years, it is surprising to see just how well Streets of Rage 2 has kept pace with the games of the last three generations. The reason for this is the accessibility and playability that the title offers even after a decade beyond release.

The sequel to the original Streets of Rage saw an improvement on what made the first game an instant classic all those years ago. With a bit of tinkering, the developers had altered the formula so that the player gets more out of the game. The changes may have seemed minor to the casual eye, but the result was more apparent for the judging consumer.

The biggest and most important change was the alteration of gameplay and fighting system so that it became free flowing and rewarding. The developers refined the controls so that more satisfaction is offered to the player.

screenshot

“More satisfaction is offered to the player”The major difference within the fighting system was the inclusion of special attacks that have to be tactically used, or else a tough battle could be lost. Instead of the special attacks from the first game that would see everyone on screen targeted, you will have to aim and use your attack sparingly. Your chosen character’s health will deplete after every time you use this, so the choice between risk and reward is remarkably close. As a matter of fact, on the easier difficulty there is little choice. Even the least talented player could clear the entire game without needing to use any of the powerful attacks. However, it is the tougher end of the scale that really offers a hardcore challenge that retro gamers will be begging to take…

When beginning a new single player game, the player has a choice of four characters. This title introduces two new faces to the series in the form of Max Thunder and Skate Hunter, of whom the story is based around as he tries to save his older brother Adam Hunter from the clutches of the evil villain Mr. X. Veterans of the series will quickly identify that Adam Hunter was one of the heroes from the first game, giving more incentive to secure his rescue. Alongside the two new heroes are favourites from the original game, as Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding step up to the latest challenge.

The game itself is very short, lasting barely an hour on the easiest difficulties. This could put many off, as only loyal fans will replay the story more than once. Although it is a speedy experience, it certainly is a sweet one as well. The entire game is presented exactly as it was way back in ’93. This is a huge bonus for any gamer as it gives the chance to experience one of the most influential titles the Megadrive ever saw. For the older generations, the memories will soon start flowing as you enter the quest to save your pal once again.

screenshot

“Although it is a speedy experience, it certainly is a sweet one”The only addition to this version of the game is the chance to “smooth” the graphics. Sounds good on the surface, but basically it is one of the most inappropriate additions the developers could have implemented. It hardly affects the graphics at all, giving the game a little bit more clarity. As this is meant to be a port of the original title, the word “unneeded” doesn’t do this option justice.

The original musical score is present, and still gives the game the charm many experienced in the last century. Upon hearing the familiar tracks again, it is easy to see the attractiveness of the title. If the developers had altered the soundtrack in any way, many players would have been furious, so the inclusion of the entirely original score is a huge plus.

Players should expect to face all their old foes once more, as enemies remain identical to the original version. The level design is still of the linear side-scrolling kind that made the game so easy to pick up and play. Although there is only one way to move forward, through eliminating enemies, the sense of progress is constantly kept up throughout. This enables the game to have a positive effect on the gamer as they can regularly see the way to the next level.

screenshot

The use of weapons during the game varies the style of play slightly, as your tactics are quickly dropped in favour of a savage and merciless approach to your enemies. The most powerful weapon of all, the newly added Katana, is capable of eliminating multiple enemies with one blow. This makes it so important when fighting through the more challenging difficulties, as dispatching your opponents quickly becomes a struggle…

One life. Hardcore mode. Certainly one of the toughest challenges I have experienced in recent memory. As the difficulty increases, the rate and aggression of your foes also becomes insane. I know the game well, and hardly got beyond half way through without the inevitable happening. Although it is frustratingly tough, the challenge remains. Completing it on this difficulty would certainly earn you the most precious of bragging rights, if not a complimentary migraine. Headache tablets at the ready, you’re going to need them.

Alongside single player is the chance to team up with a friend via Xbox Live or two controllers. The co-op works well, and adds the element of teamwork that makes the game a bit more personal. Of course, as soon as the action begins, it is more likely to turn into a free for all rather than a strategic slugfest, but that is down to interpretation. It certainly is fun when you’ve got a friend alongside you, as the shifting of blame becomes uncontrollable when you suffer a loss. Nothing new is added to the gameplay however; making the two-player option an experience that isn’t likely to set the game apart from any other.

screenshot

An interesting part of the multiplayer experience lies with the chance to battle it out on Xbox Live. Players can fight in a one on one brawl against anyone in the world in order to climb leaderboards and unlock achievements. When playing this though, one thing became instantly clear. The host of the match held an advantage over their opponent, as more often than not, the connection was poor. This completely destroys the fun of a Tekken style battle, as it is impossible to judge your opponent’s next move. Also, it doesn’t take long before players realise how to gain an easy victory. Matches quickly become about who can grab the weapon first, as they hold a massive advantage over hand-to-hand combat. This is disappointing, and totally makes the multiplayer experience one of luck. Compared to the skill needed in hardcore mode of the single player, it will leave many gamers feeling a tinge of sadness as to what could have been.

Although the cost of the title will put many gamers off, this game is well worthy of a purchase. It is a shame that the more expensive eight hundred Microsoft points will not justify the short length to a lot of players. However, to those who do decide this is worth the cash, you have yourself a decent package. The chance to experience an influential title such as this should be a major drawing point. The game holds enough positives to make it worth your time. Whether or not it is the original game’s appeal that will attract gamers should be pretty obvious by now, as the additions that have been made here are unsatisfying to say the least…

“To those who do decide this is worth the cash, you have yourself a decent package”What is certain though is that Streets of Rage 2 is a classic title that fully deserves to be revived and remembered in modern day gaming. Now, pass me the pain relief and I’ll be on my way…

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2007.

Gentle persuasion

You should check out our podcast.