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Release Date: 1992

Platform: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive

Streets of Rage 2 is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up released for the Mega Drive in 1992. Titled; Bare Knuckle in Japan, this is the follow up to the original Streets of Rage which came out a year earlier.
The first game told the story of three ex-cops; Axel – the yellow haired karate expert who was the perfect balanced character (a jack-of-all-trades type but master of none), Blaze – the red latex wearing judo expert, who is fast but weak in her fighting style, and Adam – the black guy and former professional boxer who is the opposite to Blaze (stronger, but slower). They have all quit the police force of their city because of corruption and decide to take the fight against crime themselves by bringing down the criminal organisation behind it all; The Syndicate, and defeat their mysterious leader; Mr. X.
The sequel takes place a few years later when Axel receives a phone call from Adam’s brother; Eddie ‘Skate’ Hunter (who I originally thought was his son), tells him that Adam has been kidnapped! Mr. X and the Syndicate have returned to once again bring chaos to the city. Axel and Blaze decide to go back out there and face them again, only this time with the help of Adam’s brother; Skate (who is the weakest character but is able to dash and attack. He is also apparently the best character with a knife, which makes me think that maybe the game might have been tittering on boarder line racism, as number 3 had a stereotypical gay character in the Japanese version, who was cut from the Western), and the group also recruit Max, who is a professional wrestler and replaces Adam as the slow but powerful character of the team, but the slowness this time around is greatly exaggerated).
The group must battle their way through the streets (of rage), across a half built bridge, an amusement park, a ball park (complete with an underground cage fighting venue), a cargo ship, a jungle, and some random factory which ultimately leads to Mr. X’s hideout for the final showdown.

The game play is relatively straight forward, for a controller that has only three buttons and a D-pad on it, ignoring the start button of course. Funnily enough, the A button is not used that often as that is your character’s special attack, so really you are only pressing two buttons and moving the character around, so it does have a very arcade feel to it from the get-go.
There are a few hidden combos in it (such as a tapping the B button and tapping the direction you are wanting to attack in), or pressing buttons in a special order to do back attacks.

In the original Streets of Rage, your A (or Special Attack) used to be limited. I believe that you started off with just one and gained an additional one after each boss. These would involve a cop car showing up to firing a barrage onto your enemies. In this game, the Special Attack changed. This now drains a little bit of your life with every use. Once you get to low health, you are not able to use it. Instead of it pausing the game and flicking over to the side of the screen to show the cop car turning up, in Streets of Rage 2 your character’s Special Attack is just that! A Special Attack. For example, Axel does either a huge dragon punch which effects enemies in front or behind, or he starts absolutely swinging punches like there is no tomorrow and any enemy caught in that is done for (except for that Ultimate Warrior rip off boss who does an unstoppable interruption attack if you hit him too many times).

To restore health your character eat entire cooked chickens and candy apples straight out of smashed bins and off of the filth encrusted floor. The characters can also pick up bags of coins and gold bars which increase your score (gained from damaging enemies and completing stages in good health), which can, in turn, grant you extra lives and a final score at the end for bragging rights (but it was the classic arcade days when you only had three letters to use; ASS, BUM, PEE, DIX, to give a you a couple of examples of ones that might be enjoyable to use, but no doubt, at the time, I would have been worried of my parents finding out, so I would have just had mine saved as DAN.

The whole thing can be played cooperatively and by doing so, the game adds in more enemies, so it isn’t any easier with a second player and, of course, you can get in each other’s way, hit each other, and grab one another which drops any weapon that your character might be holding, which is a quick way to lose friends and start arguments. I only discovered recently that you can do a wicked flying attack if you grab your friend and do a jump off of them.
Like the original game, in Streets of Rage 2 you can pick up brutal weapons (such as drain pipes, katanas, bottles, and knifes) to deal extra damage to your foes. The sound effects for these are great and amazingly savage, such as when the drain pipe connects with an enemy’s face.
As for the enemies themselves, like the players, the enemies have life bars that are shown in the HUD whenever they come on screen. Most of them are colourful remasters of their brethren from the original game, as well as a lot of new ones to keep it interesting, and all of them are individually named based on their type and colour (clothing! Not race!).
A few notable enemies are: Jet – the jet-pack wearing hovering bitch (I am assuming it’s a woman) who grabs you and flies you up into the sky, only to drop you down moments later and do massive damage. P.Signal – the yellow jacketed punks who slide kick and, nine times out of ten, hit you, or grabs you and lobs you across the screen, both of which being very annoying. Jack – the knife wielding sub-boss. Zamza – the robotic Blanca looking motherfucker. And Big Ben – the fat laughing guys who, for some reason, fire flames from their mouths. What the fuck have they been eating?! Just to name a few.

Each of the stages are brilliantly different and all of them offer amazing 16bit music to accompany them. The locations are so random and within the space of fifteen minutes, you might have traversed from a large vessel, across a beach, through a jungle, and down a desert road. The game never feels stale, which was what game designers back then had to do to make their game stand out from the rest. The development time was far less and the games were effectively cheaper to make, so there was constantly new releases. The limited technology, controls, save features, meant that they had to make something that was not too long, not too short, not overly complicated but utilised the entirety of what the console could offer, and still at the same time be enjoyable. Well I think that all for this type of game (Golden Axe, Double Dragon, Alien Storm – who remembers this game?!) pull this off fantastically.

It is by no means a perfect game. The awkward 2D but trying to be 3D of the game screen can be very annoying and lead to you making mistakes, specially when the guys on the bikes start riding past and knocking you down, as you can sometimes misjudge where the enemy is and swing and miss them, or even something as simple as hitting your friend with a thrown knife (Pro Tip: press B and C together to throw held weapons).
It can also be frustrating when the game is telling you to move forward (or right across the screen), and your friend is eager to move on, you wanted to grab that much needed health restoring candy apple, but you are no longer able to as half of it is now off-screen and there is no turning back in this game.
These are all little issues that you suffer with when playing with anyone in a co-op game. Anyone who has played any of the co-op Super Mario games, or the Rayman games will know the troubles that people face when playing with “friends”.

Now I could have started by doing a retrospective of the original Streets of Rage, but the sequel holds such a place in my heart and so I was too excited to jump to it and write about it. The first game, while it is a quality SEGA Mega Drive game and one that can still be enjoyed today, is good, the sequel just did everything right.
I think maybe I am a little bias here as I have NEVER played Streets of Rage 3 and did not own number 1 until I was in nearly twenty, so Streets of Rage 2 was the one I would play the most.
The Mega Drive was the first games console that I owned, so didn’t play many of the Master System generation of games (other than a few I played round my cousin’s house), and the NES (which I played round a friend’s. So don’t worry, I still had a good childhood and didn’t miss out on anything too major).

Streets of Rage 2 was probably one of the first cooperative game, that I can think of, that I played (with the exception of playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2, where one player can play as Tails), as I did not play Golden Axe for a few years later – which deserves its own Retrospective article for another day.
Me and my older brother, or me and my friends would often crack this little gem out and smash through it. Most of the time we had played it so frequently that we knew everything and could easily do it in about an hour and a half. Since the Mega Drive was not capable of saving every game (some, like Micro-Machines 96 track maker and character names and 1 Premier Manager 97 career mode, could be saved), you needed to complete it in one sitting, or be forever repeating the streets level over and over.
When I was younger, it would be a weekend that I had my friend stay over. We would play through some other classic Mega Drive games that I had together in co-op (Castle of Illusion or ToeJam & Earl), and then move onto this game for the big finisher. By then we had synced our minds to becoming one and we were ready to try and complete Streets of Rage 2 without losing any ‘Continues’, which was truly a challenge worth attempting.
Note: Remember when ‘Continues’ were a thing? Haha.

I have always prefer cooperative games over competitive ones. Racing, Fighting, and Sports games never done it for me (other than Sensible Soccer), and so games where we had to work together to achieve a single goal, and if one person failed then we all failed, really appealed to me. To this day I still feel the same way. I play a lot of Table Top Games and ones that we have to work together are far better, in my eyes, than ones where it is everyone against everyone else. I don’t mind it when it is team based, like a two verses two scenario, but maybe that is because I fear of being personally ridiculed for coming last (which is normally the case in Racing Games. I suck at every version of Mario Kart).

When I got a little older, I actually owned this game on PS2 with the SEGA Mega Collection, which included all of the Golden Axes and the original Streets of Rage (unfortunately it did not come with Streets of Rage 3, so I have yet to play it. The damn thing costs £60 on eBay), and so me and a friend used to play these and drink at the same time, maybe before heading out or maybe just for a night in for some retro gaming. Most of the time we would invent silly drinking games to accompany these; such as doing a shot every time you lost a life, or whenever you accidentally grabbed hold of your friend’s avatar and had to suffer that awkward situation where you both don’t know which way to press in order to escape, meanwhile your character’s are holding each other in a loving embrace as Galsias and Donovans move in for the kill.

As I still have my Mega Drive and all my games kept inside a protective box with a towel spread over it, recently I was able to take it to my work and we played it a couple of lunch times. Micro-Machines is always a fan favourite (especially the four player mode on 96), but when we did Streets of Rage 2, we managed to get quite far considering the short amount of time we had to play. It was a refreshing change that everyone who came and watched appreciated for nostalgic reasons, and I get that feeling every time I take the cartridge out of the massive plastic case, blow on it and pop it into the console.

While the other beat ‘em ups are all fantastic games, Streets of Rage 2 holds the place as the greatest one ever made in my eyes. A lot of my childhood was spent battling my way across a retro futuristic dystopia future accompanied by some amazing chiptune-based electronic dance music.
And I would not have had it any other way.

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