So, here we go. If I were to make a “Top X favourite games of all time” list, this would easily be in the top 5, if not near the very top (I have no idea what would be at the top, that would require a lot of thought…) The gameplay, the graphics, the music, the look… everything about this game was amazing to me back when it came out, and it’s still every bit as good in 2020. Want to hear me gushing about the game more? Read on!
Axel jumps for joy at the sight of a pool table while Max takes care of the grunts.
Streets of Rage 2 (or II as its stylised on the PAL boxart) was released in December 1992 in the US, and January 1993 in Japan and Europe. It was ported to the Game Gear in July 93, and has appeared in 1001 compilations, both physical and digital, over the years.
It has rightfully been praised as possibly THE standout of its genre, and frankly deserves its place as one of the all-time great Mega Drive games.
It’s the weird alien level with the spinning-head mid-boss! Memorable, for one reason or another…
Scroll to the right, or down the screen in some cases (*GASP!*) and one button does a combo, one button jumps, and one does a special attack that drains some health, with a single button press doing a move that damages foes around you and pressing the button with a direction doing another move that attacks in the direction you press. You can also walk into enemies to grapple them and do a grapple combo or throw them across the screen (or snap their neck and/or atomic drop them as Max…), you can jumping strike and double tap forward and punch to do a non-health-draining special attack. You can also do a back strike as well, if you see a foe creeping up behind you, and jump off enemies and allies alike to propel yourself at on-coming foes. The combat is varied enough that you never feel bored, plus its buttery smooth and full of impact.
You can pick up extra lives and health restoring items, as well as weapons, like knifes and pipes, all of which can be tossed as enemies, which is always satisfying. Great level design also sees you fight through Arcades, baseball stadiums, funfair ghost houses, fake pirate ships and many more. It keeps you on your toes, that’s for sure.
As for scrolling beat ‘em up clichés? It has pretty much all of them. Scantily clad whip women, overweight fire-breathing guys, lift stages, conveyer belt stages, ninjas, a wrestler boss, a playable wrestle character, the works. It’s probably safe to say that this was the game I used as a measuring stick for clichés, though given all of the clichés have already appeared before this game shows I’m not saying that Streets of Rage II invented them, more that this is where they all converged, and given the game’s popularity, they continued to appear long afterwards…
SoRII also had some odd one-offs, mostly the weird “alien head” sub-boss in the ghost house that makes impossible to describe sounds whenever you hit it. Add in a guy with a jetpack (called “Jet”, imaginatively), a Blanka-like boss with claws and some robots, you’ve got a varied cast of bosses and sub-bosses, if nothing else!
Graphics and Sound:
Now if baseball were like this I’d be a regular viewer!
The graphics are full of nice and detailed sprite work, and colourful and often animated backgrounds. The animation for both attacks and the foes reacting to being attacked are all great too, and some effects like smoke and neon lights are impressive.
Sound, well… what can I say that hasn’t already been said about Streets of Rage II’s soundtrack? It’s something special alright, with most tunes being extremely memorable and catchy, and often sounding completely different to each other. Look at Stage 1, opens with the now iconic “Go Straight” techno beat, then goes all moody when you enter the bar, before switching to the more high-tempo but threatening-sounding boss music. If any soundtrack is “perfect”, this might be it.
Soundeffects are great too, satisfying punches and kick sounds, breaking glass and so much more. Not to mention the “Argh!” and “Ooof” sounds low-tier foes make when they die. Classic!
Max caught mid-dropkick, just so he doesn’t feel left out after Axel’s mid-kick pose in the above picture.
One year after the fall of Mr. X and his syndicate Adam Hunter is taken hostage by the returning group, leading to Axel and Blaze, plus Adam’s younger brother Eddie “Skate” Hunter and Axel’s wrestling friend Max, taking to the streets and beating up everyone with a slight connection to X in hopes of finding their lost friend. The journey takes them across the city, onto a boat and then on a deserted island just outside of Woodoak city where X has his private mansion. Once again the quartet dodge X and his only machine gun in town and seemingly kill him, rescuing Adam and them flying off in a helicopter.
So, yeah. Kidnapped person needs rescuing is the ultimate scrolling beat ‘em up cliché, but at least it isn’t someone’s girlfriend this time…
A multi-person wrestling match inside a lift… Awkward.
What else can I say? I LOVED this game, played it over and over, by myself and with friends and family. Hell, for decades afterwards me and my friend Tom have gone back and completed it for old times’ sake over and over. It was, and still is, the best scrolling beat ‘em up of all time.
Mr. X proudly shows off his gun, the only one in town!
Well, I pretty much already said in the “then” section, but yeah, it’s still the best scrolling beat ‘em up around. The best soundtrack especially, but still satisfying controls and pleasing sprite work. Nostalgia might be blinding me a bit, but I’ve played the game with nephews still in the single digits and they’ve loved playing as much as I did at the same age, so I don’t think I’m “wrong” in my praise for this game. Easiest 5 I’ve ever given out.