Streets of Rage 3 (Mega Drive) Review

Streets of Rage 3

About 7-10 years ago this was the final entry in the franchise, then Streets of Rage Remake was released by fans, but 3 was still the last official entry, so it’s odd to talk about this game in the middle of looking at the franchise rather than the end! SOR3 never got anywhere near as much play from me as II did, which was odd at the time because I couldn’t place why… It wasn’t until the advent of the internet and ROMs that I found out the US/PAL version of 3 was many times harder than even the Japanese version’s hard mode, which probably explains it! So me and my friend played through the JPN version here, and have done since the ROM days, a version which includes a controversial sub boss to boot! So let’s take a look at the old “end of the trilogy”, shall we?

Background:

Streets of Rage 3 1

Erm… yeah. It’s not a big mystery as to why Ash was removed from the English game…

Streets of Rage 3 was released in Japan March 1994 and the rest of the world in June that year. Up until a couple of months ago this was the last official entry in the series, with a 3D sequel dropped and having to be re-skinned and retitled on the PS1 (as “Fighting Force”, coming… a ways down the line in this marathon!) and a fan game that got acclaim from everyone but was shutdown by Sega rather than capitalised on (coming next week!) being the only glimmers of hope until the announcement of Streets of Rage 4 a year or two back…

SOR3 has been re-released on half-a-dozen Mega Drive collections, including the recent PS4 / XBOX One release which thankfully includes the ability to switch to the Japanese “Bare Knuckle 3” version…

Gameplay:

Streets of Rage 3 2

A screen of the bizarre “Leg it from a bulldozer” minigame.

The third entry in the franchise makes a few changes to the already established scrolling and beating up. Obviously you still have strikes, grapple strikes, throws, jumping attacks and both health draining and non-health-draining special moves, but now every character can dash forward (it was only Skate that could do that in the previous one) and roll up or down the screen to avoid attacks. Every character also has a small meter that if its full means you can use your powerful health-draining specials without losing health, and if you play as new character Dr. Zan then all the weapons you pick up turn to weird energy balls that can be tossed, which… erm, is different! That’s about it though in terms of gameplay, but let’s face it, it didn’t need much improvement after 2, its still smooth animations and impactful attacks, what more do you need?

For the first time in the series there are branching paths and alternate endings, which added to cutscenes and actual dialogue gives the game far more story than before. Admittedly the branching paths are really in the near-final stage where you can enter doors in a building with traps and potentially save, or not save, someone from death by poison gas. Oh and in the US version if you play on Easy then the game just ends after Stage 5… That’s sort of an alternate path…? Or alternate ending, anyway. The US/PAL version had the frankly super over-the-top gay stereotype character Ash removed, to nobody’s surprise, and they also changed the colours of the clothes of the returning characters, seemingly just to make this game look more different than the previous one.

Along with Axel, Blaze, Skate and Dr. Zan, you can unlock the fighting kangaroo called “Roo” by defeating his handler and not him when they appear as a boss during the early stages of the game. You can also play as classic sub-boss Shiva (and Ash if you on the Japanese version) by holding down certain buttons after defeating them, which after nearly two decades of playing this game, I had no idea until looking up things for this review… No wonder people didn’t make a bigger deal about him being in SOR4!

Streets of Rage 3 scores highly on the cliché-o-meter, with scantily clad whip women (though less scantily clad in the US/PAL version), overweight fire-breathers, lots and lots of ninjas, a factory stage with moving conveyer belts (plus a level in a mine with moving mine carts!), and of course a lift stage. We’re lacking a wrestler boss this time, though… Also there is an odd level where you have to destroy a bunch of walls while being chased by a bulldozer, which is… odd, for any scrolling beat ‘em up, let alone Streets of Rage 3!

Graphics and Sound:

Streets of Rage 3 3

All those ninja flips and cartwheels and yet he couldn’t move out of the way of a piece of machinery on a one-way rail…

The sprites are once again nicely detailed and they seem a bit bigger (or the camera is more zoomed in, I’m not sure), and there are plenty of fun and detailed backgrounds.

Background music is of course great, though not as memorable as SOR1 and 2 in my eyes (or ears?) but that might just be because I didn’t play it as much as the previous two. Soundeffects are also very satisfying, and the few voice samples are… fine, in that weird distorted Mega Drive way…

Story:

Streets of Rage 3 4

Oh my God! It’s wasn’t X at all! It was…. Robo X.

X’s syndicate is back… again, and this time they’re replacing key politicians with robot duplicates while planting bombs across the city to distract police, which is certainly a more ambitious plan! They’ve kidnapped the Chief of Police to top it off and are holding him ransom, plus they’ve actually given some people other than X guns!. Robotics specialist Dr. Zan finds out about the plan and gets in contact with the vigilante heroes from the past: Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding and Adam Hunter (who sends his younger brother Skate, as he’s busy…) and the foursome takedown the syndicate members, including robot duplicates of Axel and Mr. X himself. After saving the chief they find the real X is just a brain in a jar and after defeating a giant mech-like suit controlled by the syndicate leader, they blow the lab up, X’s brain and all…

That being said if you’re playing the Japanese version then forget the robot duplicates of politicians and replace them with the Syndicate creating a new type of explosive called “Raxine”, and replace the Chief of Police with a General named Ivan Petrov…

Oddly failure to save the Chief in the US/PAL version leads you to a mission in City Hall, where as in the Japanese version failing to save to Ivan Petrov leads to a mission in the White House itself …

Thoughts Then:

Streets of Rage 3 5

Mr. Cyclone here is about to have a little bike “accident”.

As previously mentioned, I did rent this out a bunch of times, but I never got very far, even in multiplayer, so I actually didn’t own this until much later. Still, can’t deny it was fun to play, just a bit frustrating, which makes sense now I know the odd decisions made by the localisation team of the time… I still remember years later playing “Bare Knuckle III” with Tom via ROMs and having a great time, even having a laugh at the sheer unashamed blatant-ness of Ash…

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Thoughts Now:

Streets of Rage 3 6

For over two decades, this was the final level of the Streets of Rage series.

Now? It’s a good time. The Japanese version is the one to go for again, but that’s thankfully easy to get digitally nowadays. Not as nostalgic as 1 and 2, and not as fresh as 4 (Obviously!), but still a really satisfying scrolling beat ‘em up with fun level designs and some unique mechanics and characters. If they stayed the end of the series, it would’ve been a fine ending…

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