So the late 90s and 2000s were devoid of new Streets of Rage. The franchise was officially dead in Sega’s eyes, not even being included in Sega All-Stars Racing… Luckily for us a bunch of fans got together in 2011 and released an extremely polished and professionally made sequel / remake titled “Streets of Rage: Remake”. Featuring all levels and enemies from all three games, plus a bunch of new stuff, it was a dream to play through, even after Sega’s legal team shut it down (*grumble, grumble*) The question is, now we have an official sequel, what’s this like to return to? Let’s find out!
The super-large SOR1 boss sprites have been scaled down… a bit. Also, a large pool of blood added, just to make sure you know the claws aren’t just for show!
Streets of Rage: Remake, which was worked on for nearly 10 years, was finally released to the public in March 2011. Sadly less than a month later the Sega legal team took the project down and that was that, but the internet being a thing means it’s still easily available to download now, let alone back then when it was the talk of the retro gaming community.
I honestly still can’t believe Sega did that. It’s such a professional piece of work that you’d think they’d have it taken down so they can then buy the code and release it themselves. Nope! They just saw their intellectual property that they weren’t even using becoming popular and tried their best to kill it dead. Gits. I would’ve easily paid full price for this and felt I got every penny’s worth.
The “enemy bodies stay on screen” mode is a fun twist, playable Ash… Maybe not so much. (though I do still find his blatantness amusing…)
The gameplay is the same buttery smooth SOR2+3 style, complete with strike combos, grapple combos, throws, jumping kicks, running attacks and both a medium damage special move done by pressing forwards twice and punch, plus a health-draining special as well as the “calling for backup” style screen-clearing specials seen in SOR1 if enabled in the options. The back strike has been remapped to a single button as well, for convenience, and unique moves tied to certain weapons is also back alongside dodge rolling up and down the screen, and generally everything feels impactful, solid and great fun to play. You can also customise the game, like removing the aforementioned rolling, dashing and weapon “health bars” and try and make everything more like the second entry in the series, or turn on blood, dismemberment and guns to make the game feel like it was released on the PS1 during its “we’re cool and edgy, look at us teens!” phase…
SOR:R takes the mildly branching storyline of SOR3 and goes all in with it. You pick a starting position which amounts to “SOR1, SOR2, SOR3, New”, and then start doing the levels seen in those games or new to this game, respectively (the SOR1 levels and enemies being redrawn from scratch to match the better 2+3 visuals), with decisions and cutscenes popping up that can lead you down a path to “cross over” into another game’s story. It creates a really unique game each time, with a random decision suddenly throwing you into SOR2’s island level after having played through SOR1 up to that point, or without warning finding yourself playing something entirely new, like fighting on top of a train, a loving homage to the Double Dragon 2 helicopter stage (complete with door opening that sucks you and your opponent out to your doom) or motorbike and jetski on-rail moments that were actually supposed to be in SOR3 but were cut, their sprite sheets previously the only glimpse into what could’ve been.
This Arcade’s looking a bit different to how I remember it…
To add some further modern gaming to the proceedings is a Shop system, where you spend gathered funds on unlocking new playable characters, cheats and bonus modes. Alongside all 9 previously playable or unlockable characters (Axel, Blaze, Adam, Max, Skate, Dr. Zan, Roo, Shiva and yes, even Ash) there is also a playable version of Mr. X and Elektra, plus an entirely original character named Rudra (which is a bit disappointing, really…) The characters like Shiva and Ash, who in their unlockable state in SOR3 had a very limited moveset, have been reworked to fit in with the rest of the cast with a complete moveset, ability to pick up weapons and even their own spins on the police backup screen-clearer. Hell, Adam (and unlockable SOR1 versions of Axel and Blaze) have been reworked to fit in with the SOR3 expanded movesets as well, making all 12 characters just as viable as the rest.
Some of the modes beyond the main single or multi-player experiences are the returning 1 on 1 battle mode, a boss rush, survival mode, a very weird volleyball mode (where you literally hit the ball with your regular moves back and forth to each other) and SORMaker, where you can use the game’s assets to create your own levels. A very cool tool to mess around with!
There’s obviously no point in talking about genre tropes when the game includes all levels and enemies from the previous three games, all of which have had at least one of every scrolling beat ‘em up classic I talk about, but due to this I assume this will be the “ultimate” benchmark for that random thing I started (unless its “never officially released” status disqualifies it in your eyes, in which case… you’re probably taking the whole “genre clichés” gag paragraph more seriously than I am…)
Graphics and Sound:
The enemies are being sucked out of the helicopter, for the record…
The graphics are great, retaining the SOR2+3 sprite style while adding some modern touches, like screen ratio, multiple-layers and lots of lighting tricks, all while making sure it still feels like an original SOR game. Sometimes some of the entirely new sprites, like the SOR1 characters or entirely new ones, look a bit out of place, a bit too… smooth, in comparison to the one that have been kept from 2 and 3. Not a big deal, but it can be noticeable, same goes for some of the SOR1 or entirely new backgrounds to the stages. The cutscenes are told via well drawn artwork, which is very nice.
The soundtrack is amazing, it takes all the tracks from the original trilogy and remixes them with a less limited soundboard, but still retains a lot of what made the original songs so great. Throw in a few originals and some great soundeffects and yep, it’s pretty damn perfect. I often listen to the score by itself via YouTube uploads.
If I were to guess, a member of the Syndicate you’re chasing down?
The story depends entirely on what path you end on, you can end on the SOR1 Mr. X battle and get the choice to join him or fight him, just like in that game (and you get a “Bad Ending” title screen for each of the 12 characters, too!), or you could get the SOR2 boss, or the SOR3 fake Mr. X boss leading to the battle with Shiva to defuse a bomb, and so on. Each ending matches the ending from the original game, plus there is apparently a slightly weird original ending if you manage to finish the game on Mania difficulty, but I’ll put my hand up in the air and say “I haven’t actually done that yet”. Still, plenty of options, but if you want a more detailed look at the plots, such as they are, you can look at the previous three reviews on this weekly feature!
…What? Whose to say this isn’t how they relaxed in between Syndicate beatdowns?
After roughly 15 years of Streets of Rage drought, SOR: Remake was an amazing experience. It was familiar, yet new, and had so much replay value. I was addicted, be it by myself or with family or friends. It still sits proudly in my PC’s games folder, and given the fact that the game is entirely free, that’s value for money!
I’d love to send this screenshot to my mid-90s self and see his brow crease in confusion…
Now? So importantly this was the first time playing it since SOR 4 came out, and I can say: it’s still amazing. As you’ll find out next week I loved the new entry in the series a lot, it was also fresh yet familiar, but while that feels like a new modern entry in the series, this feels like a celebration of the trilogy that started it all, and is still so deep, varied and fun to play that I don’t think it will ever stop being fun, even if SOR 5, 6 or 7 end up coming out…