Streets of Rage III. Shark-jumping antics from Sega.
It’s not unknown for great a series to ‘jump the shark’ with a third instalment. Batman, The Matrix, Terminator and X-Men all these and more has gone one part too far, but this phenomenon isn’t just restricted to movies. Sometimes afflicts videogames and with such ferocity that it kills the franchise forever (Renegade *sob* – Ed)â€¦ Such was the effect with the third instalment of Streets of Rage, blighted by poor music, an Everest scale difficulty curve and a truly horrible western conversion that turned the original Bare Knuckle 3 into a near unplayable, confusing mess.
‘justify the size’
So where to start? I’ll try and keep things positive for awhile and focus on what Sega got right. With it being a sequel there are some improvements over the previous games that justify the size of the 24-meg cartridge and its high value on eBay and Amazon where a good copy will go upward of £60.
Each of the four characters Axel, Blaze, Skate and new guy Zan, can now dash by double tapping left or right and make a simple evasive roll that’s triggered by doing the same with up or down. This makes avoiding enemies and the boss’s special attacks a little easier or by using it to help you catch them off guard with a well timed roll-attack-roll. Your super move is now powered by a recharging bar rather than your own health as in SoR2 and weapon use is more practical as grappling enemies no longer forces you to drop any held weapons unlike before.
The time limit been removed all together, apart from specific sections (more on those later) Once again the graphics have been redrawn for the main player sprites and most enemies making them even bigger and more detailed, although a few where carried over SoR2 with a slight polish. The enemy AI is further improved with goons using weapons more and some even using your health pick-ups. A mention must also go to my own personal bugbear with the total lack of boss reuse in later stages unlike SoR1 and Sor2 where later stages would have you fighting the same bosses again albeit with a name or colour change every boss here it only happens once in the whole game.
‘a Japanese game from the bare’
Well I’ve danced around it enough let’s get to the root of why this game is so vilified by Sega fans. As previously mentioned each of the Streets’ games was originally a Japanese game from the Bare Knuckle series recoded and renamed for US and EUR territories. While differences is the first two games where minimal SoR3 had its story rewritten to the point of near incoherence, playable characters removed and the difficulty unfairly increased making it harder on easy mode than the original BK3 was on the most difficult settings.
The BK3 plot revolved around the return of Mr. X’s evil syndicate and their use of an explosive element called Rakushin discovered by Dr. Gilbert Zan to hold the city to ransom. As the Streets’ gang track down the Rakushin filled bombs they discover a syndicate plan to replace a high ranking Russian general and kick start a war using their stolen stocks of Rakushin. The western version completely rewrote this removing any reference to Rakushin and the Russian general replacing it with Mr. X’s plans to substitute the cities chief of police with a robot duplicate. This is especially amusing as stage 8’s city hall background is clearly the White House.
‘have the sheer brutal’
Whilst the western version lets you play as Shiva and Roo once beaten, the original Bare Knuckle 3 game also let you play as its stage one boss Ash. Looking like the cowboy from The Village People, Ash can’t use weapons but is amazingly quick and powerful despite a limited move set and just like Shiva and Roo he can be selected from the continue menu once you’ve defeated him during the game. Ignoring the fact that the Ash character makes playing through the game a little too easy the real reason for his removal was most likely his highly camp appearance in a media what was then considered just for kids; the more things change the more they stay the same eh?
Then we have the sheer brutal difficulty of this game. You can’t progress past stage 5 on easy mode without cheating and some stages having different sections where you need to beat a boss within a very strict time limit. Failure to do this will affect the games outcome and even what stage you play next. With the original BK3 this isn’t a big deal but with SoR3 being so difficult getting the true ending with the total defeat of Mr. X and Shiva’s unmasking can be a real bitch.
‘originality with a mini’
Unfortunately not all the games faults are because of the translation from BK3, the EUR version is plagued by slowdown especially on stage 2. The music in general is very poor with mid nineties rave beats mixed seemingly at random lacking the iconic nature of earlier games and with the sound effects being carried over from SoR2. There are flashes of originality with a mini stage where you’re pursued by a bulldozer and with some stages having hidden paths and secret areas but overall it feels like Streets of Rage 2 ½ rather than a true sequel like SoR2 did when placed next to SoR1.
Finding an original copy to play is no easy feat given its rarity and high price. You can download it for the Wii’s virtual console but once you do I recommend using a good emulator to play Bare Knuckle 3 as Sega gets some money for the VC version and motivation to resurrect the series and you get to play Streets of Rage III as it should have been. Not a true lemon just another series that went a game too far.