Streets of Rage. Peckham?
Back in ’92 when the SNES was released in the UK, early adopters had two trump cars they could play against their Megadrive (read: Genesis non-UK readers) owning friends in the playground console wars. The first was Super Mario World but for the ‘hard’ kids boasting about playing a game with a fat plumber who rides a dinosaur wasn’t possible but they could brag about what they thought was an arcade perfect conversion (that’s a story for another day) of Capcom’s Final Fight. Thankfully Sega had already provided their fans with an appropriate counter attack in the form of their own 2D scrolling beat ’em up The Streets of Rage, and no it has nothing to do with the Cynthia Rothrock movie of the same name.
‘blow or switch it’
Streets of Rage was the first of a trilogy of games for the Sega Megadrive each a remixed version of the Japanese ‘Bare Knuckle’ games that were recoded (sometimes to the point of censorship) for western release. Each one featured the exploits of Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding and their various allies as they try to clean up their city and defeat the evil criminal syndicate of Mr. X But what started of as a Final Fight clone quickly knocked out reusing the Golden Axe software engine to fill a demographic would quickly eclipse its rival and even surpass other genre mainstays like Double Dragon and Renegade.
Along for the ride in this debut game was Adam Hunter who with Axel and Blaze can execute a variety of unarmed attacks with a button push with B, jump with C or call for help with A. The help came in the form of a police cruiser (a reused sprite from E-Swat fact fans) that would pull up and fire a rocket or a burst of mini-gun fire to damage anything on screen giving the player a chance to manoeuvre around the hordes of speed bump (they only slow you down) goons that fill the city streets or wear down the bigger boss characters. Along with simply hammering the B button to rapidly punch or kick you can move in close for a grapple then use close blow or switch it into a slam attack or even throw them away damaging anyone or anything in their path.
‘chaff as thrown’
Much like the Splatterhouse games the key to beating any of the Streets’ games is enemy management. Charging into a pack of enemies throwing wild punches will qucikly end with you getting sucker punched and pincered by two goons ending your pugilistic crime fighting career before you’ve even started. By isolating the more dangerous goons and using the chaff as throw-attack fodder you can quickly dominate the opposition leaving only the bosses and weapon wielding goons to worry about.
Like any good 2D beat ’em up you will from time to time find weapons that can be used, provided you can ‘persuade’ the goons holding them to let go. The weapons range from the slow but well ranged lead pipe to the up close and personal knife that you can also throw for a single ranged attack. Alongside these is a baseball bat that’s a mix of both range and damage, a bottle that breaks after the first strike making it a jagged glass dagger and even a smoke bomb that temporally stuns enemies leaving them open to attack. Each can be used for a short time to inflict damage, although experienced players will forgo these gimmicks focusing on unarmed attacks for maximum damage.
‘rough that should be played’
The bosses rage from easy pushovers who can be thrashed relentlessly once you’ve learnt their attack patterns through to the green Blaze clones that will have you embedding your control pad in the nearest wall in a rage fit. Later levels will have bosses reappearing with a simple palette change from the lanky punks sporting Freddy Kruger style claws to the aforementioned green twin clones. Replaying this as preparation for this article I’d forgotten just how cheap they are by constantly somersaulting diagonally and instantly throwing you if you get in close for an attack only half of which can be recovered from (UP + C) taking almost half your health bar when you do land on your head.
Normally for a PP article I’d be singing its praises by now but as this is the first of a three part trilogy of articles covering the entire series I have to say that this game is by far the weakest in the series. It’s not a bad game by any means but more of a diamond in the rough that should be played so you can see how it then evolved into the series pinnacle Streets of Rage II.
‘stand up or lurk off’
The game’s problems range from its rough coding that leads to slow down when the screen fills with goons or there are too many effects happening on screen, stage five (the boat) suffers particularly from this with its parallax scrolling and undulating screen that does for awhile simulate a rocking ship. The enemy AI while serviceable is too rigid and will let them sucker punch you if you stand to close when they stand up or will lurk off screen seemingly forever if you get to close when they’re retreatingâ€¦ and seriously those green twin bosses at the end of stage five deserve to go to digital hell it can’t be stressed enough.
Once you play the game and get into it you won’t care too much as even this entry thrashing goons is great fun despite the rigidity of the game’s design. The game even has multiple endings, a rarity for the time that can even see you taking over the syndicate if you preferred being a bastard rather than a goody two shoes cop.
Finding a copy for your Megadrive won’t be hard as it reached Sonic the Hedgehog scale distribution on release as well as being on the Wii’s Virtual Console and any number of Sega compilations.
Next week: Streets of Rage II, the pinnacle of the series and possibly the best 2D scrolling beat ’em up of all time. (Renegade on the Speccy! – Ed)