Monday 24 November 2014

Streets of Rage 2 (Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Sega (AM7) and others
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1992

Arriving a year after the original, Streets of Rage 2 made a number of changes that resulted in a giant leap forward for the franchise.

There are two new characters to play as; Max (a wrestler) and Skate (who rides around on rollerblades) - unfortunately Adam doesn't make a return as he's been kidnapped by the evil Mr. X and it's your mission to rescue him. Each character has their own move set making for some great replayability and Sega even added in a dash attack. You can no longer call in your police buddies for a special attack but it helps with pacing as you don't have to interrupt the action to watch a cut-scene. Instead you have an extra powerful move mapped to the A button that needs to be used wisely as it drains your life-bar. The main thing that's been overhauled are the graphics - character sprites are now huge and the backgrounds are very atmospheric with neon lights, cityscapes and excellent use of multi-layered scrolling. The gameplay is smooth and unlike some games in this genre it's almost devoid of cheap hits. The combat system is very fair and I love that the developers added enemy life-bars as it helps you to strategise which bad guy to take on next. One thing that's odd is the progression through each stage; for example, in Stage 3 you seamlessly transition from city streets, to an arcade room, to an underground basement, to a pirate ship, back to the city streets, and then on to fight a giant spider in a forest! The music is outstanding with a mix of techno, dance and house tracks that are way more intricate than other games released during this time. The sound effects are also fantastic especially the voice samples.

Streets of Rage 2 is one of the greatest beat-em-up games ever released and a shining example of how technically impressive Sega's 16-bit hardware was. It's a massive improvement on the excellent original and a must-own title for the Mega Drive.

Random trivia: Most people forget that Streets of Rage 2 has another gameplay mode which allows two-players to battle each other in a duel. Although not as advanced, it's basically a one-on-one fighter in the vein of Street Fighter 2!

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