Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
A hand-held 8-bit conversion of the top selling Megadrive beat 'em up.
One or two players leg it around a pseudo-3D landscape beating up the evil forces of a criminal overlord under a strict time limit.
Although a game called Streets of Rage detailing a mission of destruction and death through a major American city may sound like a rather sick license of the LA riots, it is actually a conversion of the acclaimed Megadrive beat 'em up. Streets of Rage is the story of two ex-cops, Blaze and Axel, who are determined to smash the corrupt local government led by the nefarious Mr Big who, surprise surprise, happens to be a criminal mastermind. Unfortunately for our heroes the rest of the police force (and all the inhabitants of the city it would seem) are siding with the evil kingpin!
Blaze and Axel's mission is simple - walk around town killing everyone. After sufficient people have been slaughtered, Mr Big himself must be laid to rest so the few citizens still living can rebuild their lives in peace.
Both Blaze and Axel are a bit tasty with the old kung-fu skills, although each of them has their own repertoire of moves. Axel, the strongest, has a flying knee jump, a power uppercut and a shoulder throw to his name, plus a spinning backfist to protect his rear. Blaze, the fastest, has a somersault kick, flying kick and rolling throw along with a reverse roundhouse to put paid to sneaky back-stabbers. Both characters can also let loose an impressive series of punches, plus execute a powerful piledriver when grabbing an enemy from behind.
Waging a war against a million killer death warriors whilst unarmed does seem a bit suicidal. Luckily, Axel and Blaze do have the sense to pick up a weapon when one comes their way. There are only three instruments of death in Game Gear Streets of Rage and these are:
Using a fine Game Gear Link cable, two players may participate simultaneously if you want.
Game Gear owners need a decent beat 'em up for their pint-sized machine and Streets of Rage fits the bill quite nicely. The graphics are incredibly close to the Megadrive version, with all the moves of the characters and the backdrops crammed in. The sound isn't as good as the Megadrive, obviously, but the tunes are still pretty good and the effects do the job admirably. As far as gameplay goes, Streets of Rage is a much tougher game than the Megadrive counterpart. This is down in part to the problems of sprites ganging up on you when you're helpless (see Radion's comment for the full description of this problem), but mostly it's because the enemy sprites seem to be a lot more "intelligent" than their Megadrive counterparts and less susceptible to your grabbing attacks. With two-players participating, Streets of Rage is even better, making it a decent enough beat 'em up for Game Gear owners starved of fighting games.
Looking at Streets of Rage for the first time I was amazed by how closely it resembles the Megadrive game. The graphics and sound are spot-on copies of the old 16-bit favourite. However, there are a couple of levels and some other gubbins missing and the lost levels really are quite noticeable. The other problem is with the programming of the opponents. As soon as your character begins to stand up after after having been knocked down all the enemies on screen bunch up and kick you all over the shop. This sometimes means losing an entire life bar before you can escape the deadly repeat routine. However, this doesn't happen all the time, and for the most part Streets of Rage is a very enjoyable game to play, it's just that when something like that bug does happen it makes the game intensely frustrating. Streets of Rage is really the only choice for Game Gear-owning beat 'em up fans, and as long as you don't expect too much you shouldn't be disappointed. A good game, but not one which matches up to the original.
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