Streets of Rage, also known as Bare Knuckle in Japan, is a beat ’em up game published and developed by Sega AM7. The first game in the series Streets of Rage sees a once peaceful city taken over by a criminal syndicate. It is up to three ex-police officers Adam Hunter, Axel Stone, and Blaze Fielding to fight back against the syndicate and take down the leader Mr. X.
This game has seen many releases over the years. It debuted on the Sega Genesis, and has gone either as original or ported on such game systems and game compilation discs, such as the Sega Master System, Game Gear, Sega CD, Nintendo’s Virtual Console, Sony PlayStation, and Xbox Consoles, and various mobile App Stores. I’m replaying this game through the SEGA Vintage collection on my Xbox One.
The following article contains spoilers from this point on.
I also still have this complete in box in my Sega Genesis collection. When you really look at this game’s cover, is really crazy. Comparing early video game covers to current video game covers nowadays, you see such a difference in both quality and what the game is about and looks like. This artwork has nothing to do with the game and gameplay. Starting from the right to left, you have a building on the right that is on fire, two people fighting with one person seemingly ready to throw someone out of the window. More buildings and a hotel on fire, rioters behind the fighting protagonists, and a man is firing an assault rifle from a building at the street. I never paid attention to this as a kid, but looking back at this, maybe it should have been called City of Rage. I’d be hiding in the sewers too, like that one person in the bottom right of the cover art, above the Sega seal of quality if I lived there.
You get to choose from three different protagonists, each has different attributes. Adam has strength and jump, but slower speed. Axel has strength and speed but can’t jump high, and Blaze has speed and jump but isn’t very strong. I find it odd that they grade these attributes, but no one gets lower than a B rating. The only one that I also seem to go with is Adam. I’m not too concerned with speed as Axel and Blaze can move faster than the scrolling screen whenever you are in movement, possibly allowing unseen enemies to attack you if you move too quickly.
Each fighter has different fighting styles. The game lists Adam as a boxer, Axel as a Martial Artist and Blaze as Judo for their fighting styles. There is a mismatch I believe with two of the characters. To me, at least in this game, I think that Adam and Axel should have been switched around in terms of fighting styles. Axel doesn’t have a high jump, and a lot of his attacks involve his fists. The closest that he has to use his legs is a jump knee attack. Adam’s moves have a lot more martial art like attacks like a jump kick, back attack kick, and his regular attack is a jab, compared to Axel having a power jab. Even looking at Axel, to me he comes off as more of a boxer to terms of build. He looks like he has a lot up upper body strength as well. Maybe it was a case of being lost in translation to America in the 1990s.
There are several weapons in the game that you can use to even the odds. You can use a Glass Bottle, a Knife, a Lead Pipe, Baseball Bat, and Pepper Shaker. They can either be found on enemies except for the bosses or in a breakable object on the stage. There doesn’t seem to be too much difference other than the range on the item in terms of how much damage they do. If you get hit or drop the weapon three times, you lose that item. You can also throw the knife at your opponents as well. My favorite is if you can grab an enemy you can throw them into other enemies and technically make them a weapon. One odd thing is that the pepper shaker uses the cliche of making the enemies sneeze for a few moments when thrown at them. Does this actually work in real life, because I feel pepper would burn instead of causing someone to sneeze?
You can even get a special attack that can either wipe out all enemies on screen or weaken the boss. Besides the three main characters, there is a fourth protagonist that help you out from the back. You can call them to fire 1 of 2 different special attacks, depending on what player that you are. For player one, the cop will shoot Napalm, and for player two he will fire rocket-powered grenades at your opponents. You only get one special attack but can find more at certain levels or gain one back after you lose a life if you had used one. The only thing about this is it doesn’t matter what attack you use as they seem to do the same amount of damage or kill all enemies on screen. You are unable to use this in the last stage of the game.
The game does feel like a solid beat ’em up. The game has 8 levels and has you going left to right to left for the first 6 levels, up an elevator for Level 7, and right to left for Level 8. Whenever you land a hit on an enemy or knock them out/kill them, it does feel satisfying. It’s great for 2 players as you can work together to take out the enemies. You can perform a combo attack if you throw your teammate into enemies. The techno music pumping in the background gives a great beat and tone for the fighting. Even most of the weapons feel satisfying when they connect. I liked it when you get a bottle and can break it over an enemy. The bottle shatters, and you still use the broken bottle as a weapon. Many enemies can appear on the screen at one time, but once you get to I believe more than 5 enemies on screen, the game starts to slow down. It’s understandable on an older console like the Sega Genesis as it has to process everything happening on-screen, but slowdowns also occur on Xbox One? I can only assume that it’s the emulation software that is being used. I’m not fully aware or confident about how this works.
The game does have a few generic aspects to it. most of the plot feels generic, even for it’s time looking back on this game. It’s just known as “The City” and you’re fighting “Secret Crime Syndicate”. The final villain named is named Mr. X. The enemies can get repetitive as the game goes on in attack patterns. Plus they don’t have a name that I could find. The game has a scoring system that makes it feel arcade like. You can even enter you name after you game is over if you have a high score. While a fun feature in the early days of game consoles, it was rather pointless as your information is lost when you shut off the console. Every 50,000 points gets you an extra life and every 100,000 thereafter, so at least the score can still serve some purpose. There is also a timer you get to complete each section of a level. If you run out of time, you can lose a life. This is never an issue because I seem to have enough time left over and haven’t seen the counter reach zero yet.
The game does have a few typical aspects of a beat ’em up that has always been used in other games. Most of the plot feels generic, even for its time looking back on this game. It’s just known as “The City,” and you’re fighting “Secret Crime Syndicate.” The final villain named is named Mr. X. The enemies can get repetitive as the game goes on in attack patterns. Plus they don’t have a name that I could find. The game has a scoring system that makes it feel arcade like. You can even enter your name after your game is over if you have a high score. While a fun feature in the early days of game consoles, it was rather pointless as your information is lost when you shut off the console. Every 50,000 points gets you an extra life and every 100,000 after that, so at least the score can still serve some purpose. There is also a timer you get to complete each section of a level. If you run out of time, you can lose a life. This is never an issue because I seem to have enough time left over and haven’t seen the counter reach zero yet.
The bosses were always a standout to me. I wouldn’t call them original, but maybe a weird uniqueness or familiarity. At least two of the five main bosses looked like someone else in I was familiar with. I never knew the boss names and looked them up online which were even stranger than I thought. The second stage, there is a clawed boss called Souther. To me, he looked like a giant cross between Freddy Kruger and Wolverine. Abadede (who looking at the name now, I see that it’s “A bad dee” like what a bad guy could be called) looked like the Ultimate Warrior from wrestling fame. Everyone else was standard character bosses. Antonio, the first and rightfully weakest boss. Mona and Lisa, palette swaps of Blaze, and I thought that maybe they were triplets to Blaze or Clones. Bongo, later called Big Ben in the sequels, breathed fire and ran across on end of the screen to another. He also was a boss that couldn’t be picked up or thrown.
One of the big standouts in the game is the music. It is composed by Yuzo Koshiro and is one of the best soundtracks on the Sega Genesis and almost any other game out there. I read that Koshiro was influenced by electronic dance music at the time of the game’s release and wanted to introduce the genre into video games. I can hear this in a majority of the game music tracks, particularly with the boss battles. If you can look the soundtrack up, definitely do, it is worth listening to.
I didn’t have another person to help me, but I wanted to mention an alternate ending that only can be accessed with two players. At the end of the game, you are given a choice by Mr. X to join his syndicate. If one player says yes and another says no, they must fight each other to the death. If the defector wins, you are asked to join him again. If you say no, this starts the final battle with Mr. X. After you beat him, you are taken to a new ending “You became the boss, You are great” followed by the credits and text that reads “BAD END” with a photo of your fighter sitting on the Mr. X chair at the end. A fun little alternate ending that I had no idea how to get as a kid, I remember going into the options menu to listening to a song called bad ending and thinking that it sounds cool. Only if I knew then how to do it when I was younger, I would have loved that discovery.
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