Streets of Rage (or Bea Nakkuru: Ikari no Tekken/Bare Knuckle: Furious Iron Fist in Japan), is a side-scrolling beat ’em up by Sega for the Genesis/Mega Drive released in 1991. It’s been ported and rereleased for a bunch of other platforms for some reason. There is barely a game to speak of here, so this review will be rather short.
I guess I should start by saying that I don’t like beat ’em ups. That being said, just because I don’t enjoy them, it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate them. I might not love Double Dragon or River City Rampage, but I can certainly understand why some people do. Those games have flaws, sure, but they have enough going for them for me to understand why someone who loves beat ’em ups would love those games. This is not the case with Streets of Rage.
All of my usual beat ’em up complaints apply to this game. The variety of enemies is attrocious. The game has 6 enemies outside of bosses. SIX! This isn’t an NES game. Imagine Super Mario World or Sonic the Hedgehog with fewer enemies than in the original Super Mario Bros. You’d call bulshit on that game. So why not with a 4th gen beat ’em up featuring as many enemies as you find in the original Double Dragon?
At least the game is on the Genesis, so now you’ve got three buttons to do stuff with, right? Well, the game does feature three playable characters, but two only have 6 moves, while the third has 5. You can do all of them right from the start, so when you’ve gotten to the 8th level, you’ve been doing the same shit to the same enemies for over an hour. The only way the game remains a challenge is by increasing the number of enemies you have to fight at once. This is the laziest way to make a game more difficult and, for me, does nothing to help me enjoy and remain interested in the game. I hate coming back to this, but even Double Dragon did a better job here, and that game was primitive compared to what was possible in Streets of Rage. Oh, and that third button? It only does one thing, this:
I suppose I can use this to segue into one of the only two even remotely positive things I can say about the game. Graphically speaking, it is pretty. Super pretty, even. The different locales for the levels and the characters are well done. There’s variety, lots of colour, lots of neon; it makes the game interesting visually.
The game’s soundtrack isn’t anything amazing, but it is solid, with a few standout tracks. Since it’s what I listened to at the time the game was released, I immediately noticed the electronic and house music influences present, but as a kid, I didn’t think there was anything groundbreaking about it. I’ve read some other reviews praising it for this though. Other than that, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to music from the 8 and 16-bit eras, with playlists on YouTube and the like, so I’ve become familiar with music from games I’ve never played before. There were no songs in this game I recognized while playing it, and no songs have stuck with me since playing it. Overall, it was unmemorable. The sequels are a different story, but that’s for another day…maybe.
Besides graphics and music, the other positive thing about the game are the bosses, which actually had a different set of moves and required different strategies to defeat. You need to do a little thinking instead of just mindlessly pounding on the B button. Whether it was Bongo with his fire belch (though, to be honest, fuck that guy), Antonio with his boomerang, Onihime and Yasha with their flying kicks and throws, or any of the others, they’re not just larger, faster, or stronger versions of normal enemies with an added move, which is great. It’s honestly the only part of the game I could say I enjoyed.
So, there’s Streets of Rage, an average-at-best beat ’em up that is revered by many gamers for reasons I have failed to understand. It’s pretty, but it’s also pretty boring. Move left, hit B a bunch, move left some more, press B some more, move left, hope the level is done, press B, move left, more B presses, turn off the console. There’s no blocking, dodging, strategizing…you barely have to move. You can just move left until the enemies start appearing, then stand there and wait for them to come to you, making sure you press B at the right time. I haven’t played the sequels, so maybe the sequels are ridiculously good, good to the point that the original is held in high esteem for having started a groundbreaking and exciting series. Somehow, I doubt it. Regardless, I can’t imagine they’re good enough to justify pushing Streets of Rage up into the 61st spot. This game has no business being so highly ranked., but that’s just me. What do YOU think?