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SummaryIs This the Best 16-bit Brawler?
The GoodSo, who do you feel like playing as? Max, Axel, Blaze, or Skate? The choice has it's temptations, and I'm sure each fan of this game has their favourite. And that is understandable as they all have their offerings. Max is a Samson-esque figure with devastating power; Axel is the all-American hero-type; Blaze is the beautiful female player with a penchant for kicking; Skate is your inline enthusiast with agility and attitude. I've simplified these characterizations a little unfairly, but this is only a fraction of what the game offers. It doesn't matter who you select, "Streets of Rage 2" is a balanced and fun side-scrolling "beat-em-up" set in a gritty, urban environment - the "Streets of Rage" themselves I imagine.
The first thing I really enjoyed about this game was the soundtrack. Yuzo Koshiro takes us through these concrete jungle and back-alleys with his catchy and moody early House 'tracks. Although this style of music is pretty well obsolete, there is a great synergy between your character, what you are doing and where you are doing it. The music, which varies respectfully throughout the levels, adds an almost dreamy and catatonic impulsiveness, and, seeing as the entire game is set at night (am I right in saying this?) the music holds another level of believability. It adds an impression of a sub-culture of drugs, violence, and an after-dark underworld. The enemy appear almost like a disease as they continuously appear in your way.
The game-play itself, although deeply repetitive, is really well done. The "beat-em-up" has pretty much disappeared from modern games, and so "Streets of Rage 2" offers a great insight into this forgotten or superseded genre. Although there are no "Dead or Alive"/"Tekken" style button combinations to memorise and perfect, this game has it's modest share of violent combos. Remember that it 1992, there was no audience for insanely intricate customisation or player/character identification; rather, "Streets of Rage 2" gave players a feeling that their punches and kicks were landing square and true. This is the first game I remember playing that instilled a feeling of Power (capital "P"!) when you let fly on one of these punks or thugs. Not to mention the satisfaction of a two-player brawl where anything and anyone goes (flying).
Graphically, "Streets of Rage 2" shows the Megadrive at it's peak. Although fairly comic book in it's art design, the environments, characters and limited animations are top-notch. It's surprising that a game with quite simple animation conveys such potent feelings of connection between fist and head. On that note, it must be said that the collision-detection is spot-on; this can be painfully true when cornered by some of the giant-like shirt-less Karate experts!
The BadThe main problem that I have with this title would be in the repetitive nature of it's game-play. It must be said that the level designers probably put as much effort in as anyone else out there at the time did, but by todays standards you find yourself repeating scene after scene of ultra-violence. (But, again, this has a strange hypnotic and exhaustive feel to it also!) You visit many different environments it must be said, but when all you do is walk left-to-right within them, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference if you're in a nightclub or a maniacs mansion - it's just a different backdrop.