The genre of Beat’em ups can be about as fun and fulfilling as first person shooters. Except instead of using a gun to take out multiple enemies at once you’re using your own body and close range melee weapons to take them out. The satisfaction of collecting a group of 3, 4, or even 5 enemies at once and pummeling them all to death at the same time is anything but glorifying. And when there’s 2-player co-op mixed in where you have the potential to hit even your own teammate, can call for some fun times.
Streets of Rage is a 2D side scrolling beat’em up series developed and published by Sega and was originally released on the Sega Genesis/Megadrive throughout the 90’s. The basic concept with each game follows a group of former city police officers roaming the dangerous city streets fighting off crime and putting a stop to an evil crime syndicate led by a crimelord simply named Mr. X.
The first game in the series was released on this day, August 2, 1991 in Japan as “Bare Knuckle”, the game’s original title. The US version was released on September 18, 1991 with the European release one month after in October. Both of them had their titles changed to “Streets of Rage”, which is still a mystery as to why this decision was made.
Players have the choice of either playing as Adam Hunter, Axel Stone, or Blaze Fielding. Each character has a unique fighting style along with various strengths and weaknesses ranging from their movement speed, height of jump, and strength in power. With these characters, players fight through 8 stages of continuous barrage of enemies with a powerful boss to fight at the end of each stage.
An interesting segment that’s only available in 2 player co-op is after fighting your way through all 8 stages and reaching Mr. X in the final confrontation, Mr. X will personally ask you to join him. Both players must answer either Yes or No to his question. If both players answer Yes you will be sent back to Stage 6 and have to fight your way back to Mr. X. If both say No then it will be a 2 player battle against Mr. X.
If, however, one player answers Yes, and the other answers No, they will instead be fighting each other to the death until all of their lives have run out. After this, Mr. X will praise the winner and ask one final time to join him. If the player answers Yes they will be sent back to Stage 6 alone to fight their way back to Stage 8. If they answer No they will go head to head against Mr. X himself for the throne and ruler of the city, thus receiving the Bad Ending to the game.
Streets of Rage 2 was released the following year on December 20, 1992 in the US under its respective title and one month later in Japan and Europe as Bare Knuckle II. In the continuing story Mr. X returns and has kidnapped Adam and chained him to a wall. It is up to Axel and Blaze, along with 2 new characters Skate Hunter (Adam’s little brother), and Max Thunder (a friend of Axel’s) to return to the lair of Mr. X’s crime syndicate and rescue Adam.
Once again the main cast of characters must endure 8 new stages of crime and endless waves of enemies to reach Mr. X’s hideout and save Adam. There is only one ending to the game, however there are two final bosses to fight this time around. Mr. X has hired his own right-hand named Shiva. He is a highly skilled martial artist and can deal some serious damage if you’re not careful. After defeating Shiva, you face off against Mr. X once again to end his reign of crime within the city.
The sequel to Streets of Rage is more of an updated remake of sorts in that the level design between the two games are very similar, and most of the improvement comes from player control, enemy movement, and even the sprite work is heavily updated. It really makes the first Streets of Rage seem more like a larger Sega Master System game than a 16-bit powered Sega Genesis game. Streets of Rage 2 has been hailed as the best in the series due to graphic quality, an astounding and memorable soundtrack produced by Yozo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima, and overall nice balance in difficulty.
2 years would pass before the next installment Streets of Rage 3 would be released on March 17, 1994 in the US, following the Japanese release the very next day. The third game offers many changes to the previous two games including longer stages, faster gameplay, character dialog, and a much more complex story.
Mr. X has started a new research company called RoboCy Corporation. He, with the help of Dr. Dahm, the world’s best roboticist, create an army of androids to replace various officials in the city. Meanwhile, Mr. X’s syndicate is placing bombs throughout the city to distract the police while the officials are being kidnapped and replaced by the androids.
Dr. Gilbert Zan, who is a cyborg who used to be involved with the syndicate, gets wind of Mr. X’s plans and contacts Blaze with the details. Blaze, Axel, Skate, and Dr. Zan quickly take action to put a stop to both the syndicate, and Mr. X once again.
Streets of Rage 3 had a variety of differences between the US and Japanese release of Bare Knuckle III. The game’s difficulty in the US version was heavily ramped up when playing on Normal that it’s even more difficult than the Japanese Hard difficulty. The Easy difficulty setting of the US version will only play up to stage 5 before ending the game, forcing players to play on the Normal difficulty if they want to true ending to the game.
The clothes worn by Axel, Blaze, and Skate have different colors in the US version when compared to the colors worn in previous games. Female enemy characters wore less revealing outfits, and a sub-boss named Ash was removed from the US version as he was portrayed as a gay male stereotype.
The Story was also altered slightly in the US version from the Japanese original. The Japanese story opens up with an explosive substance called “Raxine” which explodes in the city and kills thousands of people. At the same time, a military general named Ivan Petrov vanishes. It is later discovered tha tMr. X orchestrated the general’s disappearence and plans to use the Roxine to start a global war.
There are 4 possible endings to achieve in the game. The first is by finishing the game on Easy difficulty with the result being you defeat a robot copy of Mr. X and the ending closes with the clone mocking you for not trying harder. The next ending will take place if you failed to save the chief but completed stage 7. Finally, if you’ve successfully saved the chief, the last two endings depend on whether you defeated Robot Y before the bomb detonates or not.
Sega had attempted to bring Streets of Rage to its Sega Saturn console with Streets of Rage 4. This started with Sega’s purchase of a half-completed game titled Judgement Force, developed by Core Designs. The game title was changed to “Streets of Rage 4” and was set to be a Saturn exclusive. Core Designs however, wanted the game to be released on all consoles, which Sega was not on board for. As a result, Sega left the project and forced Core Designs to rename the game as Fighting Force and release it to the PS1 1997.
Another attempt at Streets of Rage 4 happened during the early production of the Sega Dreamcast. Tech demos that were tentatively titled “Streets of Rage 4” were being made by Sega of Japan to potentially bring the series to the next gen Sega console. Unfortunately new management at Sega of America were unaware of the success of the series and shot the idea down because beat’em up’s were not as trendy anymore and they felt it would not be a profitable game. As a result the development for the game was canceled and the series had fallen into a very long 20 year hiatus.
During this very long hiatus a team called Bombergames created the fangame “Streets of Rage: Remake”. This was a homage to the Streets of Rage trilogy all packed into a single game. All characters, enemies, music, stages and bosses from all three Streets of Rage titles, including some new elements, can be found in this absolutely excellent fangame.
The game was in development from 2003 and was released on April 8th, 2011. Just days after its initial release, Sega filed a cease & desist order for the game, removing it from all websites that were offering the game for download. Prior to the game’s release however, Sega was notified of the game’s development years before its initial release, and they were more than happy and supportive of the project. Their quick change of heart afterwards is still a mystery, but some say it may have had to do with the release of Streets of Rage on mobile during the same time that Remake was released.
While the game was removed from the main website, it has been re-uploaded by others and spread across the internet for gamers to still very easily get a hold of. The game continues to get new updates with the latest version being 5.2, which was released this past November.
Streets of Rage Remake starts you off at 4 starting locations to choose from, and each path will branch out and join within each other in certain locations throughout play. There are roughly 103 different environments in the game with a total of 8 possible endings that you can earn.
You start with 6 playable characters with an additional 6 that you can unlock through the game’s Shop which you unlock once you’ve completed the game. The shop allows you to unlock various different modes, characters, and cheat options by spending points which you earn throughout each playthrough of the game.
There has also been another fangame made by Senile Team that’s more of a tribute to Streets of Rage called Beats of Rage. It was primarily released on PC in November 2003 but was soon ported to other consoles such as the Dreamcast, PS2, Wii and PSP. Senile Team did little to no effort in advertising the game as they had only figured maybe 10 people would download and play the game. As it turned out, through purely word of mouth and the power of the internet, a total of over a million people would download and enjoy the game.
Beats of Rage was a beat’em up that played very similarly to the Streets of Rage series, but featured characters that were taken from the King of Fighters series and had all of their names changed. Some of the game’s music and sound effects were taken directly from Streets of Rage as well as other sources.
Senile Team also released Open Beats of Rage which is an open source version of the Beats of Rage engine which allows the game to be fully customizable with the ability to replace assets including enemies, sounds, music, and more.
Developer and Publisher Dotemu approached Sega about making a proper sequel to the Streets of Rage series. After Dotemu’s success with Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap in 2017, Sega agreed to the idea and licensed the Streets of Rage series to the team. Development began in 2018 and was released to PC, Switch, PS4 and Xbox One on April 30, 2020.
The story takes place 10 years after the events of Streets of Rage 3 where a new syndicate is taking over Wood Oak City. This new syndicate is led by Mr. X’s children, the Y Twins. Blaze, together with Axel, Adam, Adam’s daughter Cherry, and Floyd Iraia, an enhanced apprentice of Dr. Zan, set forth to clean up the city streets of crime once again.
The game features fully hand drawn animations and environments, while keeping the classic beat’em up mechanics that fans of the series are familiar with. The music was composed by Olivier Deriviere with help from Yuzo Koshiro, Motohiro Kawashima, and many others. Also included within the game are hidden easter egg battles against bosses from inside replicated Streets of Rage 2 areas that you can fight if you use a taser gun on an arcade cabinet.
Mr. X Nightmare is the game’s one and only DLC pack so far that was released recently on July 15th this year. This adds three new characters (Estel, Max, and Shiva), a survival mode, Character customization, and new weapons and enemies.
Streets of Rage was one of the kings of the beat’em up genre until difficulties continuing the series led to it’s untimely demise with Sega. However, thanks to fan loyalty, projects such as Streets of Rage Remake, and Beats of Rage kept the series alive in hopes that a new entry could one day bring the series back into the spotlight, and thankfully it did. Will the series continue to grow after Streets of Rage 4, or will this be just a simple one game reboot to trigger the nostalgic minds of gamers?