Review by Retro
"A decent beginning to a classic series"
Axel, Blaze, and Adam are three bad ass ex-cops who are taking it to the streets so they can make an attempt to clean the city up of all the smelly, good for nothing punks that are polluting the area. A madman named Mr. X is at the head of all this troublesome turmoil in the big city, and he is also the trio's main nemesis. But to get to Mr. X, the bold threesome must first make it through stages consisting of seemingly endless streets, towering elevators, a beach that never sleeps, and a few other not so welcoming places.
On the streets, you gotta have some moves and grooves if you want to survive more than thirty seconds. In the video game world, there are also some rules to abide by. The most noticeable of these rules is the fact that only one or two of the three available fighters (in either a one-player or two-player co-op game) may go up against the countless numbers of thugs and overpowering bosses at a time. Axel, Blaze, and Adam will need to use all the death-defying moves they possess in order to have a chance of getting the funky city back in its original, peaceful form.
Axel, Blaze, and Adam all have their own set of strengths and weaknesses, along with a similar, yet different array of fighting moves. For example, Adam is powerful and he has a nice jumping ablility, but he moves slower than a redneck talks. On the other hand, Blaze is as fast as a jackrabbit, but she's not all that strong. There are many moves for each of the three fighters to show off. All three of them can punch, kick, throw, and do your everyday suplex.
Really, their fighting moves aren't all that varied from one another, except for a couple of signature moves, such as Axel being the only one that can perform a head butt. To help them along the way, there are also weapons they can pick up and use such as skin-penetrating broken bottles, sharp-edged knives, lead pipes for making enemies see something beyond stars, and splintering, wooden baseball bats. I hope you have eyes in the back of your head because a few of the enemies can also use the weapons.
There are also a few non-weapons that can be put to use. Hidden inside various places such as phone booths or sets of tires are extra lives, apples and chickens for energy, and extra specials. The specials in Streets of Rage aren't anything like the ones used in Streets of Rage 2 or 3. Instead of each fighter having their own special moves, anytime you use a special in this original, a police car will drive up behind you and then somebody will get out of the car and fire a rocket launcher (yawn). Once the projectile lands, it sets off a perfectly round chain reaction of fire on the ground, with you being right in the middle and remaining unaffected. Even if this circular pattern of fire doesn't appear to touch a certain opponent, he/she/it will be knocked down silly and maybe even killed. There's a place at the top of the screen that tells you how many specials you have left in storage at all times.
Axel, Blaze, and Adam can't stand litter, especially of the human variety. Getting a month-old glob of bubble gum stuck to their shoes and having a fluttery newspaper flapping in the wind and flying into their face is bad enough without having live people backstabbing and kicking their ass as if they were a football waiting to be punted. Therefore, they must rid of every single living soul outside of themselves that they happen to see or sense.
Streets of Rage has a decent variety of enemies to tear apart and stomp on like a photograph of your ex-girlfriend. There are everyday looking freaks comprised of a red mohawk and a laughably weak punch, earth-shaking fat guys that have a whale of a time by running unbelievably fast (for their size) while breathing out broiling flames from last night's chili dogs (at least they're not breathing from the other end), whip-carrying women who want to bruise you into shape, and so on. At the end of most levels is a challenging boss of sorts. The bosses range from a huge wrestler with an unbearable uppercut to the mysterious Mr. X himself.
All the levels in Streets of Rage are fairly short and there's not many separate parts, or stages, to any of them. The overused phrase ''short but sweet'' comes to mind as I type the previous sentence. Indeed, though it may not be that long for a game that has eight main levels, there is still a good bit of fun to be had with this little 16-bit cartridge.
Whether you're blistering some ass on the street with neon advertisements flashing in the background, taking an action-filled stroll along the beach while the waves crash and recede, or cross a bridge that is absent of cars, you'll mostly be walking around normal places while you show your enemies that it's not only the good that die young.
Fortunately, however, there are some locations that have some nice effects included. At certain points, you can throw or knock your enemies into a bottomless pit or off of a platform that is seemingly hundreds of feet above ground, causing them death even if they have a full life bar of energy. Another nice touch is having the elevator rise up several levels and then unleash legions of enemies the second it comes to a stop on certain floors.
For Streets of Rage to be the first title in the series, its graphics aren't bad at all. The characters have a decent amount of detail and animation, even though they're small in size. The backgrounds and levels also have detail that is good enough, though it seems to be lacking in areas such as the color scheme (most of the game is a little dark with a colorful part occasionally). Streets of Rage does have a few neat graphical effects though. Watch for a part in which the sun rises in the background and the nice up and down screen motion while you're onboard the ship, giving you a nice on-the-boat atmosphere.
The sound effects are sort of bland and lacking. The music, on the other hand, was done by one of the most respected video game music composers of all, Yuzo Koshiro. The music is mostly fast-paced and the majority of the tracks are nice to sit back and listen to, though none of the tracks stand out as being particularly catchy or memorable. Finally, the controls are tight and well done for the most part. It may take you a few tries to get used to the way the fighters jump (it feels sort of stiff at first), but after playing the game for awhile, those problems should diminish. Performing the numerous throws, punches, and other moves is a cinch.
When Streets of Rage was first released, it was a game that rivaled Final Fight for being the best game in the genre, and rightfully so. I'm pretty sure I would've thought a little differently about this game if it had not have been the last one of the series that I had the chance to play. I played and owned Streets of Rage 2 and Streets of Rage 3 before I ever even saw the original in a video store or on sale. Therefore, I pretty much played them in semi-reverse order (2,3,1) and I had high expectations for Streets of Rage. Of course, I was a little disappointed with this one since it doesn't have the variety of the other two games. There's not as many fighters, the specials are completely different (and in a bad way), and there's not as many moves.
Don't get me wrong, Streets of Rage is still an enjoyable game to play over and over just like its sequels, only to a much lesser degree. If you're a Streets of Rage fanatic that must have all three games in your collection (I certainly did), I would recommend getting this one. It's great to have it around and it's a fun game to play from time to time. However, if you just get one game in the series, this isn't the one you want.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 07/18/01, Updated 02/24/03
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