But why did the po­lice of­fer rocket launch­ers as sup­port?

Games Master - - Contents - Ian Drans­field

Fish some roast chicken out of your near­est bin and set­tle in for a fond look back on Streets Of Rage.

There’s some­thing to be said for the scrolling beat-’em-up genre, just for how it in­tro­duced a gen­er­a­tion of play­ers, and then de­sen­si­tised them, to the no­tion of find­ing roasted meats in bins and eat­ing them with­out ques­tion. Streets Of Rage wasn’t the first to do it, but its mix of bin-ap­ples and bin-pork stuck with every­one who played it (and ar­gued over who got it).

The ori­gins

Away from ar­gu­ments about cooked meats in the rub­bish, Streets Of Rage’s gen­e­sis came as a re­sult of an­other kind of con­flict: the clas­sic con­sole wars of the early ’90s. The other ma­jor Ja­panese plat­form man­u­fac­turer – you may have heard of it, it’s a lit­tle com­pany called Nin­tendo – had seen a port of ar­cade clas­sic Fi­nal Fight hit the SNES in 1990. While an im­per­fect re­cre­ation of the orig­i­nal, it was good enough to do very well in­deed for the com­pany. Sega needed an an­swer, but in­stead of tak­ing the ar­cade port route, it opted to craft some­thing be­spoke for the Mega Drive. Thus, Bare Knuckle (as Streets Of Rage was known in Ja­pan) was born.

The Mega Drive had been around for a few years by 1991, and seen a few no­table beat-’em-ups in that time. While they be­came le­gends in their own right (well Golden Axe and Alien Storm did, at least) there wasn’t any­thing ab­so­lutely vi­tal for the 16-bit mon­ster. Streets Of Rage changed all that overnight: ef­fort­lessly cool, sur­pris­ingly edgy for the pe­riod, and with three char­ac­ters to se­lect from as well as two-player co-op – stick that up your ‘oh we didn’t have room for Guy, or a two-player mode’, Fi­nal Fight – it was the quin­tes­sen­tial scrolling brawler. Who says (con­sole) war is good for noth­ing? Peo­ple who haven’t read up on the his­tory of Streets Of Rage, that’s who.

The leg­end

What a game. Co-op­er­a­tively, Streets Of Rage is still in­cred­i­ble fun, though try­ing to get through a level with­out ‘ac­ci­den­tally’ su­plex­ing your part­ner is nigh-on im­pos­si­ble. It’s fast-paced and hard-hit­ting, rid­dled with lit­tle ex­tra touches that make it stand above the com­pe­ti­tion, such as dou­ble-team moves, over-the-top spe­cial at­tacks (po­lice plus rocket launch­ers equals crime preven­tion, ap­par­ently), and pep­per pots as weapons, to name but a few. The end of­fered a gen­uine choice, and saw con­se­quences for said choice – we’re not talk­ing Quan­tic Dream depth here, but it was more than any other beat-’em-up was do­ing, in so many ways.

Of course, no men­tion of Streets Of Rage can pass with­out bring­ing up Yuzo Koshiro’s in­cred­i­ble sound­track. The punchy techno beats wrung lu­di­crous life from the Mega Drive’s usu­ally un­der­whelm­ing sound chip, bring­ing such a thick, mem­o­rable at­mos­phere to the game that it’s im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine it hav­ing the same im­pact with­out his com­po­si­tions. That sounds like hy­per­bole, but if you’ve heard that first level theme tune, you know ex­actly what we’re talk­ing about.

The legacy

Streets Of Rage ab­so­lutely wiped the floor with Capcom’s Fi­nal Fight, and left Nin­tendo scrab­bling for some­thing, any­thing, else to fill the gap. It was around this point the real di­ver­gence in the per­cep­tion of con­soles com­menced, with the Mega Drive be­com­ing the ‘cool’ con­sole, and the SNES fo­cus­ing on ti­tles for younger play­ers. At least, that’s how it went in our heads back in the early ’90s…

Streets Of Rage also changed the whole beat-’em-up genre. It may have been bet­tered by its 1992 se­quel, to this day one of the all-round best beat-’em-ups ever made, but that’s not a


point to dwell on: it got the ball rolling for ex­tremely good, ar­cade-style brawlers made specif­i­cally for the home, rather than just ar­cade ports that could never do the orig­i­nals jus­tice.

Thanks to Streets Of Rage’s suc­cess we saw a golden era of beat-’em-ups that we could en­joy on our own so­fas, with­out need­ing a pocket full of 10p coins. Would Sega have made Golden Axe II and III Mega Drive-only ti­tles were it not for AM7’s vi­o­lent clas­sic? Prob­a­bly not. And thanks to Koshiro’s sound­track, we had the burn­ing de­sire to pur­chase a game sound­track for, prob­a­bly, the first time ever. It was win, win, win all round.

A se­quel was planned for the Saturn, then Dream­cast, but even­tu­ally dis­ap­peared – and for a long time, the fran­chise sim­ply lay fal­low, mourned by retro en­thu­si­asts the world over. But then, a mir­a­cle! Last month, Sega an­nounced Streets Of Rage 4, to much re­joic­ing. But can it live up to the sto­ried legacy? Is there still room for a beat-’em-up in 2018’s world? And will it fi­nally ex­plain just why the po­lice sup­port our he­roes call in fires high-ex­plo­sive rounds at com­mon street thugs? Only time will tell.

Adam, strong­est of the Ragers (as they’re not known), bat­ter­ing mul­ti­ple goons on a lift. Yes­ter­day.

Once upon a time this looked like overly force­ful polic­ing.

Two-player Rage is one of life’s purest pur­suits; great fun from start to end.

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