It’s a genre that reached near-extinction in modern times, but back in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, scrolling beat-em-ups were the bee’s knees. Battletoads, Double Dragon and Final Fight were such examples, and virtually every system had its killer beat-em-up. The Streets of Rage series was the Sega Mega Drive’s bragging point, and now we’ve been treated to another re-release of Streets of Rage 2 – arguably the best of the series – on 3DS.
Fight or flight
For those not in the know, the basic premise is this: you play the role of a rag-tag group of boxers and martial arts experts who wander through the gritty, grimy streets of an American metropolis, beating up gangsters and thugs under the employ of a certain Mr. X. As the title would imply, this is the second time you’ve done this, and Mr. X is none too pleased that you issued him a thorough butt-kicking the first time around. As revenge, he’s kidnapped Adam – one of the fighters from the original game – and taunted his friends and younger brother with the knowledge of his capture. As four heros, you’re on a quest to clean up the streets and rescue Adam, all the while trawling through the seediest of bars and back-alleys. Yeah, it’s a paper-thin plot absolutely oozing with 80’s sensibilities, but we love it.
What’s important is satisfying combat, and it’s here that Streets of Rage 2 delivers, with surplus. Fights are rock-solid, responsive and ultimately enthralling without ever resorting to blood and gore. True to its contemporaries, the playing field allows movement in several plains, giving players the chance to attack from a multitude of angles. Most enemies take several hits to take down and each has a handy health meter to let you know just how much pain you’re inflicting. The environment too is slightly malleable, allowing the destruction of items; a tactic not to be ignored as these often shelter power-ups and bonuses. There are also weapons scattered around the arenas, such as knives and pipes, and obtaining these is immensely useful and enjoyable. Just be warned that enemies too can make use of them and occasionally you’ll need to wrestle an item out of an opponent’s hands.
Punch in, punch out
The best part about this port is that it’s not merely the old game wrapped in an emulator. This is a lovingly recreated experience that hits all the right notes and manages to offer a slightly updated experience while remaining true to its retro roots. There are a wealth of new modes and the new 3D effect works extremely well. The music is as rock solid as ever.
In short, this is the definitive version of an old classic and one which I can’t recommend enough. If you’re a fan, you’ll be very pleased and I even suggest it to non-fans as a gateway game to the genre so you can understand what all the fuss was about all those moons ago.