Streets of Rage 3 – Review

Streets of Rage (1991) and Streets of Rage 2 (1992) were both awesome games worthy of the highest accolades. Their success would naturally spawn a third in the series. The question is, would the creators be able to make the game unique enough to stand on its own whilst at the same time staying true to what made the first two instalments so successful?

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Streets of Rage 3 (known as Bare knuckle 3 in Japan) is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up developed and published by Sega. It was released in 1994 for the Mega Drive and would appear on later compilation packs including Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and Sega Genesis Classics (2010) which is available for Microsoft Windows, Linux, MacOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. In 2012, it was released on Steam as a stand-alone game as well as with Sega Genesis Classics Pack 5. For this review, I replayed the version for the Mega Drive found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Plot

Streets of Rage 3 is a direct sequel to Streets of Rage 2 (1992). It has been Several years since Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding, Eddie “Skate” Hunter and Max Thunder defeated Mr. X and rescued Adam Hunter. However, Mr. X, head of an organised crime group known as The Syndicate has returned. Since his last defeat he founded RoboCy Corporation, a legitimate robotics company that acts as a cover for his illegal activities. He has hired the world’s foremost expert on robotics (Dr. Dahm) to create an army of androids under his command to secretly replace important city officials with a view to controlling the city. Whilst this operation comes into effect, he plants bombs throughout the city to distract the police while the city officials are replaced.

After realising what Dr. Dahm’s research as really been used for, Dr. Zan, a cyborg himself, contacts Blaze Fielding and explains Mr. X’s plans for the city officials. Upon learning of the severity of the situation, Blaze contacts her old police partners Axel Stone and Adam Hunter. Axel agrees to join the task force, but Adam is unable to because of his own commitments within the police force. However, his younger brother Eddie “Skate” Hunter agrees to join the task force in his place.

It is unclear what happened to Max Thunder but Dr. Zan takes his place (Screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

Consistent with the previous two instalments, Streets of Rage 3 follows suit. The game can be played in one-player or two-player co-op mode. Each fighter has different stats depending on what you prefer to play with. Some are faster, some are more powerful, but none are considered the ultimate fighter.

The fighting is much the same. You must fight your way through a number of levels fighting baddies of varying strengths. Along the way you can pick up money and gold bars which increase your points tally, and food to help restore your life gauge. Occasionally, you will spot a 1-up.

As well as the usual weapons of knives, pipes, baseball batts and swords, you can also pick up grenades. Just be sure to not hold on to them too long else they will explode, and you will suffer damage.

There are a few differences from previous games, however. This is the first game in the series to utilise the six-button controller allowing for a larger move set. For special moves, you have a power bar consisting of six segments. The higher the gauge the more damage you will do to the baddies. One you perform a speicla move, the bars will empty and you will need to wait a few second for them to recharge. If the gauge is empty when you perform a special move, your life gauge will deplete slightly. With every 40,000 points you accrue, a star appears below your fighter’s life gauge. Each star you earn increases the strength of your Blitz attack. You can earn up to three stars but if you lose a life, you will lose a star.

Whereas in Streets of Rage 2 (1992) only Skate could run, Streets of Rage 3 allows all characters to run as well as roll up or down to screen to evade enemy attacks.

The story itself is more complex, with dialogue between the characters after each level, adding another layer to the story telling.

Characters:

Dr. Zan – After discovering what The Syndicate are planninng with their androids, Dr. Zan contacts Blaze Fielding in a bid to acquire her help in stopping Mr. X.

Blaze Fielding – Since defeating The Syndicate a second time, she now works as a private detective. She agrees to help when she is informed that the next victim of this dastardly plan will be her old friend the Chief of Police.

Axel Stone – After defeating Mr. X a second time, Axel moved far from the city to start up his own martial arts school. Blaze convinces him to return to fight Mr. X one more time.

Eddie “Skate” Hunter – Since helping the others defeat Mr. X and rescue his older brother Adam, Skate has grown in strength and speed. He agrees to join the task force to take down Mr. X once and for all.

The Duel Mode has been made more interesting. It is no longer just a one-on-one fight. For example, on one fight stage, the floor contains sparks that travel along a line on the floor. If it touches you, you get electrocuted. Another has holes for you to fall down which will make you lose health.

New sprites have been introduced… (Screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

This game has tight controls, and the increase in the number of moves ensures that the fighting does not get monotonous. I did think that the hit detection was off a little though. There were instances where an enemy is slightly to the back or to the fore of the line I was on, and I was unable to hit them, but they were able to hit me. That was frustrating! There were two bosses that I felt were annoyingly difficult. The two women in the bar, and the three samurai. Even on Easy I struggled with these bosses. I appreciate this may simply be a case of finding a strategy, but these fights are where I lost most of my lives.

There was an interesting level consisting of our heroes moving from right to left and having to punch through concrete walls whilst being chased by a bulldozer. This level is easy and just seems to slow down the gameplay. It was a good idea, I’m just not sure it worked.

Graphics

Even though the levels and sprites were highly detailed and well animated, I did think that the levels and sprites of four protagonists were not as good as Streets of Rage 2 (1992). There were plenty of enemy sprites who were still around from the previous two games to make it feel familiar, but I did question the reliance on sprites from previous game. Having said that, I still think the game looks pretty darn good.

One level I though was particularly good was the disco stage. The lighting occasionally flashes, and the lighting makes the level feel really authentic.

Music

The music was criticised by several contemporary critics (see below). Although not necessarily as memorable as the previous games, the music is still that adrenaline fuelled upbeat techno/electronic music which fits this game well.

Replay Value

There are three difficulty levels: Easy, Normal and Hard, as well as the option to alter the number of lives you begin with. Initially, when I completed the game on Easy, the game ends after five stages and I thought the game was very short. However, completing the game on harder settings reveals several more stages and a continuation of the story. Apparently, there are four endings depending on which difficulty level you complete the game on and the time it takes for you to do it. The Duel Mode has been improved too, but again, it will never compare to fighitng games such as Street Fighter II (1992).

…and some old sprites resurrected (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I Complete The Game?

I have completed the game on the Easy setting, but whilst looking into this game, I have discovered that there are more levels when played on harder settings. Clearly, I will have to re-visit this game.

What The Critics Said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “This has always been a good series, and I really enjoyed this cart. A few things bothered me. The music wasn’t up to par with what Yuzo Koshiro normally does, and the sounds were sub-standard. The background animations were really good, and the diversity of game play adds tremendously. One question: Why did Sega change the characters’ outfits to gender neutral colours? It is still a great Sega fighter. Overall 29/40.[1]

Gamefan: “I’m usually blown away with any of the SOR games, but part 3 just didn’t do it for me. The graphics and control are very good, but the music is horrible compared to previous versions. It’s as if the person who composed the music in Chakan did the BGM in SOR 3. What were you thinking Yuzo?” Overall 234/300.[2]

Hyper: “If you liked the rest of the series then you’ll love this game. If you’re a sensitive new age type I’d steer clear though…stick to Ecco. Overall 83%.[3]

Mean Machines Sega: “A stylish continuation of the series, but not all it could – and should – be. A classic case of ‘If only they had…’. Overall 83%.[4]

Sega Magazine: “Expensive, but you’re paying for the best scrolling combat game in existence. Only Streets of rage 2 is anywhere near as good as this. Overall 90%.[5]

My Verdict:

“Don’t get me wrong, this is a solid third instalment of the franchise. Great graphics and gameplay with a more complex story…I just wasn’t feeling it. The music was less memorable, I didn’t like Dr. Zan as a new character and I felt the protagonist sprites didn’t look as good as in previous games. I felt the hit detection was slightly off and some of the bosses were insanely hard, even on Easy. If I had a choice, I would much rather revisit the first two instalments.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Streets of Rage 3? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review Crew – Streets of Rage 3’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (July 1994). Number 60 Volume 7 Issue 7:34.

[2] Viewpoint – Streets of Rage 3’. Gamefan. (June 1994). Volume 2 Issue 7:24.

[3] ‘Review – Streets of Rage 3’. Hyper. (June 1994). 7:30-33.

[4] ‘Megadrive Review – Streets of Rage 3’. Mean Machines Sega. (March 1994). Issue 17:42-45.

[5] ‘Megadrive Review – Streets of Rage 3’. Sega Magazine. (May 1994). Issue 5:78-9.

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Streets of Rage 2 – Review

There’s very little argument to be had. Streets of Rage (1991) was one of the finest beat ’em ups produced on the 16-bit console in the early 1990s., and I will not hear a bad word against it! Wanting to cash in on it’s success, Sega produced a sequel and released it the following year. Surely the creators couldn’t improve on such a near perfect game…or could they?

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Streets of Rage 2 (known as Bar Knuckle II in Japan) is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up. The sequel to Streets of Rage (1991), it was developed by Sega, Ancient Corp., MNM Software and H.I.C.. It was published by Sega in 1992 and was released for the Sega Mega Drive in North America in 1992 and Europe and Japan in 1993; the Game Gear and Master System in 1993, and the Nintendo 3DS in 2015. For this review, I revisited the Mega Drive version.

Plot

It has been a year since ex-law enforcement officers Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding and Adam Hunter defeated the Syndicate and restored peace to their city streets once more. The morning after the one year anniversary of their bringing down of the Syndicate, Axel receives a phone call from Adam’s younger brother, Eddie “Skate” Hunter. He tells Axel that upon returning from school, he found that the house had been trashed and that Adam was missing. Axel and Blaze visited Adam’s house and sure enough, the place had been wrecked. Whilst looking for clues as to the culprit, Axel and Blaze find a photo showing Adam in chains lying at the feet of the Syndicate boss who they thought they had defeated the previous year. That very day, swarms of the Syndicate’s henchmen returned to the streets wreaking havoc once more. Axel and Blaze contacted their old friends at the Police Department, but they had either been fired or transferred to another department and so could not assist. Luckily, one of Axel’s friends, Max, agrees to help them rescue Adam. Skate also joins the trio to help rescue his brother.

There are four characters to choose from each with differing stats (screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

Very little has changed from the first instalment. The game can be played in single or two-player mode and you must use your hand-to-hand combat skills to battle through hordes of Syndicate gang members. Along the way you can pick up and use weapons such as metal pipes and knives. These have limited use and will disappear once they are used up. When smashing up items such as sandwich boards and bins, you will also find money which goes towards your overall score, and apples and turkeys which help restore your energy.

What’s New?

The special attack has been changed for this game. Instead of a back-up Police car raining down fire in the form of napalm or bullets from a gatling gun, you perform a special move. However, every time you use this move, you will lose a bit of energy.

SOR 2 also introduces a Duel Mode where you can fight other characters one on one. If you choose the same character, a colour palette change distinguishes the two of you. This is a nice little addition to the game but cannot compare to the likes of Street Fighter II (1992).

Characters:

Axel Stone – Ex-Police Officer and skilled martial artist. Currently working as a bodyguard. A good allrounder.

Blaze Fielding – Ex-Police Officer and Judo expert. She is currently teaching dance. Agile, but not as strong as Axel and Max.

Eddie “Skate” Hunter – Teenage brother of Adam Hunter. He is an inline skater and break-dancer which allows him speed and agility but also the weakest character.

Max Thunder – Friend of Axel, Max is a former wrestler and extremely strong. His size does make him the slowest character though.

Axel giving a baddie a knuckle sandwich (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The game plays very well. The controls are responsive and the differences between the characters are very apparent meaning you will need to change your fighting tactics based on who you are. You can still hit your team mate so be careful when you’re swinging that metal pipe.

The game also has a flatter perspective, so it feels as though there is less room to move around, encouraging you to engage in fighting quickly.

I like the fact that the energy bars of the enemies are now shown. It enables you to tactically work your way through enemies, perhaps killing the lesser henchmen before moving on to the tougher ones so that you are not so overwhelmed by their number.

One annoying aspect to the game is the once you are at the end of the level and have beaten the last enemy henchman, your player will automatically walk to the exit. This can be annoying if you’ve been trying to save an apple or turkey for health and it ends up just being left.

Graphics

As with the Streets of Rage (1991) the graphics look awesome. The levels are incredibly detailed and colourful (some with parallax scrolling in the background and foreground), and the sprites are larger, allowing for more detail. One nice little touch is the slight up and down motion when on the boat level.

Many of the baddies have been lifted directly from the original which is a little cheap I guess, but they still look great so, I’m my opinion, the creators can be forgiven. Maybe this was a case of If it ain’t broke, don’t fix!

Beware…these buggers can breathe fire (screenshot taken by the author)

Music

The music takes on a similar style to the original game. It is upbeat and fits well into this style of game. I can’t say that the music is as memorable for me as the original but this is just a personal preference.

Replay Value

The fact that the characters have very different stats and move sets, as well as the difficulty settings, two-player option and Duel Mode, adds lots of replay value. This game will become a staple for Friday night gaming with your friends.

Personal Thoughts

Throughout many of the reviews below, there seemed ot be a constant comparison with Street Fighter II (1992), which I found odd. They are two different styles of game. To compare them is to compare apples to oranges. I appreciate that this was at the height of the Sega/Nintendo wars, but the comparison is a nonsense.

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes, I have completed the game many times on Easy. I will no have to try it on Normal.

What The Critics Said?

Computer & Video Games: “The hyper-violent gameplay grabs you by the throat from the very moment you pummel your first bad guy, and don’t expect it to end there. Overall 95%.[1]

Mean Machines Sega: “Let’s make no bones about it, Streets of Rage 2 is the greatest sequel we’ve seen for ages and is certainly the best scrolling beat ‘em up to ever hit a home console! Overall 90%”.[2]

Bad Influence!Overall 9/10”.[3]

Mean Machines – The Essential Sega Guide: “The Megadrive really shows off with Streets of Rage 2. Cool beat ‘em up action, about double the size of the average Megadrive game. Overall 92%.[4]

Mega Play: “The graphics are very good and the animation superb. The music is complex and upbeat, and the sound effects are great. The moves are simple and there are enough techniques to keep it from getting repetitive. Overall 84%.[5]

Mega Play: “This is a solid action fighter with a good variety of moves. However, I found that the special moves gave you too much strength and made the game too easy. Less power and more technique would have made it more challenging. Still, It’s a solid two player game. Overall 80%.[6]

Sega Force: “Sega have come up with the goods! Wipes the floor with Street Fighter II. Overall 93%”.[7]

Sega Power: “The best scrolling beat-‘em up around – and big improvement on the original. Time will tell whether it’s the best yet though (Street Fighter 2 is on its way, after all). Overall 92%.[8]

Sega Pro: “Forget Sonic 2, this has to be the best game to date. Overall 96%.”[9]

Awards:

EGM’s Best and Worst of 1992 – Hottest Video Game Babe (Blaze)[10]

Mega Reader Awards ’92 – Beast Beat ‘Em Up[11]

Golden Megawards Game Fan’s Best of 1992 – Best Game

Golden Megawards Game Fan’s Best of 1992 – Best Game Music

Golden Megawards Game Fan’s Best of 1992 – Best Action Fighting[12]

My Verdict:

“Although I still prefer the original (purely from a nostalgic point of view), I have to confess that SOR 2 is a superior game. More moves, slightly better graphics, and more characters, it is easy to see why this has gone down as one of the greatest 16-bit beat ‘em ups of all time.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Streets of Rage 2? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review – Streets of Rage 2’. Computer & Video Games. (February 1993). Issue 135:26-28.

[2] ‘Streets of Rage 2’. Mean Machines Sega. (December 1992). Issue 3:136-139.

[2] Bad Influence!. ‘Bad Influence! Series 1 Episode 11’. Bibilography.com. Uploaded by retro Pixels. Wed, 01 Nov 2017. https://ghostarchive.org/varchive/JgNu9HIEXEI.

[4] Rignall, J., & Leadbetter, R., ‘Streets of Rage 2’ Mean Machines: The Essential Sega Guide. :97.

[5] Alessi, M., ‘Streets of Rage 2’. Mega Play. (February 1993). Volume 4 Number 1:52.

[6] Grossman, H., ‘Streets of Rage 2’. Mega Play. (February 1993). Volume 4 Number 1:53.

[7] ‘Streets of Rage 2’. Sega Force. (April 1993). Number 16:28-31.

[8] ‘Streets of Rage 2’. Sega Power. (April 1993). Issue 41:30-1.

[9] ‘Streets of rage 2’. Sega Pro. (February 1993). Issue 16:28-9.

[10] ‘EGM’s Best and Worst of 1992: Best Video Game Babe (All Systems) – Streets of Rage 2‘. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :20.

[11] ‘It’s The Mega Reader Awards ‘92’. Mega. (March 1993). Issue 6:20.

[12] ‘Golden Megawards Game Fan’s Best of 1992’. Game Fan. Issue 16:28-9.