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?
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).
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.
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 who 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 special move, the bars will empty and you will need to wait a few seconds 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.
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.
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 Mode 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.
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, making the level feel really authentic.
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.
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).
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”.
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“.
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%“.
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%“.
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%“.
“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.”
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.
 ‘Review Crew – Streets of Rage 3’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (July 1994). Number 60 Volume 7 Issue 7:34.
 Viewpoint – Streets of Rage 3’. Gamefan. (June 1994). Volume 2 Issue 7:24.
 ‘Review – Streets of Rage 3’. Hyper. (June 1994). 7:30-33.
 ‘Megadrive Review – Streets of Rage 3’. Mean Machines Sega. (March 1994). Issue 17:42-45.
 ‘Megadrive Review – Streets of Rage 3’. Sega Magazine. (May 1994). Issue 5:78-9.