There are some games that will always remain close to my heart. Streets of Rage is one such game. For almost 30 years, I have regularly returned to this game time and time again, and am instantly transported to my youth. I decided to revisit it once more with my “reviewers” hat on and wondered if it would hold up to scrutiny. Read on to find out my verdict!
Streets of Rage (Bare Knuckle in Japan) is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up developed and published by Sega. It was released for the Arcade and Sega Mega Drive in 1991. It was later ported to the Game Gear (1992), Master System (1993), Wii (2007), iOS (2009), Microsoft Windows (2011) and Nintendo 3DS (2013). For this review, I chose to play the Mega Drive version.
A once peaceful city has been the victim of a crime wave. A secret criminal syndicate has taken over the local government and the local police force. Frustrated by the police force’s corruption, three young police officers take it upon themselves to clean up the streets and stop the crime syndicate.
Streets of Rage can be played in either one or two-player modes. You can choose one of three characters:
Adam Hunter – an accomplished boxer
Axel Stone – a skilled martial artist
Blaze Fielding – a judo expert
You must then battle through eight levels, which take from through mean streets and beaches, on a boat and into a hotel. Along the way, there are also a number of weapons such as bottles, knives and baseball bats that you can pick up and use against the enemies.
As you progress, you gain points for killing the enemies but you also gain extra points for picking up cash and gold bars. To gain health, you will need to find apples and beef joints. Occasionally, you may come across a 1-up icon too.
How Does It Handle?
Each character has an impressive number of moves, with plenty of differentiation between the characters. Blaze is quick and can jump high and far but not as powerful as the other two. Adam is the slowest and can’t jump very high or far but is the most powerful, and Axel, my personal favourite, is quicker than Adam and just as powerful but doesn’t jump as high or as far or is as quick as Blaze. There are even a few moves with which you can use to double team the enemy. If things get too heavy, each character can use their special attack which involves calling for back-up in the form of a police car. A police officer, leaning out of the window proceeds to fire napalm or rain down fire upon the enemy in the form of a gatling gun rocket launcher hybrid. The controls are nice and responsive and the hit detection is spot on. There is also an element of strategy when fighting some of the bosses so that you can work together in a team.
Firstly, this game looks beautiful. The character sprites are clearly defined, colourful and very detailed! The level designs are awesome too and some of the best I’ve seen for 16-bit games released around this time.
What a soundtrack! Memorable tunes and a nice gear change when fighting the bosses to emphasise that shit’s about to go down.
The game has four difficulty settings ‘easy’, ‘normal, ‘hard’ and ‘hardest’, but even if you stick to the easiest setting, I found that I returned to this game again and again, especially when playing in two-player mode with my brothers and sister.
I have so many fond memories of this game, and it’s probably why I rank it as as one of my favourite games of all time. Even after almost 30 years, I still return to it yearly with my little brother and we play through it.
Did I Complete The Game?
Yes, I have completed this game many times over the years on the ‘easy’ and ‘normal’ settings.
What The Critics Said:
Sega Power: “Double Dragon-style street fighter with arrange of 40 combat moves! Loads of enemies, frenzied activity and brilliant soundtracks. This sets new standards for urban guerrillas. Overall 5/5”.
Mean Machines: “The greatest and most enjoyable beat ‘em up yet seen on the Megadrive. Overall 90%”.
Games-X: “Okay as beat ‘em ups go, but will only appeal to fans of the genre. Overall 3/5”.
Computer and Video Games: “Beautifully presented, the games smacks of quality from the moment you slap in the cart and prepare to slap heads. The gameplay is totally wicked. Each fighter has his or her own characteristics, but you’ll soon choose a favourite with which to kick ass. Overall 93%“.
Mega Tech: “This is the best beat ‘em up on the Megadrive with tons of moves, action, death and great electro soundtracks. Overall 92%“.
Sega Pro: “Basically this is Final Fight for the Megadrive. Great graphics and some amazing moves. This is the best beat-‘em up game yet for the Megadrive. Overall 96%.“
Wizard: “Fighting game, third generation game. Not bad, still holds up well. Lots of action. Overall B”.
MegaTech: “Yes! The Megadrive needed a fabulous beat ‘em up, and Streets of Rage more than delivers. With excellent sprites, backdrops and brilliant music, Streets of rage is initially very appealing. Add in great gameplay and simultaneous two-player action and you’ve got an essential buy. Overall 92%”.
“I can’t praise this game enough. It looks fantastic, it plays fantastic and the sound track is awesome. It truly is one the greatest video games ever made and I can be certain that even when I’m in my senior years, I will still return to relive the Streets of Rage adventure again and again.”
What are your memories of Streets of Rage? 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.
 ‘The Hard Line: Mega Drive – Streets of Rage’. Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:54.
 ‘Streets of Rage – Review’. Mean Machines. (September 1991). Issue 12:80-82.
 ‘Bare Knuckle – Review’. Games-X. (22nd-28th August 1991). Issue 18:38.
 ‘Streets of Rage – Review’. Computer and Video Games. (October 1991). Issue 119:54-6.
 ‘Streets of Rage – Review’. Mega Tech. (February 1992). Issue 2:30.
 ‘Streets of Rage – Review’. Sega Pro. (April 1992). Issue 6:29.
 ‘Game Reviews – Streets of Rage’. Wizard. (January 1993). Issue 17:24.
 ‘Game Index – Streets of Rage’. MegaTech. (May 1992). Issue 5:78.