Title: Streets of Rage (Japanese Title: Bare Knuckle)
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Date Published: 1991
Platforms: Sega Mega Drive/Genesis (Later ported to Sega Master System, Game Gear, Sega CD)
Players: 1-2

Streets of Rage (SoR) is a scrolling beat-'em-up with an urban street-fighting setting. The game was originally developed for the Sega Mega Drive (unusual in a genre where most titles originate in the arcade), where it would become one of Sega's most successful and well-known games of the 16-bit generation, spawning two sequels. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Streets of Rage was developed by the same team (AM-7) that was responsible for Revenge of Shinobi. As with Revenge, Streets of Rage has a soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro.

The game is a synthesis of elements from Double Dragon, Golden Axe and Final Fight. At the start of the game, each player selects their character from the three on offer. They must then traverse a series of horizontally-scrolling stages, using their martial arts training to dispatch a constant stream of street punks and gang heavies. At the end of each stage is a formidable boss character that may require a specific technique to vanquish.

The storyline is fairly unoriginal. A crime boss (Mr. X) has taken over the city with the aid of a corrupt police force. This situation prompts three young, idealistic cops to hand in their badges and mount a vigilante action against Mr. X and his army of hired goons. There are two possible endings to the game: the player can choose to either defeat Mr. X so that order can be restored, or (for an extra challenge) defeat Mr. X (as well as your partner, in two-player mode) so that they can assume control of his crime syndicate.

The three characters (Axel Stone, Adam Hunter and Blaze Fielding) have distinctive fighting styles with complementary strengths and weaknesses. Each has a large number of moves (at least, for a scrolling beat-'em-up of the time), including some moves that require both players to co-operate to perform. If matters become too desperate, each player can also call for backup (similar to the special attacks in Golden Axe and Alien Storm). The camera pans back to further up the street, a police car screeches to a halt and an officer emerges to fire a heavy weapon (napalm or rocket-propelled grenades). The camera then pans back to the scene of the battle, showing the result- most enemies on screen are killed outright, although the special attack only does a limited amount of damage to bosses. There are also weapons that can be picked up during the course of the game, including baseball bats, knives, bottles, and a drainpipe which affords the player a long reach to hit enemies before they get too close.

The enemies come in several varieties that are endlessly repeated throughout the game with different-coloured costumes. There are the standard denim-clad punks, punks in yellow jackets that perform sliding tackles, whip-wielding dominatrices, karate guys, and freakish-looking jugglers who fling burning torches and axes at you. Most of these characters would reappear in some guise in each installment of the series, as would some of the bosses. In Shinobi fashion, bosses are not governed by the normal rules of biology, and some of them appear to be over twelve feet tall. They include a fire-breathing fat man, an Ultimate Warrior-esque wrestler, and a sailor armed with a boomerang (trivia: this same sprite also appears as an enemy in Spider-Man: The Videogame).

In terms of both gameplay and presentation, Streets of Rage has aged quite badly, especially when compared to the sequel that was released the following year. The sprites are quite small (about the size of the characters in Revenge of Shinobi, in fact) and stiffly animated, and the backgrounds are largely static with few layers of parallax used, although there are some nice effects such as the rain showers on the beach level. One benefit of the game's meagre standard of graphics is that it is possible for a large number of characters to fit on screen at one time.

One part that has not been affected so badly by age is the soundtrack, considered by some to be one of the best in any game. Standouts include the Enigma-esque intro theme and the pumping boss music. The game seems to dedicate most of the Mega Drive's sound channels to music, so sound effects suffer as a result, but this trade-off is successful.

The 8-bit ports of the game are apparently quite faithful to the original (although the Game Gear version omits Adam and a couple of the later stages), although seeing as they were created purely to provide people who couldn't afford a Mega Drive with a cut-down version of the game, they are of little more than historical interest today. The Sega CD version (included on a compilation CD) is identical to the Mega Drive version.

If you are interested in trying the Streets of Rage games, I would recommend playing them in the order they were released: SoR1 seems very limited after you've played SoR2.


The Killer List Of Videogames website (and by reference, GameFAQs) claims that there was an arcade version of Streets of Rage released in 1989, based on the System 18 hardware, and offering support for three simultaneous players (the inference being that the game would run on converted Golden Axe cabinets). This claim is almost certainly false: no other record of such a game exists, and by now it would be expected that either an original board or a romset would have surfaced.

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