Streets of Rage
Release year - USA:1991
Company: Sega
System: Genesis
Genre: Beat 'em up
Players: 1-2

Review by: PrimeOp

Two years after Final Fight, fans of the beat 'em up genre were still waiting for a way to get that same two-player fighting action at home. Along came Sega with a game that did more than just scratch that brawling itch.

A criminal kingpin known only as Mr. X has cunningly worked his way into every aspect of this apparently unnamed city. It's up to the few remaining uncorrupted members of the police force to take back the streets. This effort is spearheaded by Axel Stone, Adam Hunter and Blaze Allen. Like Golden Axe and Final Fight, all three characters have their own unique abilities, moves and gameplay quirks. Team Shinobi (a.k.a. Overworks) wisely used smaller sprites that use less CPU power, allowing more to appear on-screen at once. That fact really comes into play during later rounds where you just get swamped by the enemy. The player and enemy designs of the game borrow quite a bit from Final Fight and a few instances from Double Dragon while still having their own unique, stylish flavor. On a personal note, it was really cool to see a black character that didn't look like an idiot. That was rare, even in the 90's.
The characters are balanced in a way that someone else picking your favorite fighter before you won't throw you off your game too much.

Adam and Blaze distributing beatdowns in their own special way.
The heart of this game is the deceptively deep Luckily, The sharp controls let you quickly jab and move with far less lag time than the average game, making crowd control a breeze. But if those crowds should get out of hand, you can use a Shinobi-like smart bomb attack where a cop car pulls up and delivers one of three scorched earth attacks that'll clear the screen of riff-raff. This game takes Double Dragon's grappling system to the next level by improving it's control and even allowing you to flip over your enemy to either change the slam you'll deliver or allow your partner to get some shots in. Another welcomed innovation is that pressing UP and hitting jump at the right time let's you land safely when thrown. Instead of limiting your character's abilities to make the game more challenging like most beat-em-ups, thsi game gives you lots of attacks and defensive options. One small problem is when you're trying to throw a thug in the opposite direction because you can actually let the enemy go by mistake due to mistiming the D-pad and button combo. Other than that, the rest of the controls are work very well.

The graphics almost look like an upgraded 'Revenge of Shinobi' style with platformer-sized sprites that still hold all the detail they need. They may look flat to some, but they style helps the sprites to stand out against the stages' graphics. The varied backgrounds take advantage of the Genesis palette as only Sega knew how and are quite colorful when they need to be and never look washed out or as if they ran out of colors. Some of the sound effects hit much harder than others, but let's be honest... they'd only get in the way of Yuzo Koshiro's soundtrack. Yuzo laced this game with some great BGMs that'll never leave your head. While many current composers just slap random drum and bass patterns into every level, Yuzo tailors the beats, tempos and instruments to fit the stage. Battles on the moonlit beach have a more airy sound while the elevator ride has a hi-powered funkified drive that fits the high-tension brawl. This is one of the rare cases where the music is just as fondly remembered as the graphics or the gameplay.
Axel lacks a flying jump kick in this game, so you better time all of your jumping attacks just right.

Despite being the first in the series, the engine was already at near perfection with only a few slippery functions here and there. The graphics may look a bit dated, but Yuzo Koshiro's soundtrack still holds up.

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