The Retro Goggles, They Do Nothing: Streets of Rage

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Hello folks, and welcome to a new series of mine entitles The Retro Goggles, They Do Nothing. In this feature I will be taking a look back at older games that we all loved when we were younger, and see if they’re still as good as we made them out to be. Enjoy.

Ah, Streets of Rage, one of the finer brawler series of the 16-bit era. It is generally conceded that Streets of Rage and Streets of Rage 2 were the crown jems of the series, and Streets of Rage 3 was a dissappointment. I’m not going to probe SoR3 today, and I wouldn’t dare dispute how good SoR2 is, as that game makes me harder than a priest in a schoolyard. No, I am here to tell you that Streets of Rage, the original, is not really that great of a brawler.

It all started out as I made a trip to my nearby FX, the only store in my town that carries retro games, to pick up a few titles. I walked out with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, Earthworm Jim, and Streets of Rage. The first two were no brainers for me, and I remembered I liked Streets of Rage when I played it as a kiddo, and I still loved Streets of Rage 2, so there shouldn’t be a problem. What happened when I popped the game into my Sega Genesis, however, was not what I expected.

Firstly, the game seems really slow. Not only do you walk slow as hell (which is why I always picked Skate in Streets of Rage 2), but the animations seem to drag by painfully slowly. This might not be a problem in other games, but in a beat em up where you are surrounded by enemies, you need to be able to fluidly move around and face your attackers. The music and graphics still held up decently, and even though they pale in comparison to Streets of Rage 2‘s, it was 1991, and they certainly aren’t bad.

The worst part is the fucking boss battles. You go through the levels, defeating the enemies with little to no problem, and then you get to the boss, and things go downhill fast. The bosses have at least double the reach that you do, which means that if you get anywhere near punching distance, they knock you on your ass without hesitation. Seriously, it’s like a T-rex fighting a fucking giraffe. Every time you start a stage, or die, you get a special attack, where a cop from offscreen shoots a rocket at your enemies and does damage and/or kills everything on stage. This attack takes off 1/3 to 1/4 of the boss’ health bar, and it’s also the only thing that will be depleting the boss’ health bar. Let me tell you how a normal boss battle goes in Streets of Rage. You get to the boss, you use the special attack. Is the boss dead? Probably not, so aggravatingly try to get a hit in, which won’t happen, and get killed. Once you respawn, use your special attack. Is the boss dead yet? If yes, then congratulations, you don’t have to die anymore this stage! If not, rinse, lather, and repeat. Don’t get me wrong, I know Streets of Rage 2 is hard too, but the sensible difficulty in that was from good design, whereas in the original it seems like the cause is piss poor design.

Does that mean Streets of Rage is a bad game? No, if only for the fact that it gave birth to Streets of Rage 2, one of the pinnacles of beat em ups. However, if you want to see why everyone loves the SoR series, I highly advise you to jump straight to Streets 2, and avoid the original, as not to get a bad taste in your mouth.

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