The Hardcore Retro God (Review #65 – Streets of Rage Trilogy)

[♫ – Street Fighter 2010, “Opening” – by Junko Tamiya / 民谷淳子] [♫ – Streets of Rage, “The Street of Rage (Title)” – by Yuzo Koshiro / 古代 祐三] Sega’s STREETS OF RAGE trilogy – 1, 2 and 3, circa 1991, ’92 and ’94 respectively known by many to be one of the most widely-acclaimed beat-’em-up franchises of all time And for those curious why, STOP WONDERING, ’cause here we go! (*SOR1 slipped and fitted in, powers on console*) (*snatches controller*) (*crushing blow SFX*) First off, forgive the 4-to-5-month absence due to that INFAMOUS COVID-19 global pandemic, (CORRECTION: 7-Month) and other personal affairs best not mentioned at this juncture That being said, I’m dedicating this long-awaited review to the following: Brookline Interactive Group / Somerville Media Center; Boston Open Screen (Atwood, Healy, Van Voorhis, etc.); Mike Lindquist (Wayland, MA); The Lederman Family – Henny, Mel, Gloria & [the late] Marty (R.I.P., 1934-2020); Michele Won (Newton Highlands, MA) and her pet Chewie; Cambridge Community TV / Belmont Media Center / Arlington Community Media Inc.; Hawke Commercial Photography & Filmmaking / Rengo Studios / Catalyst Comedy; James Rolfe & Mike Matei (Cinemassacre) / Bit Bar Salem – and soon Malden / ChavezzSlovakia / TheMtVernonKid; BlastphamousHD / GirlWithYellowSpoon (LA) / Plumdrop11 (Tewksbury, MA); BOSTON8BIT / Triheart (Bifflecup, Diamond Machine & Astro Logic) / geekbeatradio; Pete “robotsexmusic” Hegarty / Aaron “dya” Hickman & 8-Bit Eric Perez (San Antonio, TX) Amber Hughes (c/o Voxnee – IN) / Michelle Lee “OldSchoolGamerMama” Bales (Gatlinburg, TN); X-Bit Gaming; Boston District 8 City Councilor Kenzie Bok, and finally Jess Alaimo (Cookie Time Bakery – Arlington, MA) / Lauren Pespisa (Renters Radio) Anyways, with those out of our system, and taking a HUGE NOSEDIVE into the main premise – A shadowy enterprise referred to as “The Syndicate”, run under the “iron-fisted” leadership of the mysterious Mr. X, has not only overtaken a nameless, once-jovial urban cityscape – but has managed to buy out its police force thereby making all the authorities corrupt under their rule, as well as threatening the balance of society in the fucking process Just when all seemed lost, however, a trio of ex-cops have arisen from said societal wreckage – Adam Hunter, Axel Stone & Blaze Fielding – all with the intent of turning the tables on the endless hordes of Syndicate gangs and restoring their currently-plagued city to its former glory without any rest in sight! In terms of gameplay – who’d expect anything less than a boredom-free, no-holds-barred streetwise beat-em-up, akin to the ill-fated Technos Japan’s Double Dragon franchise, Renegade and ESPECIALLY Capcom’s Final Fight, and 2 other Sega heavy-hitters, Golden Axe & Alien Storm? – within which you start off your long, hard metropolitan massacre as either 1 OR 2 of the 3 vigilantes Stats-wise, while Adam’s slow in speed and proficient in attack with Blaze traveling much faster and being slightly less proficient in attack, Axel’s kind of an “in-betweeny” regarding these key stats despite his jump-attack capabilities turning out to be for DICK-ALL as opposed to the others Control-wise, the D-pad lets either one of the 3 migrate around to their hearts’ content, and by default A, B & C – which you can swap around in the Options screen beforehand HERE and in 3, but NOT IN 2 lets them summon a police car with 2 other faithful backup ex-cops busting out either a bazooka or rocket-launcher, thereby making every surrounding adversary their “eternal bitches” in no time flat – but ONLY IN THIS GAME; perform normal attacks, as well as nab any nearby items or weapons; and jump – respectively Other techniques include, but aren’t limited to, character-specific attacks performed via B+C simultaneously – specifically, Adam with his ‘super-jump-kick’; Axel with his backhand punch; and Blaze with her standing roundhouse combos resulting in other epic-ass techniques including Elbow Smashes, Head Slams, Backflips, Overhead & Shoulder Slams, Backdrops & Vaults, and most importantly – consider this a ‘heads-up’ whenever you’re being slammed by an enemy, use Up+C simultaneously [upon landing] to recover yourself,

thereby alleviating any resulting fall damage Regarding the types of weapons you can use – found in random phone booths, wastebaskets, you name it – or wielded by numerous adversaries there’s bottles, knives, baseball bats, lead pipes and pepper-shakers to distract said adversaries thereby earning yourself the upper hand Take note that they’ll disappear upon taking damage way too many times while wielding any of ‘em! You can even recover your life energy with apples & chicken*, add more points with gold bars & cash bags (See correction above) and at rare instances, snatch extra lives – represented by miniaturized [“chibi-fied”] versions of the entire trio, and cop cars for an extra use of the “backup-squad-summoning” tactic, of which you’re only allowed 1 per stage There’s 8 stages in total, all of which you must brave in order to fulfill your vigilante voyages to NOT ONLY take the law into your own hands, but to suppress the sustaining shit-storm of the Syndicate’s oppressive rule, filled to the brim with one relentless gang of hoodlums after another – standard punks by the name of Garcia; slide-kicking, slamming, mohawk-sporting punks by the name of “Yellow Signal”; whip-toting dominatrixes by the name of Nora; stealthy kung-fu practitioners by the name of Haku-Oh – by whom Mr. X’s right-hand man Shiva is inspired, by the way; and especially circus-style juggling punks with hatchets & torches by the name of Jack – all of whom you’ll be confronting VERY MOTHERFUCKING OFTEN, and notice how the timer resets every time you eliminate every wave per scenery range – the streets, inner city alleys, beachfront, the under-construction highway, aboard a cruise ship, the Syndicate HQ’s industrial factory, its freight elevator above the cityscape, and finally its top-floor inner-sanctum. Oh, and about the bosses guarding those very areas let’s just say they’ll DRIVE YOUR ASS UP THE GODDAMN WALL FASTER THAN THOSE BACKUP SQUAD CARS EVERY TIME YOU SUMMON THEM, AND SONIC HIMSELF COMBINED if your senses aren’t in top form granted, both titles were out the same year – I digress the Italian boomerang-wielding punk Antonio; the gruff, Wolverine-lookalike Souther [and his later clone Zamza]; the merciless, high-energy wrestler Abadede – aka whom I like to call, the “Discount Ultimate Warrior”; Bongo, the corpulent, shit-for-brains, fire-breathing lard-ass douche who looks like he’s ripped straight out of Data East’s Karnov (more like the BASTARD CHILD of Karnov / Bulk from Power Rangers); the acrobatic and dexterous, green-suited “Blaze decoys” – Mona & Lisa (aka Yasha & Onihime) and finally THE DEVIOUS, MACHINEGUN TOTING MR. X HIMSELF! Seriously, if most of you think I’m exaggerating or blowing smoke up anyone’s asses when I accentuate how imperative it is to be fully aware of your enemies’ habits and make every effort to bypass any unnecessary damage or hazards, like in EVERY OTHER FRICKIN’ BEAT-’EM-UP OUT THERE – CONSIDER YOURSELVES GRAVELY MISTAKEN Hell, at least the controls are receptive and solid, as many might expect – in spite of the slight delay of certain techniques depending on which character role you’re assuming, over which I’m in no mood to beat a dead goddamn horse – ditto for the rather redundant-yet-essential gameplay framework & mechanics, and that’s no fucking shit either (*Nora & Y. Signal shriek in defeat*) In regards to Streets of Rage’s challenge depending on NOT ONLY the difficulty mode you set beforehand or, more to the point, the characters you experiment with hence the “play-styles” many rely on, which WON’T be repeated at this juncture – but mainly how you acclimatize yourself with every necessary key component this beat-’em-up has to offer you’ll either have a somewhat invigorating time or a shitty, harrowing one from which there’s no chance of breaking away Therefore, I’d make every effort to avoid the latter For starters, getting the basic gist of performing the necessary combos on your attackers and knowing when to recover from an enemy throw is mere fucking “child’s play” compared to everything else not to mention experimenting with the different weapons that deal way more damage than the ex-cops themselves despite the slight delay that occurs when executing an attack – in which case, plan them accordingly And whenever there’s more than one weapon in range, you’re better off sticking with one for a while before experimenting with the other. Whatever you do – NEVER fumble around with multiple weapons, especially when you’re surrounded by incoming punks, I might add because the chances are higher than the Fox Plaza building in Century City, LA that you’ll get your ass handed back to you in a goddamn griddle; likewise if you inadvertently fall into any of the highway pits or off the fucking freight elevator! Also, when mobilizing the “backup squad car” for the most intense situations – whether it’s the aforementioned enemy-crowding, or during the end-boss confrontations – keep that usage to a reasonable minimum unless you’ve snatched yourself another ‘mini-squad-car’ And since this very benefit is only available in the FIRST 7 STAGES, DON’T EXPECT THE SAME LUCK IN THE SYNDICATE HQ AS YOU’LL HAVE TO RELY ON YOUR OWN WITS AND BRAWN WHEN YOU ENGAGE IN REPEAT ENCOUNTERS WITH THE SAME GANG OF BOSSES FROM EARLIER BEFORE REACHING MR. X!! Speaking of whom, upon reaching that motherfucking big-wig son-of-a-bitch-bastard – you’re asked whether or not you want to join him For those that recall what I stated in my Gargoyle’s Quest review alongside Ghosts n’ Goblins / Ghouls ‘n Ghosts from 4 years ago, do yourself an enormous favor and pick “NO” before the epic showdown, ’cause picking YES will result in your ass getting booted back to the goddamn industrial factory 2 stages ago If you’re playing in 2-Player mode and end up with different answers, you’ll end up having no choice but to FIGHT EACH OTHER UNTIL EITHER ONE OF YOU COMES OUT ON TOP and go through the same routine as if you reached this point alone Considering my familiarity with the variety of ensuing outcomes, however – I’m in no position to spoil them, in which case I strongly suggest playing for yourself

Starting out with 3 lives – more of which can be acquired by, again, racking up rare 1Ups and scoring extra points and 3 continues, don’t get too discouraged should any situation turn out to be one repugnant ‘cluster-fuck’ after another – especially when, say, a random punk appears out of nowhere as a distraction during the boss confrontations Did I forget to mention how much one wishes the contrasting areas and enemy lineup would’ve stood out more taking the 16-bit console’s limitations into account? On the graphical forefront, the presentation’s a mix of “pluses & minuses” especially for a 16-bit beat-’em-up hailing from the same year as the first Sonic, Jewel Master, Golden Axe 2, the aforementioned Alien Storm, Phantasy Star 3, THE INFAMOUS Heavy Nova & Back to the Future 3, Road Rash and…WE ALL KNOW WHERE THE CHRIST THIS IS GOING, running on a 4 mega-bit cartridge, no less! While every urban background is diverse and immaculate, rife with multiple layers – if in some cases, just one & set pieces, and especially the liveliest and near-realistic environmental details one could feast their eyes on for “God-knows-how-long”, they tend to OVERSTAY THE EVER-LOVING FUCK out of their own precious yet limited welcome – that is, until you reach every end boss The participating casts of characters – protagonists and antagonists alike – all have their defining moments The in-game avatars of the former, while less detailed & genuine in stark contrast to their appearances in the opening & ending sequences – not to mention being slightly more dwarfing in comparison to Cody, Haggar & Guy from Final Fight are at the very least true to life and alluring in how they physically express themselves on the playing fields And the less I say about the latter – aka the “also-diverse-albeit-redundant opposing cadres of hostile parties”, let alone the choppy-ass 30-FPS* in-game background scrolling – except for the aforementioned opening title sequence… (*frame-per-second) and the text-based stage intros, the better…! But at least they’re slightly taller and more aggressive than the main trio of vigilantes – not counting the “Blaze Clones”, of course! In terms of music & sound, composed immaculately by the acclaimed Yuzo Koshiro (古代 祐三), with the character voice samples also performed by him regardless of gender – and for more information on him, refer back to my Revenge of Shinobi, Season 2 Finale Review (#20) from ½ a decade ago… (*Musashi cries out*) the FM-synthesized, techno-style, dancehall-and-club-inspired tunes never disappoint in the least, even after nearly 30 years highlighting the game’s most pivotal moments, of course! I wish I could say the same about the sound effects, about which I’m better off looking the other way despite how convincing some of them try to be, considering they were recycled straight from the earlier-referenced Revenge of Shinobi but definitely not the appropriately-placed voice samples, as they add a sense of drama – and hilarity at times – to each satisfying-as-hell triumphant defeat of every enemy or during the vigorous technique executions & humiliating demises of your ex-cop Oh, and before I go on any further, take note of the Top 10 songs displayed HERE (list is to the right): (*Blaze yells*) (*Blaze yells*) (*Garcia yells in defeat*) Replayability-wise, in spite of lacking the same flair as its later sequels not to mention sporting the same cliches as Final Fight, Double Dragon, Rival Turf and the like in terms of gameplay variety and even the myriad of downsides that keep this game from reaching classic status – about which won’t be echoed at this juncture, there’s no reasonable-as-fuck doubt that you’ll be endlessly kicking and screaming for more from the inescapable STREETS OF RAGE. Ergo, there should be no goddamn excuse whatsoever to turn down this OR its next 2 sequels…AT ALL! (*Abadede and Garcia yell in defeat*) (*Axel yells*) Exhibit B: Streets of Rage 2 (*SOR2 slipped and fitted in, Genesis powered on*) [♫ – Streets of Rage 2, “Super Mix (Intro / Area 8)” – by Yuzo Koshiro & Motohiro Kawashima / 古代 祐三; 川島 基宏] “Mdefalla”, you have the floor [Matt Lister / ‘mdefalla’] Continuing directly from where its precursor left off, just when the 3 ex-cop-turned-vigilantes believed that their sworn rival was once and for all defeated and the city was back to its normal state…OH, HOW GRAVELY MISTAKEN THEY’D BE! Not only has the “unforeseen resurrection” of MR. X taken shape & place, he’s even managed to shanghai the fuck out of Adam in an attempt to lure the remaining Axel & Blaze into yet another in the series of “urban shit-storms” but NOT without the cooperation of 2 new combatants, namely Max Thunder [Hatchett]; an ex-wrestler companion of Axel’s; and the iconic Eddie / Sammy Hunter, alias “Skate,” Adam’s younger sibling – who’ve enlisted themselves to join them in yet again PUTTING MR. X’s SADOMASOCHISTIC ASS THE CHRIST OUT OF COMMISSION Talk about history repeating itself [H.C.R.G.] In-fucking-deed! Now, if you care to voice your thoughts on the always-stellar gameplay?

[Matt Lister / mdefalla] It’s all ditto just like the previous offering – but with an UNPRECEDENTED SHITLOAD OF MUCH NEEDED IMPROVEMENTS For starters, in terms of character stats, Axel & Blaze are back with the former being built up more for attack power than agility and the latter being well-balanced in both areas; whereas the newly-introduced Max Thunder & Skate Hunter are considered to be on the slow side despite packing way more damage-inflicting techniques and throws than the others, and travel INCREDIBLY quick from one end of the stage area to the other, despite lacking the crucial damage output in comparison to the rest – respectively The main 4 – of whom, as ever, you can play as either 1 or 2 also sport a plethora of diverse move-sets & special techniques – except minus the “police-squad-car-summoning” tactic this time around including but not limited to the same Elbow Smashes, Head Slams, Aerial Strikes, Backflips, Overhead / Shoulder Slams, Backdrops, Vaults, and damage-alleviating Post-Throw Landing Maneuver [H.C.R.G.] For those that recall my Mazin Saga review, the basic controls of A, B & C – as I mentioned before, for pulling off health-deducting special techniques, normal attacks and jumping individually – CAN’T BE SWAPPED AROUND IN THE OPTIONS SCREEN BEFOREHAND UNLIKE IN 1 & the soon-to-be-discussed 3 but I digress! [Matt Lister / mdefalla] There’s also “blitz techniques” at their disposal pulled off by tapping Left or Right twice and B thereafter – Max’s Ultra Slide; Axel’s titular “Bare Knuckle” hence this franchise’s alternate Japanese namesake, aka the “Grand Upper” [Axel] “Bare Knuckle” (“Grand Upper”)! [Matt Lister / mdefalla] Blaze’s Vertical Smash [Blaze] “Hisho-ko-zan” (indistinct, I know) and even Skate’s Dynamite Headbutt – as well as their own aforestated, health-deducting “Special Maneuvers” via A (and view an extra hint above) The same array of weapons are back – except the ninja swords & kunai blades are added to the mix, ditto for the grenades the bikers throw around in Area 2… (minus the beer bottles) [H.C.R.G.] which, personally, up until now – I rarely ever use since THEY STILL GO OFF REGARDLESS OF ONE’S INSTINCTS, in which case you’re best off avoiding them like that still-raging Coronavirus outbreak – all of which, as ever, will disappear if you get hit too often while wielding them [Matt Lister / mdefalla] …Likewise for the health-recovery sustenance and rare “1Up” symbols – except they’re NOT chibified representations of the main characters, FUCK NO As always, there are 8 stages in the entire campaign – but with a more augmented sense of diversity within them, considering how much effort the designers integrated towards these areas and how monotonous they turn out to be, if maybe a “skosh” depending on the setting, of course – NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT THERE’S 3 AREAS INCLUDED – starting with the usual, neon-filled inner-city streets, followed by a near-decrepit bar and the rainy back-alleys; a highway infested with onslaught after onslaught of armored biker punks – all named after natural wind disasters, complete with a confrontation within the back of a truck occurring in-between; an amusement park, followed by not only its nearby indoor arcade but also both pirate-themed & sci-fi-themed – more like Giger-inspired – attractions; a baseball stadium complete with a pitcher’s mound doubling as a “downwards-only” high-speed elevator to an underground arena; within the lower, middle and upper decks of a cruise ship; a nearby beach & jungle path leading up to Mr. X’s new Syndicate HQ island penthouse; the usual factory area, followed by a trek aboard a massive conveyor belt – and lastly the inner sanctum of the Syndicate building itself made up of its main lobby, ending with a long-ass elevator ride [H.C.R.G.] The main, diverse cast of punks & perpetrators are back – not just the usual Garcia (renamed “Galsia”) & Signal punks, but also the debut of the bald, shirtless punks by the name of Donovan – unarmed and with either knives or pipes, complete with those earlier-recounted armored bikers; buffed-up Yakuza karate masters; stealthy ninjas; and even Muay Thai kickboxers named after birds & lizards Joe Higashi, move over! [Joe Higashi] Hurricane Upper! (FATAL FURY owned by SNK Playmore) [H.C.R.G.] …likewise for the area-specific bosses – the Knife Maniacs – namely Jack, Beano & Soya; those slutty-ass dominatrixes – Nora, Electra, Lightning Lisa, Sugar-Q, and others (*Electra yells in defeat*) dark wifebeater-clad kenpo masters – Barbon, Wayne & Vulture, with the former disguised as a fuckin’ bartender, rocket-propelled freaks – Jet, Comet, Spitfire, Mosquite, Blitz, Tomcat, Bomber and many others Vehelits, a gargantuan-as-balls extraterrestrial behemoth that strikes only with his cranium the return of ZAMZA – this time as a merciless clawed samurai-like alien warrior, and his clones, namely Nail & Souther as well as those obese, lard-ass Fire-Breathers – Big Ben, Big-Go, Anry, Balloon, Bongo, you name it and that “Discount Ultimate Warrior” wannabe heavyweight fuck-bag, ABADEDE (…see the above correction to what I mistakenly spoke about), oversized cue-ball heavyweight boxers – R. Bear & Bear Jr., hopping robotic beings by the name of Particle & Molecule – and take note, you’ll be confronting palette-swapped versions of one or more of the same

oh, and who could ever forget about the final showdown with MR. X, except this time joined by his right-hand bodyguard, Shiva – aka whom I like to call, “Liu Kang’s long lost cousin on LSD & acid?!” More than ever, I SHIT YOU NOT – with this diverse and massive-as-hell plethora of cold-hearted, brainless piss-ant jerkoffs it’s no surprise that their impulses have dramatically changed, as a certain number of the latter-indicated group CAN and WILL react to your physical offenses – for instance, blocking, dodging, countering, you name it in which case, and forgive the paraphrasing in advance…I’d do whatever the fuck’s necessary to grasp the best understanding of how their patterns work if I were you! Also, I wouldn’t get too goddamn close to certain bosses, as they’ll FUCK UP YOUR WORLD WORSE THAN MARSHALL FROM HANGOVER 3, WALTER SOBCHAK FROM THE BIG LEBOWSKI, BOTH MARSELLUS WALLACE & BUTCH FROM PULP FICTION, BARTLEBY & LOKI FROM DOGMA, and even LOSADO FROM THE INFAMOUS NO MERCY COMBINED – and trust us, we’ll get back to some of them (the bosses) in no time flat! More to add, Lister? [Matt Lister / mdefalla] As opposed to the previous offering, and as many might expect – the controls still feel the same way, except minus any pointless-ass split-second delays before pulling off any crucial techniques – of which there are MANY, hence one of those “much-needed improvements” I’m hinting at, in conjunction with the always-constant gameplay framework, in conjunction with the always-constant gameplay framework, and the earlier-hinted wide array of techniques which can take an immense deal of experimenting on one’s part but aren’t much of a bastard to get hooked on, and then some! [H.C.R.G.] You and me both, man Your thoughts on this ever-so-celebrated-sequel’s challenge? [Matt Lister / mdefalla] While it may appear to be on approximately the same plateau as in the first S.O.R., this often-celebrated “Crown Jewel” of a follow-up has been jacked up like a MOTHERFUCKER, difficulty-wise despite being well-balanced By that, I’m merely referring to the fact that the first 2-to-3 areas turning out to be a “walk in the park” due to having the opportunity to gain a few extra lives in advance on which to fall back, [H.C.R.G.] and every area thereafter [Both, in unison] being the exact opposite in other words, AN IMMEASURABLE GODDAMN MIND-RAPE-A-THON FROM WHICH THERE’S NO CHANCE OF SNAPPING BACK – in that they’ll be wasted faster than lifetime supplies of Rolling Rock, Sapporo, Kirin Ichiban & Jägermeister ALL ROLLED INTO ONE mostly due to not only the never-ending onslaughts of goons & rivals that’ll knock your ass 1,000,000,000 ways until Judgment Day, but also the time-consuming, nerve-wracking confrontations [H.C.R.G.] with those previously-noted mini and end bosses whose names we’re in no position whatsoever to recap, [Matt Lister / mdefalla] with some select, notable exceptions [H.C.R.G.] For starters, I’m more than able to make Jack, Electra & Barbon in Area 1 – and, if possible, some of their clones in later areas, except maybe the latter and Vehelits near the end of Area 3 my FOREVER BITCHES worry-free but everyone else CAN GO FUCK A REFRIGERATOR SIDEWAYS WHILE DROWNING IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA, TRAPPED IN AN IRON MAIDEN SINGING AMY WINEHOUSE SONGS IN KLINGON…! I’m looking at YOU, Jet, Zamza, Abadede, Wayne & Vulture, and especially those GODDAMN oversized heavyweight boxers – R. Bear & Bear Jr.!!! I mean, (switching to falsetto) SERIOUSLY, how fucked up is it that each of these bosses tend to pull a fast one every now and then regardless of your strategic approaches, thus gaining the upper fuckin’ hand?! Either way, they’re not as unfair as many perceive them to be, apart from an obvious lack of environmental hazards compared to 1 & 3 – RHYME NOT INTENDED…hence why there’s a wide-ass margin for improvement as long as you’re mindful of their own attack patterns, amongst many of the other pointers I’ve indicated earlier which I’m also in no position to echo even at this point! The usual lives and continues stipulation applies here (hence the correction hint above, contrary to what I said) though, you’re free to change your initial life stock in the options area beforehand, not to mention swap characters between every continuation – and did I forget to mention you can nab more lives by scoring more points & finding the always-rare 1Up icons?! Graphically, HOLY FUCKING CHRIST, words can’t express how blown away I am AND SHIT NO, I’M NOT EXAGGERATING – about the immense pillar of effort-driven improvement the designers went out of their way to integrate within every key aspect of this game’s presentation! The main quartet’s appearances have been given an insanely massive face-lift like never before especially the newly-introduced Max & Skate, no less – likewise for the opposing hostile parties despite the obvious palette swaps, except for Mr. X and Shiva – animation-wise & detail-wise, that is And I don’t even need to repeat myself let alone yammer on any further regarding the ongoing stretches of backgrounds for each stage area, notwithstanding the same deal of improvements they’ve received in the process, most notably Areas 2 & 3 with the ripple effect in the water’s reflection near the end before facing Jet – akin to VICE Project Doom – and the almost “Mode-7-esque” rotation effect during the pirate-themed attraction while confronting the ninjas, respectively…amongst many! Your thoughts on the music & sound, “mdefalla”? [Matt Lister / mdefalla] With Koshiro at the helm once again, THIS TIME with Motohiro Kawashima (川島 基宏) – of Shinobi 2 & Batman Returns on Game Gear fame joining him the usual hype-ass, FM-synthesized & dancehall/club-inspired collection of themes LEAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO BE DESIRED WHATSOEVER and fit every key scene and/or interim to a “T”, as many might expect THEREBY PISSING NON-STOP ALL OVER THE PREVIOUS GAME’S SOUNDTRACK BY THE SIZE OF A BELUGA WHALE’S ANUS

In addition, the SFX (sound effects, obviously…) have also been slightly improved – in terms of when the opposing human characters take damage, turning out to be more organic than ever and the voice-over soundbytes possessing about the same effect – with the latter featuring special technique names called out when pulling them off, apart from the obvious death yells & groans. And I’d listen to THESE very carefully (*Skate yells*) [Axel] “Bare Knuckle” (“Grand Upper”)! (*Garcia yells in defeat*) (*Axel yells*) (*Max yells*) [Shiva] “Final Crash!” [Blaze] “Kiko-sho!” (*Beano laughs his ass off*) [Skate] “Corkscrew Kick!” “Corkscrew Kick!” [Skate] “Corkscrew Kick!” [Genyosai the Ninja] “Ninpo-Kage-Bunshin…” (*Skate yells thrice*) And, as usual – before we continue on, take note of our Top 5 songs displayed here with some Honorable Mentions included deep below. (The list is to the left) And lastly, the replay value? [Lister / mdefalla] Ranking a notch higher than its precursor on account of the plethora of much-deserved tweaks about which, who could’ve guessed?! – I can’t stress enough in conveying my innermost urgency THUS REMINDING EVERYONE TO REFER BACK [H.C.R.G.] And neither can Yours Truly, for fuck’s sake including a more organized character skill-set, yet another unforgettably hype-as-balls and slammin’ soundtrack, not to mention the various challenges you’re bound to face dependent on the difficulty mode – minus the “trolling” aspect of the first offering, it’s no secret that SOR2 (Streets of Rage 2) is a must-play… no, SCRATCH THAT… must-own & “must-ace” in anyone’s book! Therefore, you’d be off your motherfucking rocker to leave this much-appreciated follow-up out in the cold!! [H.C.R.G.] ‘Couldn’t have said it any better myself! (*Garcia and Mr. X yell in defeat*) (*Mr. X’s body hits the ground twice*) But we’re NOT done yet, oh FUCK NO! Next up – Streets of Rage 1 & 2 for the Game Gear, both direct ports of their original Genesis counterparts developed for Sega by BIOX (Japan System House – of Mega Man II on Game Boy fame), and both released ’92 and ’93 individually (*sliding in both carts simultaneously and powering on handheld*) While their respective premises are identical to their Genesis counterparts, about which we STRONGLY SUGGEST referring back whenever AND however appropriate – the gameplay aspects are on about the same wavelength, if maybe a skosh LOWER If you will, Matt Michael? [Matt M. Stone] They both function about the same way as in their Genesis counterparts, except Adam & Max have been nixed out of their individual rosters…’cause limitations, and the stage-by-stage layout has been reduced to virtually half of the originals, if slightly more than that, with at least 1 new area and boss replacement introduced in 2, on which’ll be further deliberated Control-wise, 1 and 2 are for attacking & jumping individually in conjunction with the usual D-pad for basic movement; however, the “police-squad-car-summoning” tactic is NIXED COMPLETELY from this port of SOR1 – ditto for the horizontal momentum mid-jump and the mid-grapple knee attacks The Blitz techniques & specials are back executed, as always, by tapping Left or Right twice before 1, or hitting 1+2 simultaneously with or without the D-pad’s cooperation Since both offerings are limited to 5 stages (and 6 in SOR2), identical to those from their 16-bit counterparts – the following are featured: the usual City Streets, ending with boomerang expert Antonio; the Under-Construction Highway – originally Stage 4 in the Genesis Version, ending with that fat, fire-breathing fuckwad Bongo;

the Cruise Ship, originally Stage 5 in the Genesis Version – ending with the “Green Blaze Clones” Mona & Lisa, (AGAIN) aka Yasha & Onihime; the Industrial Factory area of the Syndicate HQ, originally Stage 6 in the Genesis Version – this time ending with the return of the very same Bongo (and one other repeat confrontation, hence the hint shown above); and finally the HQ’s inner sanctum, complete with all the usual “boss rematches” with the former 3 before Mr. X [H.C.R.G.] …Whereas the 2nd Streets of Rage features not only the same flashy urban exteriors & bar interior scene ending with knife-throwing punk Jack, the sultry-yet-stealthy dominatrix Electra & black-wifebeater-clad kenpo buff Barbon; but also the amusement park featuring both the return of Jet in the biker-infested caves, followed by the same alien-themed attraction ending with Zamza – minus Vehelits, and a Predator-inspired “extraterrestrial assassin” (plus more familiar scenes & enemies, hence the hints above) underneath the bunker and atop the deck of the same cruise ship ending with Wayne & heavy-set boxer R. Bear, respectively; and lastly the industrial factory & elevator shaft, followed by the lobby/building elevator areas of the Syndicate HQ, featuring not only the debut of those goddamn exploding droids – shit, SONIC, anyone…?! But also the returning hopping battle droid duo Particle & Molecule; repeat confrontations with every previous boss before this particular point which WON’T BE FUCKING ECHOED leading up to Shiva & Mr. X, meshed along with the usual waves of goons on which to open up one can of “whoop-ass” after another! [Matt M. Stone] Compared to their original 16-bit relatives, however not only is the A.I. annoying as all “get-out”, the controls are extremely stiff and crippled like Tiny Tim resulting in the half-assed on-screen registration of every command – in which case you’re better off tapping accordingly, in the case of SOR1 – but they are a SKOSH more responsive in 2, especially when it comes to pulling off any special while standing or in conjunction with Left or Right, dependent on which character you’re experimenting with Overall, the gameplay framework is on approximately the same wavelength as their Genesis counterparts – if slightly lower [H.C.R.G.] Who the hell would expect anything less, right? Anyways, care to voice your thoughts on the challenge? [Matt M. Stone] If you need to, feel free to refer back to what’s been already deliberated on regarding the first 2 Genesis offerings on which these ports are based, since – YET AGAIN I’m in no position to echo every detail (Contrary to that, refer to the correction hint above) Remember when we were talking about SOR1, and I mentioned those stiff-ass control & limited ability issues? These, along with how you approach every adversary – whether it’s the common street goons, dominatrixes, area bosses, what-have-you – are amongst the common pet peeves that add to the difficulty THANK GOD they were fixed in the sequel, however, with the slightly augmented scrolling speed in each area [Both, in unison] TALK ABOUT NIGHT & DAY! [H.C.R.G.] Even so, they’re no excuse not to keep a weather eye on what’s ahead and who’s out to make you their “eternal bitch worthy of Jon Snow’s charms” As always, starting off with 3 and any amount up to 5 lives – in both entries respectively – and at least 3 continues, I wouldn’t get too crestfallen should you happen to get unnecessarily roughed up worse than a left-behind rag doll taking into consideration the balanced, if extremely mind-raping, choice of difficulty levels Graphics-wise, all the participating assets – specifically all the cutscenes, stage areas, opposing characters, “whatever-the-Christ-have-us” – are well-represented here given the handheld’s limited-ass capabilities complete with its usual bevy of detail, notwithstanding the horrendous slowdown that occurs whenever there’s more than 2 or 3 characters on the screen at a time of course, ditto for – WHO COULD’VE MOTHERFUCKING GUESSED…the music & sound! Back me the fuck up, “M²”! [Matt M. Stone] Who else but Koshiro knew how to implement his iconic “funk factor” into all his melodic compositions, as they’re also reincarnated directly from the original 16-bit parents if, at times, inaccurately? And don’t even get us started about the mediocre-yet-prudent sound effects, either – minus any voice samples [H.C.R.G.] Yeah, that’s what the fuck she said! Replay-value-wise, despite how limited the control scheme is – and at times crippled; as well as the extreme trim-downs of extra content from their original console counterparts, and the obvious lack of testing and polishing prior to release – amongst a few of the downsides laid down so far the Game Gear ports of Streets of Rage 1 & 2 are totally worth a thrill or two – NO PUN INTENDED, in terms of kicking serious ass on the go, WHICH I SUGGEST NOT LEAVING OUT IN THE BLISTERING-ASS COLD IF I WERE YOU And if you’re ballsy enough, there’s even a simultaneous 2-player mode that you can access if you’ve got duplicate copies of both offerings, another Game Gear on hand and a link cable! Final Exhibit: Streets of Rage 3 (*SOR3 slipped and fitted in, Genesis powered on*)

(*title letters scraped on – Layer 2*) (*title glistens*) Once again, continuing from where the previous installment left off – according to a recently-written-and-delivered letter from Blaze, which, of course, Axel receives and reads off-screen – not to mention news from one of the soon-to-be-featured characters, Dr. Gilbert Zan MR. X has resurfaced once more, with the intent of assigning identical robotic decoys of the police’s top-ranking officials in their place via his newly-founded front company RoboCy Corporation and its faithful designer Dr. Dahm, under yet another in the series of his iron-clad reigns… Like, SERIOUSLY, does that douchey-ass bastard even know when the hell to quit or what?! And to make matters EVEN MORE FUCKED UP – thanks to the recent disappearance of the Police Chief – specifically, Blaze, Axel & Adam’s old superior massive occurrences involving bomb explosions have been ongoing thereby leaving the city preoccupied Now, since Adam’s out of the picture for the SECOND TIME IN A ROW despite having been recently rescued – Skate returns to the scene, not only joining the aforementioned Dr. Zan – a former researcher from the VERY SAME RoboCy, I might add but also the returning Fielding and – WHO COULD’VE GUESSED…Axel himself, in ceasing MR. X’s horseshit-as-fuck citywide terrorist activities!!! (*Axel yells, strikes at the screen*) Regarding Bare Knuckle 3 – its Japanese equivalent’s premise, however “Wood Oak City” – aka the very same ‘nameless city’ within which this franchise has been taking place, I might add has been wrecked to shit by a nuke made up of a radioactive element by the name of “Rakushin” – or Laccine, according to other sources (Element #122) of which the very same, “recently-resurfaced-for-the-3rd-time-in-a-row” MR. X stole an insanely large quantity on top of shanghaiing a high-ranking superior, General Petrov – who, as it turns out IS STRONGLY OPPOSED TO THE USE OF THIS PARTICULAR RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL, and using the also-returning Shiva as his impostor to start an all-out war whilst smuggling the “Rakushin” – again, aka Laccine – with which the Syndicate has made off Who else but our aforementioned heroic quartet is capable and willing to stand up and cease all this catastrophic-as-fuck chaos, right?! (*Rakushin reacts heavily, thereby producing its explosion*) Superseding the same exciting, extreme & endless beat-’em-up brawlfests from its 2 foregoers, everyone’s back with the same stats & techniques – except Max, as he’s replaced by the earlier-recounted, newly-introduced Dr. Zan in terms of the whole “slow-as-molasses-yet-fights-like-a-tank” angle – with his jet boots, hydraulic arms and “Colossus-style force field”, but with…ISN’T IT MOTHERFUCKING OBVIOUS?! yet another slew of improvements this time around! First off, as expected, everyone can run by tapping Left or Right twice – NOT JUST SKATE, of course, as he’s deemed to be a tad less reliable than before thereby providing the game with a much faster pace, progression-wise; not to mention tumble within or outside the stage’s background planes by tapping Up or Down twice as a “last-second-dodging” maneuver to avoid any unnecessary damage; whenever the characters wield any of the returning weapons – your standard knives, swords, etc. – not only do they sport new maneuvers depending on whom you’re playing as their gauge of usage is displayed, thus disappearing off screen when expired…CLASH AT DEMONHEAD, much?! except when using Zan, whose damage output leaves “God-knows-how-much” to be desired notwithstanding the surprisingly ample range his roster of techniques possess, for the record – in which case he’ll transform them into energy orbs upon nabbing said weapons, but will result in the same “pointless-as-fuck-usage-gauge” effect; a meter for pulling off a character’s special is included to the right of the health bar which recovers every once in a while – but you still end up wasting any health, if very little compared to the previous outing; and the all-new Blitz Level-Up system involves reaching a specific scoring interim WITHOUT DYING ONCE, at which juncture a star is added per interim – to be precise, every 40,000 points thereby advancing the dash range and attack power of your desired character and allowing you to pull off his or her maneuver depending on how many stars you’ve gained And don’t think I’m not aware of the fact that this game supports the 6-button controller in terms of the X, Y & Z buttons granting you the abilities of executing said Blitz techniques in tandem with the random D-pad inputs – once again, depending on your chosen character; their combo finishers and back attacks, individually EITHER! Featured changes aside, including yet another stage itinerary setup: case in point, a warehouse followed by the pier & back alley areas; the customary, neon-illuminated city streets followed by a techno club / bar; a construction site rife with the returning bottomless pits, not to mention an auto-scrolling bulldozer trap with breakable concrete barriers and the freight elevator leading to the roof; an underground railway with cargo trains aplenty; eventually leading up to the 3 inner sanctum areas of Mr. X’s new stronghold (see correction above) – everything’s almost ditto, except for one other downside over which I’ve seen & heard many rage time and time again – NO PUN INTENDED…ITS INFAMOUS, HAIR-RAISING DIFFICULTY LEVEL

Compared to those of not only this game’s 2 previous relative offerings, but also its original Japanese counterpart Bare Knuckle 3 – which are at the very least manageable, for the record the U.S. & European releases have been UNEXPECTEDLY YANKED UP FAR BEYOND ITS ABSOLUTE GODDAMN LIMITS, due to a myriad of hurdles which’ll be further touched on eventually And to top even that off, the ending outcomes are dependent on which preset difficulty mode you’re experimenting with…shit, if at all (with resounding echo) KONAMI SYNDROME, MUCH?! That aside, the controls are still responsive and bug-free as ever, notwithstanding how often you’ll end up being easily demolished like a son-of-a-bitch depending on your own instincts alone, AMONGST THOSE VERY SAME HURDLES WE’VE BEEN ADDRESSING OVER AND OVER, AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO via none other than, who could’ve guessed the Challenge. Expect YET ANOTHER MYRIAD OF BULLFUCKERY EVERY STEP OF THE WAY, AS MOST OF WHAT WE’VE BEEN SHOOTING OUR PIE-HOLES OFF ABOUT SO FAR SHOULD PRETTY MUCH SUM IT ALL UP Aside from making every Herculean effort to survive every inconceivable-ass onslaught of enemy assaults & environmental obstacles this game will throw at you each chance it gets, you’ll notice right away how not only certain enemies can land one lucky combo after another like it’s their God-given purposes before your opportunity to react arises Case in point, the returning and newly-styled, gender-diversified punks, MacBride and MacLeod – amongst a few, if many, hitmen you’ll face off against, Bongo and his fire-breathing lard-ass dickface squad, Storm’s relentless-as-fuck bike gang, shirtless MMA warriors by the name of Fabio…NO, NOT THAT FABIO, GODDAMN IT – Tiger & others, Chiba and his always-intrepid ninja clan and the XP-1 attack droids, but the bosses as well the also-returning Shiva, whom NOT ONLY YOU CAN PLAY AS by inputting a code upon his defeat but reappears when you fuck up near the end; a kooky Circus trainer clown by the name of Bruce and his cocky kangaroo companion Roo – the latter of whom can also be unlocked as a playable character by 86-ing the former; the also-returning Mona & Lisa, except ‘roided as fuck, super-sexy and supercharged like never before; a relentless robotic decoy of Axel; a trio of stealthy samurai scrotum-suckers by the name of Yamato; the rocket-pack-toting Jet and his squadron; and finally, if you’re adventurous and ballsy enough…ROBOTS X AND Y, with the latter turning out to be the true form of Mr. X, prior to which you have to go up against Dr. DAHM and his claw machine!!! Not to mention the fact that there’s numerous winding paths leading to either the 2nd and final confrontation with the “not-dead-after-all” Shiva OR the brooding ROBOT Y (see correction hint above), as well as an opportunity to rescue the recently-shanghaied Police Chief which’ll result in a shitty outcome if you fail, by the way – depending on which of said winding paths you took in conjunction with your preset difficulty mode – as long as it’s NOT EASY, obviously And to top THAT off also, a strict-as-balls time limit’s imposed upon you during the last showdown against ROBOT Y which, when either wisely taken advantage of or pointlessly wasted like a lifetime supply of PBR & Kirin Ichiban, will also affect the outcome – in tandem with whether or not you saved the Police Chief So here’s $10 worth of free advice: MAKE EVERY GODDAMN EFFORT COUNT!!! Oh, and KINDLY REFER BACK TO STREETS OF RAGE 2 concerning the same set of stipulations & guidelines which also apply here, since I’M IN ABSOLUTELY NO POSITION TO RECAP THE EVER-LOVING SHIT OUT OF ‘EM! The graphics are nothing more than an obvious yet extremely-augmented change from its overhyped-as-hell previous outing, complete with a much darker and edgier theme than before, thanks entirely to the meticulous design & more-detailed-yet-still-awkward animations of all the main, supporting & opposing characters alike – in-game and during the cutscenes, no less What’s even more, not only have the urban & natural environments through which they stomp ass been provided with an undeniably well-deserved facelift – or in this particular case, a “set-lift” – serious consideration was also given to their appropriate background & foreground elements…for instance, who can forget the chains that rattle whenever someone hits the floor VERY FUCKIN’ HARD let alone the sun’s reflection from the ocean in Area 1, the illuminating club lights in the 2nd half of Area 2, or the rumbling underground railroad tracks in Area 4, amongst other underlying features, right?! It’s no question that the designers knew what the hell they were doing when applying said visual changes, and then some! In terms of music & sound, however…with all due, profuse respect to Koshiro & Kawashima’s always-indefatigable industrial & techno track arrangement efforts, and while many are better off looking the other way due to them being a rather divisive matter I have no regrets stating that a certain fraction of the “random-sound-generated” tracks are at the very least suitable for fitting the game’s overall dark theme, while the others just flat-out leave CHRIST-KNOWS-HOW-MUCH-TO-BE-DESIRED And while we’re at it, the same could be said for the usual batch of sound effects, including the usual digitized voice clips of every enemy getting their asses handed back to ’em on a bronze platter, not to mention the newer, US-and-Europe-exclusive samples of the main crime-fighting quartet exhibiting their beyond-compare techniques – and, as ever, I’d listen to THOSE very carefully if I were you [Axel] Bare Knuckle! [Blaze] “Power Kill!” (*Garcia yells in defeat*) [Dr. Zan] “Power Up!” (*jet boots igniting*) “Power Up!” “Power -” (*random punk yells in defeat*) [Blaze] “Palm-Fire!” [Skate] (*yells indistinctly*) (*Emma / Grace yells in defeat*)

[Shiva] “Hizankyaku!” (originally the Final Crash) [H.C.R.G.] To be fair, however my Top 5 Tracks are displayed below, with some select Honorable Mentions included – so I’d get a good peek at THOSE if I were you [Cyborg Decoy Axel] “Bare Knuckle!” [Shiva] “Hizankyaku!” (*Cyborg Decoy Axel explodes*) [Roo] (*cries out*) (*Grace yells in defeat*) (*railcar rolls by, Roo cries out*) (*Grace yells in defeat*) (*multiple blows landing*) (*another railcar rolls by, running over Gloria*) [H.C.R.G.] As far as replayability, due in part to the earlier-recounted slew of features about which, ONCE AGAIN, won’t be echoed here to the brink of insanity – including the unlockable hidden characters whom are unable to wield any weapons while assuming their roles, by the way – plus one in particular that can only be accessed upon inputting a Game Genie code, and notwithstanding how much the countless masses of fans & reviewers alike the world over prefer the 2nd more than the others I flat-out, low-key possess a true cast-iron belief that there hasn’t been a better note to close out the series than with this often-conflicted follow-up…that is, until the TRUE #4! Granted, the cons about which many have been constantly bitching time and time again could’ve benefited from more attention than what was initially applied…but for Yours Truly, the underlying pros FAR BEYOND OUTWEIGH THE EVER-LOVING FUCK OUT OF THEM Call me demented as fuck, but I strongly suggest giving both this and its original Japanese counterpart – aka the aforementioned Bare Knuckle 3 – a go, at least for the sake of both comparison and curiosity! [Axel] Bare… (*Robot Y yells in defeat*) (*body lands, then explodes uncontrollably…*) [♫ – Streets of Rage 2, “Slow Moon (Area 5)” – by Yuzo Koshiro & Motohiro Kawashima / 古代 祐三; 川島 基宏] Henceforth, what’s my final verdict on this series? Even following the debut of Capcom’s Final Fight franchise in the arcades 2 years prior, I honestly wish there was more to express about this often-remembered-yet-at-times-forgotten franchise that, uh…I don’t know…hasn’t already been expressed GOD-KNOWS-HOW-MANY-TIMES OVER! Rife with memorable characters, a straightforward-albeit-sometimes-convoluted plotline, gameplay framework, control schematics and varying levels of difficulty rolled into each offering, not to mention a range of decrepit-to-vivid graphics and an iconic, upbeat, melodic soundtrack there’s no way up the ass of South Park’s Mr. Slave one would ever go wrong with SEGA’s STREETS OF RAGE So please, take my strong, sound advice…or DON’T – STICK WITH THE FIRST COUPLE (2) OF OFFERINGS & THEIR RESPECTIVE HANDHELD PORTS, if at all possible, but whatever you do – AVOID THE 3RD OFFERING LIKE A GODDAMN CATEGORY-5 STORM (*slight titter*) ‘Just fucking with ya! On a scale of 1 to 10, here’s how I rate ’em all: Even, as ever, taking these statistics into account, you’d be “non-motherfucking-compos-mentis” to miss out further on what true ’90s ASS-KICKING was all about! They’re also available in numerous collections and for various modern consoles as well, and for those that haven’t scoped out the recently-released STREETS OF RAGE 4 (PS4 / Switch / XBox One, etc.), I strongly suggest doing so – and I don’t mean just viewing the trailer, oh SHIT NO!! Anyways, until then… (*record scratch*) OH MY GOD, how could I possibly forget?! Before I go, I’d like to take this opportunity and thank the 2 Matts – Lister and Stone, from Dover, NH (husband of Becky) & Clovis, CA (husband of Sarah) respectively – for once again rolling through with Yours Truly on yet another unforgettable “Memory Lane” trip! Cue the applause (*crowd cheering*) Yeah, yeah, wonderful… Until then, considering how great it is to be back after close to 1/2 a year – (CORRECTION: OVER 1/2 a year) this is the ONE AND ONLY Hardcore Retro God triumphantly signing off [♫ – Streets of Rage 2, “Jungle Base (Area 6B)” – by Yuzo Koshiro & Motohiro Kawashima / 古代 祐三; 川島 基宏] [Axel] Bare Knuckle!

[Ken] “Tatsumaki-Senpuu-Kyaku!”