Streets of Rage 2 is a side-scrolling beat ’em up action game that was originally released on the Sega Genesis/Megadrive console back in 1992. When it came out it was generally well-received and to this date is considered not only as one of the best games for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive but also one of the best games to be released for the beat ’em up genre. I actually owned a Megadrive 2 back in the day and while I was never able to afford my own copy of Streets of Rage 2, I frequently rented this because it was such a fun game to play.
3D Streets of Rage 2, as the 3DS version is known, is essentially the same Genesis version of old. You’d think that this would make the game look dated but despite retaining its 16-bit graphics, 3D Streets of Rage 2 still looks very good. The game’s character sprites are large enough to be quite detailed for a 16-bit game while still being small enough to be able to display multiple sprites on-screen at the same time. Movements are animated really well, avoiding a choppy look and feel that plagued other games released in the same period. Stages and backgrounds are colored vividly and exhibit enough details that will allow you to recognize what kinds of locations these fights are taking place in.
All the above is true when viewing 3D Streets of Rage 2 in 2D, but viewing it using the 3D feature of the device brings a whole new dimension (pun intended) to the game’s visuals. Believe me, this game looks amazing in 3D – the sprites, while flat, really pop out from the backgrounds, giving the game a sense of depth and helping you see which enemies/objects are on the same “layer” as your character, as well as which ones are farther away into the background or closer towards the foreground.
In terms of sound, 3D Streets of Rage 2 also holds up really well. The original version was renowned for its soundtrack way back in the day and even if it’s all “just” chiptune music, each of the game’s themes are still very pleasant to listen to. The sound effects work really well too – there are “whooshes” for missed attacks and distinctly different sounds for bare handed strikes and weapon attacks. Even the unintelligible battle cries that characters yell out for some special attacks add to the feel of the game.
What I found impressive about Streets of Rage 2 back then and even now is how Sega managed to find a good balance between simplicity and diversity of gameplay. First off, there are four characters to choose from – returning characters Axel and Blaze and new characters Max and Skate. Each one has a set of attacks that are executed with similar controller inputs. You have the usual punch and kick combos, two different grabs and throws per character, jumping attacks, and Special attacks. These four characters are not only different in terms of stats, but they also have subtle but distinct enough differences in the way they attack, making them all play very differently from each other.
Max, for example, is the token strong and durable character that moves significantly slower compared to the other characters. All four characters can use a pipe as a weapon in the game but when Max does it, he can hit both enemies behind him and in front of him as he swings it. If any of the male characters attack with the knife they end up knocking their enemy to the ground, but Blaze can chain two to three knife attacks in a combo and thus deal more damage. Skate is the fastest character of the four and is the only one who can dash forward but also takes the most damage.
The enemy types are also quite diverse, from the basic cannon fodder to the boss characters. One of the generic foot soldiers can dash forward brandishing a knife for quick hits, while another has the ability to counter flying kicks with an uppercut. There’s a boss character that automatically counters grab attempts with a grab of his own, and yet another boss character that immediately counterattacks if you try to land a three-hit combo on him. There are even bike-riding and jetpack-wearing enemies that’ll really keep you on your toes! The diversity of both the playable characters and the enemy types help keep the game from feeling repetitive – you definitely won’t be able to beat 3D Streets of Rage 2 with just one strategy.
I already mentioned that attacks are done via similar control inputs for each of the characters, and these inputs are all simple and intuitive. I have to admit that the kinds of attacks you can do are a bit limited especially when you compare them to other games that have been released recently, but the limited attack options helps avoid needing to memorize too many button combinations and ensures that you will be able to utilize all of these attacks to your advantage.
Aside from the 3D enhancements, 3D Streets of Rage 2 comes with other features that help make this version stand out from the previous releases of the game, the most significant of which are several modes of gameplay that are only available in this release. The first is the special Rage Relay mode in which you’ll be asked to set an order for each of the four characters; you’ll then start the game with the first character that you selected and when you lose a life, you’ll have to play as the next character that you selected. I especially like this mode because it allows you to play as all four characters in just one playthrough and because you now have to strategize on which character to use first and which one to save for last. Because each of the characters play differently, your chosen order as well as your familiarity in using each of the characters will definitely have an impact on whether you’ll succeed in beating this mode or not.
There’s also a special sub-mode called Casual Mode that you can select for both standard and Rage Relay games. In this mode, enemies get knocked out when you knock them down, allowing for easier and more accessible gameplay. Finally, I’m glad to report that you can still play 3D Streets of Rage 2 with two players locally, although both players will need to have a copy of the game in order to do this. The game comes with other neat bonuses that serve to sweeten the deal like having the option to play Bare Knuckle 2 (the Japanese version of the game), a save/load state feature, as well as a new and humorous credits sequence.
Currently, 3D Streets of Rage 2 can be purchased digitally online via the Nintendo eShop for just $5.99. At that price, you’re already getting your money’s worth just with its solid and very entertaining gameplay experience. New features like Rage Relay and Casual Mode add to the replay value of this version, and the effective use of the 3D functionality of the Nintendo 3DS adds even more value to what you’re buying. This is definitely worth revisiting for fans of the original game and a really good way for younger audiences to experience one of the best games to come out during the 16-bit era.
Have you played the 3DS version of Streets of Rage 2? What do you think about it? Drop us a line and let us know what you think!