Streets of Rage 2 is a side-scrolling beat â€˜em up released by Sega over 14 years ago on the Sega Megadrive/Genisis. Instead of bringing the first iteration to Xbox Live Arcade, Sega decided to give us part two, which is praised most by fans of the series. Sega has enhanced the game in a few areas, but is that enough to satisfy gamers nowadays?
Donâ€™t expect a deep story as thereâ€™s only an intro and an ending with no cut scenes in between. It seems that Adam, one of the fighters in the first Streets of Rage has been kidnapped by Mister X. His younger brother Skate is pissed off and wants to get him back so he meets up with his friends Axel, Blaze and Max to try and get him back from the evil crime bossâ€™ private island. All of a sudden the entire city is filled with crooks which youâ€™ll have to fight through in order to get to the big chief and free Adam.
As mentioned above, you can choose from four different characters to play with and they all have different statistics. They range from the agile but weak Skate, to the slow but deadly Max. Blaze and Axel are probably best to start with as they have a bit of both worlds. There are 6 difficulty modes ranging from easiest to mania, where the latter is only doable for die-hard fans with no friends. This mode had to be unlocked on the Megadrive/Genesis but it can now be played from the start. Players can also choose with how many lives they want to start, but it all depends on personal preference and skills. The difference in difficulty is noticeable by the amount of enemies, their strength and special attack moves they try to pull. Starting on normal would probably be the recommended difficulty level for starting players.
The game can be compared to Double Dragon as both games revolve around walking around and beating thugs up. Streets of Rage has just a little more depth to it when it comes to the combat system. Despite the original Megadrive/Genesis controller having only three buttons of which one of them is for punching people, itâ€™s still possible to perform a few different attacks. Continuously bashing the punch button will result in the player performing kicks and headbutts and even though that doesnâ€™t require any combo skills, itâ€™s fun to watch. Every character has a few special attack moves of which one of them can break up enemy attack animations at the cost of a little health. Other special attacks can be performed by simply pressing the forward, forward, punch combination which is pretty common for fighting games. Unfortunately, due to the horrible D-pad button on the Xbox 360 controller it can be tricky to perform. However, the analog sticks can be used to play, but a working D-pad button would be the best choice as the special attacks are used quite often on higher difficulty settings and it can be tiring on your thumb.
Divided into eight stages, a lot of different surroundings will be encountered on the way to the final boss. It all starts on a street, but later on thereâ€™s a bar, beach, back of a truck and much more. The enemies pretty much stay the same throughout your quest, only their health bar, their names and sometimes their coats get an upgrade. Each stage has one or more mini bosses which arenâ€™t as tough as the final boss in terms of health and attacks but can still drain a large portion of health. The Stage bosses however can be really tough, especially on higher difficulty levels where they have multiple health bars. Itâ€™s not unlikely that youâ€™ll lose a life or two with these fights. Later into the game some of the mini bosses from earlier stages turn up again as regular enemies with less health than before so it progressively gets tougher.
Co-op play on the same console is one of the many aspects that made the game popular back in the day. Thanks to Xbox Live you can now play online with a friend. Each player has to pick a different character and the entire game can now be played with two instead of one. However itâ€™s best to ignore the Xbox Live functionality, because even on an excellent connection, lag is clearly noticeable. Higher difficulty levels are out of the question as even the slightest delay of a reaction results in getting pummeled by a thug. The same online logic applies to the versus mode, itâ€™s pretty much unplayable and the host has an advantage over the joining player which makes it unfair. Luckily the local co-op and versus mode were left intact and itâ€™s best to stick to that.
When the game came out, the graphics were pretty good looking for a title halfway through the consoleâ€™s lifecycle. It’s been brushed up a bit and nowadays itâ€™s sufficient for an Xbox Live Arcade title. When you keep in mind that itâ€™s only 400 MS Points, itâ€™s very bearable. The audio, and especially the music, despite being synthesized midi, sounds cool as ever, even in this day and age where Dolby Digital is the standard. Almost every stage and boss area has a different theme song and some of them are really catchy and will stick in your head even after you turn off your Xbox 360. The sound effects on the other hand are nothing more than your basic screams of death, punches and kicks.
Streets of Rage 2 offers an excellent retro experience and should be added to the collection of any gamer who likes to go back in time. Beating up bad guys was never so fun and especially with a co-op buddy it’s a blast. Improving your Gamerscore shouldn’t be a problem either as over 75 percent can be achieved quite easily. The Xbox Live part should be ignored for the most part as it’s poorly programmed and causes lag too often. On higher difficulty levels the game should keep even experienced gamers busy for at least a few hours if not longer.
Final Score: 8 out of 10 - Good (How do we rate games?)