games / Columns

Retronomicon 09.05.12: Streets of Rage

September 5, 2012 | Posted by Lee Price

Hello one and all and welcome to yet another fine edition of the column that helps you get your retro rocks off, the Retronomicon. As ever I am your host Lee Price and I am hear to help you find your way to the games of yesteryear that are always going to be worth a good playing. I have been a fairly lazy boy this week, having done very little outside of go to work and come back to play a little bit of Red Dead Revolver. By the time you read this I should have gotten the game completely polished off and will have moved onto either playing through the original Pokemon Blue/Red/Yellow or playing some more of HeartGold in an effort to complete my Pokedex. Regardless, as you all already know, Red Dead is an absolutely stellar game from top to bottom. I have enjoyed every second that I have been playing it and it is just making me miss the general GTA formula more and more, if that makes sense. Here’s hoping GTA V is somewhere on the horizon. Anyway, I think I have babbled on for long enough so how about we get to the…


Poor Deus Ex. For a game that a readily name one of the greatest of all time, it did attract rather a small amount of comments. Let’s kick things off with Rasher;

I loved the game but the copy I had crashed hard about halfway through and mucked up my computer. I thought it must be my problem until my flatmate had the same issue at the same point – crashed, corrupting files on his PC. After that I decided it probably wasn’t worth losing half my data to play the game. Still, the bit I did play was wonderful – miles ahead of its time.

Ah that’s a shame. Such is the problem with PC games though. I had the exact same issue with Worms Armageddon. Screwed up my entire PC and I still don’t quite know what the issue was. If I were you I would track it down on Steam to get a much more stable version of the game now. I truly think that you are missing out if you do not play Deus Ex to its conclusion at least once.

The Ogre has a brilliant idea;

Great game. Could definitely use an “HD remix” version. Graphics were good for the day, voice acting decent for the most part, story was great. Only real flaw was that run-and-gun combat was not a very good option to take, unless you wanted to make it extra-difficult on yourself, leaving stealth-and-snipe and stealth-and-melee (with the dragon sword) as the only real options.

This is true, though I feel it was made deliberately difficult in an effort to display some semblance of realism. Regardless, I think a HD remake would be a brilliant idea, especially if the gun play was brought up to modern standards. Hell, the have Human Revolution as a template in that respect. Deus Ex with the gameplay template of Human Revolution is a prospect that would have me salivating.

Guest#8573 reiterates these comments;

Unfortunately, I haven’t played the game yet. Hopefully, a HD version will be released in the future.

A HD collection would indeed be a beautiful thing, but I would recommend hunting down an original copy of the game anyway. Get on Steam and get it bought. Any PC these days should be able to run it and I know you won’t regret it.

Retronomicon regular aprince66 has a startling revelation;

Looks pretty good, never really heard of it before. My gaming from about 94-2000 consisted mostly of wrestling games, Kart, RPG’s, Mario, Goldeneye and Rouge Squadron.
I’m thinking I missed some gems.

I think you did sir. Deus Ex is one of the standout games from that particular era as well. It is the sort of game that helped to develop the structural ideas that would be expanded on by the likes of Mass Effect and Heavy Rain so many years later and should certainly be played by everybody.

We close things out with Norvic;

An absolutely amazing game. Multiple paths, multiple endings and some genuine moral dilemmas that affected both of the above. It really was something for everyone. I had this when it originally came out, and repurchased it recently (along with all the other games in the series) in the Steam sale for under a tenner. One of the very few games I own that I find very hard to find fault with.

At that price you truly have a bargain on your hands! Similarly I also find it very difficult to find anything really wrong with Deus Ex. It has pretty much everything that I could personally want from a game as there is just so much to do and so much potential to affect the game in so many ways. I love it!

Okay then, with that little Deus Ex love-in out of the way, it’s about time that we got to what we came here for. Strap on those rose-tinted specs because this week the Retronomicon takes a look at Streets of Rage.


Music to Read Your Retro to

Streets of Rage was one of the first Genesis games to have a truly stunning soundtrack. Here it is in much of its glory;

Fun Facts

  • Streets of Rage was one of the few games to be packed with the SEGA Genesis. I myself got a copy with mine, as part of the Mega Games 2 bundle that was released in the UK.
  • The police car used to launch the special attack is exactly the same one that is used in E-SWAT: Cyber Police, which is an old SEGA arcade game.
  • Surprisingly, many of the game’s sound effects were lifted from Revenge of Shinobi.
  • The game’s famed soundtrack was actually released as a soundtrack to the Japanese market.

The Background

By the time 1991 had rolled around, scrolling beat-em-ups were pretty much all the rage. The genre that had been popularized by Double Dragon had apparently reached its nadir with the nearly faultless Final Fight, which was released by Capcom in 1989. Frankly it was hard to believe that scrolling fighters could get much better than Final Fight, which managed to blend the perfect mix of great graphics, brilliant mechanics and an array of brilliant bosses.

SEGA, however, thought differently. The company had never really made waves in the arcades when it came to scrolling fighters until the release of Golden Axe. The fantastical setting helped to separate from the more modern fighters that were flooding the market at the time, with the use of weapons and magic spells further helping it to carve a niche that enabled it to become an extremely popular and successful arcade game.

With the advent of the SEGA Genesis though, the company were looking to release a more traditional fighter to draw in the people who had loved the likes of Final Fight in the arcades. Their port of Golden Axe had already met with success at this point, as had Revenge of Shinobi. However the company were not yet done.

After arranging a small team, which included the standout composer Yuzo Koshiro, SEGA were well on their way to developing a competitor to Capcom’s behemoth. They managed to do just that in 1991 with the release of Streets of Rage.


The Game

With Streets of Rage SEGA finally managed to develop a title that could stand against the arcade games that were being ported over to Nintendo consoles. With franchises like Double Dragon and Final Fight to compete against, SEGA had to look internally to find a fighter that could match up and the game they developed did just that.

To have streets that are filled with rage you must have a pretty messed up society. Luckily for gamers, the nameless city featured in Streets of Rage is completely screwed up to the point where innocent citizens are unable to wander the streets due to the marauding savages that are present on every road and in ever alleyway.

Enter Axel Stone, Adam Hunter and Blaze Fielding, three cops who are sick of the corruption that has resulted in the police force becoming completely hopeless as it finds itself stuffed further and further into the pocket of the notorious Mr X. The three take it upon themselves to use their varying skills in boxing and martial arts to clean up the streets and rid the town of the evil criminal empire that has polluted it for so long.

Nice and simple eh? Quick synopsis – nasty town, bad people, good people, make the good people punch the bad people. A lot. That’s all you really need, especially for a title that it essentially an arcade game in disguise. Streets of Rage would have been perfect as a quarter-guzzling battler but, instead, SEGA released the game as a console exclusive. The move signified the company’s own belief in their product in addition to signaling that the golden age of the arcades, where many of the great games were coin-ops before that were conversions, was on the wane.

Streets of Rage plays like many a scrolling fighter both before and after. You take control of one of the three fighters on offer. Each of them has a slightly different skill set, allowing for variances in play styles. Axel is the all round, nippy, strong pretty much able to take of anything that comes at him. Blaze is the speed merchant of the group. She may not be as powerful as the two blokes but she hits a hell of a lot faster and also possesses the best jump of the trio. Adam, on the other hand, is the strongest character when it comes to striking power. He moves slower than the other two and relies mostly on his boxing to see him through, though he is more than capable of throwing the odd kick.

Selecting the correct character for your playing style is imperative because Streets of Rage does not let up with enemies. Tons of them are thrown at you as you progress through the 8 very varied stages and you will usually find yourself completely outnumbered. In these cases panic can be the death of the player, so understanding your character’s strengths and weaknesses can allow you to prevent them from being backed into a corner.


The game provides plenty of help though. Apples and chickens provide the health replenishment, with a handy chicken usually denoting the end of the level and beginning of a boss encounter. There are also cash items that increase your score, with the player being granted extra lives as they attain higher scores. However, the standouts when it comes to the items are the weapons. The player is provided with many different implements of destruction, ranging from knives through to bottles, baseball bats and pipes. All of them can be used to batter your foes and they usually provide a bit of extra power to the standard character strikes.

SEGA made sure to throw plenty of bosses at the player as well. These usually took the form of enemies that were about twice the size of the player character and they were pretty much invariable accompanied by more standard enemies. Later in the game some would even double up and face you, with a final boss rush on the last level bringing the whole thing to a peak. Luckily, the player wasn’t left completely helpless, as pressing the special attack button summoned a police car that would rain fiery death onto everything that was currently on-screen. This would cause massive damage to any boss characters in addition to killing any standard mooks.

Streets of Rage also featured a two-player mode that provided much of the replay when the initial campaign was done. The game itself was exactly the same, though bosses would double up at the end of every level to provide a bit more of a challenge. Co-op moves were also available, with the coolest by far being the ability to throw your partner into a flying kick that would smash the face of any enemies. It was an integral part of the experience and something that allowed the game an extra dimension if things got a little bit samey.

Graphically the game falls down a little bit though. While by no means bad, the Genesis was capable of far superior graphics than this, as was shown with later titles in the series. Character sprites were also fairly small, though the animation and collision detection was so good that this didn’t really matter. Still, if you stacked the game up against similar titles on the SNES, the visuals didn’t quite manage to compare.

The same can’t be said of the soundtrack. Streets of Rage contains one of the classic Genesis soundtracks, making use of the notoriously crap Genesis sound chip to create a set of tunes that are so utterly perfect for the game it is, frankly, unbelievable. The soundtrack would eventually be released on its own in Japan and it is truly remarkable just how good the music in this game actually is.

Streets of Rage was one of SEGA’s many attempts to draw the arcade crowds towards their console. Scrolling fighters had traditional been part of the coin-op makeup since Double Dragon popularized them, however Streets of Rage was the first to really make an impact as a console exclusive. The success of the title would only highlight just how good this game was and it all set the groundwork for the classic sequel, which still stands as one of the best Genesis games of all time.


The Aftermath

With Streets of Rage SEGA had a bonafide smash hit on their hands. The game impressed both critics and punters, despite the fact that the company’s early knowledge of their own hardware only allowed for the creation of sprites that were nothing like their rivals in the arcades.

The title soon became a series, as SEGA improved on every weak point in the game to create the brilliant Streets of Rage 2. The game still stands as one of the best examples of the scrolling fighter genre and is one of the must-have titles of the Genesis era. It was followed up by the superb Streets of Rage 3, which included new characters and a multi-tiered storyline that was based on the difficulty on which you played (a Retronomicon on the game can be found by clicking HERE.

The game was so good that it was even featured in Sonic the Comic, warranting a six comic strip that was written by Mark Millar and was based more so on the story of the second game. Still, without the original game that would never have happened!

As for now, the Streets of Rage series pretty much exists to make money for SEGA from conversions of the old titles. A dedicated group of Spanish developers were creating a massive remake of the title that included more than 90 stages and a ton of characters. That project was shut down a couple of weeks after release, despite taking 8 years to complete. A version of SoR II found its way into the Apple store a matter of weeks after. It is unlikely that we will ever see the game again, though the likes of Shenmue and Yakuza can be considered the spiritual successors of the title.

Conversion Corner

After the massive success of the Genesis original, you had to know that SEGA were going to make as much of an effort to milk the budding franchise for all it was worth. A conversion was rushed out for the Game Gear and really isn’t worth the time or effort. It omits two of the rounds and also doesn’t include Adam in the game. Additionally characters are unable to knee and the whole game just looks a little bit crap.

The version released on the Master System is superior to the Game Gear version though. It used a completely unique graphics and gameplay engine, allowing it to emulate the original much more closely. Two-player support was not included with the game however, which was one of the things that made the Genesis original so much fun to play.

The game has since been released on Steam, XBLA, PSN and the Virtual Console, with all versions being good. The version on the iOS… not so much.

The Guy Who Can do it Better Than You

A Streets of Rage movie? What has this not been made yet?

Enjoy and see you next week!


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Lee Price
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