I have composed numerous ballads and works of poetry dedicated to Streets of Rage. I’ve serenaded him with them at sunrise, ‘neath his window in my delicate soprano stylings. I nursed dreams of gambolling with carefree abandon through fields of wildflowers with Streets of Rage, chuckling merrily at a witticism that wouldn’t have been remotely amusing without this sexy beast on my arm. (Alas, it was not to be. What with being a video game/only physically existing as a small square cartridge, he didn’t come to the window and let down his Rapunzel-hair for me to deftly climb with all the grace of a young gazelle. All my romantic enterprise achieved was a swift and vigorous pantsing from the neighbours. “Why are you serenading a video game at 4am? Some of us have work in the morning,” the fat bastard from the house opposite bellowed. “Not to mention, you sound like a cat with its balls caught in a door. Shit off!” I continued unperturbed, until he steamed over to kick me in various delicate places that don’t appreciate being introduced to hobnail boots at high-velocity. Why he was wearing those with his pyjamas, I’ll never know. Always was a strange dude. He waddled homeward again, and I opened my mouth once more. I heard something uncannily like a shotgun being cocked at this point, and decided myself and my bruised testicles should call it a night.) Digressional ramblings aside, I was a huge fan of the original (it wouldn’t take Scooby Doo, his hippy drug-addict friend and The Mystery Machine to deduce that at this point). Let’s see, then, why it’s the sequel that’s recognised at the series’ best.
In terms of plot, little has changed. Mr X is on the rampage again, despite everyone leaning in to admire his bullet-ridden and completely pummelled corpse, face down on a rather fine ostentatious carpet, in the previous outing. Gaming villains don’t care how thoroughly deader than very dead indeed they are, they find a way. This time, he’s decided to become even more of an ass than before, and kidnapped Adam into the bargain. This will lead Axel and Blaze into a trap, as the intro dramatically explains. (Just what this trap was intended to entail is unclear. Perhaps he had the nefarious notion of inviting the duo to a restaurant, by way of a 'congratulations for sweeping up all the rage that had spilled onto the streets, rendering them the eponymous streets of rage' celebration. At the last moment, he makes a dash for it, leaving our protagonists to pay for his meal.
“MWAHAHAHA! You may have destroyed my entire private army of punks, dominatrixes, sumo wrestlers and other assorted freaks, before punching me in the groin until I collapsed, but I opted for the most expensive thing on the menu! And I don’t even like lobster! Game, set and match, Mr X! Note to self, change your shitty name. It’s getting embarrassing."
I like to imagine him calling this over his shoulder as he exeunts stage left, but it’s a little long-winded for that. Perhaps he left a lengthy mocking voicemail to this effect later, you know how bad guys love their theatrics. They live for that shit.) The important thing is, ten or so stages of pugilistic perfection await.
Aesthetically, everything has been vastly improved since the cornea confounding ugliness of the first game. (Think Final Fantasy VII. Magnificent as it is, those monstrous square hands and breasts and such were ungodly. Everyone was a little freaky-looking, it was like The Elephant Man: The Game.) Characters and stages alike are much larger, brighter and more detailed. The soundtrack is a wonder too, if you’re an enthusiast of such ancient tunes. (Personally, I’d rather like to have sweet, forbidden sexy-sex with them, but that’s likely just me. Few understand the taboo love between man and non-corporeal jangly catchiness.) The gameplay itself has been further refined, with special attacks being introduced to break holds and generally ravage the genitalia of your aggressors. In the absence of Adam, two new combatants are introduced, further advancing the winning formula. These are Skate, his feeble-yet-nimble younger brother, and Max. This enormous bastard, Axel’s friend, is the kind of dude who could twist your head right off. Just by looking at it. In a photograph. (Scroll back up and look at him, it’s ludicrous. The bad guys are scarcely taller than his huge and really rather camp wrestler-boots. This begs the question, where the hell was he the last time Mr X’s shitstorm came to town? Taking a dump or something? To be fair, with a three-tonne man-beast like this, that’s probably akin to a military operation. You do not want to use the bathroom after this guy. His floaters would likely present a danger to shipping when they make it out to sea.)
It’s plain that the game is streets ahead (look, ma! I made a pun!) of the first Streets of Rage. It’s more substantial, there’s greater variety in terms of selectable characters, and it’s less of a simplistic endeavour with the greater diversity of moves to perform. For the record, I still maintain that it’s the original that holds me in an uncomfortably personal-space-violating body odour-infused sweaty headlock of nostalgia. That has to be reiterated, but both wear the classic badge with pride nonetheless. Quite possibly the pinnacle of arcade beat ‘em ups.
I must now exhort you with threatening hand-gestures/candy-flavoured bribery to check out the game in action, recorded by Youtuber Zorlance (featuring profanity and remarkably English-accented commentary aplenty):
Article by Chris Littlechild
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