So, before I played Streets of Rage, I thought I disliked beat ‘em ups but it turns out, I really enjoy a solid beat ‘em up, especially with a friend. With Streets of Rage completed I naturally moved onto Streets of Rage 2. Figuring out exactly who had a hand in the game’s development was a little tricky. The credits list people working at Ancient, MNM (MNM Software, later Mindware), Shout!OW (Shout! Designworks), HIC (couldn’t find any info on this), and I’m sure a few were from Sega. Anyways, I’ve always heard talk of Streets of Rage 2, that it was the best in the series and perhaps the genre, so I was anxious to try it for myself.
Streets of Rage 2 begins a year after the events of Streets of Rage. Peace has returned to the city that Adam Hunter, Axel Stone, and Blaze Fielding once called home. Axel and Blaze have retired from the police force and moved out of town while Adam is still an officer and lives on the edge of the city with his kid brother Eddie “Skate” Hunter. On the anniversary of Mr. X’s downfall the gang gets together to celebrate. The next day, Eddie returns to find his older brother gone and their house ransacked. He gets a hold of Axel and Blaze and when they arrive, they notice a picture of Adam tied up at the feet of Mr. X. Not ones to leave a friend behind, Axel and Blaze set out to rescue Adam with the aid of Eddie and Axel’s wrestling friend Max.
With the cheesy plot of Streets of Rage 2 providing momentum for these four, the battles soon ensued as my friend and I ventured throughout the nameless city once again. While the stages in Streets of Rage definitely had a strong atmosphere with the nighttime setting, the flashing neon lights, the dark, pumping soundtrack, the stages themselves were straightforward and for the most part, similar in setting.
Streets of Rage 2 contains the familiar elements of stage design compared to the original, but took my friend and I through a greater diversity of stages. We ventured through the city streets at the outset, but soon fought through an amusement park, a stadium, and even a jungle. And besides the diversity in backgrounds, the stages themselves were broken into two or three sections themselves. These sections seemed as long as the stages in the original game, which meant the stages in Streets of Rage 2 were longer, while still retaining succinctness.
There were two changes to the gameplay of Streets of Rage 2 that I really enjoyed. First off, the game was much speedier compared to the original. I initially thought character movement in Streets of Rage was a little slow (especially vertical movement) but it wasn’t so slow that I couldn’t adapt or didn’t enjoy the game. This increase in speed appeals to me because it feels like there is more immediate feedback between my inputs and my character’s action, plus I enjoy the game moving at a slightly faster clip.
The second change I enjoyed was the addition of an enemy health bar whenever they were attacked. Whenever my friend or I would attack an enemy, that enemy’s health bar would appear underneath the health bar of the player that attacked them. This was smart as we had more information on the situation at hand and knew how much more damage we needed to deal to a specific enemy.
The final aspect worth mentioning is the technical improvements of Streets of Rage 2 compared to the original. The character models of allies and enemies alike appeared more detailed (perhaps larger too) and the backdrops of the stages were more animated. The backgrounds had more elements moving and there was generally more going on; overall, the game looked better. I very much enjoyed the soundtrack to Streets of Rage, and the soundtrack for Streets of Rage 2 is as good, if not better. It sounds darker but more importantly, it is much clearer than the original’s.
So, as it turned out, the hype I had heard about Streets of Rage 2 turned out to be accurate. The game was a better experience overall, and that’s saying something as I really enjoyed Streets of Rage. The story isn’t the main motivator for these types of games, they seem too shallow and something that’s tacked on at the beginning and ending of the game, but the gameplay remained as good as Streets of Rage and introduced a few improvements. And from a technical standpoint, the game seemed like a large improvement over the original. I recommend Streets of Rage 2, more so than the original.