Welcome to our new retro gaming series in which Greg takes a look back at the games that shaped his childhood and even tries out some retro games that passed him by. Any suggestions as to the next game we check out are very welcome!
Owning a Sega Mega Drive as a child secured one fact: That I would be playing a metric ton of side scrolling brawlers. Golden Axe, Shinobi and Alien Storm are all very much part of my gaming childhood and these were great games but one game stood above all these. The fantastic Streets of Rage. The first moment I stuffed my copy into the slot I was instantly gripped by the scrolling text that emblazoned the screen. Being 5 years old and being told that I had to clean up these streets was really excited so I picked my character and got started.
Now, Streets of Rage is an absurdly simple game. One attack button, a jump button and a button to call you police buddies in to fire a completely over the top cannon at your enemies and you’re set to clean up some dirty streets. Continuing this simplistic ideal, enemies are broken down into separate types and then colour coded in regards to their health meters instead of it being represented visually on screen. That’s what made it so great, you felt out the game through playing it over and over. Slowly working out exactly how much hits a certain enemy takes, where each vital turkey/apple was and where secret lives lay hidden.
It looked stunning for the time. Bright and bouncy visuals that really managed to avoid becoming a dark and grimy game about fighting crime, instead letting it become almost an over the top brawler that revels in simply being a blast to play. Each piece of music brilliantly reflects the stage it appears on, some industrial thumps for a level full of conveyor belts and breezy beats for the beach stage. It will simply mind blowing at the time; these utterly fantastic aspects of the game really elevated it to something more than simplistic gameplay suggests.
Bosses and co-op are two of the biggest aspects of Streets of Rage and grabbing a friend makes everything tons more fun. It begins with each of you smashing each other in a mad dash to attack the nearest enemy and results in both players having to continue very early on. Soon, you begin to work together. You become one entity, one ass kicking police force that rips its way through ever single enemy. It’s got a strange layer of strategy behind it as it becomes more about the spacing of each player along with dealing with the slew of enemies coming at them. It’s truly one of the most enjoyable co-op games on the Mega Drive.
The aforementioned bosses are, well, simply amazing; lanky wolverine-esque hoodlums, fat men that breathe fire and, my personal favourite, the final boss and his tommy gun. They’re all incredibly diverse and, seemingly, unconquerable with liberal use of the special button. However, picking away at their patterns you begin to notice how obscenely easy they really can be. When stock enemies are thrown into the fights you can simply throw them into the boss then rush them down for the stun-lock. Yes, I played this game too much. Yes, I should’ve probably done something better with my time but my word it’s an utterly amazing feeling when you first speed through the entire game with but a single continue. One day I’ll do it on a single life. One day.
So there we have it, a little look back at one of the finest brawlers on the Mega Drive, if not of all time. I’m well aware that my judgement of this game is very obviously affected by some hefty nostalgia so take my hyperbolic praise for the game with a pinch of salt. However, Streets of Rage is still incredibly playable to this day and is somewhat of a monthly ritual for me even after 17 years. It’s bright, colourful and great fun to play. Grab some beers and a friend then remind yourself about just how good the Mega Drive could be.