In a once peaceful city, an organized crime syndicate lead by a mysterious man named Mr.X plunges the city into chaos. He has managed to subdue the city government and is able to pull the police department's strings. Three ex-cops decide to battle him anyway and they take the fight into the streets and on to Mr.X's high-rise deep into the city.
A year has passed since Adam, Axel, and Blaze defeated Mr.X and saved the city. The three heroes part ways and Adam returns to being a cop. He lives together with his younger brother Skate, who one day comes home to find the place in ruins. He picks up a picture left behind of Adam in chains, Mr. X has returned and the city is once again plunged into chaos. Axel and Blaze join together with Skate and a professional wrestler named Max to storm Mr.X's island to save Adam. -summary
Back in 1991, Sega released Streets of Rage for the Genesis to give those fans their own no holds barred side scrolling beat'em up, with intentions on countering the Super Nintendo which held Final Fight in its line up. Sega was so desperate to one up them, they completely took the very lazy route and just plain cloned Final Fight; which was seriously nothing too special, but it succeeded because it did introduce some new elements, in other words, there was a little bit of innovation. Streets of Rage came off miserable because it wasn't the least bit innovative, the game felt rushed if you were actually following the steady progression in the arcade side scrolling brawlers. In truth, Streets of Rage did nothing for the genre. Sega would go on to correct that one year later with Streets of Rage 2. Now this is what you call progression, this is what you call raising the bar, this is a fucking classic and a sequel done right!
Streets of Rage 2 (SoR2) follows you and a buddy if you so choose to, for some serious two player co-op ass-kicking, as you march through the city, amusement parks, beaches, whatever, dealing out beatings to any poor bastard approaching you with a death-wish. The very first thing that catches your eye are the main characters. This time the characters are no longer carbon copies of each other; the four fighters have distinct fighting styles as well as individual attributes, for example, Max, the over-sized wrestler with so much damn muscle you would swear his farts will break your jaw, heavily excels in strength and endurance. He can take more punishment than everyone else and he can dish it in return. Killing weaker opponents with 1 - 3 blows is child's play for him. He can also heavily damage stronger opponents with his wrestling moves, such as delivering a suplex or an atomic drop. However, he is very slow which can be a problem against faster opponents. But Sega brought their A game by making him so much fun to play, thus, the best character in the game. Skate is the youngest in the group, and his age and size heavily effects his strength and endurance. He has to deliver far more punishment to destroy energy bars, plus he dies the easiest. To make up for it, he's the fastest in the group with some really cool moves. Axel and Blaze are the middle characters here, with Axel having just the right amount of strength, endurance, etc, to deliver sinister ass-thrashings of his own, ditto with the sexy Blaze, who's scantily clad in red and looks good with everything she does.
Sega put a lot of work into this sequel. The battle system has a lot more depth. Each character has their own one button combo string, with again, Max being the best here, due to a mean hook punch in the middle of the combo which hits twice when in close range, and finishes with a skull-splitting two-fisted head smash. The attack button can be held down for 1-2 seconds, and after being released the character would deliver another attack. They have two types of jump attacks in the forms of regular jump kicks, where Blaze looks the absolute best here bursting with style looking like a human arrow, and a second one that can be performed to set up grabs, which helps Max and Axel the most.
For their special attack, that lame ass police car projectile from the first game is gone, and everyone has a different attack that depletes the health bar a little only when they make contact. In addition to this, they have a second special that will deplete the health bar a little whether it makes contact or not, and both of these moves are extremely helpful. In the case of Max, he performs a bum-rush where he moves at lightening speed, and this move obliterates enemy health bars should they happen to block. It's the perfect guard crush against bosses. Axel has a really cool move where he basically uses an opponent for a punching bag and finishes with a leaping uppercut. Skate is good here also pulling off a jumping corkscrew similar to Dhalsim of Street Fighter II fame. Blaze actually uses a short range projecticle, that gives off the appearance of a "ki" summoning. The special attacks are just dripping with ass-kickery, as they can also perform another one by double-tapping the d-pad twice, Axel in this case delivers a bad-ass uppercut, while Blaze dishes out a front flip into a vicious chop.
Sega learned from their mistakes for the most part with the first game. Pulling a page from Vendetta, the characters also perform weapon attacks differently; Blaze handles a knife far more viciously. While everyone stabs the enemy once with either a straight lunge or a mid cross. She stabs straight-forward, then hooks around for a slash across the face, and when close enough she can hit three times with this move. Max proves once again that he isn't big for nothing, by excelling with the use of a lead pipe. He swings faster than everyone with only one hand, and when he cocks back and swings forward, he can tag enemies behind him in the face. Against lesser opponents, he's a monster with that damn pipe. As opposed to Skate, due to his size he can't wield a pipe the same way, and you can see him strain a little when pulling it back after a swing. Now speaking of the weapons, there is a reason to use them now because they do add to the game play. Depending on the weapon, they can do far more damage than most normal attacks, with there being a huge difference between a sword and a knife. The sword delivers whopping damage killing characters pretty quick, and they're not very nice when used against you either. As an additional attack, if you don't want the weapon then you can just toss it in their direction knocking them down or even killing them. Health items run rampant and they can refill your health bar from a little bit to completely. The flawless hit detection is also worth a mention.
SoR2 has a pretty decent AI, however, you won't really see what the game has to offer in regards to villains unless you play on the hard mode at the very least. Many characters return from the first game with some new faces; ninjas, rocket-pack fliers, road warrior-ish bikers, and Thai kick boxers all attempt to block your path and they know how to run the numbers game, plus spam the hell out of their best moves to keep dropping you down. The ninjas and bikers especially will scramble for a downed weapon, and the former will also hurl projectiles at you. The bosses are some tough bastards, and the very fact they hardly ever fight you alone adds to the difficulty.
The levels are pretty straight-forward with very little obstacles such as bikers trying to run you over, enemies creeping out of windows hurling bombs, and they don't interfere with the brawling aspect of the game. There aren't any cheap instant death falls which is a good thing I guess. Now although the game has the feel of what a perfect sequel should be, it's not really as perfect as it should have been. At 8 stages the game is a little longer than what it should be, and like the first game, a boss battle is actually a rehash of an earlier one, except it's two different characters at once. And one boss battle which came out of left field in the 7th stage seemed too out of place. Thankfully, the bosses are more hit than miss and they're unbalanced in the right way, because you still have a fighting chance against them, and it's possible to beat them without dying.
If there's anything I can say is perfect it would be the games performance. The game is pick up and play. It's too easy to pull off each and every last move, there's just no room for much of a learning curve. Once you learn the back attacks and throw variations, you should have everything down to a science by the fourth stage at the latest. Picking up and tossing weapons is just as easy.
One of the more noticeable improvements are the sprites. The characters are larger now and the character designs are a little better. Blaze looks really good and has the best fighting stance animation. There appears to actually be some type of form when they perform their moves, and the animation flows really well during combos, here as well, Blaze looks the best to me. Skate looks cool sporting roller blades and he moves with a swagger like he just can't be touched. Max just has muscles every where and he's a living juggernaut that towers over most characters. The bosses have some nice designs like an overweight boxer with gloves, who tosses a very quick jab and cross combination. The action is rather swift, but I did detect a little slow down on occasions when there was a lot of activity on the screen. The visuals are great with some very nice backgrounds. The first boss battle takes place under the rain in a dark alley with a couple of trashcans. If only this game was more story driven with cut scenes, then that would have been the perfect place to literally squeeze the hell out of the goons for some info kicking off the story. One of the nicer stages which happens to be the amusement park features some rides in the background with flickering lights. There are some good details thrown out there.
The BGM has moments where it's mind blowing; it features the same blend of techno and hip hop, while also featuring some jazz solos, and each song manages to fit really well with the setting. The game is very atmospheric, one battle in the first stage takes place in what appears to be a very laid back pub. The smooth jazzy track flows well with the slowly paced action as there aren't too many enemies here to fight. While in the fourth stage, the BGM has a club vibe that fits with the frantic pace as enemies try hard to gang up on you. I enjoy the piano laced opening for the final stage the most, as that track feels like this is the end, and the boss themes fit like the best shoes you ever put on in your life. The soundtrack gets you deep into the action, not only because it's a buffet for the ears but also how well it's used to suck you into its world.
SoR2 had the best sound effects for games of this type. There's a distinction between punches and kicks, and they sound pretty damn good. You can hear each quick blow as the fifth stage boss beats the hell out of you with his rapid combo. Asses sound like they are literally being broken as Max drops his enemies across his knee for that sadistic atomic drop, and you get to hear the most hilarious sound effect this side of old school kung-fu flicks, since it really sounds like you're splittin' some wigs as you bash enemies in the skull with that lead pipe.
When I lost my Genesis many years ago this was among the top three games I missed. The harder modes really does increase the challenge which adds to the replay. If that isn't good enough, then there's also a duel mode where the two players can fight it out. But this game is mainly fun during the two player co-op.
After Streets of Rage 2 I never looked at the side scrolling brawler genre the same anymore. It's a style clinic and the the multiple characters to choose from adds to the appeal. This game raised the bar that high to me, and I'm definitely sure that I played them all before this came out; from Double Dragon, to Ikari Warriors - The Rescue, P.O.W., Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vendetta, so many others, and I haven't seen anything else come close since. I do not praise this game from a nostalgic point of view, that's just not my style there at all. I praise it because in my mind it's the best game of this type I played to date. It did exactly what a sequel is supposed to do, and that's improve on the original as well as be innovative. It could easily make my top 5 favorite Sega Genesis games ever. For some good news, the game can be found on Sonic's Ultimate Sega Genesis Collectionfor both PS3 and X-Box 360. I also believe it's downloadable for the Wii. I highly recommend getting your hands on this one any way you can.
Ya gotta love the brawler! The most stupidly fun genre of gaming during the 16-bit era, brawlers were everything video games were meant to exemplify back then: Walking around, just beating the living crap out of absolutely everyone in sight, not worrying about the potential consequences. With Streets of Rage 2, brawlers were at their greatest height as a genre, and Capcom's Final Fight and Sega's Streets of Rage series were about as good and fully realized as brawlers could ever be. Streets … more
Though Streets of Rage 2 plays very similar to its predecessor it improves and refines much of the gameplay. The biggest change is the replacement of the original special attack, which was calling a police car to damage all on-screen enemies, with individual special attacks performed by each character, that depletes some of their health. Each character's move list has been expanded and edited to make them very individual to play instead of similar with different handicaps. Enemies are also improved; all are given life gauges (previously only Bosses used them) and names, and like the selectable ...