The phrase "they just don't make things like they used to" is often banded around by older generations as they scoff at the quality of newer products. They sit there looking at all these new fangled things, judging when they breakdown, failing to accept the advancements that have been made. There are many instances in the world of video games where this is true. However, shining examples will always exist, serving as milestones that revolutionised certain genres. In some instances, these milestones will still be heralded as the pinnacle of a certain genre, even generations later. Streets of Rage 2 is one such milestone.
I always remember playing the original Streets of Rage on my Sega Mega Drive. It was the first time a beat 'em up had grabbed my attention for more than a few minutes - something both Double Dragon and Final Fight failed to do. Golden Axe can also be thrown in here too, but Streets of Rage always felt like a rather different beast to all of the aforementioned titles.
Despite being quite cheesy by today's standards, the title sequence of Streets of Rage, when accompanied by a fantastic track from the legendary Yuzo Koshiro, gave the game a drive that others had sorely missed. It wasn't just the classic "they stole my girl" story, which we'd seen so many times before. No, it was about a city on the brink.
As soon as the first level began, the music started pumping and you were away. Those generic thugs never knew what hit them. Sega knew they were onto a winner. They had found their game that could take it to the pretenders on other platforms and they weren't finished there.
Two years later, Streets of Rage 2 was released.
Almost every aspect of the game was improved to a level that just hadn't been seen before. The opening title sequence was back, with even more drama. The music was back, with even more booming bass lines and the gameplay was taken to a whole new level.
Gone were some of the staples of the first game, like the police special attacks. Instead, they were replaced by more contextual moves which had health risk associated with them. The boss battles were also much more fleshed out, with rather dramatic scenery changes.
It's worth noting too, that the graphics were pushed way beyond the levels the game obtained only two years before. And for the time, that was a huge deal. If you compare the two games side-by-side, it's like night and day.
I've played numerous beat 'em ups in my time, but Streets of Rage 2 is the one that I can still, to this day, go back and have an absolute blast playing. It doesn't matter if it's for 5 minutes, 10 minutes or even an hour, its gameplay just doesn't get old.
It's hard to think of a game that surpasses its quality. There are plenty of hybrids out there, with Yakuza and even Batman sitting as shining examples, but in terms of a core beat 'em up experience, it's hard to think of a game that's made the same impact. God Hand came close, but Fighting Force is the only game that even attempted to emulate the same vibe of Streets of Rage. There was also the terrible Final Fight: Streetwise.
Fans of Streets of Rage have long been teased with a new Streets of Rage game. Rumours suggest it was in development on the Dreamcast, but Sega of America canned it because they didn't think the franchise was big enough.
Sega, the franchise is big enough, and if you put the effort into developing it, the game could be fantastic. Just don't give it the Golden Axe: Beast Rider treatment. Why not let Platinum Games handle it, that's a match made in heaven right there.