SEGA Genesis Did It Better Part I
by Polly

AKA: My Love Letter to Streets of Rage.

What Double Dragon made famous, Sega took and perfected. With only one series of games, the Genesis outshines anything...ANYTHING in the SNES library that fell into the side-scrolling beat 'em up genre.

Super Double Dragon? Given its outings on the NES, was my most-anticipated brawler for the SNES. Too slow, too clunky. An all-around bore-fest. Don't believe me? Find a ROM. It's SO. FUCKING. SLOW!

Final Fight (SNES)
How about Capcom's "big gun" of the genre, Final Fight? It may have been pretty slick in the arcade, but the SNES version of the game was craptacular. Most specifically because it omitted one of the most important parts of the damn game. 2 PLAYER MODE. I don't even understand this decision. A game built around cooperation for the arcade, trimmed down to a single-player slap fight on a grade school playground. Not only that, but they also cut the character Guy from the selectable roster of characters leaving you with only Cody and Haggar. Years later they would re-release this game for whatever fuck reason. The game STILL lacked 2 player functionality and at the expense of including Guy this time around....THEY TOOK OUT CODY. FUCKING HELL, CAPCOM!

Oh, and guess what? Sega licensed Final Fight from Capcom a couple years later and released it on the ill-fated Sega CD, retaining all the elements from the arcade game. That makes me laff.

There were a couple of SNES-only sequels released for the series that would include the 2 player option, but they're mostly clunky, shitty and pretty damn forgettable.

Other than Final Fight, there would be a few other beat 'em ups (more released by Capcom) that all had that familiar clunky feel to them. Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time is the only other really notable beat 'em up on the SNES, but the Genesis would later receive a modified version of this game as well.

Streets of Rage (Genesis)
In 1991 Sega countered the Double Dragon/Final Fight assault with their own title, Streets of Rage which appears to be based on the Golden Axe engine. It also featured a great 2 player mode, unlike that other game I've ranted endlessly about thus far.

It's clear that the game bears more than a passing resemblance to Final Fight. Hell, Axel could easily be Cody with just a change of hair color and loss of the headband. I'm unclear as to whether it's an homage to Final Fight or an attempted rip-off. Streets of Rage's look is also quite a bit darker and grittier than Final Fight which always kinda made it more believable to me.

What Streets of Rage had over all the other beat 'em ups at the time was MOVES, MOVES, MOVES! All three characters had their own sets of flashy and effective moves. I giggled with glee the first time I delivered a backdrop on some poor street thug in the first stage. It looked so insanely brutal. The grappling system was also pretty neat, as you were always able to flip over the shoulders of your grappled opponent if need be to dish out pain in whatever fashion you wanted. You could also grapple your partner and hurl them toward enemies for a special team attack that was quite devastating.

Did I mention the fuckamazing soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro? God damn, the tunes are so good the guy actually got his name at the bottom of the title screen. Nobody else got that! Hands down, the first Streets game features one of my favorite game soundtracks of all-time.

Streets could be a little clunky in places, but overall I consider it one of the best titles in the Genesis library. Things only got better.

Streets of Rage 2 (Genesis)
Streets of Rage 2 would be released in 1992 and oh my god, what a comeback. Anything that felt clunky in the first game was now completely nonexistent. This game was smooth. Polish fucking central. It could have easily passed as an arcade game. Characters sported more animation, a ton of new moves, new weapons to play around with, bad-ass boss fights, and two whole new characters to bash some fuckin' heads with.

It's simply one of the greatest 2 player experiences on the Genesis. I still manage to drag this one out at least once a year and play through with a friend.

Did I mention the fuckamazing soundtrack? I know I did for the first game, but this one deserves attention too. The majority of people you talk to will probably give this one the nod over the first game and I can't blame them. It's a preference thing. No doubt, this soundtrack is right up there with the original and you'd spend days listening to all the remixes people have done for this game's soundtrack over the years.

Streets of Rage 3 (Genesis)
For better or worse, Streets of Rage 3 would come two years later. It's the game that really divides the fanbase. Some consider it the best and some consider it the worst. I'm personally of the opinion that it's a god damn GREAT game and awesome addition to the series. What keeps me from calling it the best is the fact that the North American version sucks so fucking much. More on that in a few.

This game added even more improvements to its predecessor, adding a running feature, a new enemy set that's a bit smarter than previous games', and a new meter for special moves which would allow you to use them without draining your lifebar. It also featured a brancing storyline which led to playing through different stages. They really squeezed the genre as tight as they could, wringing out probably the last bit of innovative ideas you could add to a brawler.

This all worked fine and dandy until the game was released state-side. What really hurts the game here is the ridiculous amount of editing done to the game's content and the ludicrous difficulty.

For some unknown reason, Sega of America decided to completely dick this game up. They edited out anything that might be considered even remotely mature. That strikes me odd, as the Genesis had always been the edgier console of the generation. The other huge problem, which really almost makes the game unplayable at later levels, is the ridiculous cranking of the difficulty that was done for the North American version. This happened to a lot of games released at the time. Our version would be tougher than the Japanese original.

For a complete list of changes that were made for the US version of this game, refer to this list and facepalm constantly.

It's still a decently fun game, but if you're playing the NA version be prepared to a whole lot of frustration. Get the Bare Knuckle III ROM if you want to have real fun with this one.

Did I mention the fuckawful soundtrack? The music for this game literally hurts my ears on certain tracks. It's highly experimental and much more bass driven and techno-ey than before. I can see the direction Yuzo was trying to take, but Contra: Hard Corps completely outclassed it in spitting out some of the best techno-driven music the Genesis ever had.

So, yeah. It may have had a bit of a crummy showing stateside for its final release, but Streets of Rage still kicks the shit out of any other beat 'em up the SNES churned out.

But hey, at least Final Fight gave us her:

Be sure to also check out the unofficial Streets of Rage Remake Project. It's a nice remix of everything that found its way into the series over the years, only playable on PC now.

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