Top 100 Retro Games: Streets of Rage II
Streets of Rage II
I never owned Streets of Rage II growing up, but I did play it a lot at a friend’s house. We had a friend in our neighborhood who was a massive Sega fan. In fact, I think his dad knew someone who worked for them maybe? He always had a lot of good Sega games and Streets of Rage II was one that we played with him a bit. I rented it too, but I disliked it as much as games on the NES like River City Ransom and Double Dragon. My personal bias, even as a kid, leaned towards Nintendo over Sega always, and it was tough to overcome that until well into adulthood when I really began to go back and re-explore the Genesis and Master System.
A few things really made me think a lot about Streets of Rage II in more recent years. Greg Sewart’s Generation 16 video series, which is exceptional, has further brought the Genesis to the forefront of my mind. When the new Genesis collection came out for the Playstation Four and other systems, Streets of Rage II was one of the first games I played that night on our stream along with Sonic and Gun Star Heroes.
So, the plot of Streets of Rage II goes something like this: One year after the events of the first Streets of Rage game, Mr. X and The Syndicate return to avenge their defeat in the first game. Our heroes fight their way to the island where Mr. X is hiding out in order to defeat their foe.
Normally, this is where we would discuss the coverage of a game in Nintendo Power, but let us look at the February 1993 issue of Game Pro, which gave the game five stars and heavily praised its audio and graphics, which we will do in a little while as well. That issue, which I owned, has a really ugly picture of Brent Spiner on the cover promoting a Star Trek game.
The nerdy kid in this commercial looks a LOT like the nerdy kid on Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. Does anyone remember Parker Lewis? I watched a lot of that show. It was kind of a Ferris Beuller knockoff, but very early nineties instead of the Reagan Eighties and in your face. There was actually very briefly a Ferris Beuller television show too. The sister of Ferris was played by someone who would become a massive star a few years later: Jennifer Anniston. The show only lasted a few episodes. If I recall, Nintendo Power did a feature about it in an early issue.
The cover for Streets of Rage II is a fantastic action scene. My only complaint is that Blaze’s hair is really poofy and very eighties looking, which does not really hit into the game very well. She is a brutal vigilante, not a single episode romantic interest on a sitcom. Her hair kind of looks like the woman from Hart to Hart on this cover. I found some promotional art work for Streets of Rage III online where she has more layered, eighties anime style hair, which looks a lot better. More on Blaze in a bit.
This game has a wonderful soundtrack that incorporates a lot of techno and funk into it.
This game has been reissued or ported a number of times. I did not know until very recently that there were Game Gear and Master System versions of this game. Streets of Rage II has also been on the Dreamcast, Steam, and Nintendo’s Virtual Console. Most recently it was reissued on the Genesis collection that was released on the PS4 and other systems.
Streets of Rage II is by far the best game in the series. Honestly, I could hear an argument that it is the best game on the Genesis in general. It plays smoothly with action that holds up today. The graphics are timeless. Also, it has a super badass lady protagonist in Blaze, which was not often seen back then. So many retro games are playable nowadays because of nostalgia or legacy. If Streets of Rage II came out this year, it would be a game of the year candidate.
I really enjoyed playing Streets of Rage, the series in general, a lot while solo, but it is clear this game is made for multiple players. Some of the best games of the old days like River City Ransom and Contra were multiplayer games and this one certainly is funner with two people. When Greg Sewart streamed this game that way during an Extra Life stream, it looked so fun to play with someone else. I wish the new Genesis collection allowed for friends in different places to play together.
This game looks so good on a modern television. Many retro games look pixely or stretched. It looks absolutely gorgeous. The color palette in this game is equal parts weird and beautiful.
Something we have discussed a lot in both podcasts and streams is the abundance of lag in many games. Streets of Rage II has none of it! Even when there are a lot of moving parts on the screen, nothing slows or glitches.
In the same vein, this game never feels too hard or frustrating, for the most part. The first Streets of Rage game can be quite overwhelming as enemies swarm all over you. It is obviously fairly tough to properly balance that out, but this game does it well.
Oh, hey, at one point you fight the Ultimate Warrior. He even runs around like an idiot, just like the Ultimate Warrior.
Blaze is always the character I choose to play as when playing this game. She has gone on to be quite the inspiration for many things and people over the years. For some women around my age, she may have been the first none damsel in distress, or a woman with that quality at some point, think Rosa in Final Fantasy IV, they ever played as in a video game. The early days of console gaming are littered with princesses, kidnapped girlfriends, like in a game we mentioned earlier, River City Ransom, and it was hard to come by a more positive role model for women.