There’s something about the Genesis/Mega Drive game Streets of Rage II that, even after almost two decades, still gets my pulse pounding and my sweat glands pumping.
Perhaps it’s the immortal technopop soundtrack that helped introduce me and countless other 11-year-olds to the world of electronic music. Most game tunes of the time were stuck in “bubblegum mode,” with light, airy melodies carrying you through yet another cutesy platformer. The music in Streets of Rage II, however, grabs the player by the neck and drags their face over the pavement, screaming “This is life or death!” Yuzo Koshiro’s work stands the test of time and even transcends its medium; if one didn’t know better and the instruments were slightly less video gamey, one might think that the tunes were produced for a new techno album.
Or maybe it’s the great controls and variety of attacks that keeps me hooked. A skilled player can come up with dozens of ways to dispatch the endless hoards of baddies, knocking down entire groups of them with one devastating reversal. Weapons are easy to pick up and use, or even to throw at unsuspecting thugs across the screen if you’d rather go it with your fists instead. Each of the four playable characters has weapons he or she is most skilled with, making replay games almost as thrilling as your first time though.
Possibly it's the large, colorful graphics that keep me enthralled. The characters look fantastic while they’re kicking butt, and despite the uninspired copy-and-paste punks that inhabit the majority of most levels, Streets of Rage II has some of the best sprite-based graphics I’ve ever seen the Genny pull off. Also, a couple of the dudes that the player battles look a little funny, like Big Ben, the 300 pound, flame spewing baseball fan, but that’s all part of the game’s ample charm.
Yeah, all of those things are wonderful, but I bet what really keeps me coming back is Axel’s flowing, prettyboy hair. But you can read all about that in my upcoming fanfic, “Streets of Passion.”
Er, anyway, go play Streets of Rage II. Not only was it the best in the SoR series, it’s one of the best games on the Genesis; I would even go as far as to call it one of the greatest games of all time. Not just another mindless brawler, this one will keep you entertained for years to come.
That is, if it hasn’t already.