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Raging In The Streets

Streets of Rage 2 One of the early Sega Genesis games that propped up the console prior to Sonic the Hedgehog's arrival was Streets of Rage, a brawler from the genre that brought us the likes of Final Fight and Double Dragon.  The game went on to spawn two sequels, each more detailed and outlandish than the last (a playable boxing kangaroo?  Really?).  Although largely overlooked today, the Streets of Rage series is still fondly remembered by those who took up the challenge to take down the villainous Mr. X once and for all.  Hardcore Gaming 101 takes a look back at the trilogy in this expansive feature article.

Streets of Rage takes place in an ambiguous American city that's been overtaken by a wave of organized crime lead by a man named Mr. X. With the police force in his pocket, the only thing left to stand up to his criminal enterprise is three vigilante ex-cops who look like they've been yanked straight out of a 1980's Hollywood direct-to-video martial arts action movie. As its absolutely ridiculous American name implies, much of it takes place across a series of very hostile roads. As its Japanese name indicates, you engage in a series of fist fights along your way. Like almost all other early Final Fight clones, your movesets are very basic. You can throw, attack, or whack somebody who's standing behind you. Once per life you can call in what might be the most iconic bomb in all of video game-dom - a cop who steps out of a squad car and fires a rocket launcher, blowing up any thugs on screen. This is pretty obviously a holdover from the magic attacks in Golden Axe, Sega's other prominent beat-em-up series. As per genre standards, once in a while you'll find weapons lying on the ground, like bats, breakable beer bottles, or the cliqued lead pipes.

There's also an awesome option at the end of the game where Mr. X will actually give you an offer to join him in taking over the city. If you deny him, you have to fight. If you accept, then you get tossed down a trap door and back to an earlier stage. However, if you're playing in two player mode, each player can answer independently. If one says yes and the other says no, they have to duel each other. Afterwards, they can choose to fight Mr. X and then take over the Syndicate for themselves. Here you'll get a different ending as your character sits on a throne and laughs.

What I found interesting was how Sega censored the later games in the series when they were released outside of Japan.  This sort of thing wasn't uncommon during the 16-bit era, but seeing all of the changes laid out one after the other surprised me.  Thankfully, nothing of major value seems to have been lost in the visual changes (unless you're eager to peek up the heroine's skirt or take on the gay stereotype stage boss, of course), but the gameplay in Streets of Rage 3 seems to have become horribly unbalanced when it was retooled for international release.  I can understand removing some of the more controversial visual elements, but why tamper with the gameplay in this manner?