Streets of Rage
THIS CITY WAS ONCE A HAPPY, PEACEFUL PLACE... UNTIL ONE DAY, A POWERFUL SECRET CRIMINAL ORGANIZATION TOOK OVER. THIS VICIOUS SYNDICATE SOON HAD CONTROL OF THE GOVERNMENT AND EVEN THE POLICE FORCE. THE CITY HAS BECOME A CENTER OF VIOLENCE AND CRIME WHERE NO ONE IS SAFE.
AMID THIS TURMOIL, A GROUP OF DETERMINED YOUNG POLICE OFFICERS HAS SWORN TO CLEAN UP THE CITY. AMONG THEM ARE ADAM HUNTER, AXEL STONE, AND BLAZE FIELDING. THEY ARE WILLING TO RISK ANYTHING... EVEN THEIR LIVES... ON THE...
STREETS OF RAGE
Meet Adam, Axel, and Blaze, a daring team of intergender, interracial ex-cops who are determined to make their crime-ridden city safe once again. They also have the lamest hobbies ever. Adam Hunter may be a tough ex-cop teetering on the edge of madness whose hardball law enforcement methods are probably unconstitutional, but he also enjoys growing and maintaining bonsai trees. Blaze enjoys Brazilian ballroom dancing and shopping for headbands with Axel. Meanwhile, Axel enjoys playing video games. A video game character who plays video games himself? Oh, the delicious irony. It's probably more than just a coincidence that the name Axel Stone sounds kind of like Axl Rose. Blaze Fielding on the other hand is a blatant attempt to cash in on Dan Fielding, John Larroquette's then-popular character on Night Court. Sadly, these pathetic character bios are the most detailed descriptions that you'll find in the game. The basic plot itself is incredibly vague and derivative; you fight a nameless crime syndicate comprised of nameless thugs. That's right, none of the enemies in this game have names. They were all given names in the sequel, but for the purpose of this review, they are simply anonymous threats to your survival. It actually makes perfect sense... after all, how often does a mugging victim stop to ask the attacker's name?
As should be expected, the first level of Streets of Rage takes place in a street. There's not really a whole lot of rage on this street, but there's plenty of bars and breakfast diners. There's also your typical late 1980s/early 1990s hoodlums. Ever since Double Dragon defined the genre, all arcade-style beat 'em ups have had the same types of enemies. Above, we see two of the most popular generic video game enemies. First, there's the harmless street punk with leather gloves who you'll kill about 10,000 times over the course of the game. In later levels, you'll fight slightly harder palette swaps of Harmless Street Punk, but even these won't put up much of a fight. Every game put its own unique spin on these highly expendable grunts... In Streets of Rage, they have kneepads. I have no fucking clue why street punks would need kneepads, unless they suck cocks for money, which is a distinct possibility. I'll spare you the horror of a photoshopped street punk sucking off Earthworm Jim and we'll move on. Next up, there's the chick with the whip. This one is perhaps even more important than the harmless street punks. Double Dragon introduced us to the whipmaster Linda, with her purple spandex and Annie Warbucks hairdo. Streets of Rage has leatherclad dominatrixes with high heels and and police hats who bear an eerie resemblace to Tour Guide David Lee Roth from his "California Girls" music video. And just like Diamond Dave, they don't know when to quit.
Here's the first boss, he's some weirdo with a bomber jacket, jeans, and a boomerang. The obvious question to ask is this: Why the fuck would an evil crime syndicate hire a guy with a boomerang? Unfortunately, there's no answer; there never is in games like this. However, there are two cardinal rules that all Streets of Rage bosses follow. First, the boss will almost always be taller than you. If the boss is NOT taller than you, there will be two of them. Secondly, the boss will have some advantage over you, generally it will involve being faster than you and/or having a projectile weapon. In the case of Boomerang Guy, he has a projectile. This concludes the "state the obvious" portion of this review. Moving on...
Level 2 brings our heroes from the nicer city streets into the inner city. If there are any actual streets of rage in this game, these would be them. This section of town is very rundown: empty oils drums lay strewn about, every window in sight is broken, and every building is covered with graffiti and bodybuilding posters. In this level, there are even more leather punks to fight. I especially like the ones with the pink mohawks and yellow patent leather; their main weapon is their poor sense of fashion. You also encounter evil jugglers who toss axes and fire at you in this level. Great, I'm fighting fucking circus freaks. At this point in the game, I have to wonder if the whip chicks are actually lion tamers. Thankfully, there's no clowns. Clowns suck.
The second boss is a tall dude with bad posture who sort of reminds me of Keifer Sutherland in The Lost Boys. Like several other video game villains, Boss #2 has the fucking Krueger claws. It's a rather predictable comparison to make, but it *has* to be made. The idea of Freddie Krueger is so strongly sewn into the fabric of pop culture that any human character with claws will inevitably be paralleled to Wes Craven's boogeyman. Whether or not Krueger was the first miscreant to employ a claw as a weapon is irrelevant; he is the dominant image. Slasher movie comparisons aside, Boss #2 is fast. His ability to suddenly lunge forward and rip you open is not one to be taken lightly. Fortunately for you, Slasher Dude moves in a very predictable pattern that borders on insultingly easy. If you don't pick up on it, you ought to quit playing video games.
Level III: Beach of Rage! This beach actually isn't much different from many other overcrowded, underprotected beaches in the United States. Spare tires, empty beer cans, and mutton litter the ground. This could be Venice Beach in California or Revere Beach in Massachusetts. All that's missing are the condom wrappers and syringes. For some reason, apples and legs of lamb are your main sources of nourishment on these raging streets. This isn't the medieval fantasy world of Golden Axe, it's a generic 1991 metropolis; where the fuck are the pizza slices and candy bars? I wants answers NOW.
I can't decide if this boss wants to be Rambo or The Ultimate Warrior. Judging by his lack of guns, knives, and exploding arrowheads, I'm gonna go with Ultimate Warrior. This is quite possibly the easiest boss in the game. His attack strategy involves running directly at you in a steroid-fueled rage. He's fast, but if you have any sense of timing, you can kill him without getting hit. Sadly, you can't take his ridiculous knee-high orange boots when you beat him.
Level 4 takes place on an incomplete bridge because construction sites offer a sense of foreboding that other locales don't; that's what made Hammerin' Harry is one of the scariest games from the pre-Resident Evil era. This level isn't particularly interesting. You fight the same street punks that you fought in the last three levels, only this time it's on a bridge. By this point, Axel and friends start to encounter an increasing number of palette swaps of the basic punks. They take more hits, but they have the same poor A.I. as their weaker counterparts. The only interesting thing about this level is the random pits that you can knock enemies into. Be careful not to let those assholes repay the favor.
Boss IV is an unusually agile fat, bald guy who breathes fire. Data East can't be happy that Sega totally ripped off Karnov for their game. This guy is actually fairly annoying to fight. He runs at you while shooting fire in front of him, so to sucessfully damage him you need to sidestep his attack and hit him from behind. That doesn't sound all that hard, but it is. Boss IV at least as fast as Ultimate Warrior and if you hit him at certain angles, your guy will go into a throw. Unfortunately, Fatty is far too heavy for you to suplex, so you'll end hurting your character's back and taking damage.
Special attacks are a staple of beat 'em up games. These attacks are generally much more powerful than your basic attacks, but they should only be used to get you out of a tight spots because of various limitations imposed on them. For example, Golden Axe required you to collect and use magic potions in order for your character to execute a special attack. In Capcom games like The Punisher or Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, special attacks cost life to use. In Streets of Rage, the special attack system is even more simplistic: you get one special attack per level, except for the last level where you get none. In later levels, you may find a miniature police car lying around. This will give you an extra special attack. If you die during a level, your special attacks will be reset to 1. Obviously, this is good if you have zero left and not to so good if you have two. Thus, always use your special attack if you're about to die. What is the special attack, anyway? Well, it's like this: according to the game manual, pressing the special attack button allows your ex-cop to summon the "one good guy left on the force" and damn is this guy loyal. No matter where you are, whether it's the ghetto, the beach, a condemned bridge, or even a boat crusing around the city's harbor, Police Guy will pull up in his car and fire his rocket launcher. His attack will instantly kill most lesser enemies and severely damage bosses. Unless you're pratically dead or borderline retarded, you should always save your special attacks for the end of the level.
Hmmm... I wonder what the next level is. Maybe it's the boat pictured above. You'll have to read part two to find out.
Click here to rage on.