Unless you’ve recently become a cage fighter, Streets of Rage 2 is probably the most fun beat-‘em-up experience you’ll ever have. Released in December 1992, the adored SEGA videogame just turned 25 – and fans of the cult side-scroller are all over social media, understandably fawning over its fluid gameplay, inventive bosses and (crucially) killer soundtrack. Let us count the ways in which a 16-bit videogame sequel came to mean so much to so many.
The characters’ individuality
Dastardly Mr. X is back, and this time he’s only gone and kidnapped Adam, one of the heroes from the original game. Adam’s brother, new character Skate, recruits Axel and Blaze, also from the first Streets of Rage, plus a wrestler named Max, to navigate the ravaged dystopia on a bloody rescue mission. Impressively, you truly notice when you play as the different fighters – Max, for instance, boasts a killer power slide, while Skate is impressively fast and agile.
Its Japanese title is the best ever
In Japan, the game was released as Bare Knuckle II: the Requiem of the Deadly Battle, which may be the greatest name of all time?
It’s a little bit political
Let’s be clear: Streets of Rage is mainly about walking to the right while you bash bad guys really hard. But, as Kotaku notes, the game does touch on the effects that industrialisation has upon urban areas: “The sinister elements have overtaken the factories (Stage 7) and even the office place (Stage 8). Everything has been automated, and even if it’s a subconscious message, the implication is that most of these people have lost their jobs because of social upheaval. They’ve turned to crime out of necessity.” Who doesn’t like a bit of social conscience to accompany their steely retribution upon an endless stream of 16-bit foes?
The soundtrack bangs
Well, this is the main thing, isn’t it? The Streets of Rage II has gone down in videogame folklore as an absolute classic. Largely composed by a then 25-year-old Yuzo Koshiro, it’s a brilliantly deranged combination of buoyant funk, skittering keys, wild chiptune sound effects and the occasional thud to reflect the righteous blows you rain down upon your opponents. It’s available on sick vinyl, too, though it’ll set you back a few bob.
The baddies are unusually varied
Bad guys in videogames from this era are often a repetitive parade of cut-and-paste character whose killer blows hardly vary. Not so here. Players come up against Muay Thai fighters, dudes with jetpacks, steampunk warriors who look like they’ve stepped out of Mad Max; Beyond the Thunderdome, kung-fu experts and a thick stream of baseball-wielding bad bastards. These violent, disaffected dudes certainly kept us on our toes – and were so compelling that we continue to fear them after 25 years.