Sega seemed a bit lost for a few years as what to do with their properties. They tried many new things, created new characters, but left many of their greatest series in limbo. With a catalog of franchises as prominent and loved as Sega’s, one can’t help but wonder why there hadn’t been more interest over the years in maintaining many of their more famous franchises in the public eye.
This has been changing, as of late, with the resurgence of Shinobi, Phantasy Star, Ecco, Altered Beast, Shining Force; among others. On every current platform, there seems to be healthy dose of support and the software giant is sprinkling its most famous properties around like so much mozzarella cheese on a pizza. It seems that Sega has finally realized that there is great interest in these games and that the fans do indeed want more.
Not to the company that released it.
Time and time again, hope for another sequel has been crushed by the corporate boot. Even the game’s creators have tried to resurrect it and were unsuccessful. The company just doesn’t seem to want to be bothered with the series any more.
So where did Streets of Rage go wrong? How did it fall from a first rate series to forgotten franchise? There’s some history to that, so read on and prepared to get pissed.
Sega: Strike One
One of Sega’s most prominent Genesis franchises, Streets of Rage made its debut in 1991 and spawned two awesome sequels, as well as some great Game Gear versions.. All were lauded by critics as well as the public and sold quite well. By 1995, the series had a solid fan base and with Sega all set to release their new 32-bit system, everyone was expecting to see part four as a launch title. Many hearts were broken when it was announced that the game wasn’t even in development. The Saturn launched with a paltry four titles and it appeared that the days of the Genesis power franchises would give way to a new generation of characters. Soon, fans began to wonder how long Sega would wait before bringing back their premier beat-’em-up franchise.
Once the Saturn was released, however, it quickly became apparent that some serious name brand recognition was needed to boost sales. Sega attempted to buy the unfinished game Fighting Force from Eidos and make it the next incarnation of Streets but the deal fell through. Perhaps we should be thankful that nothing became of it, as we all know how Fighting Force turned out.
It’s also been rumored that 1996’s Die Hard Arcade was slated to be the next Streets of Rage but was aborted after it was determined that an arcade sequel wasn’t viable. How this would have turned out is questionable and while DHA is a decent title for what it is, it is doubtful that it could have emulated the level of quality of the first three games.
Sega: Strike Two
With the announcement of the Dreamcast in 1998, hope was rekindled and many gamers awaited the news that something was in development. In fact, the team responsible for the series (also credited with the classic Revenge of Shinobi) actually wanted to make a fourth game and in 1999, Yuzo Koshiro and his sister Ayano (the original character designer) and others from the team went to Sega with a demo to try and make it happen. Sega of Japan was intrigued and passed it on to the American division. Amazingly, Sega of America executives at the time claimed to not of know the series and proceeded to reject it. No new Streets of Rage for us.
Instead, we got Dynamite Cop.
Under what rock had SOA been hiding its head for the past eight years? With a bit of research they most certainly would have realized what a hot property this series was and how foolish they would have been to pass on it. Supposedly, the lack of consumer interest in the beat-’em-up genre was the reasoning behind their decision. They did, however, release Dynamite Cop and Zombie Revenge for the system, as well as allowing turds like Soul fighter to be made. The DC died in 2001 and gamers were again disappointed that nothing had been done.
Sega: Strike Three
By now Sega had two failed consoles under its belt in less than seven years. Becoming a third party developer, concentration was thus shifted to strengthening their brands. Sonic was brought back with a vengeance across all platforms, the Saturn’s incredible Panzer Dragoon made its Xbox debut, Altered Beast and Shining Force appeared on the GBA, and Shinobi sliced and diced his way across the Playstation 2 landscape. The scene was perfect for a Streets comeback.
In March, 2001, Yuzo set the fan’s hearts all a’flutter when he told the now-defunct SegaWeb.com that his sister, character designer Ayano Koshiro, already had four characters done and that with the development teams now independent, he planned on taking the idea to Hitmaker. Should they accept, the game would likely come out on Xbox. According to an article at XboxActive.com, Yuzo approached Hitmaker with a new demo and they were quite enthusiastic about doing the game.
Noriyoshi Ohba of Overworks further fanned the flames when he stated that he wanted to make more games for the American market, like Revenge of Shinobi and Streets of Rage. Overworks was formally known as Sega’s AM7 team and were responsible for both titles (you may remember them in the credits as Team Shinobi & Team Streets of Rage).
Unfortunately, Koshiro told OPCFG in a 2002 interview that nothing was in development and that any rumors of Ancient or anyone else working on SoR4 were just that, rumors.
So What’s Left?
Aside from bitter disappointment, not much. There is the recent announcement that Streets of Rage will be redone for the new Sega Ages budget series of remakes. These have been hit-and-miss in terms of quality, however, and it is unknown which game will be done and who will be handling it. If it turns out anything like Golden Axe, pray that it never comes stateside. The beat-’em-up genre is also making a resurgence. The Ninja Turtles have returned, as have River City Ransom and Double Dragon, so maybe this means that there’s still hope.
Many homebrew variations of SoA are also available. The amazing Beats of Rage, a take on the series using SNK sprites, can be downloaded for free and played on the Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, or PC; with GP32 and Palmtop versions in development. It’s a top-notch game and among the best homebrew efforts I’ve ever seen.
There you have it. A new sequel is nowhere in sight but there are still the three great games on Genesis as well as hope that the Sega Ages remake will turn out decent. Who knows, if it does well, maybe that will give Sega the kick in the ass they need to actually green light a new installment. Those looking for something similar coming down the pike can also check out AM2’s Spikeout Xtreme for Xbox, which seems to be the closest we’re going to get on a console for now. Until then, pop in any of the Genny versions, turn up the stereo, and enjoy one of the greatest series of all time.
Want to see what could have been? Check out these concept videos of Streets of Rage 4 for the Dreamcast.