Genre: Beat-‘Em-Up Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega Players: 1-2 Released: 1992
The Game Gear never got much in the way of beat-’em-ups, which is a bummer for me since it’s easily one of my favorite genres of classic gaming. I actually started out owning a copy of Streets of Rage 2 for the Game Gear first, and for me, it was one of the best games on the struggling handheld. I didn’t come across a copy of the first one until some years later and finally decided to pick it up since it was so cheap. I didn’t know what to expect from it, since it seemed to pretty much go under the radar and has all been forgotten and overshadowed by its superior sequel. I decided to give it a try since there was almost no review coverage for it online, and I was trying to slowly go through and play my entire Game Gear library. Obviously, my first impressions were not good. This version of Streets of Rage is forgotten for a reason. It’s far from the worst Game Gear game or anything like that. Heck, it even copies the Genesis original pretty closely, but it’s just a stripped-down and flawed version of the series’ start, which I thought wasn’t all that impressive to begin with.
When you first start the game up, you will instantly be familiar with the title screen and story if you’ve played the Genesis version. You can only pick from Axel and Blaze this time around, as Adam is missing. The game only has five of the eight stages present in the original, which is actually a good thing if you ask me, since the eight stages took too long and made the game very tedious. Each of the stages present here replicates its console sibling almost perfectly just with more limited graphics and audio. Again, not a bad thing, and the programmers deserve due credit for this area of the game. The graphics have a ton of detail here, and almost all of the objects and backgrounds made it over. Only having five stages present left the programmers plenty of cartridge space to make the graphics shine. The music here sounds very 8-bit like it should, but each of the tunes are instantly recognizable and very memorable here. This is a huge plus, since they’re from a series renowned for its excellent music. Yuzo Koshiro really shines, even here with the lesser horse power of the Game Gear.
Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn’t fare as well here. This game was very difficult to play through for me this time around, and I decided to use a cheat code to finish it with invincibility, as the collision detection is really shoddy. Axel is just a tad too slow and is overpowered by the enemies’ speed too easily. Blaze is fast enough to keep up but is too weak and is also overpowered by the enemies’ strength. Your basic punch-kick combos don’t always connect with the enemies properly, and often some or the entire combo will miss, allowing the enemies a chance to counterattack too easily and giving them the chance to gang up on you. On top of that, special attacks are missing, causing you to have to rely on mainly jump kicks and throws. It’s too sloppy to play right and gets too frustrating to be any fun for more than a stage or two. Once I turned it off, I never had the intention of playing it again.
Streets of Rage is a game with a lot of potential and some big shoes to fill, but it doesn’t quite live up to it. It’s not a horrible game, and it could’ve been much better if Sega had just spent some more time tweaking and polishing the gameplay. As it stands, it’s really not recommended unless you’re just diehard obsessed with all things Streets of Rage or Game Gear.
SCORE: 5 out of 10