Last Updated on November 6, 2023
Streets of Rage is one of the most iconic franchises in the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis library. Many players regard Streets of Rage 2 as the series’ pinnacle, but let’s check out where it all began.
If you’ve not played before, Streets of Rage is side-scrolling beat em up where you clean up the mean streets of Wood Oak City as either Adam, Axel, or Blaze. There are subtle differences between the fighters, with Adam being the strongest but slowest and Blaze having great mobility but weak attacks.
Scrolling beat ’em ups are a dime a dozen, but Streets of Rage has enough nuance to avoid the typical tropes that plague the genre.
More than a mindless button masher
One of the best parts about the Streets of Rage series is how the games aren’t as ‘brainless’ as they appear. There’s a ton of strategy, and each enemy type exhibits unique behaviors. This trait is present in the original but in a primitive state compared to the sequels.
Combat is a mixed bag, as fighting feels rather stiff and basic. Iconic special moves like ‘Grand Upper’ aren’t in the first game, and most battles consist of throwing punches, hoping to hit your opponent before they do the same to you. There’s still skill in positioning yourself so you don’t get surrounded, and weapons add much-needed depth.
Boss fights are fun and challenging and do a great job of breaking up the gameplay loop, even if they feel a little cheap at times.
Although each enemy has their own behaviors, which is a really nice touch, many of them follow quite rigid patterns. The AI does have a few annoying quirks, but the most irritating is how they often hover just out of range. Is the length of my arms common knowledge in Wood Oak City? If you try to close the distance, they step back, and since you can’t run, you can’t do much other than wait.
I was going to comment on the ‘Galsia’ enemies specifically, as these orange-haired goons are in every Streets of Rage game. However, I noticed enemies don’t have names in the original. In fact, the only opponents that even have health bars are the bosses. I’ve read that this differs from the Japanese version, but I’ve not seen it myself. It’s not a game-breaker, but I’m glad they changed this in future titles.
One thing I can’t complain about is the music. Sega truly knocked the soundtrack out of the park, a trend that continues across the trilogy. It’s a treat to see the origins of one of the most iconic beat ’em up franchises, and it’s worth a go for that alone, but the sequels are infinitely more replayable.
Streets of Rage: Streets of Rage is a serviceable beat 'em up that suffers from being just a little too simple. The therapeutic nature of the genre takes center stage, but combat is basic and gets repetitive well before the end credits. – yatesa
Anthony is a freelance writer and has worked in the industry for three years. He’s furiously competitive and is always looking for the next big multiplayer hit. Anthony is a passionate PS1 collector and firmly believes in playing games in his collection rather than letting them collect dust on a shelf. He is also passionate about speedrunning and always looks forward to the next GDQ and ESA events.