Fan remakes of classic video-games on the PC are a common thing nowadays, since we have Super Mario Bros. Crossover by Exploding Rabbit, Mega Man Unlimited by MegaPhilX, all those MUGEN fighting games (including a much better version of the very first Street Fighter game), among many others. And now, I’m going to review another one of these entries, Streets of Rage Remake!
Now before I get on with the review, let’s start with a little history, shall we?
In August 1991, during the 16-bit portion of the Video-Game Console War, Sega released Streets of Rage (aka Bare Knuckle in Japan) on their system, the Genesis (aka the Mega Drive in Japan and Europe). The game was a 2-player 2D-style side-scrolling beat-em-up about three ex-police officers named Adam Hunter, Axel Stone, and Blaze Fielding, who take the fight to the streets to stop a notorious criminal organisation called “The Syndicate”, run by the criminal mastermind Mr. X, as well as try to bring peace back to their beloved Wood Oak City. SOR soon became one of the best beat-em-ups in the same league as Capcom’s Final Fight, Technos’ Double Dragon, and Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, and X-Men arcade games. It spawned two sequels, Streets of Rage 2 (which is one of my favourite Mega Drive games) in 1992, and Streets of Rage 3 (if you ever want to play this, you should download the Japanese version, as well as the English translation patch from Twilight Translations, onto your PC) in 1994, as well as a comic strip adaptation in the UK-based Sonic the Comic by Fleetway. Oh yes, there was also a SOR movie released in 1994 starring women’s wrestler The Magnificent Mimi, but it had nothing to do with the games and just simply used the Streets of Rage name for some free promotion.
After SOR3, Sega have been trying for years to get a fourth game off the ground, but were unable to due to the slow decline of the beat-em-up genre in the mid 1990’s. So, Streets of Rage 4 was put on hold. There were many attempts like, British developer Core Design wanted to make SOR4 for the 32-bit Sega Saturn, and even asking Sega to publish it, but because of a disagreement about porting it to rival systems such as the Sony Playstation 1 and the Nintendo 64, Sega pulled the Streets of Rage name during development, forcing Core to rework the game into the overhyped Fighting Force, which sucked by the way. The second time around, Sega of Japan tried to make a Streets of Rage game for their 128-bit wonder, the Dreamcast, since early test footage was leaked onto the Internet. But the game was cancelled once Sega of America pulled the plug, due to the lack of faith in the brand. Besides, Sega announced in 2001 that they would be releasing their games on non-Sega consoles. However, in late 2005, while surfing the net, I discovered this little website about a Spanish independent developer called BomberGames, who were working on a remake of the entire SOR Trilogy for play on Windows XP-based PC’s since March 17th 2003. I downloaded a playable beta of the game, and it was superb! And so, I spent a whole year getting psyched until SORR was finally released on December 31st 2006, and that was version 4.0 back then, which I did play. From there on, BomberGames spent four more years making version 5.0.
And so, to mark the 20th anniversary of both SOR1’s original release and the entire Streets of Rage franchise, Streets of Rage Remake version 5.0 was finally released to the public on April 3rd 2011. However, nearly a fortnight after the game’s release, Sega threw a huge spanner into the works, but I’ll be saving that for a brief rant at the end of this review. Moving on…
The story takes place a year after SOR3, as Mr. X and his Syndicate goons once again return from the dead, and are hellbent on taking over Wood Oak City. And so, like the previous three SOR games, Adam, Axel, and Blaze, along with their friends Max Thunder (a professional wrestler, who helped Axel and Blaze rescue Adam from Mr. X in SOR2), Eddie “Skate” Hunter (Adam’s younger brother, who also aided in rescuing his big brother in SOR2), and Dr. Gilbert Zan (an old RoboCy scientist with cybernetic implants, who helped Axel, Blaze, and Skate stop the Syndicate from using his explosive substance called “Laxine” to create World War 3 in SOR3), set off to stop the Syndicate from taking over Wood Oak City… again!
There you go. That’s all the story you need to hear. Just short, simple, and to the point.
The ever-so-awesome gameplay on SORR is the same punch, kick, jump, run, throw, and use weapons engine as before from the SOR Trilogy, plus you can use either your keyboard or a controller to play the game, thus the gameplay is both simple and effective! One cool thing that returns from SOR1 is the ability to call in a strike from your police buddies. This feature was sorely missed in the sequels, and it’s a good thing it’s back.
Besides being able to play as Axel, Blaze, Max, Skate, and Zan, another major thing I really like is the ability to finally play as Adam for the first time since SOR1. His previously limited moveset has now been extended to fit the SOR2/SOR3 gameplay, and that’s awesome! At the same time, all the enemies and bosses from the SOR Trilogy return as well, along with a bunch of new ones.
Now, during the game, another thing you get to do is take different routes at certain points, and the route you take determines the ending you get. Also, in between stages, like SOR3, you’re treated to cutscenes depending on the route you take. Two of the routes involve riding motorcycles, which was a planned stage concept for SOR3. You’ll see a screenshot of this in a jiff.
Aside from being able to play the game with a friend, you can also play it with a computer-controlled buddy too, a feature that first appeared in Final Fight 3 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1995.
The gameplay can also be tweaked in the Options menu, such as the difficulty level, number of lives, etc. And you can also use two controllers for simutaneous 2-player action!
What can I say? The graphics look pretty good, just like they did back on the good old Mega Drive. The sprites for not only all the returning characters, but also a bunch of new ones, are really fantastic. BomberGames took a huge chance by going as far away from next-gen as possible by going old-school with 16-bit, and it couldn’t look any prettier!
One neat touch they’ve added is the enemies bleeding whenever you either cut them up with either a knife or a sword, or shoot them with a gun.
Another thing I’d like to point is that while selecting your character, you can choose from many different colours. For example, Axel’s first alternate colour is yellow and black.
All the stages from the SOR Trilogy make a big return, along with a bunch of exclusive ones. Now only that, but the classic stages have also been touched up a lot. For example, as you can see from the above screenshot, the amusement arcade in SOR2’s third stage now looks like an actual amusement arcade.
For all the charm that the gameplay and graphics both bring to the game, another is from the sound. All the classic SOR music by Yuzo Koshiro has been updated, and it never sounded better!
Also, you can choose between the English and Japanese voices for the SOR3 characters in the Options menu.
When it comes to the various difficulty levels you can choose from, the game can offer a challenge, but when you go to the Options menu and put it on Easy, SORR does get easier, while it does get harder on the higher levels like Very Hard and Mania. So after devoting enough time, you can easily master the harder difficulties.
If you’re looking for a good reason to play through SORR again, the game gives you a ton of options. Aside from the Duel mode (now renamed “Battle”) in which you and a friend fight each other, there is a Shop menu that is available after you beat the game for the first time, and you earn money from every playthrough so you can buy various things such as extra characters (such as Mr. X and everyone’s favourite arrogant martial artist Shiva, along with a couple of both old and new faces), cool cheats (such as the ability to play as Max in his SOR2 beta stance, using lightsabers against your enemies, and being able to play as the SOR1 and SOR2 versions of Axel and Blaze, as well as the SOR2 versions of Skate and Shiva, since only the SOR3 versions of said characters are available when you first start up the game), and brand new modes, such as Volleyball Mode where you and that very same friend can play volleyball, Boss Rush where after you try and survive against the massive wave of bosses from the main game, and Event Mode where you try and complete difficult tasks such as kill a huge wave of enemies by only throwing them into a pit.
Another interesting feature that you can buy in the Shop menu is Streets of Rage Maker, in which you can create your own SOR adventure, by taking stage backgrounds from other games and putting SOR enemies on them.
Before I give my final thoughts, I’d like to tell everyone that one week after the release of SORR, Sega, who still own the rights to the SOR franchise, decided to screw us loyal fans over by filing a cease-and-desist order towards BomberGames, claiming that “Sega is committed to supporting any fans that take an interest in our games, and where possible we do so by involving them in beta tests and other development, marketing or research opportunities. However we need to protect our intellectual property rights and this may result in us requesting that our fans remove online imagery, videos, or games in some instances.” As a result, BomberGames had removed all download links to SORR from their website.
After reading that, I for one felt like Sega was giving us SOR fans the middle finger with their stupid statement. I mean, fan games help video-game franchises stay strong. For example, there’s Super Mario Bros. Crossover, which features not only Mario, but also Link (from The Legend of Zelda), Samus Aran (from Metroid), Mega Man, Simon Belmont (from Castlevania), Ryu Hayabusa (from Ninja Gaiden), and the S.O.P.H.I.A. tank (from Blaster Master). I don’t see anyone complaining! And so, it gives me great pleasure to give that same middle finger right back to Sega, because Streets of Rage Remake V5 can be found on other download sites, such as Streets of Rage Online. So, too bad Sega, your stupid little cease-and-desist didn’t work!
So, is Streets of Rage Remake worth the trouble it went through to come to be? Yes, definately! And I say that as a huge Streets of Rage fan. Now you gotta bear in mind, I’m also a huge beat-em-up fan. I’ve just been playing them for years, I love them, and I wish we would have more. Streets of Rage Remake is all about revisiting the past and giving a little bit extra, and it damn well delivers in every sense of the word!
In conclusion, Streets of Rage Remake is the uncrowned Best Freeware Game of 2011, hands down! And for my final verdict, Streets of Rage Remake gets a big fat juicy 10 Grand Uppers out of 10!
Until next time, gamers, here’s Axel reminding you of one thing: