It’s high time we return to SEGA’s classic back-alley brawler series
Of all of SEGA’s classic franchises, one series in particular stays lodged in my mind like a well-placed lead pipe to the skull. Streets of Rage, the former console juggernaut’s answer to Capcom’s hit arcade sensation Final Fight, delivered explosive, bare knuckle (see what I did there?) thrills to the living room in a way no other beat-’em-up series managed to do in the 1990’s. Fueled by an edgy art style, tight mechanics and an unforgettable soundtrack courtesy of VGM legend Yuzo Koshiro, the Streets of Rage series managed to reinvigorate the oversaturated beat-’em-up genre like a life-sustaining phone booth turkey over the course of its 3 releases on the 16-bit SEGA Genesis console.
While SEGA originally planned to release a sequel on the ill-fated Dreamcast, the title unfortunately never saw the light of day. Given the rather dubious quality of early 3D brawlers, this may not be such a bad thing, as it’s hard to imagine whatever SEGA had planned for the Dreamcast aging quite as well as its 16-bit predecessors. However, times have certainly changed, and I feel it just might be time for SEGA to dust off its venerated street fighting saga once again, introducing a new generation of gamers to the wonders of the studio’s sublime slugfest.
Of course, few groups of fans are quite as vocal as those who cut their teeth on the crime-ridden blocks of Streets of Rage‘s unnamed urban wasteland. To truly do the series right, SEGA would have to take great care in making the experience feel as authentic as possible. Here are a few things I think would be mandatory towards building the definitive next generation Streets of Rage sequel.
The Streets of Rage series’ distinct, gritty visual style is one of the things that pulled players in when the original game debuted on SEGA’s 16-bit powerhouse back in 1991. Each successive game built upon this theme, adding bigger sprites, more detailed animations, and a fresh coat of grime to the game’s harsh yet gorgeous aesthetics. Looking back at most beat ’em ups from the post-Genesis era, there’s no doubt many of them lack that same distinctive visual flair that made the look of the Streets of Rage series so memorable, with many of them aging awfully when compared to the stylish, hand-drawn look that 2D brawlers sport. However, recent games taking advantage of rich cel shaded visuals have underscored the fact that that modern day systems can finally create an authentic, current-gen brawler that captures the stunning style associated with sprite-based visuals (just look at the upcoming Arslan: The Warriors of Legend and SEGA’s own Valkyria Chronicles: Azure Revolution). If SEGA can capture that same magic to bring the world of a new Streets of Rage game to life, they could create a 2D masterpiece – and fans would demand no less.
Long Live King Koshiro
Yuzo Koshiro’s unforgettable soundtrack are just as prominent a part of the foundation of the Streets of Rage experience as the game’s over-the-top fisticuffs are. Drawing influence from early electronic dance music, house, jungle and trance sounds, the game’s largely experimental soundtrack managed to fit the action like one of Axle Stone’s badass fingerless gloves. It’s impossible to deny just how much of the series’ identity is found in these sounds, and Koshiro’s signature style would be all but mandatory if the series were to ever be resurrected by SEGA. Simply put, if a new Streets of Rage title were to see the light of day with a garish butt rock or dubtstep score replacing Yuzo Koshiro’s work, there’d be riots on the streets, and civilization would crumble, not at all unlike if the evil Mister X and his murderous syndicate managed to overtake the world. If we don’t want the world to fall into such dire straits, we better see the master dropping some trippy beats on the next Streets of Rage soundtrack. The fate of society hangs in the balance!
Don’t believe me? Inject this into your lonely, deprived ear nubs and become a believer.
Couch Co-op is Key
This may seem like a no-brainer, but with more and more games eschewing local co-operative play in favor of exclusively online multiplayer modes, we’re not taking any chances. Streets of Rage has always been best when experienced as something of a campy, “buddy cop” experience, and it’s at its prime when two players are sitting together, taking the fight to the nefarious Syndicate side-by-side. If local cooperative play were removed from the equation, it just wouldn’t be a proper Streets of Rage game, and that’ d be enough to have me tapping “A” manically in hopes a rocket launcher-sporting patrolman in a futuristic squad car would rain hell on the bozo who decided to leave the soul of the series on the cutting room floor.
While I’d genuinely be surprised to see SEGA release a proper sequel to Streets of Rage anytime soon — after all, the series has been left to rot for the past 20 years now — I feel like now would be a fantastic time to bring the series back from the annals of video game history. With the recent release of the exceptional Streets of Rage 2 (in 3D no less!) on Nintendo’s shiny new handheld, we can’t help but hope SEGA understands the potential in delivering another no-holds-bar entry in the legendary series to a new generation of players. Here’s hoping the fans’ wishes are one day fulfilled, because it’s been far too long since I cracked some skulls on the city’s violent streets.
So dear reader, would you like to see SEGA release a proper new entry in the Streets of Rage series on the current lineup of home consoles? Be sure to let us know what you’d like to see in the next chapter in SEGA’s legendary brawler series in the comments section below!