Beginning in 1991 with the release of Streets of Rage on the Sega Genesis, the Streets of Rage franchise (known as Bare Knuckle in Japan) has become one of the most critically acclaimed beat-em-up series in video game history. This game introduced the main characters of the series (Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding, and Adam Hunter), as well as the antagonist, Mr. X. Mr. X is a mysterious character whose crime syndicate is shut down in the first game, following a fight with the three young police officers.
In the second game, Streets of Rage 2, Mr. X kidnaps Adam, forcing Alex and Blaze to fight him once again. Together with Adam's kid brother, Eddie "Skate" Hunter (Sammy Hunter in the Japanese version), and a friend of Axel's, professional wrestler Max Thunder (Max Hatchett in the European version), Axel and Blaze hunts down the syndicate once more. Streets of Rage 2 is the most acclaimed title in the series.
The third game, Streets of Rage 3, centers around a research organization known as the RoboCy Corporation, run once again by Mr. X. Mr. X recruits Dr. Dahm, an intelligent scientist, to create an army of robots for him, intending to slowly replace world leaders with robots. When Dr. Zan Gilbert alerts Blaze to the existence of this plan, the team is reassembled to take down Mr. X yet again.
The music of the Streets of Rage franchise is well known for its influence on techno (described by the composer, Yuzo Koshiro, as "hardcore techno"). The soundtracks have been released in a variety of forms, with the first soundtrack having been only released in Japan. The second soundtrack is arguably the easiest to attain, due to the fact that it was the only Streets of Rage soundtrack released in the United States (released in 2000). Streets of Rage 3's soundtrack was also released In Japan (in 1994, titled Bare Knuckle 3: Iron Fist Scriptures), although many of its tracks were also composed by Motohiro Kawashima. Some tracks from Streets of Rage 3 were also included on the Yuzo Koshiro Best Collection Volume 2, a collection of Yuzo Koshiro's music.
Streets of Rage has been adapted into four different stories (each separate story has been a six part comic), appearing in issues of Sonic the Comic. These stories differ from what occurs in the game, and don't have Adam Hunter. The first story is titled Streets of Rage. This story centers around Axel, Blaze, and Max Thunder as they search for an ex-cop turned crime boss, after they quit the corrupt police force in order to more easily fight crime.
The second story, titled Skates' Story, follows Eddie "Skate" Hunter and his origins as he joins Axel, Blaze, and Max's team in order to help fight crime after his parents are murdered by Mr. X. The third story is titled The Only Game in Town, and it involves Mr. X's crime organization, The Syndicate, unleashing their forces on the city. The story ends with a twist ending, revealing that the real Mr. X died in an accident, and the current Mr. X vows revenge on the police officers.
The final comic is titled The Facts of Life. After getting in an intense fight with a street gang, both the street gang and the group are arrested. They are all taken into a junkyard, where they are to be executed. The group is about to be shot by the corrupt officers, when Blaze manages to break out of her handcuffs and attacks the officers. After a lengthy struggle, the team comes out on top, and several of the police officers realize the corruption on the force, displaying why Axel, Blaze, Max, and Skate left the force in the first place.
The Streets of Rage franchise consists of three traditional side-scrolling beat-em-up games. All three of these games are very similar in mechanics and gameplay, although there are differences which set them apart. As traditional beat-em-ups, the goal of each level is to reach the end by beating up whatever enemies stand in the way. There are a variety of enemies to fight, along with a larger and more difficult boss character at the end or in the mid-level of each stage. When fighting an enemy, its life bar is displayed along with the player's, giving the player an idea of how much damage is being dealt. In the original Streets of Rage, only bosses had their life bar displayed, which Streets of Rage 2 extended to regular enemies.
In addition to traditional moves and special moves (each character has several special moves--called Blitz moves--which can be utilized through specific button combinations), characters have a variety of weapons at their disposal. Players can use weapons such as knives, bottles, katanas, or baseball bats (depending on the game). In Streets of Rage and Streets of Rage 2, only enemies who have spawned with these weapons can use them, but in Streets of Rage 3 any enemy can pick up the weapon and use it (along with other tactics, such as blocking, cooperative attacks, or using healing items).
Multiplayer is available for up to two players in all three of the games in the franchise, with several options opening up. Not only is the game more difficult (with more enemies onscreen and stronger attacks), but in the original Streets of Rage, playing with a second player opens up the possibility of getting the bad ending of the game, which can be activated when one player chooses to join Mr. X and the other chooses to fight Mr. X. This results in the two players being pitted against each other, making the bad ending a high possibility.
The largest difference between the three Streets of Rage game is the pace of the gameplay. The slowest moving game by far is the first Streets of Rage, which (in comparison to the sequels), is incredibly slow. This is countered by the much more powerful moves in Streets of Rage, whereas moves in Streets of Rage 3 result in much less enemy damage. Streets of Rage 2 is widely considered to be the ideal game of the franchise, with many critics and fans believing that it found the correct balance between speed and attack damage.
Special attacks are another large difference in the franchise. Streets of Rage offered a single special attack; the ability to call in a friendly police car that would decimate any enemies on the screen. This special attack could only be used once per life or once per level (and it could not be used on the final stage). Streets of Rage 2 and Streets of Rage 3 greatly expanded the characters' movesets, including a variety of Blitz moves that can be activated by doing a special button combination. These moves are much more powerful than regular moves, and take a chunk of health away from the player after performing them. In Streets of Rage 3, Blitz moves were expanded even more, allowing the player to level them up depending on the score.
Other Games and Compilations
Initially included on the Sega Genesis 6 Pak, Streets of Rage and its sequel have been included in a variety of ports, remakes, and compilations. Also on the Sega Genesis, Streets of Rage was included in the Mega Games II and Sega Classics Arcade Collection (for the Sega CD). Later, the game (as well as Streets of Rage 2 and Streets of Rage 3) were made available on Sonic Gems Collection and Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection.
A planned sequel for Streets of Rage was being developed by Core Design for the Sega Saturn. After a disagreement with their publisher, Core was forced to remove the "Streets of Rage" branding from the game. This game was later released on the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 as Fighting Force, a 3D beat-em-up which shares some basic similarities to the Streets of Rage series (such as the underlying police officer motif).