The sequel to the original Streets of Rage and the second part of the trilogy of the same name, Streets of Rage 2 puts players back into the shoes of former cops Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding who, a year after the original story, find out that Mr. X and his criminal syndicate has returned (retaking the streets while capturing fellow vigilante Adam Hunter). 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 features a redesigned game engine from the original, showing larger characters and more use of the game screen (including a life bar system resembling the system from Final Fight) while adding new gameplay mechanics (such as the new Special Attack system and character-based abilities). These features were carried over to Streets of Rage 3.
The game's lead designer was Ayano Koshiro. She is the sister of Yuzo Koshiro, who composed the game's soundtrack.
The game was ported to Sega Game Gear and Sega Master System (Europe only) in 1993. Along with different levels and inferior graphics, sounds, and gameplay, both omit Max as a playable character. The original game was also ported to arcades using Sega's Mega Play arcade board (based on the Genesis hardware) in Europe, Australia, and Asia. The game later received an enhanced downloadable port for the Nintendo 3DS (as part of the Sega 3D Classics series), adding stereoscopic 3D support and new game modes.
The original game was digitally re-released for various systems, including the Wii (via Virtual Console on February 19, 2007), Xbox 360 (via Xbox Live Arcade on August 29, 2007), PC (via Steam on January 26, 2011), iOS devices (on April 14, 2011), and PlayStation 3 (via PlayStation Network on June 28, 2011). It was also included in a variety of compilations, including Sega Smash Pack: Volume 1 (for the Dreamcast), Sonic Gems Collection (for Japanese releases on the GameCube and PlayStation 2), Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3), and Sega Vintage Collection: Streets of Rage (for the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade). The 3DS port will be included in the Japan-only compilation Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives 3: FINAL STAGE.
Streets of Rage plays like a traditional side-scrolling brawler. Up to two players can choose between one of each of the game's main protagonists as they face eight levels of constant enemies:
Axel Stone - Skilled martial artist. Sacrifices jump height for fighting technique.
Blaze Fielding - Judo expert. All-around stats.
Max Thunder - Professional wrestler. Sacrifices movement speed and jump height for power and stamina. Instead of shoulder vaults, he jumps with his grabbed opponent, which he then can use the Attack button to perform a Jumping Throw (if grabbing from the font) or an Atomic Drop (if grabbing from the back).
Eddie "Skate" Hunter - Rollerblading kid. Sacrifices power and stamina for movement speed and jump height. By double-tapping either left or right on the d-pad, Skate can use his rollerblades to move faster. He can also throw enemies while performing shoulder vaults (by pressing the Attack button).
The main objective is to clear groups of enemies within a certain amount of time (which resets after groups of enemies are finished) and move forward to the next area. At the end of each level, the music changes and players fight an end boss. Once the player defeats the boss, the level ends (giving player an end bonus while refilling their health).
Players earn score by defeating enemies and picking up money items. They also earn a bonus at the end of the level, composed of a clear bonus (5,000 points multiplied by the level number), time bonus (1,000 points for each second remaining), and level bonus (5,000 points for Easy, 10,000 points for each difficulty above Easy).
Each player starts with three lives (which can be changed in the Options menu), and can get extra lives by either reaching certain score thresholds (at 20,000 points, 50,000 points, 100,000 points, and every 100,000 points after that) or picking up rare 1UP items. When the player's health meter is fully depleted (or the timer is fully depleted), he/she loses a life. If he/she has any lives remaining, he/she respawns from the top of the screen, knocking down all enemies on the field. If all lives are lost, then the player can input a name for the high scores list (if they have a valid score) and is given the option of using up a continue (giving the player the base number of lives and removing all of his/her score). Each player starts with three continues, and if the player has no continues or lives remaining, then he/she gets a game over.
Basic Controls and Attacks
Players move around the screen using the D-Pad and jump around using the Jump Button (defaulted to the C Button). Pressing the Attack Button (defaulted to the B button) causes the player character to punch enemies, while pressing it repeatedly produces a combo of damaging punches and kicks (known as a Fury Attack), ending with a hit that knocks down enemies. Pressing both Jump and Attack buttons simultaneously causes the player character to perform a Rear Attack, which knocks back enemies behind him/her.
Pressing the Attack button while jumping causes the player character to perform one of three types of jumping attacks: a stationary Jump Attack (by jumping straight up), a Jump Kick (by jumping left or right), and a Drop Attack (by jumping left or right and holding the down direction on the d-pad before pressing the Attack button). Both the Jump Attack and Jump Kick knock down enemies, while the Drop Attack leaves enemies open for Grab Attacks.
New to the series (alongside the different types of jumping attacks) are two types of advanced attacks. The first type of attack (Single Attack) is performed by holding down the Attack button for a short period of time, then releasing it. The second type of attack (Blitz Attack) is performed by double-tapping either left or right on the d-pad and pressing the Attack button.
Unlike the previous game, in which special attacks had it's own meter and was the same for each character (involving a time freeze while an officer arrives nearby in a cop car and fires weapons at the playfield), in Streets of Rage 2, each character has two types of unique Special Attacks. By pressing the Special Attack Button (defaulted to the A button), the character performs a powerful attack that deals damage and knocks down enemies at the cost of some of his/her health meter. If the health meter is nearly depleted, the special attack will not be performed.
If the d-pad is not held left or right, pressing the Special Attack button performs one of these attacks:
- Alex (Dragon Wing) - Swings his fist around as a wave (resembling a dragon) surrounds it.
- Blaze (Embukyaku) - Performs a kicking backflip.
- Max (Knuckle Bomb) - Spins around with his fists outward.
- Skate (Double Spin Kick) - Spins around (on his head) with his legs outward.
If the d-pad is held left or right, pressing the Special Attack button performs one of these attacks:
- Alex (Dragon Smash) - Throws an assortment of close-ranged punches ending with a powerful uppercut.
- Blaze (Kikousho) - Throws a short-ranged fireball.
- Max (Thunder Tackle) - Charges forward, dealing multiple hits at enemies in front of him.
- Skate (Corkscrew Kick) - Jumps up in the air and charges forward diagonally, dealing multiple hits at enemies in front of him.
By approaching enemies close enough (and not getting attacked), players automatically grab enemies from either the front or the back. After a short amount of time, they automatically release the enemy. By pressing the Jump button (as anyone other than Max), they perform a shoulder vault, alternating between Front Grab and Back Grab positions.
In the Front Grab position, players can tap the Attack button to perform one of two types of combos (depending on if the d-pad is held in the forward direction) and use the Attack button while holding the opposite direction on the d-pad to throw the enemy behind him/her. In the Back Grab position, players can use the Attack button to perform a powerful body slam (or in Skate's case, a flurry of punches against the backside of the enemy's head).
Weapons and Bonus Items
Throughout the game, players can find weapons either dropped by enemies or by destroying certain objects (such as barrels, crates, and traffic cones). Players can equip a weapon by standing over it and pressing the Attack button. However, they can only pick up one weapon at a time, and picking up another weapon causes the player to drop the other weapon. The player also drops the weapon when he is knocked down or when he/she does a Rear Attack. Dropped weapons disappear over time.
- Knife - Powerful close-range attack, which can also be thrown (using the Rear Attack) at far enemies. Blaze's standard attack is a special double slash.
- Lead Pipe - Slow to attack, but powerful with a long range. Max's standard attack also hits enemies behind him.
- Katana - Slow to attack, but powerful with a long range. Max's standard attack also hits enemies behind him.
- Kunai - Powerful close-range attack, which can also be thrown (using the Rear Attack) at far enemies.
- Bomb - A grenade, thrown by Bikers, that can be picked up and thrown. Explodes after a short amount of time.
Alongside the five weapons, there are five items located throughout the game which give the player health (or other goodies) or adds to the player's score. They are found by destroying objects (the same type of objects used to hold weapons) and are picked up using the Attack button. (Unlike picking up weapons, picking up items does not drop the player's current weapon)
- Apple - Common item that restores about a third of the player's health bar.
- Roast Chicken - Uncommon item that restores the player's entire health bar. Usually found at the end of the level.
- Cash Bag - Common item that adds 1,000 points to the player's score.
- Gold Bars - Uncommon item that adds 5,000 points to the player's score.
- 1UP - Uncommon item (shown as "1UP" text) that gives the player an extra life.
Enemies and Bosses
Throughout the protagonists' quest, they will be constantly assaulted by groups of punks. In order to progress to the next screen, they must clear out all enemies on the field. Each punk can be classified into the following types:
Galsia - Standard street punk in denim, primarily attacking with a set of simple punches. If a Galsia is equipped with a knife, he will run across the screen relentlessly, dealing damage in his path. Names: Galsia, Talk, Joseph, Surger, B.T., Brash, Jonathan, and Garam.
Donovan - Standard street punk similar to Galsia (different visually by being shirtless and bald while wearing sunglasses), primarily attacking with a set of simple punches finishing with an uppercut. If a Donovan is equipped with a lead pipe, he will swing it instead. Names: Donovan, U-3, Mc. K, Altet, Gonzalez, Reid, Z, Martin, Brown, and Gudden.
Signal - Common mohawk-wearing punk usually shown from the back. He primarily attacks with sliding kicks and backhand punches. He can also occasionally grab players and throw them forward. Names: Y. Signal, Mavin, Axi, G. Signal, R. Signal, B. Signal, D. Signal, and P. Signal.
Electra - Shown as a female dominatrix who attacks with a long-ranged electric whip and jump kicks. Names: Electra, Metal M., Sug. Q, Eldy, Nora, Bloody, L. Lisa, Reine, Caska, Enola, Dallala, and Zora.
Biker - Punk sporting a motorcycle helmet and large, spiked shoulder pads. He can ride across the screen on his motorcycle (trying to run over players), or jump off and perform standard attacks (either weaponless or with a lead pipe). In some stages, he pops up from the scenery to throw petrol bombs at players. Names: Gale, Fog, Wanter, Blade, Typhoon, Tornado, Gust, Storm, Frost, Tempest, Hail, Mist, Calm, and Dew.
Hakuyo - A Japanese Karate warrior who attacks with flying kicks. Names: Hakuyo, Ryokurou, Suzaku, Ko-Shu, Byatcko, Hakuro, Ko-Kaku, Suicho, Seiryu, Rakan, Ho-oh, Kongoh, and Ashurah.
- Ninjutsu - A ninja armed with throwing stars, who uses his speed, standard attacks, and throws to attack players. Kusanagi can also be armed with a katana or a kunai, increasing their variation of attacks. Names: Kusanagi, Hanzou, Ryuohin, Ranzou, Setsura, Izayoi, Yagasira, Unsai, Tenzen, Genyosai, kanzou, Jay, Buoh, Huwa, and Mutsu.
Jack - An large knife-wielding psycho who shows up in certain occasions (usually as a mid-boss). Wielding a seemingly-infinite amount of knives, he either performs a series of jabs with his knife or throws his knife at players. Names: Jack, Beano, and Soya.
Big Ben - A fat man wearing suspenders and a baseball cap, who appear in certain occasions (usually as a mid-boss). Along with using his girth to attack the player character (by jumping on them) and other standard attacks, he also has the ability to run across the screen while breathing fire. Names: Big-Ben, Big-Go, Heart, Anry, Balloon, Bongo, Gourmand, Golba, Buffet, Dante, and Titan.
Kickboxer - A traditional Muay Thai warrior who appears in later levels and has a variety of kick attacks (including a powerful grab combo). Names: Raven, Eagle, Ibis, Condor, Galuda, Sparrow, Falcon, Bantam, Pheasant, Thrush, Raptor, and Phoenix.
Vehelits - Mid-boss of the haunted house portion of Round 3, Vehelits is an alien-like creature that floats around (attached to the back wall) and flings itself toward players (damaging them).
At the end of each level, players must fight one or more bosses to continue to the next level. At later levels, some bosses re-appear as mid-bosses.
Barbon - A masculine bartender with an assortment of powerful punches, kicks, and throws. He is the main boss of Round 1. Variations of him, named Wayne and Vulture, appear in later levels.
Jet - A long-haired guy donning a body suit who flies around on a jetpack. While not hovering above the players, he attacks by dashing towards them or picking them up and dropping them from great height. He is the main boss of Round 2. Variations of him, named Comet, Spitfire, Mosquite, Blitz, Tomcat, Bomber, Mach, Stealth, Kite, and Griphis, appear in later levels.
Zamza - He is the main boss of Round 3. Souther, a variation of him, appear with Stealth (a variation of Jet) to form the main boss of Round 6. Another variation of him, named Nail, appear in Round 8.
Abadede - A masked former pro-wrestler, he fights with an assortment of attacks, including a powerful charging punch. Also, attempting to throw him causes him to perform a suplex right back. He is the main boss of Round 4. A variation of him, named Z.Kusanor, appears in Round 8.
R. Bear - A fat boxer who fights with an assortment of punching attacks. He is the main boss of Round 5. A variation of him, named Bear Jr., appears in Round 8.
Sentry Robot - A large robot who attacks at close range with a spiked mace for a hand and at long range with an eye laser. When low on health, it attempts to deal more damage by self-destructing in front of a player. Two sentry robots, Molecule and Particle, form the main boss of Round 7. Other variations (Oxygen, Isotope, Hydrogen, Mercury, and Uranium) appear in Round 8.
Shiva - Mr. X's Kung Fu bodyguard and the game's penultimate boss. He blocks nearly all of the players' attacks while performing powerful counter-attacks.
Mr. X - The final boss of the game. Armed with a machine gun, he alternates between firing the gun (spreading bullets around the screen) and performing a powerful charging rifle butt.
The chiptune music soundtrack for Streets of Rage 2 was composed by musician Yuzo Koshiro, along with several contributions from Motohiro Kawashima. It was composed using NEC PC-8801 hardware alongside Koshiro's own audio programming language. According to Koshiro: "For Bare Knuckle I used the PC88 and an original programming language I developed myself. The original was called MML, Music Macro Language. It's based on NEC's BASIC program, but I modified it heavily. It was more a BASIC-style language at first, but I modified it to be something more like Assembly. I called it ‘Music Love'. I used it for all the Bare Knuckle Games."
The soundtrack was influenced by electronic dance music, specifically house, techno, hardcore techno, and breakbeat. The soundtrack for Streets of Rage 2 is considered "revolutionary" and ahead of its time, for its "blend of swaggering house synths," "dirty" electro-funk and "trancey electronic textures that would feel as comfortable in a nightclub as a video game."
The soundtrack got a lot of positive reception for its techno based tracks which impressed many gamers and critics at the time especially due to the audio limitations of the Mega Drive/Genesis console. Most notably, the boss theme is considered one of the best boss themes in the 16-bit era. The reception for the soundtrack was so high that the game's music composer, Yuzo Koshiro, was invited to nightclubs to DJ the tracks.