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.
Streets of Rage
The first Streets of Rage had the smallest roster out of the trilogy. With only three playable characters and very limited differences between them, there is a noted lack of variety between the characters in this game. Also noteworthy is that this game was before each character had a unique special move. Pressing the special button with any character called in police backup at the beginning of the level who shoot missiles into the air which damage all enemies on screen.
Like all three characters Adam has two skills with an A rating and one with a B. His one weakness is speed, being the slowest of the three. Adam is the only character of the original three to never be playable in another game. He does, however, appear in the endings of Streets of Rage 2 and Streets of Rage 3.
Axel is the main character of the series, although the story has very little to do with him directly. Like all three characters Axel has two skills with an A rating and one with a B. His weakness is his ability to jump, having the weakest jump attacks in the game. Axel is the only character along with Blaze to be playable in all three games in the series.
Blaze is the weakest of the three playable characters, with a B in power. She does, however, make up for this with her superior jump ability and natural walking speed. Blaze is the only character along with Axel to be playable in all three games in the series.
Streets of Rage 2
Streets of Rage 2 was the first game in the series to feature more than three playable characters. It is also the game in the series with the most variety, introducing two completely new playable characters to the roster while including two originals. Streets of Rage 2 was the first game in the series to introduce character specific special and forward special attacks as well as dash attacks. The neutral special attacks cost a little bit of health when they connect with an enemy, but are free if they hit nothing. They are primarily used to clear the area around each character. The forward special attacks always cost health whether they connect or not. Compared to Streets of Rage 1 the variety in the characters is far greater. Adam is missing from the game as he was kidnapped by Mr. X. However joining Axel and Blaze on their journey to free their friend are Max - Adam's friend who is a professional wrestler- and Skate - Adam's younger kid brother.
One of the two new characters to the game. Max is a professional wrestler and friend of Adam from Streets of Rage 1. Max is one of three characters in the series to only be playable in one game. Each game in the series has a character who was only playable one time in that game only. In Streets of Rage 1 it was Axel. In Streets of Rage 2 it's Max, and in Streets of Rage 3 it is Dr. Zan. However, all characters come together again in the best ending of Streets of Rage 3, where all of it's main playable characters appear in a slideshow along with Adam and Max. Max is the strongest character in the game with power and stamina ratings of three. He is also the slowest with 1 star in speed and jump. He also has two stars in technique for his array of grabs.
Max is far and away the strongest character in the game. He is the only character with a basic combo which can kill the Galsia enemies in just one string. He does not have the ability to vault over enemies as he is too heavy to do so, however, he has the strongest grab moves in the game. His neutral grab is a headlock which deals decent damage. However, Max's main strength comes from his aerial back and forward grabs in which he executes a series of wrestling slams. These moves take away about 3/4's of the standard health bar in just one hit. Due to this and Max taking less damage than other characters he is commonly chosen for people who want to beat the game on the hardest difficulty setting.
Max's dash attack has a decent degree of movement to it, but it does some of the least damage of any of the other dash attacks. This is the only move in Max's arsenal which has lower damage than any other characters attack of the same variety. The main use of this attack is to knock people down and get in close for a grab.
Max's neutral special is a spinning lariat which is used for AoE damage similar to what the other three characters have. His forward special is one of the hardest hitting in the game if it can connect multiple times. Max shoulder rushes his enemy and deals multiple quick flurry hits with his body weight.
Axel is back again in Streets of Rage 2. With a whole new slew of moves to help him this was the strongest he had been up until this point. Axel is the only character in the game with a full Technique rating of three stars. Along with a two in Power, Speed, and Stamina and a one in jump Axel is one of the most balanced characters in the game. New to Axel are the neutral and forward special moves along with the dash attack.
Axel's Technique rating is what makes him such a strong character. Axel has the strongest dash attack in the game. His famous "Grand Upper" has a long enough range into the air and above him that he can connect it with literally any enemy in the game, including enemies with a lot of invulnerability frames and flying enemies. Axel has a fairly weak standard combo but he makes up for it with his ability to spam his dash attacks. The only real flaw with the "Grand Upper" move is that while it is one sweeping motion it still registers on some characters as multiple rapid hits. The hits are so rapid that they simply count as one on most enemies. However, enemies that have a trigger to stop lengthy combos on them, like Abadede, can break out of it at any point that the computer realizes it is in a multi-hit combo. As such, Axel is the second worst character against the Round 4 and Round 5 bosses.
Axel's neutral special causes him to spin around punching everyone in a circle around him. Axel's forward special delivers a flurry of punches directly in front of him. This is a great move in most boss fights in the game as it has the ability to keep most of them pinned in it until the string finishes. Axel has the highest range upwards of any characters neutral jump attack.
Blaze is one of the two returning characters in the series as well as one of the two characters to appear in every game in the trilogy. Blaze intended to be the jack-of-all-trades in this game with a two-star rating on every stat. This,however, simply means that she is weaker then she was in the first game and generally makes her an after-thought compared to the other three characters. Blaze does make up for her lack of specialty with overall good mid-range moves.
Blaze's dash attack in this game causes her to do a flying somersault. This strike has hitboxes starting at the beginning of her arc which means that the first few hits can actually hit behind her. However, this is very hard to connect considering the character would need to be right behind you and you just did two movements forward, making it impossible for most of the enemies in the game to get in at that speed. Blaze's dash attack is similar to Axel's in that is has multiple hits on it.
Blaze's neutral special is just another version of her dash attack except she has no forward momentum and just stays on one place. This is used, like all other neutral specials, to clear the area around her. Blaze's forward special attacks directly in front of her. She pushes her palms forward and throws out a small ball of energy which extends from her hands. This attack is limited in range but it is fairly strong.
Skate (Sammy in some locations) is one of the two new characters to the series. Skate is Adam from Streets of Rage 1's younger brother who is trying to help Axel and Blaze find their missing coworker. Skate is named for the fact that he is on rollerblades throughout all of his appearances. This leads to Skate having the fastest speed rating in all of the games that he is playable in. Skate is the only playable character in the series who was introduced partway through and continued to be playable for the rest of the series.
Skate is the weakest character when it comes to basic damage with a power and stamina rating of 1. Where Skate makes up for this, however, is in his Speed and Jump ratings of 3 and a 2 in technique. Although technically weaker than Blaze, a few of his easily employed grabs and specials along with a variety of other techniques put him one slot above her in character rating.
Skate is the only character who can run in Streets of Rage 2. By double tapping the forward button (the same way you would initiate a dash attack on any character) Skate starts to skate forward. This means that Skate's dash attack does not need to be entered like a fighting game combo but can be buffered so that he can run as long as he likes and attack when he feels like it. Skate was the only character in the early parts of the series to be able to run which gave him one distinct technique that no one else was capable of. This was changed in Streets of Rage 3 when everyone got a standard run.
Skate's dash attack is the worst in the game. The only real benefit of it is that it knocks the enemies down, however, it can be quite hard to position yourself properly for a good combo after landing it. Also the fact that you have to send your entire body flying forward with such a weak character means that it is easy to mess up when using this.
Skate's neutral special sees him doing a headspin on the ground and kicking out to the enemies around him. Skate has one of the best forward specials in the game. Skate jumps up into the air and does a multi-hit corkscrew attack with his entire enemy downwards in a diagonal line in front of him.
Skates strongest move in the game is his back grab neutral attack. If Skate grabs an enemy from behind and presses no directions while pressing the attack button he will jump up and sit on their shoulders piggy-back style and repeatedly punch the enemy in the back of the head. This move takes of around 1/2 of the standard life-bar, making it the strongest move which is not performed by Max.
Streets of Rage 3
The jump from Streets of Rage 2 to Streets of Rage 3 is perhaps the most jarring in the series. The game was significantly harder in America due to the normal mode being the equivalent of the Japanese hard mode and everyone did far less damage then they used to. Streets of Rage 3 also introduced running to every character which meant that Skate no longer had a distinct advantage over the rest of the cast. Streets of Rage 3 was also the first in the series to feature secret characters all three of whom (or two if you are playing an American copy) could be unlocked by the middle of the second stage of the game. Also new to the gray was Dr. Zan, a robotic figure who had the strength of Max but was thin, fast and had the ability to vault over people.
Another significant change was to the special system. In Streets of Rage each character had 1 special use per life which called in backup. Streets of Rage 2 introduced the traditional neutral and forward specials at the cost of health. Streets of Rage 3 uses the same system however it adds a new feature to the mix. Instead of a timer in the middle there is a small bar which ticks upwards. When the bar is filled and it says "OK" above it a player can perform a special without any type of health penalty. This is a change from Streets of Rage 2's system where a a missed neutral special would cost nothing, but a neutral that landed and any type of forward special would still cost health.
Weapons were changed as well. You could no longer hold onto weapons indefinitely, each weapon had a visible lifebar which greatly decreased their usefulness in the game. To make up for this, the game added a new move for each character while holding a weapon. Doing a characters normal dash attack while holding a weapon did a unique move for each character/weapon combination.
The first of the obtainable secret characters is Shiva, who was the penultimate boss of the previous game and the first boss of this game. To unlock him simply keep holding the B button after you defeat him at the end of the first level until the start of the second level. Now, if you were to lose all your lives and changed your character during the game, Shiva would be playable.
The second of the obtainable characters is Roo, the kangaroo mini-boss from the very beginning of the second level. Roo is fought alongside his master. To unlock Roo simply defeat his master first. Once his master is defeated Roo will run off and now be selectable after running out of continues as well. However, unlike Shiva, if you get a gameover and go back to the main menu again Roo will actually have a slot on the character select screen with a visible portrait and stats.
Roo and Shiva are very limited in their abilities, however, which leads fans to very rarely count them as actual players. They are both limited in their special and weapon use which makes them almost unviable with the higher difficulty of this game.
Dr. Zan is the only new playable character in the game. He is a robot who is working with Axel and Blaze to help stop Mr. X. Dr. Zan has the strongest strength stat in the game. He is as powerful as Max was in Streets of Rage 2, however, since he is smaller he is faster, he can run, and he can vault over people.
Axel is one of the two characters who are back for their third time in this game. Axel plays almost exactly as he did in Streets of Rage 2, however, he can now sprint.
Blaze is the second of the two characters who are back for their third time in this game. Blaze plays almost exactly as she did in Streets of Rage 2, however, she can now sprint.
Skate is the only character to be in only two games. Out of the three returning characters Skate has sustained the most changes. He is even weaker than he was in Streets of Rage 2, his sprint is no longer unique to just him, and his forward special was drastically changes. Skate's new forward special has him rushing forward swinging his arms in a circle hitting any enemies in front of him.
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).