3D Streets of Rage 2 Review
When I was assigned the review for Streets of Rage 2 3D, I was made to promise not to mention how long it has been since everyone at The Gamers' Temple has played the game on the Sega Genesis. It seems like yesterday, but it's been DECADES since this game challenged the SNES's Final Fight from brawler supremacy. So in an effort to avoid the "every year gets me closer 40" blues, we can just dive right into the review.
Like before with Streets of Rage and the other Genesis 3D remasters for the 3DS, Streets of Rage 2's development went to M2, a company that has knocked it out of the park with every Sega 3D Classic they've produced. Streets of Rage 2 represents their best work yet; they've taken a more or less 2D, 16-bit classic and transformed it into a full 3D experience. Even if you never rarely use the 3D feature on your 3DS, you'll want that slider pushed to the top for every second of this one. Foreground, background and more background are well separated and make the game look like it should have been in 3D from day one. The 3D also really helps with the problem most brawlers of this type have - judging just where you and the enemies are on the sloped plane of battle. Any Streets of Rage, Final Fight, Turtles in Time, The Simpsons, X-Men or Gauntlet fan knows the pain of moving in for a grab to misjudge the vertical distance slightly, and instead of a grab or throw, they are treated with a punch or kick to the face. The 3D here makes those little miscalculations a thing of the past, and it somehow makes the game even more fun than it was all those years ago. M2's work on this game makes me feel like they should be spending all their time on 3D remakes of the games I mentioned above. People still say the 3DS' glasses-free 3D is a dumb feature no one uses, but Streets of Rage 2 3D all but silences those remaining critics, especially those old enough to remember playing the original on the Genesis.
If you aren't old enough to be starting your day with prune juice and arthritis medication, I should probably explain the actual game, rather than how great the 3D feature turned out. Streets of Rage 2 is similar, again, to the games mentioned above. You pick one of four characters, each with different strengths, and fight through eight levels of side scrolling, attack mashing combat. For this sequel, the attacks and combos have been beefed up, with a special attack that drains a bit of your life bar, more options for grappling and either punching, kneeing or throwing your enemies and just an overall upping of the speed and precision of combat. Blaze, the female fighter in a red sports bra and hot pants is still my main fighter, even after all these years, though Max, the heavy-hitter, Axel, the all around tough guy and Skate, the tiny, agile fighter are good choices as well, depending on your play style. And if you can't choose just one, the game actually features local, two-player mode, allowing for a friend to jump in and help. This is not only fun, but it can be a big help in some of the later, more difficult levels (more than 20 years later and I still HATE the final boss). The inclusion of the multiplayer is just another example of how much care went into replicating this classic, and the gameplay holds up enough to entice younger players who may not have been born when these 16-bit brawlers ruled the roost.
Since Streets of Rage 2 was an old favorite and M2 has proven it knows how to make a 3D Classic with the best of them, I knew going in that I'd enjoy what the developer had done with the game. What I wasn't prepared for, however, is one thing M2 added that had my jaw drop to the floor before I was dying with laughter - the ending. Instead of just the normal credit roll, players who finish all eight stages will be treated to a series of quick skits that range from funny to downright HILARIOUS. I simply can't ruin any of these for you, but let's just say that my favorite bit includes a generic enemy, a photo of Blaze and what could only be described on a family website as an American Pie moment. I sincerely wish other developers would slip things like this into games when remastering or remaking them; being the reviewer and getting word from Sega, I knew I would be treated to something at the end, but I had no idea what. Now that I've seen it, I can say the game's bargain basement price is worth it for the ending outtakes alone.
Streets of Rage 2 is an easy recommendation for old fans and new brawler converts alike. The gameplay more than holds up to the test of time, the 3D is easily the best of all the 3D Classics and among the best bigger, dedicated 3DS games and dear lord that ending... amazing. The inclusion of local multiplayer is a treat as that was part of what made the game so fun back in the day, and the whole shebang costs less than a cup of coffee and a muffin at Starbucks. Don't hesitate to pull the trigger on this one; it is more than worth your time and money.
Final Rating: 94% - Skip the coffee and hit the Streets.