The beat-em-up is a staple in the industry, though few understand what separates one cookie cutter punch-a-thon from the next. Enter one of the quintessential genre classics, Streets of Rage 2. Filled with everything required to craft a thoroughly involving experience, and thrashing its predecessor, this Sega Genesis staple stands the test of time.
Those who recall this adventure involving Axel, Max, Blaze, and Skate will find little has changed for this Xbox Live Arcade edition. A meager graphics smoothing option does more harm than good to sprites that still hold merit, and a throw away versus multi-player mode feels added on strictly for easily attainable achievement points. The cooperative play makes or breaks any game in this genre.
Two players can tackle the underlings controlled by Mr. X, a classic example of a video game villain. Eight stages provide varied backdrops, and all of the graphical effects have been retained. Unfortunately, certain sound effects (especially missed punches) have failed to work in emulation. Thankfully, a memorable soundtrack by master Yuzo Koshiro is intact and untouched.
Play mechanics are key, and Streets of Rage 2 comes fitted with a staggering array of maneuvers that rival one-on-one fighting games of the era. All of them are easily performed with various button combinations, adding record setting variety rarely offered in beat-em-ups. Collision detection is spot on, though can lead to some easily exploitable combo attacks that nearly nullify the difficulty when timed correctly.
New enemy sprites continue to appear in every level, providing both fresh challenges and further reducing the monotony of punching palette swapped characters. All four player controlled heroes offer up unique styles of play, wonderful move sets, and their own challenges. Co-op on higher difficulties requires both dexterity and knowledge of each characters specialty.
Graphics have always been a highlight of this Genesis effort, pushing the hardware’s 64-color limit as far as it can go. Sprites doubled in size from the first Streets of Rage, and detail will stay comparable with any future release in this downloadable Sega Vintage line of re-releases.
Classic beat-em-ups are made for online play, something that was not feasible at the time of their release (at least on any level comparable to today). Multi-player adds incalculable value to these unforgettable titles, and Streets of Rage 2 has no problem sitting alongside Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Golden Axe In many ways, it bests both of those to become the best 400 point beat-em-up on the service.
Streets of Rage 2 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB Animated Violence.