Following on from the superb first game, Streets of Rage 2 goes bigger and better, with more characters, chunkier graphics and even more dance classics from Yuzo Koshiro.
The bazooka support attacks from the first game are replaced by life bar-sapping special moves like Axel’s Fire Punch, and keeping the fights at this close-range works in the game’s favour immensely. Two-player mode ramps the intensity up further, and teaming up with a friend to take down the scores of thugs is as satisfying as games get. New characters Max and Skate occupy opposite ends of the speed-power spectrum, keeping all four fighters different enough to mean everyone’s favourite is good enough to take down Mr Big.
One last word on the game’s music, which just like Headhunter raises the game’s quality significantly, but in this case the quality is already stunningly high. Yuzo Koshiro’s dance beats keep the blood pumping through each level, and every piece is something close to nirvana. It’s hard to believe this is the same Yuzo Koshiro who went on to craft such subtle piano tracks for Shenmue, but in the early 90s it was all about dance, and nobody did it better.
Streets of Rage-style games seem to have gone out of fashion over the past few generations, which is a real shame as there’s huge possibilities for four-player combat and online play. Sega tried to keep the genre going with Die Hard Arcade in 1997 and later Spikeout, both of which are decent games just missing a certain spark. Streets of Rage II has sparks in abundance, and even some fifteen years on, it’s still the pinnacle of the scrolling beat ’em up genre.