Streets Of Rage 3 by Ace77882000 on September 13, 2008
Streets of Rage 3 is the final sequel to the trilogy of beat em up titles from Sega. This game attempts to take the premise of Streets of Rage and the improvements of Streets of Rage 2 to create another Megadrive masterpiece. In theory it seems to be a good idea, but in practice Streets of Rage 3 (SOR3) falls short of the mark. For every step forward the game makes, it also manages to take a step back.
The highly improbable stories of past titles are given slightly more credibility with the plot of the final instalment. The Syndicate has returned and plans to replace high-ranking city officials with robots under the control of Mr X. The reprehensible Mr X also manages to kidnap the chief of police and distract the city with a civilian bombing campaign. Itís up to Axel, Blaze and Skate to put an end to these nefarious plans with the help of a new character Zan, a scientist with a cybernetically enhanced body. This team must put an end to Mr X, rescue the chief of police and crush the Syndicate once and for all. How? By beating up a whole bunch of people on the cityís streets of course.
The plot presentation of SOR is more sophisticated as it actually includes static cutscenes (complete with dialogue) to illustrate the storyline. By comparison, previous games basically gave a premise for fighting and let you loose without even referring to the plot again until the end. Although this new approach is commendable, the story and cutscenes are not really interesting enough to carry this title to a higher level. The addition of Zan as a playable character is odd because he is probably the least interesting fighter in the game. Come to think of it, he is the weakest character of the entire series. After all, who really wants to play as a strange old man - even one with a cybernetic exoskeleton? The exclusion of both Adam and Max from past games is only highlighted and made more agonising with the addition of Zan.
Graphically SOR3 is reasonably good and improves upon the standard set by the last sequel in technical terms. The character sprites are larger, even more detailed and move with an improved level of fluidity. However, slowdown is far more noticeable in this title compared to either of the previous games. The environments are quite meticulous in detail, but their design is rather dull and uninspired. With a few exceptions, all of the levels seem Ďflatí and lack the colour or variety of previous games. This is a shame because some locations feature interactive level obstacles for the player to deal with. The sound is also solid although the sound effects and voice samples seem largely recycled with a few exceptions. However, the music is a huge disappointment. The high quality scores of Streets of Rage 1 and 2 were always going to be a hard act to follow and sadly, SOR3 fails to do it. A lot of the music is a little more mechanical and electronic in nature, which is well suited to the story. Unfortunately, it isnít very good. Although there is nothing inherently terrible about the music, it simply doesnít match the outstanding selection of tunes from previous games.
The controls are still largely the same with a special attack, normal attack and jump button. However, there are a few extra nifty manoeuvres like the ability to dash or roll into the foreground and background by double tapping the D-Pad. Players with the six-button Megadrive pads could also execute super secret special moves as well as perform easier power and reverse attacks (which normally required holding a button or pushing two buttons.) The secret moves differed between characters and werenít really a substantive addition to the gameplay. However, it was good way to shift a few more six-button controller pads into the hands of Megadrive fans.
SOR3 sticks strictly to the same formulaic design of past instalments, but adds some environmental obstacles to keep you on your toes. There are no significant attempts to radically alter the gameplay, so anyone expecting major changes will not find them in this sequel. The improvements are incremental at best, which is regrettable as they generally arenít enough to hide some of the gameís flaws.
The special attack system is left relatively unchanged with the exception of a strength meter. The strength meter gives you the ability to use a surrounding or advancing special without losing any health. Once a special attack is executed, the strength meter is spent and slowly recharges again over time. The player is still free to use a special if the gauge is empty, but a varying health penalty applies (depending on the characterís strength meter level at the time.) This adds an extra strategic element to the special attack system, which is definitely a good thing.
The new moves offered in SOR3 include upgraded super attacks (from earning Ďstarsí in combat) and weapon strikes that are unique to each character. The use of weapons has been altered slightly to account for the latter addition. Each weapon has its own gauge that decreases with repeated use (and it decreases even faster when using special weapon strikes.) When the weapon gauge is empty, the character discards the weapon and it disappears. The more restrictive use of weapons is another added tactical element that enhances the combat. Other than the secret moves referred to earlier, there are no other major additions to the fighting system.
One unsatisfactory aspect of the combat is the lack of a character that really takes advantage of the superb Streets of Rage grappling system. After the wrestling style of Max in the previous game, I was looking forward to having a character that could chain throws or grapples together in a similar or improved fashion. Instead I got Zan who has his own unusual fighting style that only utilises a rather dull and slightly silly looking selection of grappling moves. Does anyone believe that shaking an opponent is a genuinely appealing combat manoeuvre? Given that every other character has the same throwing moves from the last game, a grappling style character was sorely missed (by me at least.) Adam and Max should have seriously considered appearing in their own game.
As before, each character has a unique set of attributes that give them varying strengths and weaknesses. A new characteristic Ė reach Ė replaces stamina from the previous sequel. With his stretching cybernetic limbs, Zan is the best character in this department, while the faster characters like Skate have the worst reach. Too bad Zanís extending ability doesnít make him any more fun to play with. In any case, the attributes do the job of differentiating the characters for strategic purposes.
SOR3 wouldnít be a sequel without the inclusion of new weapons and enemies. Fortunately this game doesnít disappoint as it offers daggers and sticks(?!) to the weapon line-up and brand new opponents including mafia style hitmen in suits and extra female fighters. More importantly, there is an interesting selection of bosses including a clown armed with a whip and boxing kangaroo, a pair of acrobatic twins (a boss set last seen in the original Streets of Rage), a mechanical doppelganger of Axel and a series of different robotic brutes. However, there are a series of gripes attached to these additions.
The first problem is really made apparent with the gameís enemies. Most opponents have new attacks and certain special abilities to make them more of a challenge, which is fine. They can steal your food (health pickups), take your weapons, hit you from the ground, block your attacks and even use guns (someone on the streets finally has a firearm!) However, this all leads me to ask the following question - how come the player canít do the same things? If an enemy can pick up your food, why canít you pick up their guns? If an opponent takes your weapon, why canít you block their attacks? The only thing more annoying than a thug who is consistently blocking your strikes is realising that you canít do the same to them. These inconsistencies are very clear in SOR3 and turn an otherwise innocent attempt at providing extra challenge into a shortcoming that is hard to overlook.
Secondly, the boss selection is simply not very impressive compared to previous games. Most of the more challenging bosses are robots that fire missiles and other assorted projectiles at a set of characters that arenít even allowed to hold guns. Donít even get me started on the mechanical Axel. Sure the doppelganger fits in nicely with the story, but whereí s the imagination in fighting a copy of one of the main combatants? With a few exceptions, the bosses are nothing short of disappointing.
In terms of replay value, SOR3 is the best of the series. It has the standard two-player function, the multiple endings of the first title, the Battle mode of the sequel and a new twist in the form of secret characters. Players can unlock martial arts maestro Shiva and Roo the boxing kangaroo before or during the main quest by pushing and holding a specific set of buttons. These new characters definitely add some replay value to the game, but they are generally played for novelty value. The secret characters simply donít possess all of the detailed character specific qualities and range of moves of the main combatants. Without the same level of depth in their design, the secret characters seem like more of an afterthought. Battle mode is still a relatively shallow affair as SOR3ís gameplay is still not deep enough to support the one-on-one premise. Without any significant enhancements or more secret characters available in Battle mode, it is again reduced to being a simple distraction.
Streets of Rage 3 is a great title that puts an excellent beat em up series to rest. The final sequel has various technical improvements, a better story, more moves and characters and excellent replay value along with a few other noteworthy additions. Unfortunately, for every thing it does right Streets of Rage 3 stumbles just as much. The level design and music are severely lacking, certain gameplay aspects have been overlooked and the boss selection is very inconsistent. Despite these problems Streets of Rage 3 is still good enough to propel it among the upper echelons of the genre (which are inhabited by its predecessors anyway.) Streets of Rage 3 is a satisfactory ending to a great series that will forever be celebrated as a beat-em-up worthy of any action fan's attention.