Streets of Rage (series)
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|Streets of Rage|
|Genres||Beat 'em up|
|Platforms||Mega Drive / Genesis, Mega-CD, Sega Game Gear, Sega Master System, Sega Mega-Play, Virtual Console, iOS, Microsoft Windows|
|First release||Streets of Rage
July 17, 1991
|Latest release||Streets of Rage 3
March 18, 1994
|Official website||Official site|
Streets of Rage, known in Japan as Bare Knuckle (ベア・ナックル Bea Nakkuru), is a beat 'em up series developed and published by Sega exclusively for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. The series centers around the efforts of several heroes, including series mainstays Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding, to rid a troubled city from the rule of crime boss Mr. X and his syndicate. The first game in the series was released in 1991. Two sequels were also produced, adding various new characters and features.
The games were generally well received and have been re-released many times both as part of compilation games and as standalone downloads. The dance music-influenced soundtrack of the games, scored by Yuzo Koshiro, has received much acclaim as well.
A 3D remake was in development by GRiN before the closed down. Artwork and screenshots of an early build were later leaked.
The three games in the series were released between 1991 and 1994, the first of which was later included as part of the Sega 6-Pak. compilation The first entry in the series, Streets of Rage introduces the main characters: three young police officers (Axel, Blaze, and Adam) and Mr. X, the evil mastermind. Gameplay is different from later games in the series, as were the graphics—which are significantly smaller in scale than the graphics of the later games. It is the only game in the series to feature a special attack that automatically defeats all enemies on screen.
The next entry in the series, Streets of Rage 2 had new music from series composer Yuzo Koshiro (influenced by early '90s club music), more defined graphics and bigger selection of moves. It also introduced two new characters, Eddie "Skate" Hunter, and Max Thunder (or Sammy "Skate" Hunter and Max Hatchett in some regions). Various gameplay tweaks and enhancements were added.
The final entry to the Streets of Rage series, Streets of Rage 3 was not as well received as its predecessors. Despite some enhancements, it has been seen as very similar to Streets of Rage 2. This entry to the series added a more complex storyline, told using cut scenes. The Western version's plot was largely censored and its difficulty level significantly increased.
Although it was one of the most popular franchises on the Mega Drive/Genesis, no new Streets of Rage games have appeared on subsequent consoles. After porting Die Hard Arcade, a 3D beat 'em up from the arcades to the Sega Saturn, Sega had reportedly tried to bring the Streets of Rage series to the Saturn and expressed interest in using the 3D title Fighting Force to do so. Nothing ever came of this and the game was released without Streets of Rage branding.
Early in the production cycle for Sega's Dreamcast, demos tentatively titled "Streets of Rage 4" were made by Sega of Japan to bring the Streets of Rage series to the platform. The demo showed a character similar to Axel fighting off a group of enemy characters. Various changes in gameplay had apparently been planned, including the introduction of new team attacks and a new first person perspective. However, allegedly due to new management at Sega of America being unaware of the series and its past success, Sega did not follow up on it and the game never advanced past the demo stage. Video clips of a demo were eventually leaked out.
All three titles were included in the Japanese version of Sonic Gems Collection  and subsequently Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. All three are also available on the Wii's Virtual Console. All 3 games were also released for Xbox Live Arcade & PlayStation Network as a Streets of Rage Collection under the Sega Vintage Collection series.
The newest original addition to the series is the Japanese-only Java mobile phone game Bare Knuckle Mobile, which is a retelling of the first game using gameplay much more in line with Bare Knuckle II, featuring new sprites and new enemies. Aside from this, support for the series has come from the fan base, with projects such as Beats of Rage  and Streets of Rage Remake.
In order of appearance:
Streets of Rage 
Axel Stone 
Playable character in all the games, Axel is the front man of the series and as such a balanced attacker who combines power and speed in proportions. A former police detective in the first game, he opened his own karate dojo in the outskirts of the city, although in the Japanese Bare Knuckle 3 storyline, he is actually transferred to the Special Investigation department. He turns slowly from an all-around to a bruiser in the end of the series. In the later games, his special attacks are a 360 degree flaming punch (Dragon Wing) and a punch/uppercut combo (Dragon Smash). His blitz attack is a flaming uppercut named Grand Upper (which was renamed to Bare Knuckle for SoR3, maybe as an in-joke). It was toned down considerably in SoR3 due to its excessive power in SoR2.
Blaze Fielding 
Like Axel, Blaze is a playable character in all the games. Blaze was also a former police detective. She then began working as a private investigator. While she starts out the series as a stereotypical female character (fast but weak), she ends up becoming the series' "all-rounder" by the second game. Her specialty is Judo, giving her a more powerful 'throw' move than the other characters. With even stats and good techniques, Blaze is usually seen as the best character to use in SoR3. Her special techniques in the later two games are a cartwheel kick (Enbukyaku [ダンスキック Dance Kick) and a fireball (Kikousho [カイパーム Chi Palm] (Soulfire in SoR3)). Her standard blitz attack, Hishousouzan [フライングタロンスラッシュ Flying Talon Slash] (Terra Shield in SoR3), is a forward somersault that strikes enemies with her fists.
Adam Hunter 
Adam is a playable character only in SoR1. He is kidnapped in SoR2, and appears in the cut scenes of SoR3 twice. He is the older brother of Eddie "Skate" Hunter. Adam is an ex-professional boxer who joined the police force as a detective. Unlike Axel and Blaze, he did not quit the police force at the end of the second game. He is the opposite of Blaze, in that he is slower but stronger.
Mr. X 
The syndicate boss Mr. X is the main antagonist, and appears as the final adversary in all games in one form or another. In the two first games, he is armed with a Tommy gun. After barely surviving his first two encounters with the SoR team, in SoR3 he is nothing more than a brain in a jar, and has a robot, Robot Y (or Neo X in the Bare Knuckle Version) who fights for him.
Streets of Rage 2 
Max Thunder 
Only playable in SoR2, Max, a wrestler, is by far the slowest character in the series, but also the hardest hitting. Max is a friend of Axel, and makes a cameo appearance in the ending of the third game. His special techniques were a spinning axe-handle blow (Thunder Bomb) and a dashing tackle (Thunder Tackle). His most famous attack is a devastating backwards-grappling move called Atomic Drop, which does the most damage (about 70% of a "default" lifebar) of any move in any of the games. He is the exact opposite of Skate as in that he sacrifices a lot of speed for power.
Eddie "Skate" Hunter (Sammy Hunter in BK2 and BK3) 
Playable character in SoR2 and SoR3, the kid brother of Adam. His first name is Sammy in BK2 and Eddie in SoR2. "Skate" is his nickname, as he fights on rollerblades. He is fast, but the weakest of all characters. In SoR2 he was the only character who could dash, an ability all playable characters gained by SoR3. In both games, one of Skate's special moves was the Double Spin Kick. In SoR2, he uses the Corkscrew Kick and in SoR3, he uses Rolling Punches, a flurry of punches. At 4' 10" (147 cm), he is the smallest playable character by far.
The boss fought right before Mr. X in SoR2, and up to two times in SoR3. He is Mr. X's bodyguard and a very skilled fighter, his repertoire of moves matching the regular playable characters. He is also a secret playable character in SoR3, who can be unlocked right after defeating him by holding down the B button. His special move is called Final Crash. He is named after the Hindu god of destruction Shiva.
Streets of Rage 3 
Dr. Zan Gilbert 
A former syndicate henchman, Zan tells Blaze about the robot conspiracy in SoR3, and about the Rakushin bombs in the Japanese counterpart BK3. He is one of the four initially selectable characters. Zan is himself part robot, a cyborg, slow but strong due to the metal parts. Unlike the other characters in SoR3, Zan has no specialized blitz weapon attacks; every weapon he picks up turns into a ball of energy. His special techniques are the Electric Body and Electric Reach, both using his cyborg parts to shock the opponents.
Roo (Victy in BKIII) is a kangaroo mini-boss in SoR3. If his cruel trainer, Bruce (Danch in BKIII), is destroyed first while keeping Roo alive, he becomes playable when a continue is used (alternatively, the player can press Up+B+Start at the title screen to select Roo directly at the character selection screen). His moveset is very complete, even including team attacks with the regular SoR characters.
A minion of Mr. X and the first mini-boss faced only in BK3. His character is very stereotypically effeminate, having a very feminine run, even a little 'laugh' taunt (which can still be heard in SoR3 in the sound test under VOICE 14) and female mannerisms. Because of this, he was removed from the Western ports SoR3. In BK3 he drives a boat which drops off punks and afterwards jumps off to fight himself. Like Shiva, he is also a secret playable character, but unlocked by holding A once defeated (in the Japanese version). Ash's moveset is very limited; for example, he has no jumping attacks, but instead his punches are humorously overpowered. Like Shiva and Roo/Victy, he cannot hold any weapons.
Other media 
Three six-part comic strip series based upon the games appeared in Sonic the Comic in the early 1990s (along with several other adaptations of popular Sega franchises). The first two of these was written by Mark Millar, who has since become popular writing The Authority for Wildstorm and Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates for Marvel, while the third (and a Poster Mag story) was written by Nigel Kitching. These three stories are an alternate continuity from the games, and do not feature Adam.
The first story, simply entitled Streets of Rage, involved Axel, Blaze, and Max quitting the highly corrupt police force in order to do more good as vigilantes, taking down Max's ex-partner; the crime lord and martial artist Hawk.
The next serial, Skates' Story introduced Skates, delinquent stepson of Murphy, a friend of Axel and his team and one of the few honest cops left on the force, who was unwillingly drawn into joining Axel's group after his parents were killed by Mr X.
The third and final story, called The Only Game In Town, involved the Syndicate unleashing an army of street gangs on our heroes, with the event turned into a gambling event as Mr. X opened a book based on whether or not the heroes would reach the river without being killed first. This ploy was played against the villain when Blaze bet on twenty-thousand dollars on her team's survival at odds of a thousand to one. This third story was notable for revealing that, for his failure, the old Mr. X had been the victim of a "swimming accident" and had been replaced with a new one by the Syndicate at story's end. Like many non-Sonic stories in this magazine, the story had a cliff-hanger ending, with the new Mr. X promising that he would "recoup his losses" and kill the heroes.
The Poster Mag story, called The Facts of Life, involved the heroes causing a racket by fighting one of the many street gangs in a sleeping neighborhood. The police arrive and arrest the thugs, as well as take the heroes to a junkyard for execution. Along the way, Axel explains why he, Blaze, and Max quit the force to a young rookie officer. At the junkyard, just as the officers are about to shoot Max, the rookie officer sneakily uncuffs Blaze, who proceeds to beat the stuffing out of the cops, with Axel, Skates, and Max following shortly. After the dust clears, the rookie officer says that he's now seen the true colors of the police force and requests that Axel hit him. Axel does so until Blaze tells him to stop, and they, Max, and Skates leave as dawn breaks.
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The game's soundtrack was acclaimed, with several soundtrack albums being released. The soundtracks were composed by Yuzo Koshiro. Another musician, Motohiro Kawashima, helped on the second, providing a few tracks, and making even more for the third. Three soundtrack CDs were released in all, each of which now sell for high prices at auction and in Japanese markets.
The soundtracks mainly consist of, often experimental, chiptune-based electronic dance music, encompassing electronic genres such as electro, house, techno, hardcore, jungle, ambient, breakbeat, gabber, noise, and trance. The music was produced using the Yamaha FM-synth sound chips of the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis video game console (YM2612) and NEC PC-88 computer (YM2608), along with Koshiro's own audio programming language "Music Love," a modified version of the PC-88's Music Macro Language (MML).
The soundtracks have been critically acclaimed. They are considered ahead of their time, and as some of the best video game music of all time. Streets of Rage 2 (1992) in particular is considered "revolutionary" and ahead of its time, for its "blend of swaggering house synths," "dirty" electro-funk and "trancey electronic textures that would feel as comfortable in a nightclub as a video game." Streets of Rage 3 is also considered ahead of its time, for its automatically generated randomized sequences, experimental hardcore "fast-beat techno like jungle" sounds, and trance music elements. The series' soundtracks have influenced a range of chiptune, electronica, grime and dubstep musicians through to the present day, including artists such as Ikonika, BT, Labrinth, Martyn, Joker, Darkstar, Childish Gambino, and Danger.
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