My first foray into computer gaming was on an inherited hand-me-down Pong, which I played once before it was banished to a cupboard. Mid-nineties I got my mitts on a Sega Megadrive when everyone else was going for the Nintendo 64 before eventually upgrading (or downgrading depending on how you look at it) to an Amiga when everyone else was onto the Playstation. It’s safe to say that I was always one step behind most other kids on the gaming front when I was growing up. A situation that would probably make most children bang their heads against their bedroom walls, but not me. I had, you see, already tasted video game perfection and seen not only the future, but all that could ever be. I had played the Sega Megadrive tour de force, Streets of Rage.
A side scrolling beat-em-up the premise was simple. Three experts in unarmed combat that also happened to be former cops with porn star names (Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding, Adam Hunter) take to the streets to fight corruption and crime. Selflessly putting their own safety at risk, they storm their way through 8 treacherous levels, fighting (as outlined in the manual), “...the most dangerous wave of bad dudes and chicks ever assembled.” At a time in my life when I all I ever wanted to be was either a karate expert or a magician there was absolutely nothing that could beat this.
The main characters were three of the most perfect 90s action stereotypes ever put into pixels.
Axel, the poster boy with his blonde locks and Die Hard vest. He was a skilled martial artist who despite proving that white men really can’t jump, was the most well rounded of the trio. He also wore a bandana. The true mark of a hardman.
Adam was the brawn and in my opinion the coolest of the characters. According to the game he was a boxer although he also seemed to posses the best kicking abilities. His attacks were generally a lot more powerful than the others but as in traditional gaming style, this also made him the slowest.
Blaze, the token powerful female. A judo expert and judging by her attire, a former member of the undercover vice squad. She would jump, kick, somersault and flash her crotch at any opportunity to rid the streets of delinquents.
Without a shadow of doubt, Streets of Rage is the greatest game to ever come out of the Sega Megadrive or equally the video gaming world. Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros and Call of Duty can all go and choke on a graphics card.
There was also the Back-Up Enforcer. The only un-corrupt cop on the force and your ally in the institution. He’d pop up as your special move whenever you were desperate by firing a rocket launcher from the window of a Robocop style police car. His car could conquer any terrain and was unstoppable, even if you were playing a level inside a building or on an elevator. He would still turn up. His ammo was also magic. It would absolutely blow the hell out of everything in its path whilst leaving you unscathed.
Your favourite character chosen, you’d set to cleaning up the ‘Streets of Rage,’ fighting an array of punks, bikers, hookers, militant homosexual stereotypes and circus performers(?). Taking them down with your fists and feet, throwing them through phonebooths or beating the hell out of them with a steel pipe or glass bottle. Street violence never seemed so fun. Of course the fun also had something to do with the soundtrack.
I defy anybody to find me a video game released during the 90s that had a better soundtrack. The only thing that could possibly have made it a little better would have been if Prince wrote it. A mixture of seedy beats, synths and electronic pipes – it was like someone sucked up everything that was great about the 80s and 90s and cloned a mutant child from them. Bouncing around dishing out carnage to the machine gun drums like you’ve popped an E in your living room is probably the most endearing memories of my childhood.
On top of all of this, there were alternative endings. Not the first game to do it, but certainly the first I had ever heard of. Completing the game and reaching the final bad guy – the imaginatively named Mr X- you could choose to honour your mission and defeat him or batter your mate and turn evil and then become the new criminal King Pin. I know which one always sounded more fun to me.
Two sequels were later spawned with arguably better playing quality and genuine storylines but none summarised the joys of meaningless violence and funky grooves in quite the same way as the original. Even the fact that Streets of Rage was ostensibly just a repackaging of the wimpy Lord of The Rings plagiary Golden Axe doesn’t hinder it. Without a shadow of doubt, Streets of Rage is the greatest game to ever come out of the Sega Megadrive or equally the video gaming world. Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros and Call of Duty can all go and choke on a graphics card.
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