Welcome to part 17 of a brand new mega list for CelJaded’s Top 100 Best Video Games. This sixteenth post features entry #3 – Streets of Rage Remake.
Be sure to read the introduction that I put together beforehand too as it gives a more detailed introduction on what I’m trying to achieve here as well as a few other random musings that you may find insightful.
If you’re looking for another post in this same series then consider visiting the associated index which includes a readout of all published entries and the posts in which they appear.
#3 – Streets of Rage Remake
Principal Platforms: PC, Mac, Several home consoles | Developer: Bombergames (based on original work by Sega AM7) | Publisher: N/A | Genre: Beat ‘Em Up | Year: 2011
There is not a Sega fan alive who wouldn’t extol the virtues of Streets of Rage when asked about classic beat ’em ups.
Far beyond the status of mere “Final Fight clones”, the Streets of Rage games have made a name for themselves with addictive arcade-quality action, fluid gameplay and memorable music.
Outside of the usual modern re-releases, the franchise has remained exclusive to the Mega Drive console for twenty years and yet it still manages to top people’s lists as one of the most popular console beat ’em ups in existence today.
When the Sega Saturn made its worldwide release in 1995, hopes were indeed high for a 32-bit sequel, but alas it never came. As the years rolled on and Sega exited the hardware business, it finally became clear; Streets of Rage 4 would never be a reality.
A team of programmers calling themselves Bombergames would not be denied however, and they took it upon themselves to develop the grand sequel they had always envisioned; a high definition remake unparalleled in both scale and beauty.
The remake started life in 2003 as a private work of chief developer/creator BoMbErLiNk with the project later expanding to accommodate over twenty contributors all working as designers, artists and musicians.
According to BoMbErLiNk, the final release version dubbed Streets of Rage Remake V5 consists of “80000 lines of code between the main game and the tools (which are integrated with its own interface within the game).”
“Streets of Rage Remake is a project created from scratch, it does not use reverse engineering nor a single line of code from the original games. It’s all based on visual interpretation, comparing how things work in the original games and trying to mimic it.”
“The engine is not a generic beat-em-up engine, but one with the sole purpose of being a unique and faithful remake of the original Streets of Rage games.”
After spending 8 long years in development, the game was finally finished and Bombergames were at last able to rest easy; safe in the knowledge that Streets of Rage Remake is both complete and also one of greatest fan-made productions ever seen for an existing property.
With 19 playable characters, 100 stages, 64 enemies and a full 76-tune soundtrack remixed by five different musicians, it’s not really hard to see why.
The Streets of Rage games have always offered something that other beat ’em ups routinely struggle with; offensive variety. Most notable in the excellent Streets of Rage 2, there are simply a ton of different ways in which you can go about defeating enemies.
Punishing suplexes, judo throws, aerial superkicks and fiery haymakers are all on show here and the dazzling array of such moves that each playable character has access to ensures that the game never really gets boring despite the repetitive nature of the overall setup.
Streets of Rage Remake recognizes these features extremely well and it has to be said that Bombergames has done a perfect job in recreating the sort of varied and intense gameplay that the franchise is known for. Punches connect exactly as you’d expect, bottles break satisfyingly over heads and yes, Max’s atomic drop still rocks unlike anything yet seen in 2D!
Remake takes its basic structure from the first three games, but builds on them much further than you would expect. Upon starting the game you’re prompted to select one of four starting paths that will take you through the various levels featured in Streets of Rage 1, 2 & 3 respectively.
Various levels now have branching paths that can alter your course mid-game and it won’t be long before you start to notice the embellishments that the developers have heaped upon each location.
Indeed, the graphical improvements here are fantastic. Developed with modern PCs in mind, Streets of Rage Remake looks simply incredible with recreated sprite work that gives an altogether vivid and dynamic look that suits the game perftecly.
Each stage is alive with new details. Whether it’s the added swaying animation for the pirate ship in level 3, the pouring lava in the background of stage 7 or the police car that crashes into a gang of punks at the game’s opening, Remake is not an effort that’s content with offering the bare minimum.
Each character features brand new animations and moves that look and behave seamlessly to those from the original games. For even more proof of this fact, look no further than the brand new playable characters including chief antagonist Mr. X, the female ninja Rudra, and the long awaited return of heroic cop Adam.
You may first think that the new additions to the roster would look out of place, but they really don’t. Seeing them alongside existing characters and the welcome return of the screen-clearing ‘police specials’ is simply divine for fans of the series.
Every original character has alternate costumes too with the sprite work often matching that character’s various original appearances in the Mega Drive games. Indeed, in terms of fan service alone, this is a game that goes well beyond the call of duty.
Any feature, any character and any asset that could potentially lay claim to being in a Streets of Rage game is featured in Remake.
Unofficial enemies that appear on the embellished European box art are given their own dedicated sprites and animations, beta screen shots of a motorbike level for Streets of Rage 3 are used as the basis for several in-game vehicle sections and every single piece of Yuzo Koshiro‘s excellent and innovative music has been faithfully remixed and proudly presented on the ruthlessly comprehensive soundtrack.
Even the 8-bit Sega Master System ports of the first two games get a nod when it comes to the odd exclusive level or unique chiptune remix. It’s an extraordinary effort from all involved and the obvious love they have for the franchise is more than evident in their work.
Sprites from both the Japanese and English versions are used at various points during the main game mode and you can expect to see many encounters sporting all new cutscenes, sight gags and gameplay features.
There’s plenty more for experts to enjoy too, including several advanced options in the front end that allow you to tailor the gameplay experience further by changing the particular way in which animation frames, sound effects and the controls all behave in-game as well as the customizable parameters for enemy names and character palette colours.
If this wasn’t already enough, Streets of Rage Remake features a plethora of unlockable features and ‘cheats’ that can be ‘purchased’ from a shop screen. New characters, crazy weapons (lightsaber swords!) and other little bonuses do wonders for the replay value, but perhaps the most interesting feature is the modding tool.
The SORMaker allows users to produce their own Streets of Rage levels, stories and campaigns using the Remake engine with a suite of customizable tools and assets allowing for a great level of control during creation.
There’s very little done wrong in this game, but it has to be said that there are a few new encounters here and there that do feel a little cheap (too many pitfalls on the waterfall level for one) and the anti-climatic ending for the Streets of Rage 3 route is rather puzzling considering how well the first two finish up.
Also, despite the number of additional paths you can take in-game, the linear Streets of Rage 2 route still feels like the most enjoyable option because of its tendency to feature more balanced enemies and stage layouts.
These are minor blemishes though, and judging by my notes, if I was to continue listing even more of what makes Streets of Rage Remake a fantastic experience then I would surely need a second article with which to do it.
This is actually a somewhat controversial entry in the top 100 list as Streets of Rage Remake is not an officially released video game. You see, despite being notified of the game’s creation well in advance, Sega chose to shut down Remake instead of honouring it for what it is; a faithful and immensely well crafted game for the fans and a quality production that Sega; a company well into the twilight of its best years as a company, could really do with embracing.
The fact that Sega chose the day of release to throw their legal weight around; a day looked forward to by fans for 8 solid years, is only more infuriating. Why wait until the day of release if this was going to be such a problem?
Galling still is the situation that occurred later that exact same year (2011), where a Sega representative proudly acknowledged the company’s acceptance of Christian Whitehead‘s wonderful HD port of Sonic CD; the same sort of acceptance that should have been shown to Bombergames back in April.
Regardless of my rapidly expanding personal rift with Sega though, nothing stops Streets of Rage Remake from being my best game of 2011, official release or otherwise.
Here is a game that perfectly encapsulates what a dedicated development team can accomplish when given ample time. The polish here is unmistakable and as painful as it is to cross the original Streets of Rage games off of my ‘best-of’ lists; the truth of the matter is that I no longer have need of them.
Streets of Rage Remake is the ultimate reinterpretation of a classic series then; one that looks, sounds and feels a perfect 10 steps above that which inspired it.