Streets of Rage 3
  • Genre:
    • Beat 'Em Up
  • Platform:
    • Genesis
  • Developer:
    • Sega
  • Publishers:
    • US JP UK Sega
    • Brazil Tec Toy
  • Released:
    • US 03/17/1994
    • JP 03/18/1994
    • UK 03/20/1994
    • Brazil 1994
Score: 85%

This review was published on 12/17/2017.

Known in Japan as Bare Knuckle III, Streets of Rage 3 is a side-scrolling beat 'em up video game developed and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis and Sega Mega Drive. It was originally released in North America on March 17, 1994, Japan on March 18, 1994, and Europe on March 20, 1994. As indicated by its title, this is the third game in the Streets of Rage series, which originally began in 1991 on the Genesis. The whole Streets of Rage series is basically a not-so-subtle rip off of Final Fight by Capcom, which began in 1989 in the arcades and got sequels on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the main competition to the Genesis. After the first title in each series, both of them started to steal ideas from each other, so neither side was blameless in this particular matter. Not that it matters, because Final Fight and Streets of Rage are both some of the best and most influential beat 'em ups of all time. The second Streets of Rage is definitely the best in the series, but the third one is fairly good, too.

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In the first two games, a couple of vigilante heroes successfully defeated The Syndicate, a sinister criminal organization led by Mr. X. The mysterious Mr. X returns in Streets of Rage 3, and this time, he has established a new research company called RoboCry Corporation to act as a cover for his illegal activities. Mr. X then hires the greatest roboticist in the world, Dr. Dahm, to create an army of obedient robotic clones to replace high ranking officials in the city. With the robotic clones in place, Mr. X plans to run the entire city from the comfort of his own office. Upon discovering the true nature of the research, a researcher named Dr. Zan quits his job at RoboCry and contacts Blaze Fielding, the heroine from the previous games, with the details of the plan. Wasting little time, Blaze calls upon her old comrades Axel Stone and Adam Hunter for help. While Axel agrees to join right away, Adam can't make it due to his job within the police force, so he sends his younger brother Skate instead. Axel, Blaze, Skate, and Zan are now ready to fight their way through the streets of rage.

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Again, the basics haven't changed too much. You still make characters walk in eight directions on the ground by using the d-pad, while the buttons are for jumping, attacking, and using special attacks. As with nearly all beat 'em ups, rapidly pressing the normal attack button brings about the standard combo that you'll be using for most of the game. Grabbing people is still done by gently walking into them, and then you press the attack button while holding back on the d-pad to throw them. Alternatively, you can hold forward on the d-pad and mash the attack button to strike the grabbed enemy a few times, or simply press the attack button on its own to slam them into the ground. Pressing the jump button whilst grabbing a foe still makes you vault over them, and executing a throw from behind tends to do more damage. Normally, the Genesis controller has three primary buttons on it, but a six button variant was released sometime in 1993, and this game fully supports it. This gives you easier access to some moves, like the backwards strike and charge attack. The three button controller still works, of course.

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The primary playable roster consists of Axel, Blaze, Skate, and Zan. Axel and Blaze have been there since the start of the series, whereas Skate was first introduced in Streets of Rage 2. However, Zan is an entirely new character exclusive to Streets of Rage 3, and he's basically a cyborg. Like the other games, every character has different statistical attributes that govern their abilities, in addition to slightly different moves. Blaze, Axel, and Skate cover the typical balanced, strong, and fast paradigms, but Zan's main asset is his long reach due to his extendable arms. Zan also converts any weapon he picks up into an energy sphere that he can throw as a projectile. There are a couple of secret characters, too, like a quirky kangaroo with boxing gloves. The other hidden characters are accessible via codes, but they're in an incomplete state, which suggests that you weren't really intended to play as them. Still, the roster is big enough as is with the four main heroes and the unlockable kangaroo.

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Like the first two games, weapons are sometimes found within breakable environmental objects or dropped by enemies. Weapons in Streets of Rage 3 are comprised of baseball bats, wooden planks, metal pipes, knives, swords, and kunai. Most characters have unique attacks when armed with certain weapons, and they can be thrown as projectiles if you so choose. Obviously, thrown weapons are lost forevermore. Further, you still drop them whenever you're knocked down by a big attack, and they disappear after being dropped a few times or during screen transitions. Thankfully, you no longer drop them when grabbing someone. However, unlike the first two games, weapons now break after being used a certain number of times. The durability of the wielded weapon is shown at the top of the screen via a bar, and once it runs out, the weapon is no more. This is one of the few bad changes in Streets of Rage 3, as it significantly downplays the usefulness of weapons.

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So what else is different? Well, the timer at the top of the screen has now been replaced with a power meter. The power meter gradually fills over time, and when it's full, you'll be able to use one of your character's two special moves without sapping away their health. Special moves can still be used without a full meter, however, but they'll drain a bit of your health in that case. This is a good change, because it prevents you from being too stingy with special moves. Every character is now also capable of dashing, an ability that was exclusive to Skate in Streets of Rage 2. That one change considerably hastens the game's pacing, as it allows you to zip across the screen with relative ease. Additionally, all characters are now able to roll upwards and downwards by double tapping up or down on the d-pad. Lastly, every character is able to upgrade their dash attack move up to three times if you reach certain score thresholds on a single life. All these changes add more substance to the game's mechanics, and that's a good thing, because beat 'em ups are usually lacking in the depth department.

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Seven stages full of butt kicking are contained within the Streets of Rage 3 cartridge. There's enough enemy variety to stave off the usual repetitiveness that plagues the beat 'em up genre, with various punks, fire breathing fatsos, whip wielding witches, and robots. Further enriching the experience is the fact that the stages have far more obstacles than they did in the last game. Some examples include the dance club with flashing lights that hinder visibility, a construction site with a bulldozer that chases after you as you demolish concrete walls with your limbs, and the usual conveyer belt laden factory. The sixth stage is annoying, though, because it's a massive maze with countless doors you must search through to free the kidnapped police chief. Toxic gas begins to fill the rooms if you take too long, slowly killing you and the chief. Speaking of, this game has multiple endings like the first one, and they depend on whether you save the police chief and how quickly you beat the final boss. If you fail to save the chief, you'll also be taken to an alternate final stage. Aside from the frustrating sixth stage, this is all good stuff.

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As usual, a second player can join any time as another character by pressing the start button on a second controller. Players are intended to cooperate, though friendly fire still exists. Team attacks have been brought back from the original Streets of Rage, and you typically execute them by grabbing an ally and then vaulting over them. Playing with a pal is good fun, unless you veer into the game's competitive mode. For some odd reason, the developers saw fit to bring back the mediocre versus mode from the last game. The only real difference is the name change; instead of "Duel," the mode is now referred to as "Battle." Also, there are no longer any weapons available in any of the selectable arenas, so fights are solely restricted to each character's core moves. This mode suffers from the same problem as before, in that the mechanics of a brawler simply don't work well for one-on-one fighting. If you elect to play this game with a friend, stick to co-op.

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The Japanese and Western releases of the previous games had some differences between them, but the differences are more significant for Streets of Rage 3. Firstly, the Japanese version has Axel, Blaze, and Skate wearing the same colored clothing they had in the previous games, while the English version gives them entirely different and tackier colors. Secondly, the stories are almost completely different, with the Japanese version featuring The Syndicate kidnapping a high ranking general in an attempt to start a global war so they can smuggle radioactive materials. Thirdly, the usual censorship took place, with the English version giving more clothing to scantily clad women, changing the White House stage to City Hall, and completely removing a gay boss character named Ash. All the digitized voices were also redone to be in English. However, by far the worst change is the difficulty, as the English version is substantially harder than the Japanese release, to the point of being nearly impossible. It's for this reason alone that you should consider playing the Japanese version over the English one, if the option is available.

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While it's nowhere near as groundbreaking as the second game in the series, Streets of Rage 3 is still one of the best brawlers out there. Nearly everything that made the previous game great is here, except with a tad more polish. The only divisive thing about this game is its soundtrack; the previous games had fantastic music that everyone could appreciate, but the tracks in Streets of Rage 3 are kind of hard on the ears. Some tracks sound like random electronic noises as opposed to actual music. This is due to a new composition method devised by Yuzo Koshiro, composer of the previous games, called "Automated Composing System." It was fairly advanced for the time, but is a bit too abrasive for anyone who isn't into experimental music. Beyond that, Streets of Rage 3 is a great end to a great trilogy.

Word Count: 1,807

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