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Streets of Rage (Master System) Review

There’s something fascinating about seeing a much more advanced title being ported to a significantly underpowered system. In the right hands, these kind of ports can be an exciting experiment. What will the developer sacrifice in order to make the game run on such archaic hardware? More often than not, it’s the in-house studios who achieve the better results and with the Master System version of Streets of Rage that is definitely the case.

To begin with, let’s discuss exactly what has been changed in order to fit this legendary beat-em-up onto SEGA’s 8 bit box of brown. The most glaringly obvious change is the complete removal of a 2 player co-operative mode. This is probably the change that hurts this port of Streets of Rage the most. Without the fun of interacting with a friend, Streets of Rage’s repetitiveness becomes more apparent as you trudge through waves of enemies in order to take down criminal mastermind, Mr. X.

Thankfully, the game is still pretty enjoyable as a single player experience and most of your abilities from the Mega Drive version make their way over intact. You’ve got your standard ground-based combos, flying attacks, close-quarters attacks and throws. Your special ability to call for backup is also here except thanks to the lack of face buttons on a Master System controller, you have to reach for the console’s start button and press 1 to activate it. It’s not the best way of dealing with the extra ability but a necessary one as pressing both 1 and 2 together still activates your reverse attack. Thanks to how much of the Mega Drive’s move-set has made it to the Master System version, this is still an exciting and surprisingly deep little beat-em-up that will definitely hold your attention regardless of control limitations.

Visually, you’d also expect to see quite a significant down-grade over its 16 bit brethren, but miraculously, Streets of Rage on the Master System is probably one of the best-looking games on the system. Each stage holds a bold and vibrant burst of colour and detail that manages to mirror the look of the 16 bit version unbelievably well. Sure, sprites are smaller and there aren’t as many frames of animation, but what is here is functional, well drawn and easy to identify. This really is an outstanding presentation job.

Outside of the lack of a multiplayer option, the only real negative we can throw at 8 bit Streets of Rage is how difficult it is to avoid certain enemy attacks. The whip-girls instantly spring to mind, especially the ones that crouch after a single hit. In order to deal the most damage to any enemy in the game, you are required to put yourself in harm’s way, grab an opponent and beat them with a close-quarters combo. In the case of the whip-girls, this is an absolutely crucial part of defeating them, but their whip attack is extremely fast and effective, making dealing with them incredibly difficult, especially if you’re trying to minimise damage. This becomes apparent with bosses like Abadede as well, who can strike you with their best attack multiple times and don’t seem to stumble under your combos.

Thankfully, these moments of unfair advantage in favour of the enemy are quite uncommon in the grander scheme of things. 8 bit Streets of Rage is a surprisingly accurate recreation of the 16 bit title with every stage intact and even the addition of a new boss in stage 6 who looks like an old magician who fires rockets (you can’t criticise SEGA for lack of creativity). Yes, the stage themes might have been mixed up for this port, but outside of sound this is very enjoyable 8 bit rendition of the beat-em-up classic that just misses its chance at greatness thanks to a lack of multiplayer and some frustrating enemies.


Written by Lewis “Sonic Yoda” Clark on 29/01/2017

Cover Artwork, Instruction Manual and Cartridge Scans
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