Streets Of Rage 3 – A gritty, realistic classic that was so utterly unbelievable and far-fetched
By Ed Acteson
July 1994. Wet Wet Wet sit atop the UK charts for the seventh consecutive week with the greatest love song ever written; Love Is All Around. But whilst couples across the world are gushing over Hugh Grant’s foppish pursuit of Andie MacDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral, a dark storm is brewing.
A mysterious syndicate are planting bombs across New York to distract the police whilst a sinister robotics company kidnap and replace high ranking officials with their android doppelgangers to gain influence over the city.
Fortunately, a cyborg mobster-turned-good guy called Dr Zan becomes aware of the nefarious plan and tips off his crime-fighting associates; Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding and Eddie ‘Skate’ Hunter. And so begins Streets Of Rage 3.
“For a game that offered minimal variety in terms gameplay, Streets Of Rage 3 offered tremendous replay value”
For a game that offered minimal variety in terms gameplay, Streets Of Rage 3 offered tremendous replay value. Even as a nine-year-old I was struck by much exploratory depth there was to the game in terms of multiple endings, secret characters and hidden items. In 2019 all of these things are standard in most games but these were simpler times.
Something that nobody under the age of about 20 will understand is that, back then, cheat magazines and books were a big thing. I vividly remember paying around a tenner for a guide to Sonic 2 which was, frankly, mental as there was absolutely nothing to it other than skill.
However, this was pre-internet so we had no other access to cheats or walkthroughs which, in Streets Of Rage 3, you needed to unlock a bizarre trio of secret characters. All three of the unlockables were bosses who you could play after defeating them.
The first, Shiva, was a martial arts expert and it’s fair to say that he was the character you wanted. If memory serves me correctly, you would hold about four buttons down immediately after defeating him and, if done right, the next time you died you could select him.
“Later, you would fight a boxing glove-sporting kangaroo and his master”
Later, you would fight a boxing glove-sporting kangaroo and his master. You could kill them both or just the master. If you chose to let the kangaroo live, then Roo would then become available to select in much the same way as Shiva.
The third, Ash, was only present in the Japanese version of the game, having been banned from the Western release, though he was still accessible by utilising a cheat cartridge (click here if you want to know what that is). Why was he banned I hear you ask? I’ll let you judge for yourselves.
I believe it’s fair to say that, had Ash appeared in a modern game, he would have been met with a mixed-to-negative reception on social media. Indeed, we would have found compiling a social media reaction article very easy work.
At the time though I thought nothing of it, and was simply surprised to grow up and realise that gay people generally didn’t actually wear skimpy leather unitards, green tights or run effeminately with their hands in the air. You live and learn.
Offensive stereotypes aside, Streets Of Rage 3 was superb. The pumping techno soundtrack made you forget that you were playing a 16 Bit game and
the incredibly varied level design was immersive at a time when we didn’t know better. The graphics were so colourful and vivid in a way that you simply don’t see anymore owing to modern realism.
“Streets Of Rage 3 had a kind of gritty realism yet was also utterly far fetched and ludicrous”
It was best played with a friend and I distinctly remember some incredibly enjoyable afternoons spent with my cousin playing co-op, where you could perform tandem moved by picking up and launching your partner at the enemies. Indeed local co-op in the 90s was a far cry from playing online multiplayer today, wearing a headseat whilst a 14-year-old from Texas tells you in detail how he’s going to bang your mum whilst simultaneously killing you with a headshot.
Streets Of Rage 3 had a kind of gritty realism yet was also utterly far fetched and ludicrous. I think spending so long playing that as a kid accounted for a substantial part of the reason that I fell in the love with the film The Warriors some years later, as they had plenty in common.
It was the finest beat-em-up of the Megadrive and SNES era, which was the high point of the genre. Once the arrival of the PS1 and N64 brought the advent of 3D gaming, a few beat-em-ups remained such as the admirable Fighting Force but overall the genre was dying. I would say I miss it but I can’t, because the truth is I still play it at least once a year.
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