I hate to do this, I really do. But I did not like Streets of Rage 3. I knew I didn’t the first time, or the second time I played it. I was reminded why when I picked it up one more time for this review. I don’t know how, but all the wires just crossed in the wrong places for me here. On top of the more subjective things like art, aspects of gameplay also seemed to regress here for some reason. It’s a damn shame, and likely why it’s taken twenty years for us to see a low budget sequel.
NOTE: I’ve played these games using a few methods, even including a plug in Sega Genesis emulator (the kind that comes with a bunch of games on it, and also has a cartridge port). But my preferred way is the “Sega Vintage Collection: Streets of Rage”. It’s a clean port, and has a lot of extra features. It’s available on Xbox One (360 backwards compatibility). You can also find each individual game for ¢99 on Steam, though these are likely more direct ports.
NOTE: I had a rule for this article: Play as far as I could with the lives and continues provided. No tricks.
Streets of Rage 3
We’re started off in the middle of the story this time, I’m assuming where the last game left off. That’s a kick in the nuts, confusing the hell out of players for not finishing a game with limited continues and no passwords. This game is surprisingly cutscene heavy, and it seems like it’s taking it’s cheesy story really seriously all of the sudden. The last game had a sense of humor, and seemed pretty self aware about it’s setup. It had a Jojo reference in it for Christ’s sake, a female enemy named “L. Lisa”. This game plays out – oddly enough, like a dumb action movie franchise that’s been going on too long.
Let’s address the screeching elephant in the room: The music is terrible. Not just because I don’t like the genre, but because I never feel it fits what’s happening on screen. I’m never getting motivated by it, I’m thinking, “What the fuck is that noise?” But what happened? Yuzo Koshiro is still the composer, so obviously that’s not the problem. Or more accurately: He’s not the only composer, the other composer is a random number generator. Literally, the sequences in these tracks were randomly generated. The man invented something called an “Automated Composing System”. Apparently this stuff was pretty innovative and ahead of its time, but I really don’t care if it sounds like ass. I appreciate that Mr. Koshiro was just trying something new, any artist should. But they also need to be able to accept when those experiments yield unfortunate results. It sounds random, not like the auto generated music of today. It’s downright abrasive at times. It doesn’t even sound like music to me, just noise.
Well, are there any upsides to the game? Yes, there’s… a few. You can sprint now, but the developers really just used this as an excuse to add unnecessary stretches to the levels. You have a dodge roll, allowing you to quickly move in either vertical direction. That’s handy. You don’t drop weapons when you throw enemies, that’s a good change. Oh, and this game has jiggle physics. Yeah, there was a pixel artist at Sega who took the time to animate Blaze’s boobs bouncing. I guess that means current developers really have no excuse. Speaking of painstaking animation: There’s actually a lot of dynamic background details here. The first level has chains that will shake when you slam enemies to the ground. Unfortunately, that’s where the praise I can give this game ends.
This game is basically Streets of Rage 2, except everything is worse. Much of the pixel art is copied, but enemies now have randomly sized health bars for some reason. So now it’s impossible to tell what the threat level is at a glance. Punching works less. The best way I can describe it is: The cone of effectiveness in front of you has been reduced. So have fun attempting pinpoint accuracy on the 2.5D plane. Speaking of attacks, the special attack now has a recharging meter. This would’ve been listed in the positives, if it weren’t for the fact that you can still use your specials and damage yourself while it’s drained. So now you’ll miss thanks to the smaller cone, and start killing yourself out of frustration. Weapons have very limited durability again. Because if something isn’t broken, why not fix it? Did they think the unbreaking weapons made the last game too easy? It’s not like you got to hold them for very long.
Speaking of difficulty, they decided to overcompensate for the last game. Streets of Rage 3 is the hardest of the series, and not in any fun creative ways. Bullshit bosses, and a ridiculous number of enemies. Combined with your less useful attacks… You can imagine. There’s less breakable objects in the environment, which directly translates to less chances for health items. Doesn’t exactly help with the difficulty. I mean this game doesn’t even give you a break on the first level, the difficulty feels like you’re starting in the middle of the story. I used all of my continues on the first level, yes really. You can probably guess I didn’t make it through the second level. That’s how bad this is, I got my shit kicked in after marathoning the series.
The music isn’t the only thing that’s had the personality drained from it. Even the art has taken a hit. Don’t get me wrong, the new pixel art isn’t low quality, it’s just drab. It’s like the game wasn’t allowed to have any color. Bright vibrant colors like pink seem to have been desaturated, even Blaze’s outfit is grey instead of red.
The game is bad. I was extremely disappointed by it. They had a winning formula, and somehow they blew it. It’s a damn shame, because I truly do consider Streets of Rage 2 one of the best retro titles out there. It hurt to see a series climb so high, just to face plant onto the pavement. Don’t bother picking this one up if you’re buying them separately. I can’t even recommend it on difficulty because it’s the cheap annoying sort. There are far better titles out there than Streets of Rage 3 if you found the last game’s challenge to be lacking. It just isn’t fun for me. I suppose we can only hope the next game learns from two decades of critique. Maybe I’ll see you then. Until next time, just keep moving forward.