The transition from 2D to 3D gaming in the mid 90s was an incredible time for gaming, literally adding an extra dimension to the games released. While most genres made the jump from 2D to 3D without too many problems, one genre seemly died away – the side scrolling fighter. Quite possibly the greatest example of a side scrolling fighter is Streets of Rage 2, released in 1993 on the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis (the game was known as Bare Knuckle 2 in Japan).
The game introduced two new characters, Max and Skate, who joined returning favourites Axel and Blaze. You play through 8 action packed levels in environments such as downtown, an amusement arcade, a ship and a jungle with a boss battle at the end of each level. Also, the levels in Streets of Rage 2 were much longer than those found in the original game and featured multiple settings in each individual level (for example from a street setting, the fight may then continue in a bar). Not only this but the old style generic one use only special attacks were replaced with character-specific special attacks which could be used several times at the expense of a small amount of health.
The game is a major improvement over the original in terms of presentation, graphics and gameplay. Presentation wise, you can now see the health remaining on every enemy you attack, not just the end of level bosses. The graphics are also much improved over the original, and the character and enemy move list is much more extensive. Also, there are many new types of enemies to keep you busy, including the infamous bikers, ninjas and massive kickboxers.
There was also a Streets of Rage 2 game released on the SEGA Master System and Game Gear platforms, however, like the 8-bit versions of Sonic the Hedgehog games, they are actually very different games. The game, in it's full 16-bit form, can also be found on the Dreamcast's SEGA Smash Pack Vol. 1 compilation (although this was not available outside of North America), as well as on the Nintendo Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade.
Overall, this is a definite contender for the greatest side scrolling fighting game of all time and a game every fighting fan should own, especially the version available on Xbox Live Arcade which features two player co-op over Xbox Live - a bargain at just 400MSP (that's £3.40/US$5.00 in real money!).
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