Streets of Rage 3 review - Sega Megadrive

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Streets of Rage 3 box artIt's here! The third Streets of Rage game hits the Megadrive, bringing a gang of larger sprites and even more action with it. Both Axel and Blaze have returned, as word reaches them that Mr X is up to his old tricks again - but this time they are aided bu the Zan, a bionically-enhanced old geezer with a nice line in electro shock therapy, and a short but fast kid called Sammy. As for Max and Adam, they were last seen queuing for soup near Waterloo Bridge.

According to the rumours, X is preparing to unleash his nuclear arsenal on the world in revenge for his two humiliating defeats in the first two games. His location has been traced to a heavily-defended tower block deep with the city, But X's hoods stand between our heroic quartet and their plans to scupper his evil doings...

What the Mean Machines staff thought


" After Sonic comes the 'Rage. In common with the blue hedgehog, Sega's approach has been to make it more lavish than its two predecessors. Note that this doesn't mean more game; it takes about the same amount of time to tramp through SOR3 that it does for SOR2. All that extra memory (equivalent to the size of Sonic 2) has been spent on larger sprites, more backdrops, a smattering of new moves and music. What can be seen is the 'law of diminishing returns': Sega are putting vastly more in, and only getting slight improvements for it. However SOR3 looks and plays great - with a better feel than SOR2, and is only marred by exceptional easineess. Axel, in particular has been made too powerful. With this in mind, I still think SOR2 is the definitive Megadrive beat 'em up. "

" This third addition to the Streets of Rage series wipes the floor with the previous two in terms of graphics and presentation. Axel and Blaze have never looked so beefy, and with equally huge enemy sprites, the game is the best-looking scrolling beat 'em up available for the Megadrive. That said, if only Sega had lavished the same care on the gameplay, and added a few new elements. The same bad guy formations roll on for a quick bundle, with the bosses adding the only real variety to the proceedings. To me Streets of Rage 3 doesn't take enough risks. There are moments of inspiration, but it isn't until later in the game that any originality shows it face. In X's lair, a puzzle-solving element is added as the players search for him, and must find and smash terminals which seal off certain areas. If these ideas had been littered throughout the game, SOR3 would easily be a megagame. Don't get me wrong, I'm not slating the game as it's extremely playable - if a little easy - but with the proposed SOR4 already on the cards, let's hope Sega start looking for a few new ideas... "


Overall Score83%

Retrospective comments


Streets of Rage 3 has been the victim of much flak over the past few years. Coming after the sublime SOR2, the third installment had a fight (ho-ho!) on its hands to better such a fantastic game.

On paper, it certainely seems like it should be up to the task - the game clocks in at a whopping 24 megs - eight more than the legendary Street Fighter II on the SNES! However, as this MMS review shows, the game was seen as something of a letdown. It didn't expand enough on the original concept, the music was 'terrible' and the plot a bit iffy.

In hindsight, it's easy to see why people were a bit cheesed off about shelling out £60 for a game that wasn't very different from one they already owned. But make no mistake about it, SOR3 is one of the finest scrolling fighters ever made, and easily the best one on the Megadrive. The visuals are goregous, with loads of animation. The levels are varied and colourful, and there's plenty of chellenge here too. The music takes some getting used to - ironically it pre-dated the 'trance' era that came a short while after release (although it has to be said that the MD's sound chip isn't up to the task on some of the tracks). The plot is still a bit naff, but this can be forgiven. All in all, SOR3 is a game worthy of re-assessment.

My advice is simple - if you're a fan of the series then SOR3 should be near the top of your retro shopping list (assuming you're sad enough to have one). If you've never played any of the SOR series before, SOR2 is probably a better entry point, but be sure to sample this third outing at some point.

Tris Wicks - 11 Nov 2008, 02:55 GMT

It's a matter of taste. At least this is different enough to SOR2 (yes i'm common as muck cos i like that best) but i've reaped much profound amusement watching friends play as Skate, who I think is a tit.

gerard - 02 Jan 2009, 08:14 GMT

I have got this and streets of 2 and hav to say that the running element in this edtion is vastly overlooked in these reviews and definietly makes the game faster paced,axel is still the best character by a mile why won,t sega make a update streets of 4 would be mint

Godpikachu - 08 Feb 2009, 03:46 GMT

Having got all of the SOR games, id have to say that this game is probably the worst of the three.
Ok, so visually its better than the first two SOR outings, but the problem is they didnt really add much to the seires with this one.
OK, so its fun to attempt to play as the kangaroo once youve unlocked him, but the cyborg guy is pants. I mean come on, at least Max was a half decent playable character, once you got the hang of him, but the cborg guy seems to have been tacked in just to justify the "techno-thriller" plot of the game, which is in itself pretty crappy.

The final level is ok, but they could have spread the idea out over the other levels, and used that extra memory to have you searching a map of the city for Mr.X, unlocking new levels as you played through, but no.

Classic case of good idea, sloppy execution.

Stayrsaigh - 21 Mar 2009, 22:00 GMT

Hmmm I don't get it, I was sorely disappointed with this game when I got it! I thought the graphics were grainy, messy and poorly animated and there's only so long I could listen to that din that passed for music! It did play ok though, but only ok! The sound effects didn't work sometimes and neither did the collision detection! Not a bad game but definatly a step back from II and nowhere near as polished!

MrMindgames - 20 Apr 2009, 23:23 GMT

Unless those reviews are of Bare Knuckle 3 and not SOR3, I just can't understand it. There is no way the graphics are an improvement on SOR2 - sure, they tried to put in a lot more texture, but what that amounts to are dots and wiggly lines, they look a grainy mess. Furthermore, the environments are just plain uninspired, repetitive and boring - SOR2 in particular had some fantastic, memorable stages - everyone remembers the arcade or the battle in the "Alien"-inspired funfair ride, right? Rather than having lots of short stages with variation, these seem to go on forever and hearken back to the limited design of SOR1 - docks, beach, construction site - but where SOR1 had an excuse (graphical limitations at the time, etc.), this is unforgivable. The colours are muted and drab, and even the character sprites are choppier looking than in SOR2 - not to mention Sega of America screwed around with the character's paintjobs and for unfathomable reasons Axel is now wearing a pee-coloured yellow t-shirt and black jeans (much like Adam in SOR1) and Blaze is sporting some hideous grey outfit...okay, it's a minor quibble, but it's a quibble nonetheless. Much has been made of the music not being in the same league as previous entries in the series either, but I can live with that, what I can't live with is the fact that the sound effects (particular voice snatches) pop and crackle and often don'r work, this wasn't the case with SOR2 (compare Axel's "bare knuckle" move in both and you'll hear the distinction - in SOR3 it's tinny and crackles with distortion).

SOR2 was too easy, that was without a doubt its main fault, but SOR3 is far too hard, which is why I can only conclude those original reviews were for the Japanese version, Bare Knuckle 3, which even on its hardest difficulty setting was much easier to complete than SOR3 on its default difficulty. Sega of America "tweaked" the game before releasing it as SOR3 and the result is a game that's just plain frustrating to play - the enemies move too fast and can hit you at lightning speeds (not to mention they have a block function and you don't), and the bosses are even worse - those really great special moves they put in following SOR1 are a waste of time, they just don't connect, so you spend most of the time chasing around after the bosses (who evade you easily and too often - Mona and Lisa at the end of stage 2 are a prime example of this), being only able to hit them with weak jumping or running attacks, which just prolongs battles to the point of tedium. It's not helped by the fact that the enemies even on normal difficulty are overpowered and the characters you play have been severely depowered.

One of the great strokes of SOR2 was that the game's mechanics were perfect - each playable character had his/her own niche and getting to grips with their individual skills, speeds and strength was part of the fun and replay value. Here it's a waste of time - for example, Axel, who since SOR1 has been perhaps the most even of characters, is too slow (in comparative terms to the enemies he faces, he's as slow as Max in SOR2, or Zangief in SFII) but crucially he doesn't have the strength or moves to even that defect out, even his special moves hardly do any damage. I prefer tougher games, but this is just frustrating, it's not like they've improved the enemy AI or given them a more sophisticated battle style, all they've done is weaken the playable characters, limit your lives and boost the speed, strength and stamina of the enemies, making it vastly one-sided. A group of plain old thugs can surround you and beat you to a pulp quite easily, the only way out of it is to use a special move. Which brings me to the controls - they're not half as sharp or responsive as SOR2, where you could probably time your "forward, forward + punch/kick" special to pinpoint accuracy when you need it, here it often causes the character to run or worst of all it comes a fraction too late, and since the enemies can run rings around everyone except Skate and Blaze, that's another point at which you just want to throw your controller through the screen - it's not increasing the difficulty in a way that improves the game, just increasing the frustration factor.

Overall, I don't know what happened between Bare Knuckle 3 and SOR3 - yes, the Japanese version was too easy, but the game mechanics worked and it wouldn't have taken too much tweaking to make it a slightly harder game, but what's happened is the experience is ruined and it's not as enjoyable a play as SOR2, and the graphics and sound are a distinct let down too, they tried to make them more/bigger, but the overall effect is far less.

Nesplayer - 12 May 2009, 14:16 GMT

Streets of Rage 3 music isn't bad, yes it's sounds much more experimental than SoR2 soundtrack but calling it 'terrible' is a joke, there are worse Video Game soundtracks out there compared to Streets of Rage 3. This soundtrack is something you have to get use to for awhile, at first i hated the soundtrack with a passion when at first playing the game, but as i got into the game more it grew on me and now i think it's a great soundtrack. Sure, maybe SoR3 soudntrack is questionable compared to SoR2 but it's still a good soundtrack on it's own.

chammond - 30 Jun 2009, 00:22 GMT

i never played this when originally released on the megadrive i was a fan of 1 & 2 but 3 seemed almost impossible to get hold of,but i have recently got the ultimate megadrive collection for ps3 and now i wish i had never played it,it simply isnt fun,MrMindgames hit the nail on the head,its so hard that it becomes simply frustrating instead of enjoyable and although some of the music tracks are good a lot of them are bloody awful,no wonder sega never made sor4 this pile of trash has ruined the sor franchise in my eyes,i'll be sticking to sor 1 & 2 and i would advise everyone else to do the same

Dharmesh - 01 Jan 2010, 23:16 GMT

I don't think you could be more wrong about Axel in the third game, in comparison, he has been toned down severely, his combo does less damage, his special move (Forward + A) has become almost useless, and his Bare Knuckle move is no where near as powerful as it was in SOR2.

In other news, while I still believe SOR3 is a great game, SOR2 had much more of an appeal to people. It was the beat-em-up game on the Genesis, It was fun, and easy, and had a much better musical score to boot. SOR3 added back in some missing factors from the first game (Blaze flicking her hair, Axel rubbing his nose) and the two player aspect of vaulting over the other player, and SOR3 had some pretty sweet music at some points (Moon, Poets, and Poets II).

To top it all off, the North American version was less appealing, Axel looks like a bumblebee, and the girls wear too much clothing, and is way to hard in comparison to BK3 which is far more easier!

kerr - 22 Feb 2010, 18:34 GMT

My video review of this game..... I would also advise people to look into the differences between the English and Japanese version for a good laugh. There is an amusing sailor character in the Japanese one

Shinobi - 22 Mar 2010, 23:17 GMT

I'm certain all three of these reviews are based on the Japanese version, Bare Knuckle 3. The US/European version was abysmal. The graphics, story & difficulty setting were all altered during the conversion stage. I've no idea what Sega USA were thinking but they completely ruined Bare Knuckle 3 when it became Streets of Rage 3. My advice is to avoid SoR 3 and look for the Japanese version.

cowboyscowboys - 04 May 2010, 00:00 GMT

I actually love Streets of Rage 3 (American Version). I have gathered the knowledge over the last few years that it is a shell of the Japanese version Bare Knuckle 3. I am dying to play BN3 but ain't paying a crazy amount for the cart. Anyways if BN3 is as good as people say compared to SOR3 then I would consider it better then SOR2. Heck I already like SOR3 the American version just as much as SOR 2.

Alex - 25 May 2010, 20:16 GMT

Just to set the record straight...those with an open mind about music might find the SoR3 soundtrack fantastic. Way ahead of its time, really interesting and experimental, but still super energetic and pushes the limits of the sound chip. Maybe it's just too much to process while playing a beat-'em-up game, but I'd recommend giving it a good listen on its own; for my money it blows the earlier SoR soundtracks out of the water, and it's one of the best MD soundtracks I've heard.

Dan - 30 Jun 2010, 14:09 GMT

All SOR games were ace, SOR 2 looked the best but each had it's own charm and it's own vibe, so whichever u connected with the most wud prob be ur fave.

Personally I couldn't decide between em!

Neofcon - 02 Sep 2010, 01:38 GMT

"easiness"? Where!?

This is the hardest game in the series. But judging from the pictures you used, this is more so the Japanese version. I can tell because Blaze has red on :P. Though I am confused as to why you mixed and matched pictures, with Axel in the US version and Blaze in the Japanese version, but eh. BARE KNUCKLE 3 is the game you are reviewing. Not Streets of Rage 3.

Erik - 19 Mar 2011, 16:31 GMT

I love streets of rage 3. I had it since I was a kid and remember playing it with my friends allthe time. I actually still do to this day on my genesis. I remember playing this first before I actually played SOR2. Around that time, I remember being really dissapointed that they changed they colors on the clothes and how the story started revolving around robots. It was just awfull. I knew deep down that something wasn't right. But I loved the fighting, the music and the awesome graphics. I only learned of the japanese version years later through the internet. Bit even with that version being easier and hands down the best version in terms of presentation and eye candy, I still prefer playing streets of rage 3 for the difficulty alone. Its so much fun when you master the game and take full advantage of the speed the controls/gameplay offer, plus the combos and reverse attacks at your disposal. This makes it the definitive version for me in the series. A very sweet and bitter one. But worth the cool fun martial art action. 5 stars from me.

tom richards - 30 Apr 2011, 20:31 GMT

i think sor3 is far better than sor1 and the best in terms of graphics but playability it has to be sor2.

Cameron Berry - 11 Jul 2011, 21:09 GMT

I CHOFFING LOVE THIS GAME. just completed it for the 10th time and I love it. There are 7 playable characters that I know of making it very diverse. Many people complain about the soundtrack but I personally love it. The enemies are very diverse and complex and the bosses are enjoyable to fight. the alternative endings make it very enjoyable played a third or fourth time. Overall a brilliant game

mariogames - 19 Mar 2013, 08:01 GMT

I also think, that this game is one the best action fighting released for SEGA systems. I never finished it, but I play it from time to time.

paul gillie - 17 Aug 2013, 14:20 GMT

I have all the streets of rage games and they're jap versions of bare knuckle.i love them all.this made my early teens and I still come back to play them.i wish bare knuckle 3 was longer/harder/more characters but I love it to bits . everyone should own it..its one of sega's greatest games..I hope sega bring out no.4.its long over due.

paul gillie - 17 Aug 2013, 14:23 GMT

Oh p.s so happy to see mean machine's still going even if its no longer a magazine.i still own alot of the magazines =) so many memory's. You guys rule!!!!!

Arthur Adler - 10 Mar 2014, 20:10 GMT

Streets of Rage 3 is worse than original japanese version Bare Knuckle 3. Fortunately there is hack in Bk3 that instead of japanese subtitles are english. Unfortunately music is the same in both version, I mean bad but not bad at all. Fortunately in indie fan game Streets of Rage Remake music is remixed and sounds much better.

Ocean - 19 Sep 2015, 00:55 GMT

Imo Bare Knuckle 3 is the best.

panch - 29 Feb 2016, 14:11 GMT

Given the long reviews I'll keep this one short- 80% Not bad just not good enough to follow on from the previous games. The price is way too high on eBay for this so most people would want to overrate it through buyers remorse.

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