One year after Mr. X was thwarted by a trio of young police officers, he returns with a vengeance. After kidnapping Adam Hunter, he sends his forces out in full force! It is time for Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding to, once again, set out on the Streets of Rage! They won’t be alone. The duo are joined by two newcomers. Max Hatchett is a wrestler and a good friend of Axel Stone. Skate is Adam’s little brother. The four will set out to, hopefully, defeat Mr. X once and for all!

Streets of Rage 2 makes many changes to put it above the original. Streets of Rage 2 adds in a set of special attacks on every character. These attacks will help you in various ways. All of them take a chunk of your health when you use them. The game is much faster overall. Actions feel more fluid and impactful. I have played very few games where it feels so good to just hit stuff. To improve even further, Streets of Rage 2 features many more enemies that can’t just be beaten by spamming the attack button. There are a few that just felt cheap and hard, but most of them felt like a genuinely fair challenge. One simple change ended up being my favorite. It is now possible to throw every weapon you find in levels. This was a huge pet peeve of mine from the first game.

Streets of Rage 2 brings back the lives and continues system from the first game. I had a harder time coming across extra lives here than in the original. I really think that the game should’ve brought in some sort of saving or password system. The game feels like it was designed specifically for arcades. With only eight levels, just like the first game, you could beat it in an hour if you were skilled enough. I know that we have emulators and save states today, but I can still be dissatisfied with the product that was released then.

It all falls apart in the level design. Streets of Rage 2 loves to just pile on the enemies. To an extent, the first game did the same thing. Most enemies are beaten in one combo or a throw. That doesn’t matter when you can get caught in a storm of twenty enemies who can chip off half of your health easily. It’s a lot worse in the boss fights. Bosses can easily combo you for a large chunk of your health. All bosses have, at least, a few moves that will do half of the bar in one hit. When I’m just fighting a boss, I can take the time to read the tells and avoid. When I’m fighting a boss and four other types of enemies in a group of eleven, I feel angry because I keep getting killed for one mistake.

Streets of Rage 2 is a beautiful game. I think it’s one of the best looking Genesis games out there. It has a decent soundtrack that fits the aggressive tone of the game. I can’t remember any of it. I don’t remember much of the presentation at all. For as beautiful as the sprite work is, the game lacked any setpieces that stick out in your mind. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had the Chemical Plant Zone. Streets of Rage 1 had the elevator. There’s nothing that sticks out here. Level themes are mostly recycled from Streets of Rage 1.

You can build the highest, and prettiest, bridge there is. If it comes collapsing down on its own weight, there’s no reason to bother with it. Streets of Rage 2 was incredibly close to becoming one of my favorite games of all time. The level design didn’t just fall short of the core gameplay. It completely failed it. I recommend starting at Streets of Rage 1. I don’t feel like I can say you should skip this one. It does so much right, but the cons outweigh the pros. You should try this in one of Sega’s many collections. Maybe you’ll see something I missed.