When I was a kid, I played Streets of Rage relentlessly. An arcade game transported straight to the Sega Mega Drive, it was short, tough, and simple. You scrolled through each level, killing enemies along the way until you reached the final boss.
At the time, I’d not been to America. I’d like to think that the Japanese designers of Streets of Rage hadn’t either.
This was a game built massive on stereotypes - the black guy jumped higher than the white guy, and both punched harder than the girl - and a very well tried-and-tested story.
A ‘crime boss’ had the city (whichever that was) in his grip and the police were powerless to move against him. Three cops had each given up their badge to fight this evil, working their way through his gang from the streets to the top - literally, as the last level takes place in his penthouse.
Of course, everyone you fought was ‘bad’ and deserved to die - be it being beaten to death, stabbed, hit with a baseball bat, or napalmed by the police, who were no longer on ‘your side’, but were always willing to lend a friend a helping hand.
It was such a simpler time back in the 90s! And this is exactly what I thought America was like. Dark grimy streets, no sunlight, endless waves of no good street punks on every avenue, and a knife hidden beneath every bin.
The guys in the game had style though. Not the punks - they wore brightly coloured boiler suits, studded with chains - but the cops. Axel, the lead man, wore white trainers, stonewash denim, and a white t-shirt. He was basically a kickass tough version of Marty McFly. The other guy, Adam, wore a yellow vest, skintight black jeans, nondescript shoes, and knee pads - important to keep safe when smashing people’s heads in.
Blaze wore a red mini-skirt - makes total sense.
Playing it again on the iPad (it’s only 79p!), I realised that as a kid I thought nothing of the discrepancy between this game and reality.
Three cops who throw in their badges and takes to the streets in order to murder everyone within a crime syndicate? Police armed with napalm launchers who’ll fire indiscriminately at civilians at the request of their former colleagues? And let’s not forget the 8 foot tall, 8 foot wide, fat men who breathe fire and chase you across the screen...
Maybe this opens me up to the debate on children playing violent computer games. I don’t know, I haven’t suplexed anyone in the street yet or thrown a knife at a woman clad in red leather carrying a whip. It’s still early days! (joke)
Streets of Rage is available from the Apple iStore. Download it now!