Streets of Rage proved a popular addition to the SEGA 3D Classics line, and now its highly regarded sequel just released on the eShop.  If you’ve been itching for some nostalgic, knuckle busting action, 3D Streets of Rage 2 is an achievement on the 3DS.  Once again M2 has put out a very high quality remaster.

The last time I played this game was well over a decade, so it felt very fresh to me.  This brawler has you cleaning up streets to free the city from criminals, but it’s also a rescue mission.  Adam, from the first game, has been kidnapped by Mr. X’s criminal syndicate. Joining the returning ex-cops Axel and Blaze are Adam’s younger brother Skate, and his friend Max.  Skate’s a speedy early 90’s poster child, while Max is a campy wrestler.  They’re both fun additions, nicely widening the roster.  With M2’s new Rage Replay mode, you can play as every fighter on a single playthrough!

Recurring gameplay will make veteran players comfortable, yet it’s also revitalized through expanded character moves.  They feel like the sort you’d find from one-on-one fighters.  It makes the combat deeper than your average brawler.  Each character has special (mildly health sapping) attacks now, the trade-off being that your police backup car is no more.  Weapons have also been augmented, with certain characters using them differently.  While there’s new additions, several have sadly gone missing.  Baseball bats, broken bottles, and my personal favorite, the pepper shaker, are gone.  Wielding a katana like a Ninja Turtle can’t compare to watching an enemy sneeze incessantly.

Each enemy now has their own health bar, as well as generally terrible names (Heart, Pheasant, etc.), marking another gameplay change.  Among the more memorable new ones are jet-pack powered goons, who join other new and returning foes.  Enemy AI seem smarter here, and generally improved.  Areas they roam are familiar to the debut (downtown city streets, a beach, bridge, ship, etc.), but all eight stages now have multiple sections.  On top of the expanded size, they also show some more imagination.  My own favorite’s the amusement park, with an arcade, plus pirate themed and sci-fi attractions.

Excellent graphics are on display here.  The presentation’s vivid, smoother, and more varied overall.  The rare diagonal scrolling adds further visual diversity.  Character’s increased size is probably among the most marked graphical upgrades.  Two 3D settings can assist with the action, making lining up with foes easier.  As for the audio, Yuzo Koshiro’s soundtracks are renowned among gamers.  I’ll let fanboys argue about which soundtrack’s better, but you can hear each tune in the options.  The sound effects come nowhere near matching the great music, but those longing for nostalgic reminiscing probably won’t care.

Though there’s much in its favor, this game isn’t perfect like the original might be remembered.  Besides some aforementioned omissions, environmental obstacles are also gone.  No more avoiding holes, crushing factory presses, or  runaway food carts.  There’s also just one, nondescript ending this time around.  Lastly two player support, though present, demands two game copies.  Nostalgia aside (16 Meg), an honest admission is that most brawlers like this are slightly timeworn.  However this game’s aged quite well.

Some classics are limited to simply being great on initial replays, but Streets of Rage 2 seems to grow on you the more it’s played.  M2’s hand can’t be ignored – they’ve done it again, breathing new life into a classic.  Which leads to a concluding question: When can we expect 3D Streets of Rage 3?

Four young friends, rage burning inside them, make a stand for friendship and peace …