Why Streets of Rage 3 is a must have for your Mega Drive collection
November 28th, 2023 • By Faith Johnson
Streets of Rage 3 was released at a time when Sega was at the top of its game. The Mega Drive was going toe-to-toe with SNES and games such as Sonic 3, Gunstar Heroes and Aladdin were wowing gamers with great gameplay, graphics and music. By March 1994 Sega was in a prime position to release its next blockbuster and many gamers were excited to see the third instalment in the flagship brawler series.
The game is set directly after the events of the second game, the Syndicate crime organisation is up to its old tricks and has planted bombs all over the city to distract the police. Its real objective is to replace the city's politicians with remote-controlled robots. Dr Zan uncovers the plot and teams up with Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding and Skate to once again take on the Streets of Rage.
Streets of Rage 3 plays very similar to the first two entries in the series with only a few extra moves added. The biggest difference is the multiple endings, especially the difference between the good and bad endings depending on whether or not you save the police chief. It also utilises the Mega Drive's six-button controller which makes some of the more complex moves easier to perform.
Another noticeable difference is Yuzo Koshiro's soundtrack which is quite far removed from the pumping techno chiptune tracks of the first two games. One of the standout features of the series was just how good the music was, especially in the second game. The new soundtrack wasn't liked by critics on release and it's fair to say that this isn't Koshiro's finest work. However, as time has gone by, fans have started to appreciate it.
The graphics in Streets of Rage 3 are excellent and it shows how powerful the Mega Drive can be due to the large sprites and detailed animation. The levels are also huge and have many different screens. This is one of Mega Drive's largest carts and the box art has a sticker explaining it uses '28 Meg' of data. This extra storage on the cart also allows for many secrets including hidden rooms and playable characters that can be unlocked.
There is also a lot of variety in the types of enemies and bosses you face that create different experiences depending on which character you choose to play. There are noticeable differences in the strategy needed to beat the game due to how diverse each character's move set is as well as the differences in their agility. There is also a star system that rewards players who score well with increased power in attacks.
Streets of Rage 3 also has some regional differences that many gamers have commented on over the years. The main difference between the Japanese and Western versions is the story where the police are replaced with the army as well as the Syndicate poisoning the city with chemical weapons. The other difference is that some of the characters have had their clothing changed or replaced completely to match the Western tastes of the time.
This may not be the best game in the series but is still an incredible title when considering the graphics, gameplay and size of the levels. It's also now accepted that the Japanese version, titled Bare Knuckle 3, is the best one to play as it stays true to the game designer's original vision. No matter which version you play, or how good the second game is, Streets of Rage 3 is a Mega Drive classic that deserves a place in your collection.
Game journalist and historian. I write about games in books, magazines and online. Sega, especially Sonic, is my favourite.
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