Only 400 points for a game filled with so much rage is a really spectacular deal.
You can't keep a video game boss down, and predictably, Mr. X, the crime lord from the original Streets of Rage, has returned to rule the city once more. After Adam, one of the first game's playable characters, is kidnapped, his friends set off to rescue him. As with most games of this type, there are no story sequences once you start the game. It's just eight uninterrupted stages of you beating up dudes (and occasionally chicks). While introducing bad guys to your fist, you'll also engage in the age-old practice of smashing trash cans, oil drums and other receptacles looking for food, bags of money and bars of gold.
You can play as Axel or Blaze from the original game, Max, a totally ripped wrestler, or Skate, Adam's scrappy kid brother who, yes, rolls around on skates. Each of the four characters plays quite differently and has a unique array of attacks, contributing nicely to the game's replay value. All of the moves are executed simply with combinations of the punch button, jump button and movement of the thumbstick or D-pad, and each character also has a few unique special moves which can be useful when you get mobbed, but also drain your health. Streets of Rage 2 is totally easy and fun to just pick up and play, but really getting good at the game will probably take most players some practice. Thankfully the game's difficulty is very customizable, so whether you want to cut through the bad guys like butter or are looking for more of a challenge, you can have it your way.
The variety of thugs you go up against in Streets of Rage 2 is also impressive. You'll fight some run-of-the-mill punks, but you'll also face off with a large number of outlandish enemies, some who look like they stepped out of The Road Warrior, others who look like old-timey boxing sailors (or sailing boxers), a few who bear a striking resemblance to a certain Street Fighter 2 character, and much more, and their differences aren't purely superficial. They'll employ a wide variety of fighting styles and techniques against you, keeping you on your toes and getting progressively tougher as you go.
The game is fun to play on your own, of course, but it's more enjoyable to tag-team the punks with a friend, which you can do both locally and over Xbox Live. We did notice a small amount of lag in our cooperative online games, but nothing too severe. Streets of Rage 2 also has a one-on-one versus mode, though strangely we found the lag in this mode far worse, making it pretty much unplayable. You probably wouldn't have spent much time with that mode anyway, but still, a few of the game's achievements are earned by playing the versus mode on Xbox Live, so it's unfortunate that it's not working better.
For an arcade-style beat-'em-up, Streets of Rage 2 is nice and long, and your journey will take you not only to streets of rage, but also to the amusement park pirate ship of rage, the baseball stadium of rage, the conveyer belt of rage, and lots of other really angry places. Given that you're not going to plow through the game in twenty minutes, it's nice that this version gives you the option to save at any time.
Streets of Rage 2 looks great. The character sprites are large and detailed and the environments are vibrant and frequently make great use of backgrounds and foregrounds to create a sense of depth. Yuzo Koshiro's upbeat, catchy music is also a real highlight of the game.
Sometimes when games that are 15 years old become available again, we find that nostalgia has made the game much better in our memories than it is today. But Streets of Rage 2 is great enough that, whether you played it to death on your Genesis back in the day or you weren't even born when it was first released, you'll probably find it enjoyable. Only 400 points for a game filled with so much rage is a really spectacular deal.