It's tricky to review Streets of Rage and be fair to it in light of the high quality of its sequel. Nevertheless it laid the foundations for even more future greatness, so it is only fair to give the original game the respect it deserves. Basically, Streets of Rage is Sega's answer to Final Fight; the Axel character is a direct rip off of Cody from Final Fight, for example!
Streets of Rage comes into its own with two players. There are tons of moves the characters can perform, even some that involve teaming up to throw each other at the bad guys like gymnasts. Cracking punks over the head with a baseball bat or broken bottle is sickeningly violent but pleasing all the same.
Chip-tune legend Yuzo Koshiro created the music in this game and it's amazing as you might expect; it's 80's trance at it's best. The sound effects aren't so great, however, with the shouts and screams of the characters sounding a bit 'scratchy'. Axel's battle yell sounds like a baby crying, for example!
Even hardcore fans of the series will agree that Streets of Rage hasn't aged well compared to the second and third games in the franchise. The graphics are a bit dated now, with somewhat small characters and plain backgrounds. We also dislike the special move which calls a police car to fire off some missiles, as it really breaks up the intense action (this was replaced by a energy draining special move in Streets of Rage 2).
With Streets of Rage 2 expected to be available on the Virtual Console soon you could argue that there's no point in giving this a spin. While it's true that the second game is much better, we still have a soft spot for Streets of Rage. It lacks the depth of its sequel but is still very enjoyable and easy to get into; it certainly puts the SNES conversion of Final Fight in the shade.