Just a short while after Streets of Rage 2, the syndicate returns with a fury. They have hatched a plot to replace city officials with identical robot copies. They’ve set bombs off in the city to keep the police occupied. Cyborg Dr. Zan leaks this conspiracy to veteran Blaze Fielding. After recruiting Axel and Skate, the gang heads off to stop the syndicate for once and for all! After all, Mr. X is dead isn’t he?
There’s a newfound emphasis on story. Between every level, you’ll run into cutscenes that push the story forward. It’s not poorly written, but the cutscenes got really boring. A few breaks are fine, but between every level, you’ll be watching poorly animated scenes that can drag on to four minutes. You better hope you’re more invested in the plot than I was.
Streets of Rage 3 dials up gameplay to a whole new level. Every character is much faster. In a way, this almost felt like a retro hack-n-slash. More like Dynasty Warriors than Double Dragon. Everyone can dash, and even perform a powerful dash-attack, to keep pace with a Sonic game. Characters can now roll up or down to quickly avoid attacks. You can earn little stars that will allow you to perform even more special attacks. You can build a meter to use them. If you use a special attack without the meter charged, you’ll perform it fine but lose some health. It’s just like using them at all in Streets of Rage 2.
Streets of Rage 3 makes a few more changes that completely change how you play. Every weapon now has its own healthbar. In the previous games, you could make any item last infinitely. Every weapon will eventually break. Some say this is annoying, but I never found it an issue. There were very few situations where I’d even want to have a weapon in the first place. Unlike in previous games, you can now throw every weapon at will. Most weapons were tossable in Streets of Rage 2, but there were outliers. I can not exclaim how happy I was about this change.
The balance of enemy encounters that Streets of Rage 2 had found is thrown completely out of the window. Every character feels much more overpowered than any single enemy in the game. Streets of Rage 3 attempted to make up for this by throwing countless mooks at you. Even as someone who prefers the speed and fluidity, it created a more frustrating experience that I wanted to complete a lot less than Streets of Rage 2.
The true downfall of Streets of Rage 3 are the boss encounters. Each and every boss has multiple moves that are poorly telegraphed and impossibly hard to avoid. Just like in previous games, there are some tricks you can employ to cheat them. Not every boss has a cheap tactic though. I found myself just wanting to give up constantly.
Streets of Rage 3 is a beautiful game. It shares a lot of similarities with Streets of Rage 2. It all falls apart in the music. The game goes for a “futuristic” atmosphere. All that means is neon lights and blaring techno. The music just ended up getting on my nerves and annoying me. What I do remember, I remember because it still sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
Streets of Rage 3 is easily the most replayable of the Genesis trilogy. It brings back the multiple endings the original offered. This time, your final stage is decided based on what path you’re taking. Streets of Rage 3 features a number of unlockable characters with their own movesets. I didn’t go through the effort of dealing with most of them, but it’s a neat option for completionists.
Streets of Rage 2 earned its name, but I found Streets of Rage 3 downright infuriating. Countless enemies are thrown at you just to overwhelm, very few health refills and extra lives sprinkled through stages, and cheap hard-hitting bosses made Streets of Rage 3 an experience I’d had rather not finished. I couldn’t recommend this game to anyone by a long-shot.