This game was part of a fantastic beat ‘em up series, the sequel was amazing, the third one was great, but America decided to screw with it to the point where it was too hard and just broken. It was known as Streets of Rage 3. I tried to play this version but it was way too hard, even on easy mode. So I downloaded a rom of the original Japanese version along with an English patch for the intense story. This much better version is known as Bare Knuckle 3, developed and published by Sega and was released in America as Streets of Rage 3 on March 17th 1994, with Bare Knuckle 3 released in Japan on March 18th 1994 and in Europe again as Streets of Rage 3 on March 20th 1994. Keep in mind that I’m going to talk about the Japanese version and not the western release.
So after Mr. X got defeated for a second time since he’s not much of a fighter and more a shooter (don’t bring a gun to a fist fight, especially when two ex-coppers and a child can fight good without any weapons), he opened a research company called RoboCy Corporation, but this is an elaborate cover for his illegal stuff (insert company you hate right here). Roboticist Dr. Dahm (too easy) has been assigned to create robots to replace the officials from the city…a city that doesn’t really have a name so I’m going to call it Luton. Now that the officials have been replaced, Mr. X wants to take over the city using a remote control. His criminal organization, The Syndicate, pretty much became terrorists overnight and placed bombs all around Luton to distract the police. And in context if you read this plot in 2015, as in now, this is kind of ‘uncomfortable’. Dr. Zan, who’s also is a robot, discovers what the research is for and contacts Blaze, who contacts Axel and Adam to stop the Syndicate once again…only Adam can’t make it and sends in Skate instead.
Here’s the Japanese story, the game starts with a bomb blowing up Wood Oak City with kills 30000 people and wounding 80000…damn…the bomb contains the atom, number 122, Rakushin, discovered by Dr. Gilbert and not Dahm, the radioactive stuff emits and threatens the lives of people, it is considered to be the worst incident in history…OK NOW THIS IS UNCOMFORTABLE! But the main story is mostly the same, though the differences being that you have to rescue military general named Ivan Petrov and not the Chief of Police. Mr. X is planning to use Rakushin to start a global war…OK NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW THIS IS TOO REALISTIC! With that said anyway, I really like the Japanese story, it’s such a dark and intense plot, everything you do in this game is done to prevent a deadly war and prevent another body count, you get the feeling of a cheesy 90’s movie with a hint of edginess to it and it ends up being a very memorable experience.
You can play as Axel, Blaze, Skate and Dr. Zan as you once again beat up guys, though it’s kind of different this time. This is really fast-paced this time but if you’re playing the Japanese version is absolutely brilliant, it’s a non-stop punch-out and oh boy is it fun once again…and it’s a huge improvement from the predecessors…I said it, now keep in mind this is the Japanese version, just as well-balanced as the sequel and just as fantastic too, it feels so good to attack enemies and the feedback is much better in my opinion. Instead of a timer, which is great, you now get a power meter, when filled up, you can perform special moves depending on what character you play as, performing a special move without the bar being full drains your health. Weapons can only be used a few times until you can throw them, just like Final Fight. You can also perform a team attack from the first game which is very helpful though the one-player game…it isn’t happening. A very unique feature is the Blitz moves, where you run and attack to perform a specific move, just like the second game, only this time they can be upgraded in strength as you play the game. To upgrade it, you need to earn a specific amount of point in one life, losing a life will put the Blitz move down a level.
I also need to talk about three characters. First a boxing kangaroo Victy, or Roo in the PAL and US versions; in round 2 you must defeat his master to unlock him, without defeating Victy, or you can hold Up+B on Controller 1 then press Start and his portrait. And this is the part where I end up playing as him because he’s freaking FUN, the epitome of fun, his moves are just fantastic to perform, he’s fast and…really out of place, especially for the plot of Bare Knuckle 3, as he never interacts with the main characters, nor does he have an integral part of the plot, he’s just there as a joke.
Then…there is…Ash, now this is a homosexual character, but when it comes to stereotypes, he’s one of the most bizarre characters in the entire game, from his design to his moves, but mostly his design, it’s jaw-dropping, I would love to meet a gay man and make him watch this character just to see his reaction; keep in mind I have no issues with homosexuality, but this is very odd and just vibrantly flamboyant. Weird thing is he’s a high ranking member of a criminal organisation Neo-Chaos, paid by Mr. X to defeat Axel and the gang. Of course, not wanting to anger gay people, they removed him from the western version. You can also play as him by either holding the ‘A’ button as from soon as he is defeated until the very next level or just unlock him via Game Genie…in the western version. Oh, and he also uses the same voice samples as Blaze, oh ha-ha Japan. And then there is Shiva, who cares.
The graphics look more dynamic, more shading but grittier in colour; it seems that colour has seen a small downgrade but I love it, it really fits with the dark and gritty plot. Now for the main event, the one integral feature of the game that would be lost without it, Yuzo Koshiro’s soundtrack, as described by Koshiro himself, the style has a “fast-beat techno like jungle” (jungle is drum and bass), it was influenced by Detroit’s hard techno scene which was popular in Tokyo nightclubs in the 90s, think of it as dubstep but much better. By experimenting with whatever he could do with the audio technology of the console, he made one of the craziest soundtracks ever conceived that no one liked but has since become liked by many and as for me I dub this my favourite and one of the best soundtracks ever made for a video game, it feels so good in my ears, it’s incredibly mad and fast-paced, keeping in pace with the gameplay.
Overall, Bare Knuckle III and not Streets of Rage 3, is one of the best games in the series…well one of my favourite games in the series alongside Streets of Rage 2, the gameplay is fun whilst not as different as the second game and the music is some of the best, proving that while the SNES sound chip made some brilliant soundtracks, if you have a certain tangy taste, then the Sega Mega Drive will do. I have to give credit to this series, as I listen to the end credits of Streets of Rage 2 because it’s fantastic, it was made as a competitor to Final Fight, and when the SNES port screwed it up, Streets of Rage became champion, it’s one of my favourite game series when it comes to beat ‘em ups and is a much beloved series by many gamers, heck the music alone remains beloved too. Hopefully it returns with a great sequel since the only one is Streets of Rage Remake and Sega wasn’t too keen on it, then there was the many times people tried to make a sequel, even Sega was trying to make one for the Dreamcast, but never happened. In my opinion, we should leave this trilogy as a trilogy and make a spiritual successor instead of cobbling together a half-handed piece of disappointment like Altered Beast and Golden Axe: Beast Rider.
You can get this on Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Nintendo GameCube, Virtual Console, iOS, Microsoft Windows, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.