A couple of days ago, we just celebrated the 25th anniversary of Bare Knuckle aka Street of Rage. This was the SEGA response to Capcom “Final Fight”, a beat-em all classic that have encountered a major success in arcade and have been translated for the Nintendo Super Famicom as part of the games catalog following its launching.
SEGA suffered from the exclusivity of juggernauts third-party developers such as Konami and Capcom that have been under the licence of Nintendo, banning them their rights to publish their ports into SEGA machines as late as the mid-90s.
Final Fight was an impressive game in its arcade form but the port to the Super Famicom was fairly a disaster. Only two characters out of three were available and only one player could play the game. This is a big letdown for these types of game in which the two-players mode really amplify the gaming experience.
This I think SEGA Bare Knuckles was getting his chance to stand up against its rival and surely helped to build the slogan “SEGA does what Nintendon’t”.
Bare Knuckles was indeed very innovative. First in its character setting, by providing three players with only one white male as impersonated by Axel. The two other characters being a white female named Blaze and a black male named Adam. Each of them with their particular strength and weakness. But I found Blaze being the most equilibrated, propelling this female character as one of the best asset of the game.
The other great asset was having Yuzo Koshiro in the command of the music, starting with the introduction that really engage the potential player and by the fantastic music backgrounds linking the game. This was really pushing the SEGA Yamaha chip to new levels.
Despite being highly influenced by Final Fight, Bare Knuckle also took some innovative and surely frustrating path: the good ending or bad ending (whether you decide to refuse or accept the offer of Mr. X, the kingpin and final boss) and also the possible duel if one of the player decided to oppose the decision of the other, resulting in the deathmatch and a penalty level.
Another interesting feature of the game was the special move impersonated as the police car, coming afar and launching a rain of projectiles into the enemy. The idea was certainly odd and will be quickly replaced by the more classical “power move” in the sequels.
25 years later, the game still have some punch and will satisfy the nostalgics. However, I would recommend to play “Bare Knuckle 2” if you never experienced that game franchise, as it is a much “better and faster” version with gigantic sprites, fantastic music and a fast-pacing action making it in par with Final Fight.