Streets of Rage (Sniper)
Genre: Brawler
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

When played on a large television, the Master System is just an inferior Genesis. But in the form factor of a handheld, it leads to a strong and very cool "Genesis Jr." vibe. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of this "Streets of Rage in miniature" release, which is stylistically identical to its namesake on the Genesis, but with everything very neatly scaled down.

It's tough to know whether Yuzo Koshiro is a better composer, or a better programmer, as he-- with the assistance of the ever-dependable Mikito Ichikawa-- manage to reprogram many of the Genesis title's best songs into the Game Gear sound chip. The result is some of the best handheld music of all time, prior to the release of contemporary handhelds of course. Sound effects are minimal, which is pretty typical of games on 8-bit platforms-- but they are effective.

Outside of a few exceptions, 8-bit platforms and their lack of memory have a difficult time doing brawlers "right", with the controls lacking tightness. At first blush, this Streets of Rage adaptation appears to suffer from that unfortunate syndrome. But with a little practice, the game reveals quite a lot of depth, as the player adapts his strategies.

It would have been very easy to get a Game Gear Streets of Rage title horribly wrong, but in practice it winds up being one of the smartest, most enjoyable titles on the platform. The rock solid level and enemy designs, paired with the game's absolutely marvelous 8-bit aesthetic makes this a game that can be savored time and again.

Sniper's verdict: