Ah, it makes sense now. Perhaps the reason Sega was so quick to fire a 'cease and desist' at this rather awesome (but inarguably copyright-infringing) fan game was because Streets of Rage II is released on iDevices today. It's been a loooong time coming so its arrival is immensely welcome. So welcome in fact, I immediately parted with £1.79 for the privilege of playing one of the best side-scrolling beat-em-ups ever made on my iPhone. But there's something not quite right...
Before we get to the problems, let me tell you why you should care. Streets of Rage 3 may be the collectors' favourite due to its limited print run (in the UK at least), but Streets of Rage II is definitely the best game in the series. It's a side-scrolling beat-em-up where you make your way from left to right, KO-ing thugs, eating roast chickens in one bite and generally being badass. You can even play it in co-op with a mate. The sprites are big and detailed, clearly better-drawn than those in the original Streets of Rage (already available on iPhone) and the music is superb. But that's where the problem comes in.
Above: Streets of Rage II, running on my phone. Not running perfectly, but still a wonderful moment
While it looks the same on iPhone, that unforgettable audio track isn't quite right. It's all there, but there's horrible distortion on the music. That may not sound like it matters too much, but Yuzo Koshiro's masterful example of 16-bit MIDI composition is one of the reasons people hold the game in such high esteem, but here it sounds like it's had its volume boosted too loud. Those unforgettable melodies are horribly fuzzy and the bass drum could easily have been put through ZZ Top's favourite fuzz box. Through headphones or speakers, it's the same story. There is a volume slider in the options which isn't just the iPhone's own volume level... but this doesn't affect the distortion even slightly. Boo!
On a lesser note, my 3GS also seems to be slowing down somewhat as the game plays, even when there are only a couple of characters on the screen. It isn't game-breaking, but not quite what I'd hoped for - especially when other Mega Drive emulations run just fine on the same handset. It's bound to run differently on the various iDevices, like the Sonic games, for instance, but a little more optimisation would be appreciated.
Above: TalkRadar UK listeners will know Skate is definitely Nathan's all-time favourite games character
Fortunately, iPhone games can be patched relatively easily and I'm sure Sega will be quick to rectify these problems, which shouldn't be too hard to do. In the mean-time, it's still worth playing at this price... even if you do have to turn the music off to stop the screen getting obscured by tears. Hey, at least it's out at last - it can only get better from here.
14 April, 2011