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[ Writer ] = BAD
[ 01/09/08 ] = When The Good Guys Lose

SEGA released Sega Vintage Collection: Streets Of Rage 2 a while back, and it's so incomprehensibly frustrating that I thought urgent coverage was needed. I'll save the history lesson for the original version of the game (when I cover it); this article is mostly about the network functionality that SEGA has added to it. And before I get into it, I just want to make it clear that yes, I played the series back in the day, and yes, I still like it even today. Which is why it's disappointing to see what has happened to it...

Playing a local game in SVCSOR2 is fine; it's essentially the game we remember from back in the day. Same varied cast, game speed is basically the same, damage seems untouched, and the animation is the same, but the graphics have been polished for HD. It's good, co-op side-scrolling fun if you've got a friend over, but playing with that friend over the network is a different story. I'm usually optimistic about slowdown (I had no problem with it in the 16-bit era), but even for me, the lag is completely ridiculous and unfair in this game. SOR2 was pretty fast for its time, but there are times when SVCSOR2 slows to a crawl online, and it's crippling. While you're stuck in slow-motion, the enemy just works circles around you, taking all the cheap shots they would in a normal game (where you actually have control). Bullshit. There's a two-second input lag that makes it extremely difficult to time simple moves like jump kicks and punches. Walking up and down to pick up items is too difficult (which is completely unnecessary). It really shouldn't be that hard to pick up a goddamn apple! It forces you to plan moves ahead of time (hoping they will land), but even when you do, usually you end up behind (or directly in front of) the enemy (who then proceeds to kick your frozen ass). This game is frustrating beyond words.

And VS? Hah, well, I'm thankful to have a VS Mode (online, no less), but when it's so choppy that I can't even do a single thing to my opponent, it's not too much fun. Mashing could get you farther in the one-on-one matches than any sort of strategy would, simply because hiccups don't allow for much of the latter. Instead of just attacking your opponent, you end up being raped in the corner because your move came out so late that you were hit out of it before the fucking thing even came out. It's ridiculous. I've talked to others, and theese problems seem too common. I've even heard that some people have actually gotten used to the lag and choppy timing issues, and while I think it's commendable, it still doesn't change the fact that it's a problem. It's a mystery, too, how lag even made it into such an old game. Why couldn't they make it run faster? Come on. If they can make Virtua Fighter 5 Live Arena and its sleek visuals run flawless online, why can't they do the same with an old, 2-D side-scrolling fighter? Is this why I have trouble finding other people to play with on the network? Great idea to put this game on the XB360 (more side-scrolling fighters are always welcome), but bad execution makes it simultaneously disappointing and infuriating.

To its credit, though, some helpful additions were made to SVCSOR2. You can now save your progress and play from where you left-off, later (in case you get a "booty call"). And it's not just a save point at the end of every area, or only in certain areas; you can save at any point in the game. The new save feature is, by far, the best of the additions (since the later levels get pretty bad). There's a new difficulty system, too. This new difficulty system just gives the player more freedom than in the old version, and consists of three types (Normal, Hardcore, and Custom, each of which branches into various options for lives and such). Great, but Hardcore is even more bastardly over the network than it was probably intended to be, though. Unfortunately, though, even with these additions, the bad here far outweighs the good.

This is one of the best series SEGA has ever made, and it's so sad to see how this version was handled. And I'm not blaming it solely on Backbone's development of the game, but more SEGA's approval of the final product. If they didn't care about its playability online, then why didn't they just scrap the idea all together and release it without network play? It's difficult to accept this game. If they even think about making a Sega Vintage Collection version of SOR3, they better have their shit together first...