(This RotW was originally posted on EchoNET, as of this being posted, all previous EchoNET posts are now accounted for)
Where do you even start with Streets of Rage 2, where!? I guess I'll start at the most logical place: The story.
Basically, your friend Adam from the first game has been kidnapped by the crime lord (or whatever you'd call him) Mister X. You playing as Axel, a girl named Blaze, Adam's brother Skate, or Axel's wrestler friend Max, must re-defeat the crime syndicate lead by Mr. X that has returned and kidnapped Adam. It's a pretty basic plot, but c'mon, this is a Genesis/Mega Drive game from 1992. Imagine if Sonic 2 had a huge story! So basically... the story is not important. What is important is: you have an excuse for beating some ass.
The streets themselves don't seem that upset, to me. I mean, they just sit there calmly while you and your friends beat everyone up. And by beat everyone up I mean that your objective is, infact, to beat everyone up. (Note to self, if crime syndicate ever arises, just beat them all up). That is not to say that you'll be mashing the same button over and over until you win (this ain't no NES beat 'em up). You can pull of combos, grab enemies, jump, attack while jumping. Oh, and there's special attacks, but you'll rarely find a use for them, except for maybe bosses. This is especially the case since they take some of your health. (This is much improved in SoR3 where you get a special bar) You can also punch backwards with B and C, but it's hard to do when you'd really need. (Again, improved in SoR3, if you have a 6-button controller) What really mixes it up is the weapons. You get knifes, pipes, katanas, shurikans; what else could you need? Guns? Fuck guns, this is a beat 'em up damn it. The only problem is that weapons run out of juice too quickly. You can hold on to them as long as you don't get hit hard enough... which is downright impossible. After dropping a weapon a few times it'll just disappear on you. You won't be without aid on your ass-beating rampage: Cakes (or are they apples? I need to find the manual to this game one day), and turkeys will give you health (the latter gives much more than the former). You can also find 1-ups, and money (which just gives you points, and you could care less about).
Multiplayer is great fun. Take down Mr. X together! The only glaring problem would have to be it's way too easy to hurt each-other. There's a separate dual gametype, which is awesome with the right friend, so why does the cooperative have to have friendly fire? (For lack of a better term) I can't count the amount of times I've accidentally hurt my partner, or accidentally grabbed him with no way to let go except laying the smack-down. There's not much to say in terms of gameplay as far as the cooperative mode goes; coop is just the single player, but with two guys, and double the health restoring items. The dual mode, however, is different. It plays with the same controls, but you and your 2nd player opponent are locked into a single area, much like a traditional fighting game. Chances are, you'll rarely play dual mode, and it can be overlooked. Coop is where this game shines (minus the aforementioned hurting your partner bullshit).
Probably one of the most notable things about this game is the music. Oh my god, the music. All of the music was created by Yuzo Koshiro, who is very talented. From the story scroll, all the way to the end credits, the background is always filled with different, original, and downright good music. Just check out this music for the first stage here. (Best version I could find on youtube, quality is lacking) Remember that this is from 1992, on the Genesis. It's obvious why the composer later became a DJ. The sound effects are standard fair for a beat 'em up. Exaggerated punches really let you know that you've hit someone. The dialogue (what little there is) is Engrish and quite funny. Axel, when you do one of his combos, yells "GRAND UPPER!" But to me it sounds more like "RENT THE CAR!" It's almost a shame that they replaced it in SoR3 with an American guy with a gravily voice saying "Bare knuckle!" (A nod to the Japanese name of the series)
If you like beat 'em ups at all (like Castle Crashers, or Final Fight which SoR takes a lot of inspiration from), you'll love Streets of Rage.