By now, I'm sure everybody knows the story: During the early days of the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis, Sega needed a game to compete with Capcom's 'Final Fight', which was a SNES exclusive. The game was extremely popular in the arcades, and Nintendo's exclusivity deal was a big pull for gamers that Sega naturally wanted to offshoot with their own exclusive. The Genesis was being marketed as 'better' and 'cooler' than the competition, and was starting to sell very strongly (particularly in the US). So 'Bare Knuckle' (or 'Streets of Rage', as it was known in the West) was born, complete with simultaneous 2 player gameplay - something Nintendo's Final Fight lacked.

But how did this game come about? Was there more to the story? In this article we will be looking at The Making Of Bare Knuckle.

The following history is taken from the Read-Only Memory book, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works. The title is a documentary history of Sega’s iconic console and its games. Most notably for Bare Knuckle/Streets of Rage fans, the publisher has translated and recreated the original Japanese design document for the game and given permission of soronline.net to publish a selection of the pages, including several that were ultimately cut from the book. Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works is available to buy exclusively from the Read-Only Memory site.

 

In mid 1990, just three years after his graduation from Waseda University, principal game director Noriyoshi Ohba ("There Is "No" Accounting for Tastes") along with Hiroaki Chino ("Tinon") were tasked with creating Sega's answer to Final Fight - no short order. Ohba, who had enjoyed working with Ancient's Yuzo Koshiro on "The Revenge of Shinobi" the previous year, immediately brought Koshiro onboard to discuss what was being referred to at that time as a 'street karate' game (which possibly even had the working title Street Karate).

For inspiration, the team looked at existing games in the genre, such as 'Double Dragon' and of course 'Final Fight'. In fact, according to Artist Atsushi Seimiya, the team actually purchased a SNES so that they could study Final Fight in detail. But the design team also looked to television detective shows 'The A-Team' and 'Starsky and Hutch' for further stylistic inspiration. They knew from the beginning that they wanted a police/detective type story. Thus, the concept for the game was born - given the working title 'D-SWAT' (a clear nod of the head to arcade game Cyber Police ESWAT). Combining these ideas with their desire to include more co-operative elements (something lacking in the genre at the time), the design phase could begin.

 

© Read-Only Memory/Sega, reproduced with kind permission.

 

 

 

 

(Left) Game Sequence Design

(Click image to enlarge)

© Read-Only Memory/Sega, reproduced with kind permission.

 

 

(Left) Control System Design

(Click image to enlarge)

© Read-Only Memory/Sega, reproduced with kind permission.

Work began on the design of 'D-SWAT' on July 16, 1990, with a projected finish date of December 31st - giving the team of 8 or 9 developers just five months to finish the game. For Director Noriyoshi Ohba, the most important element would be the 'strategic elements and how it felt to play'. Emphasis would be placed on the ability to 'jump whilst holding', 'throwing', and 'attacking from the back' allowing for a varied combat system that would give co-operative players in particular a sense of achievement.

A detailed design document specifying all the game's major elements was drawn up, as seen in the images above.

Interestingly, planned enemies in the design which did not make it into the final version of the game include a 'body-checking footballer' and a 'chain-wielding hockey guy' - though at least one of these, the hockey guy, seemingly made it as far as the games beta version before being scrapped (see beta screenshot, right). More info on the beta version of the game can be seen in our dedicated section.

 

 

 

The image below - created for, but ultimately cut from Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works – shows a plan of the scheduling for the game's production. Dates are given for when each aspect of the game were to be completed by.

© Read-Only Memory/Sega, reproduced with kind permission.

 

The original story for the game was proposed as follows:

 

"THE 21ST CENTURY HAS BECOME THE AGE OF THE CRIMINAL.

CITIES SUCH AS TOKYO, NY, LA, HONG KONG AND LONDON

ARE RAMPANT WITH ORGANIZED CRIME. THE ICPO (PART

OF THE INTERNATIONAL JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION) HAS BEEN

HELD RESPONSIBLE AND AS A RESULT HAS BEEN DENIED THE

RIGHT TO ARREST."

 

"FINDING THEMSELVES IN DIRE STRAIGHTS, THE ICPO HAS

ASSEMBLED A SPECIAL TASK FORCE. THEIR PURPOSE IS TO

WIPE OUT CRIMINALS. TO AVOID PUBLIC CONDEMNATION THEY

OPERATE IN SECRET AND WITHOUT FIREARMS. THIS UNIQUE

GROUP OF WARRIORS HAVE TRANSFORMED THEIR BODIES INTO

DEADLY WEAPONS."

 

"NOW THEY STRIKE DREAD AND VENGEANCE INTO THE HEART

OF THE CRIMINAL WORLD, WHO REFER TO THEM AS THE..."

"Dragon-SWAT" ... "D-SWAT"

 

The original three playable characters differed considerably from their final incarnations, but they retained the same gender/race attributes, at least. The art design team would be "given a request with the background story of a character, dot size and reference material for actions" [Atsushi Seimiya]. Thanks again to Read Only Memory, Streets of Rage Online can reveal these designs that were cut from the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works official history book.

 

 

GOD HAND

A Caucasian male clearly inspired (visually at least) by Hollywood legend Chuck Norris. Would later be renamed "Hawk" in the beta version, before ultimately becoming "Axel Stone".

 

 

BLACK BIRD

Perhaps a controversial choice of name for a black character, this man would be renamed "Wolf" in the beta version, before ultimately becoming "Adam Hunter".

 

PINK TYPHOON

With a somewhat sexist name, this Asian woman would later be redesigned as "Blaze Fielding". Interesting though that both names, "Typhoon" and "Blaze", refer to the elements Water and Fire.

You can see the player specs page from which these designs originate by clicking here. All images here © Read-Only Memory/Sega, reproduced with kind permission.

 

 

Famously, it was down to composer Yuzo Koshiro to design the sounds and music for 'D-SWAT'. His 'house music' soundtrack for the game has since become the stuff of legend.

Speaking in an interview with Red Bull Music Academy, Koshiro said, "Club music was growing in popularity overseas at the time. It wasn’t really known in Japan then. But especially in North America, where the Mega Drive was selling, club songs were playing constantly on MTV and such. So, I knew they loved club music, so I thought if I could put this into game music, then they’d be really happy. I think that was the first time I composed music with the overseas market in mind above the Japanese market.

Sega didn’t tell me what music they wanted or give me any kind of direction. I only ever did stuff that I liked myself. I told them club music would definitely take off, and I wanted it to be like that, and I gave them a demo. The manager of the consumer department at Sega back then really liked it. It was lucky. I think there were people there who would’ve refused music that wasn’t really popular in Japan. But the manager really took a shine to it."

 

 

 

 

Yuzo Koshiro was also responsible for the sound effects in the game.  Some effects were actually reused from his earlier work, "The Revenge of Shinobi" (1-up, menu select, among others) in what he refers to as a 'cost-cutting' measure. Speaking to Streets of Rage Online, he said it was also an attempt at impressing Sega by having a (vague) continuity between the games. He also recorded the voices for all the characters in the game himself. To do the voice work for Blaze all he did was shout with a high-toned voice and then they changed the pitch up.

 

By December 1990, the game had been renamed 'Bare Knuckle' in Japan and had entered its beta phase. Though screenshots have emerged (as seen in our beta section), no playable ROM has yet surfaced for this beta, though it is believed that a copy exists in a private collection somewhere.

"Many games had different names when first on planning sheets," explains Al Nilsen (Sega of America's marketing exec at the time). "Final names when we saw gameplay."

Nilsen and his product management team would rename the game as "Streets of Rage" for the Western market.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

 

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