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The Bare Knuckle II Beta is basically a playable demo of the first round, but it's quite interesting to look at as it contains a few things which didn't make the final version. Here's a quick look through the beta edition, with screenshots some some weird differences.

Presentation Screens

When the ROM loads up you are taken straight to the title screen after the Sega logo; no intro at this point in development. The title art is identical to that in the final version. The demo is also not yet in place, as if you leave it for a while it cuts to a black screen with "Press Start" on it.
The menu screen is missing the Duel option, and the in-game font is different. If you select Options you are taken to a weird screen which allows you to view all the animation in the game (which isn't a lot as there are only 4 enemies).
The character select screen, as you can see, is very different. Check out the character pictures! Once you start the game you find some even bigger differences between the characters in the two versions.

Interestingly, if you play the game in 2 Player both players can select the same character, something not available in the full version without a cheat.

Axel

Axel looks pretty much as he does in the final version, the only immediately obvious difference being that the little character icon next to the health bar is different. Start trying out some moves however, and you'll see some big changes. His Grand Upper blitz attack has a different animation, looking more like Ryu's Dragon Punch from Street Fighter. Actually it's probably more similar to Sagat's Tiger Uppercut, but anyway. Also, (thanks to Anton Berglin for this) it's possible to perform it moving backwards.
Even more stunning (and I think I'm the first person to point this out) is that instead of his Dragon Wing attack he has a 360 degree kicking move (like a Hurricane Kick - obviously the developers must have been big SFII fans), where he jumps up and takes down everyone around him.

In addition to this Axel's standing jump kick move is unfinished, lacking the second part of the animation. Axel's standing jump attack is a single knee. Anton Berglin has noticed that this is the exact same attack as he has in SOR1 and that on top of this attack a kick was later added (which honestly doesn't look very good, especially frame-per-frame) which is probably why Axel's air attack is the only one with two hits.

Blaze

Blaze also looks pretty normal. However her animation is unfinished; notice that her legs do not move when she stands still and that her dropping air attack is a throw(!). Also, her blitz attack is fast double kick rather than her usual jumping slash attack - thanks to Anton Berglin for that.
Also, for all you gaming perverts out there, you get a pretty good look up her skirt when she does a flying kick :-)

Skate

Skate's animation is unchanged as far as I can tell. The only differences are that he is unable to dash and that when you do his "migraine" attack the punk mysteriously turns around.
Anton Berglin has spotted some differences though: Skate's back attack is not the same. It's a backflip in both games, but he does it with his hands in the Beta and doesn't move backwards at all. It's close to impossible to hit anything with it. Also, Skate does not have any throws. There are no animations for them either (as opposed to the dash, for example). They must have been thought of and added later. Skate's migraine is a bit different, too: the enemies aren't knocked down, meaning you can perform it as many times as you like, and even if the punk dies from the first hit Skate levitates there for five more punches.

Max

What the hell happened to Max? His sprite and animations are all different. To be perfectly honest he walks like a gorilla in this demo; no wonder they changed it. Interestingly Max is able to vault (in a very bizarre way) over punks - something he can't do at all in the final game. This means that he is unable to pull off his Atomic Drop move.
Also, sometimes when you try to throw a punk you leave the punk standing there and just perform the animation. Very weird. Max also doesn't jump as high - cheers to Anton Berglin for this.

Stages

The first section isn't too different. There is a lack of smashable things, pickups and weapons (the only weapons in the demo, Jack's knives, cannot be picked up) and the sewer manhole has moved to the centre of the street (and no punk pops up). The background buildings are slightly different in places too. The only punks to fight you are Galsias and Donovans, and their AI reminds me very much of Streets of Rage 1.
There are few graphical differences although the garage from Jack emerges is missing; he just pops out of an alleyway. The sound however, is completely different. A weedy Streets of Rage-style tune plays for the whole level, including the bar and back alley sections. There are also no sound effects to be heard.
You fall into Barbons bar rather than walk in. The bar is devoid of tables & chairs, and is very short. Funnily enough, you find a Donovan punk where Electra normally stands with the name "Singer". After he (she?) is taken down it's out to fight Barbon in the back alley.
Outside the rain effects are missing, and the far end of the level looks different. Barbon's animation keeps messing up - check out the screenshot. After beating him up, which takes ages, he respawns, and continues to do so for ever. Oh well...

Other Differences

There are also lots of smaller differences in the demo:
  • All the characters & punks' pictures are different.
  • Jack & Barbon don't have pics of their own.
  • The health bars are slightly different & points are scored for kills (Streets of Rage 1 style) rather than for damage dealt.
  • Enemies sometimes appear from nowhere and are able to walkthrough the scenery in places.
  • You are able to vault over a punk as many times as you like instead of just twice.
  • The punks are able to knock you down during all of your moves.
  • Controls are also very sluggish in comparison to the final version.
  • The enemies stars functions exactly like player lives ie. they fall down when their life bar is empty, any extra damage is not recorded on their next bar. In the finished version they work in a continuous spanning way. [Anton Berglin]
  • Each move can only hit one opponent, but this is probably just a bug and unintended. [Anton Berglin]
  • There is only one shadow used for all the characters. In the final everyone has their own shadow. [Anton Berglin]
  • Pick Axel or Max. Jump right and attack down into enemy, press left immediately to grab from behind and then B. Watch as game breaks various physical laws. This also makes Axel's slam landable. [Anton Berglin]
  • In SOR1 both Forward+B and B did the flurry. In SOR2 another attack from the front was added for most characters. The Beta decided B should be flurry (Final Fight style), but in the final it has changed to Forward+B. [Anton Berglin]
  • Donovan has no "being thrown" animation; if he is thrown he turns into Galsia in midair then back into Donovan as he hits the ground!

 

Check out this hi-res scan of the EGM preview of Streets of Rage 2. The shots look very similar to the beta ROM, but it's clear that they came from an even earlier version as:

  • There are no enemies to be seen on any of the shots, which strongly suggest they weren't implemented yet.
  • The scoring system does appear to be working (all the shots show 0 points), but this may be due to the lack of enemies.
  • The character select screen doesn't yet have the attribute stars for the characters, plus the portraits are slightly different from the beta ROM.
  • Max doesn't appear to be animated yet; all the other characters are shown doing moves, yet he is stationary in both shots.

Notice as well that the text describes the game as having seven stages, not the eight in the final game.

 

The character portraits must have been developed gradually as the game's production went on. This Blaze portrait from a later magazine article (and probably even later version of the beta), shows a design much more in line with the final version, but with some differences. Notably, Blaze's head is somewhat more elongated and her eyes are positioned slightly wonkily, with her right eye much higher than it should be. I've shown it here with the final version so you can compare the two:

 

 

There was also an early Beta version of Streets of Rage II, developed alongside the Bare Knuckle II Beta. Unfortunately, there is no ROM for this version, but some traces of it remain in the BK II Beta itself which can be found via ROM hacking. Otherwise, only a couple of magazine screenshots and a video exist which show what it was like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This title screen from a magazine preview shows the SOR2 Beta's  interesting early logo. Note the font used for the copyright text is exactly the same as the Bare Knuckle II Beta. As it turns out, this is not a coincidence (see below)

Also, the game was developed by Sega of America, and at this point they are still using the Roman Numeral numbering system used by Japan and Europe (The final American version of 'Streets of Rage II' would become 'Streets of Rage 2'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is that same title screen, reproduced in stunning digital clarity by JoyJoyfulRabbit.

Interestingly, Glisp discovered the SOR2 Beta title screen by hacking the BKII Beta ROM...

This title screen is in the Bare Knuckle II Beta's compressed art data at offset $176F6

 

 

 

 

 

Here, Glisp has pieced the tiles together.

 

 

 

 

 

The same image in the BK II Beta title screen's palette.

 

 

 

 

The same image colored to look like the SOR2 Beta original screenshot... [Thanks to Criss]

 

 

 

 

And last but not least, the final 'version' of the logo, completed by Glisp.

 

This magazine screenshot shows Skate with his 'real name' of Eddie above his life bar.

In BKII he is known as Sammy. In the West he became Eddie "Skate" Hunter.

 

In this early screenshot from a German gaming mag, R. Bear appears as the Round 1 Boss and is known as 'Rocky' (could this be what the 'R' in his name stands for?)

Rocky Bear's portrait here is actually the final games Signal portrait. Also notice Max Thunder's bizarre open-mouthed jumping sprite.

 

This screenshot from the beta video (below) shows the early beta version of 'Rocky' in his idle stance, which differs considerably from that of final R.Bear.

This early prototype footage shows some more interesting differences from the final version. Here, Bongo appears in Round 1 and Zamza is the Round 1 Boss.
 

Another early prototype video, includes Skate's real name of "Eddie" and also the infamous (but hilarious) spelling mistake "Erectra", among other differences.

 

 

 

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