Retrospective: Street Gangs

A look back at an 8-bit classic...

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Street Gangs transports us to a time when men were men. They punched with an A button and kicked with B. And lobbed planks. That's how they rolled in '91. No sissy button combos and chain attacks, just 8-bit fist/brick/bike chain on 8-bit face. Attacks with such ferocity that the recipient would puke (technically: "BARF!") on the spot.


Street Gangs nails punching 'because it understands getting punched. The magic is in the reaction. Land a punch and rivals practically explode: hair extended, mouth screaming, eyes widened. The animation is even funnier when triggered with a weapon attack. Lob an item from afar and something about the wide-open mouth suggests surprise rather than pain, as if the thugs can't believe the audacity of a young Turk throwing a bin at them.


How you punch is important, but so is who you punch. With just a handful of jacket colours, Technos create a teaming metropolis. The Generic Dudes (Best. Gang. Ever) are basic fist fodder; The Frat Guys sprint around in pink varsity jackets; The Squids like to throw slow-footed heroes; The Mob lurk around in grey suits, brandishing knuckledusters. There are enough AI tweaks to create the illusion of gang identities, while randomising their appearances paints a picture of a free-roaming city.


With a light RPG nod, you upgrade by scoffing local delicacies and learn new attacks by reading books. As much as Street Gangs advocates truancy, there's a spark of educational responsibility. Not to mention the whole game is about trying to break into school. Go figure. Scoffing yourself strong adds a layer of strategy elevating Street Gangs above other beat-'em-ups. Bash goons, steal their pocket money, invest in sushi and use sushi-strength to bash more goons. All the fun of an RPG, without the elves. For extra fun, add a second player and it becomes a competitive RPG - a coin-grabbing, proto Four Swords. With added thumping. BARF.


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