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Retrospective: Street Gangs

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

The new issue of Nintendo Gamer is on sale now.

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.

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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.

THE FRAT PACK

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.

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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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The latest issue of Nintendo Gamer, featuring a 10-page feature on the Wii U, is on sale now. Subscribe to the print edition, get it for your iDevice via Apple Newsstand or grab it for your PC, Mac or Android phone

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