Ever since SOR 3 came out in 1994 I wanted it. I never actually managed to get my hands on it until last year as it went for insane prices on auction sites and was very, VERY hard to come by in video game stores. Luckily for me I was given it as a present from someone clearing out their attic. I couldn't wait to get home and play it. All I could think about was loads of hours of solid beat-em-up action and a return of those ultra-cool tunes by Yuzo Koshiro that made the first two games so memorable.
As soon as I started to play I was shocked that Streets of Rage 3 is actually a really, really bad game that may be impressive in terms of graphics but in regards to music and gameplay is far, far behind even the first.
First of all the game is just too damn hard. And you need to play it in hard mode otherwise you won't be able to get past level 5. And this time we're given a little bit more story and cut-scenes between the game levels. If you're playing the American or European release of this game I'd just skip these as they do not make sense and there are holes everywhere. The Japanese version (Bare Knuckle 3) has a different plot entirely and looks and feels like the REAL Streets of Rage 3.
In SOR 3 the story has Mr. X, in what limited capacity he now exists in, kidnap the Chief of Police and plant bombs all over city. He wants to replace high-ranking officials with evil robots. Or something! So, typically, the gang set about smashing the Syndicate AGAIN as their way of stopping him.
However, in Bare Knuckle 3 the opening cut-scenes with the nuclear explosion show the destruction of a city called 'Wood Oak' that was the first victim of a radioactive bomb powered by the newly discovered element 122, Laxine. The victims are given as an estimated 30,000 dead and 80,000 injured.
In a letter from Blaze to Axel she says that the Syndicate's laboratories seem to be involved in the research of Laxine and that a group in favor of a war with the country of Lima have captured the army general Petrov.
Mr. X tries to start a nuclear war by replacing the anti-war U.S. General with Shiva before a speech at the White House. In SOR 3 'City Hall' looks suspiciously like the White House so I'm led to believe that the level was just recycled and renamed.
In Bare Knuckle 3 you have to successfully prevent a devastating war by rescuing the general and the destruction in the city is just a slap in the face, while in SOR3 you basically have failed your task if you let the time run out (the General, now 'Chief of Police' is killed with poisonous gas). If you rescue the Chief in time you go straight to Mr.X's island lab, but if he dies you go to City Hall/White House.
Second, Yuzo Koshiro's music is HORRIBLE. What happened? The first 2 games had awesome music that showed what the meager Sega Genesis was capable of. The man was truly a pioneer when it came to composing stunning music for simple machines. In SOR 3 there are no cool tunes at all. It's all pathetic, tepid Industrial junk that would sound rancid coming from an Atari. A MAJOR let-down considering how amazing Streets of Rage Two was.
SOR 3 also has deleted characters that feature only in the Japanese version. Namely the character of 'Ash' who looks very, very homosexual and resembles Bennett from Commando or one of The Village People. I guess the PC Powers That Be thought the Western World couldn't handle such obvious gayness. The dialogue is also censored and 'naughty' words are replaced with 'clean' words. Character names are also radically and inexplicably different.
If you want this badly then the Japanese version is the ONLY way to go. Seriously, it's a complete disappointment otherwise. I'm not saying that the Japanese version is great, it's only slightly better.