In the early 90s the Mega Drive was all the rage in the UK. And where you found SEGA's 16-bit powerhouse, it was inevitable that you would find a copy of Streets of Rage 1. Later on you'd find it on the MegaGames 3-in-1 Vol. 2 multicart, bundled with Golden Axe and the superb Revenge of Shinobi. It's fairly safe to say that British kids in the early 90s were punching things as Adam Hunter, Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding.
The streets were full of crime, and the thugs of Mr. X were everywhere. The police force was corrupt, and a small group of officers had walked out, determined to take back the city with their own hands. I was Blaze, ex-cop and judo practitioner. She was my go-to, the scarlet storm of the streets kicking and throwing her way through legions of gangers. Man or woman, tall or small, armed or unarmed? That didn't matter. They were criminals. Wrong 'uns.
Whenever my friends and I played co-op, I called dibs on Blaze. She was different stat-wise to Adam and Axel, but just as capable. She took on all-comers and made her way to the top. Sometimes she would be betrayed and have to fight her former partner. Every once in a while I'd get a taste for villainy and have her fall to the side of Mr X, only to then turn the tables on him and take the city for herself.
In the second game, she starts throwing out ki attacks. Adam has gone missing, and if you pick Blaze, she's the one fighting bare knuckle through the city to find him and stop the misdeeds of miscreants. And that was pretty damn awesome to young me.
Pretty damn awesome to old me as well.
While I wasn't a fan of her white outfit in the third game (I always associated her with red), she was even more improved in just what abilities she had access to. The hard techno soundtrack and the use of a special gauge instead of draining your life to do ki attacks certainly added to the experience, but it took me a good few years to appreciate the new direction the soundtrack took.
I know the character can get a bad rap from some for her outfits. As a kid I knew that if I was fighting crime, I wouldn't do it in that kind of costume. Young me's thug-punching clothes of choice would be heavy duty overalls, protective boots and gloves, and a hammer or some other garden tool because that's what my dad wore when at work or in the garden and he was awesome and strong.
Like a non-TV Hulk Hogan, but without the bandanna, the twenty-four inch pythons, and the penchant for ripping his shirt off.
Blaze formed an important part of my childhood. To this day, when I bust out a version of Streets of Rage (like the excellent 3DS version) Blaze is the one who I call on for ass-kicking. Whenever I listen to Yuzo Koshiro's excellent Streets of Rage soundtrack it's always Blaze I imagine standing there, hair whipping in the night breeze as she sways to the beat.
There are other women of SEGA that I've grown attached to as a gamer over the years, but Blaze was the first.
And speaking of Golden Axe, Tyris Flare's outfit is just as stupid as Ax Battler's. While her fire magic may be cool, everyone knows the #1 choice in that game is Gilius Thunderhead.
Ellen J. Miller is currently serving a lengthy sentence at Her Majesty's Pleasure for unironically enjoying video gaming for over a quarter of a century. When not benching original Xboxes in the prison yard or digging a tunnel with a spoon, she can be found playing smuggled contraband or writing on napkins.