Anyone vaguely familiar with video games will undoubtedly have something to say about Street Fighter II. Ten years ago there was nothing like it; no modern basis of comparison does its popularity justice. It exploded into arcades in the early ?90s, bringing gamers in by the droves and, upon home its conversion, sold millions of pieces of hardware and software alike. Since that time, the Street Fighter franchise has split into several sub stories, including the ?Alpha’ and ?V’ series, it’s also been made in to feature films, and branded onto every imaginable object in existence. Its marketing success has led to more than 23 million units sold since 1992, and Street Fighter still ranks among the most played coin operated video games in history. So when a compilation like this one comes along, collecting together everything that’s made the series great – you’d better believe it’s one worth picking up.
The package includes Hyper Street Fighter II and Street Fighter III: Third Strike, which on their own would be worth owning as a set, but Capcom has packed even more onto the disc. You also get the 1994 animated movie (much, much better than our own 1994 Van Damme outing), tons of music, and all the arcade intros and credits. The latter may not be worth a whole lot to some but, especially for hardcore Street Fighter fans, it’s a real treat to see the classic brawl from the original game’s demo.
As for gameplay – you already know what you’re getting. Hyper Street Fighter II combines all previous SF games into one, allowing you to play as Guile from Champion Edition while fighting Blanka from Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Yes, you can finally make those dream matches, pitting not just character against character, but also the same fighter versus another version of himself/herself/itself. It’s a cool concept?until you realize the sacrifices you have to make.
You see, the first three incarnations of the game (SFII, Champion Edition and Turbo) all have the colors and costumes we all love, and sport the bone-crunching sound effects indicative of a street fight. But none have the super arts meter from SSF2 Turbo, which creates a slight handicap. For instance, playing as the latter version of Guile means you have to deal with the high-pitched voiceovers and pansy effects that no one liked. Minor gripes, sure, and the differences of the older characters just make you work harder for a win, but it would have been nice to just toss that new announcer and all the post-Turbo voices. It should also be noted that some characters’ older versions are arguably better than their newer counterparts (they tended to get powered down, recovery times altered and suchlike).
Other areas of sound are markedly better, though. You hear the timeless music and themes set to a new arrangement by default, but you can change the soundtrack to a couple of other styles, which are dubbed CPS I and II. Suspiciously, they both sound much like old Sega Genesis music, and at first you might think they’re the old Genesis and Super NES versions of the score, as they were the ?hot’ consoles of the time – but it would appear that’s not the case. Still, there’s no wrong choice when it comes to Street Fighter music, and it’s nice to see a few different options.
Something else that longtime fans will notice is how well the game has been converted. Most of us are probably more familiar with the 16-bit versions of the games over anything else, so seeing the cast and backgrounds with all their animations intact is quite a sight. It’s still pretty easy to find and purchase all the older game cartridges, and even the PSone’s compilations from a few years ago, but here in Street Fighter Anniversary you get it all, nicely placed on a newer system for fresh gamers to discover.
The only real discrepancy here is the extreme difficulty. If, way back in the day, you thought of yourself as somewhat of an SF master, then you really should pit your skills against this title sometime. Even the easier settings are markedly harder than previous releases, and the computer is all too eager to preempt your moves before you perform them. In fact, the easiest way to win is just to sit back, recall how the A.I. for Ryu, Ken, or whoever, fought all those years ago, and counter those pre-programmed moves. All the characters behave exactly as they did in the arcade, Super NES, 3DO, or whichever system you wasted away untold hours of your life upon. It doesn’t feel like you’re actually fighting and winning anymore, it’s more of a memorization game now, and that’s what Killer Instinct is responsible for when it comes to this genre – not Street Fighter.
Let’s not forget the latest 2D game in the SF series: Third Strike. Here sits one of the most underrated fighters in the industry. It took Capcom so long to even make a third game, that by the time SF III was available, no one really cared. Well, actually, lots of people did, but the interest was a mere shadow of its former self. Fans missed Chun-Li, Vega and the rest of the crew; something the Alpha series was well aware of and reveled in. The follow up, Double Impact, fixed the fighting a bit, but it still wasn’t performing quite the same.
Then Third Strike came along and brought back our Chinese heroine, and perfected the parrying and super arts moves. It was originally released on the Sega Dreamcast, but was obviously dwarfed by Soul Calibur’s seemingly unstoppable genre domination. Today, it’s actually easier to play than the older game if only for the graphics. Animation gets massive attention in Third Strike, whereas the classics offer only a handful of moves, and that’s about it. Newcomers could probably deal with Twelve, Remy, and Alex, but they’d be hard pressed to really enjoy Cammy and the rest of the old school squad.
But this collection wasn’t made to convert new gamers, it was meant to please the steadfast fans of the series, to whom this game can’t be recommended enough. You may own everything available here, but just seeing it all together really brings back fond memories, not to mention the true sign of a good gamer: the calloused, blistered thumb. Something all these fancy 3D games have yet to deliver.