Friday, October 29, 2004

Review: Street Fighter: Anniversary Collection (PS2)
Posted by Ariel :: 9:20 PM

The Past Fights for the Future

Ever since about 1991 or so, when Street Fighter 2 first came out, I've been playing Street Fighter and its many iterations almost non-stop since then. I've even played 3 different bootleg versions of the game (with the completely broken moves that only someone on crack could've come up with), Played through Championship, Turbo, and Super editions (although I never found an arcade with Super Turbo, so I don't have any experience with that) through the entire alpha series (American AND Japanese versions) as well as the long-awaited Street Fighter 3 series. I can recall, from memory, the movelist of almost every single character ever featured in a game (and yet, I have a lot of trouble memorizing phone numbers) and can even recall changes made to a character if they appeared over different editions. Both me and Dan have invested about 400-500 hours (in actual playtime) into Soul Calibur and Soul Calibur 2, but I alone have invested about, 3000-4500 hours into Street Fighter. I know I was one of several people who almost busted a nut when this game was announced.

Now, with that history in mind I proceed to review the compilation of one of the most revolutionary game franchises of our time. I will not grade the compilation based on the gameplay. That would simply not be fair to a game that has had 13 years to age. Instead I will judge it by the completeness and accuracy of the compilation and how it represents the gameplay of the original games. I will start with Street Fighter 2 Hyper Edition.

Street Fighter 2 Hyper Edition is every SF2 fanboy's dream. You can enter single-player or versus mode and select from your character from every edition of SF2 (original, Champhionship, Turbo, Super, Super Turbo) and battle against another character from another edition of Street Fighter. The character select system is very easy to use. You first select what edition of the game you want ot select your character from and then choose the character. If you pick Normal edition, although the icons of Fei Long, Dee Jay, Balrog, etc. are still there you won't be able to even highlight them. With the Super-only characters it's the same story if you don't choose Super or Super Turbo characters. I thought this was an excellent way to select a character and keep it simple and easy to use. I can only cringe at the thought of a 64 icon character select screen with 5 different versions of the original 8 to choose from.

Now, selecting a character can be a very daunting task for those that didn't grow up playing Street Fighter, but, truth be told, this game isn't meant for that person. It's meant for the older SF fans who waited year after year after year after year for SF3 to finally come out. For the fan that knows the Akuma code. When the Raging Demon first appeared, what the Raging Demon is, Who the hell Sheng Long is, when the Shoryuken lost complete invulnerability, that the attack buttons are called Jab, Strong, Fierce, Short, Forward, Roundhouse, and what Down, R, Up, L, Y, B does. Normally I would count that against a game but this is a compilation of that game. You'll need that knowledge to navigate through the nuances of a game that includes the evolutions of a game over 4 years.

There is a training mode that is pretty standard for Capcom games (doesn't mean it's not good, it's excellent, but they use the exact same format for all their fighting games) except for the glaring omission of a command list, which would have been imminently useful for those attempting to get into the game without the massive amounts of prior experience one would need. It also inlcudes the entire Street Fighter 2 animated movie, of which there were 3 versions: PG, PG-13, and R rated. unfortunately the one on the disc is the PG movie. Which, if you've never seen it, is the best Street Fighter movie, hands down. I do greatly enjoy the fact that it is in the game, although the quality is high-end VHS at best (They probably hit the memory limit of the PS game discs). Which also exlplains another gripe about the game. The music. Although it includes all the classic SF songs, it doesn't contain the SSF2T soundtrack, which was the best SF soundtrack at the time. The Super Turbo soundtrack was Capcom's first abandonment of MIDI's and synthesizers and it's first (and extremely effective) use of real instruments. The Super Turbo soundtrack is one of my favorite soundtracks to just sit back and listen to. Unfortunately, it is not present here. However, due to my very limited Super Turbo experience, this is not a big a flaw for me as it was for Dan.

The biggest flaw, to my mind, of the game is the fact that the Alpha series is completely ignored. When I first heard that they were compiling all the old SF games into one I began to marvel at the possibility of pitting Sakura against Old-School Chun-Li or Charlie versus Guile, or the Alpha Bison against the Turbo Bison. Custom Combos against Super Turbo super moves. Unfortunately that is not so. Which is a true knock against a game designed for hardcore SF gamers.

Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike is another great console port of a Capcom arcade game. The SF3 series continues with changes to the game that make each edition of it seem like a true sequel. There are even more characters in this game, with the addition of 4 new characters to the Street Fighter repertiore (including a Guile-like one, yay!) and the unexpected return of an old favorite: Chun-Li! The game stil looks as gorgeous as ever, and the fighting system still continues it's evolution. Taunts, EX moves, Selectable Supers, and the bold Parry System all come back. The single player mode now has an interesting twist in that it will let you select from one of two characters to fight before each stage of the tournament. That way you can avoid those characters that give you the most trouble, although sticking to one path has its own rewards as well. The existing characters also get new or tweaked moves to play with along with some that get new supers to select from. Akuma is also now a regularly selectable character (no need to use a code to access him like in 2nd Impact). Unfortunately the training mode is also bereft of a command list in order to learn the moves of the new characters (of course, there is always gamefaqs) but the game is VERY customizable. You can even extend the window of opportunity to execute a parry, even down to specific parries (in the air, while crouching, while standing, etc)!

If you liked the other SF3 games you will enjoy this one, although I am personally tired of being graded in Capcom games. If I win I win, that's all that matters. Only Dan Hibiki worries about fighting with style. Do you really want to be Dan Hibiki?

I think, in the end, that this game could not help but disappoint. To create a compilation of Street Fighter games and make them one game was probably an impossible task, and everyone will find flaws in it. That is the price you pay for creating a game for your most loyal of fans. They will easily see the flaws within, the promises unkept, the desires unfulfilled. But, for what it is, it is a fantastic game, and Street Fighter itself cannot help but be fun. The X-Box version will purportedly have On-Line Play so that will definately raise its rating by .5, as long as the system is not terrible to use. But for now, I have to give this game a

Street Fighter fans should definately buy, everyone else rent it.

- Ariel

First, lemmie state my credentials in the realm of Street Fighter 2: The first time I'd ever played Street Fighter 2 was at the Redondo Beach Pier when I was, what, 12? Even then, sucking at it as anyone new to the game does, I understood how great the game was and what it could be. I watched it go through successful and endless iterations, culminating in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, a game which I purchased for my old 486 DX (DX!) 50. Back when I only had 4 megabytes of RAM, each match took approximately 2 minutes to load. Nevertheless, I played hours and hours - getting frustrated, losing to T. Hawk especially, going to heat up dinner between matches... The day I upgraded to 8 megabytes, so the game started in about 15 seconds, was a great day indeed.

NOW, I have to say, after those 10 years, I am not terribly sure the game has aged that well. I mean, I'm not going to convince anyone who's a diehard SF2 fan that the game's outdated - and in many respects, it can never be. But I think in comparison to the far superior (in terms of modern mechanics) Street Fighter 3, the game suffers a bit in comparison.

Ariel already outlined all the features this game has in it, so I won't go over them again. I will just say that failing to include the remixed/redone tunes from SSF2T's PC iteration is a gross oversight. As well, the AI in the game is ridiculously hard. I now remember the bane of my childhood - Zangief on supersteroids. It's amazingly accurate, but it also seems eerily prescient and extremely unforgiving, even on the easier settings. And through my time playing through single player, I can't really recall ever seeing the computer not play a Super Turbo iteration of their character (perhaps because that was the only AI routine they put into the game?).

Regardless, for anyone looking for a good old school fighter knows what this game is about. The features you get in the Street Fighter 2 mode are oustanding (being able to combine and fight against different versions of every character). However, to get the full benefit out of this, you need to be a fairly large Street Fighter nerd (knowing which version of Ryu has the first-frames invincible Shoryuken, or which version of Zangief first introduced his fireball-swatting move). I really don't like that they didn't include OG Street Fighter 3 or Second Impact versions of the second game. As Ariel mentioned the snubbing of Alpha is mindboggling. Finally, where's my awesome remixed SSF2T music?

I like it, but unless you're a total hardcore SF nut, wait for it to drop in price.

- Dan

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