Review: Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection (12 hours)

I am a proud arcade cabinet owner, with a PC inside the cab to play multiple games. Street Fighter was always on my list of games to add to the machine, but I could find only the latest ones, IV and V. Well, the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection has arrived, with twelve Street Fighter games in all, including the one original Street Fighter, all five versions of Street Fighter II, all three versions of Street Fighter Alpha, and all three versions of Street Fighter III. It is a massive collection, and by pre-ordering the game, I received Ultra Street Fighter IV as part of the package. At $39.99, this collection made financial sense, but how do the individual games stack up?

The first Street Fighter is not so bad. Ryu and Ken are in it, but most remaining characters – including Joe, Mike, Geki, and Lee – are hardly recognizable. I eventually learned the strategy to winning: sitting in the back throwing fireballs. Roll credits.

Street Fighter II made the series recognizable to the mainstream. You select one fighter from eight and face the remaining seven. After, there are four boss characters. Beat all eleven and Arcade Mode ends. SFII holds up despite age. The game’s balance (fairness between characters) isn’t perfect, but it’s still fun.

In Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, the four bosses are now playable characters (M. Bison, Balrog, Vega, and Sagat). I’m not sure this is enough change to warrant a sequel, but the game exists.

Next is Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, which increases the game’s speed. It’s a faster game. Moves are executed more quickly, which would continue through to Super Street Fighter II: Turbo.

The next follow up, Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers, is on new hardware, a CPS-2 board. With it comes more graphical horsepower, and levels and character models get an upgrade. On a different arcade board, the series is no longer the same. Timing has changed. The next game, Super Street Fighter II: Turbo goes the distance to balance fighters on new hardware.

Super Street Fighter II: Turbo is regarded by many as the greatest SFII release. The graphics updates stay, the game is more balanced, speed is increased from the predecessor, and more special moves per character are available. The new Turbo Meter, when charged, enables special moves to do more damage. I had a good time, but the original Street Fighter II still holds me. Perhaps Turbo will grow on me, like a record would. Moving on.

Street Fighter Alpha feels like the developers having fun with their own series. It can be easier to win a game by mashing buttons than by using carefully timed attacks. It’s a ten-fighter game, including Adon from the first game, as well as Guy and Sodom from the beat-em-up Final Fight. I played as Guy, and I learned his secret: he has almost no punching ability. His kicks will carry you to victory. All told, it’s a welcome departure from Street Fighter II.

In Street Fighter Alpha 2, we have a very similar game, but with more characters. Again it borrows fighters from Final Fight, Street Fighter, and Street Fighter II. There’s an all new character, Sakura. I played as Chun-Li, and arcade mode was pretty easy. There are eight fights, and the final boss is M. Bison. Just avoid his fireballs and watch for teleporting. I will note, it’s odd that the Alpha series is included, but I had a great time with these first two.

Street Fighter Alpha 3 was released between Street Fighter III’s two sequels, 2nd Impact and Third Strike. Strangest of all, they went back to CPS-2 arcade hardware, after SFIII was released on CPS-3. Alpha 3 is hard. The CPU is much smarter. The game is made complicated, with three “playing styles” that are hand selected. Each determines how Super Combos are used. If you lose a match in arcade mode, you start arcade mode over again, Continue or not. This is unfair. On the plus-side, it has the most fighters, 28 total.

Finally (finally, finally), we have Street Fighter III. In my mind, this is the most technical in the series. The initial release, New Generation, introduces brand new characters, and the next two sequels continue to add to the roster. Beyond Alex looking a bit like Guile, the characters are a bit strange. Necro and Twelve have pure white skin, and Q has a face made out of metal, for example.

In combat, a perfectly timed block will do no damage to your character. There is a lot of strategy in this. You still build up a charge meter, and can unleash a pre-selected “Special Arts” move, doing much more damage than a special move would. Having owned the Dreamcast version of SFIII, I had fun playing again.

The above is a review of the Arcade mode in the “Offline” section of Street Fighter: 30th Anniversary Collection.

To the dedicated fan, these twelve games are exactly what was in the arcade. There is a trade-off though. Every game is set to “Free Play”, except in the first Street Fighter, where there is always one credit in the machine. You can’t map inserting a coin to a button, unfortunate for arcade owners like myself. I’m still considering adding a coin slot in the machine. I’m sure a dedicated fan could extract the ROM files for each game, but that would detract from the attractive presentation.

There is a two-player mode of course, and every single game can be played in two-player mode. It’s fun for pick-up-and-play, but you could also go so far as to arrange a tournament. The last part of the “Offline” mode is a Training mode, good for learning special moves.

Online is a bit different. As a retro gamer, I struggle with online modes in games, as they lose players with the passage of time. The original Xbox Live is now offline, as are the servers of MMORPG’s that were less popular than others. I did play Street Fighter online (Capcom made four games compatible), and was beaten quite badly. It’s hard to know how long people will play the collection, but you can create your own lobby, and invite friends from your Steam friends list. Cool.

Finally, there is the Museum. What we see most of all in the Museum are internal Capcom documents about the series. Some include artwork, and some are notes written in Japanese. I’m sure some readers have held an office job where you’re asked to take notes. It’s cool these things exist decades later.

There’s a Music Mode in the Museum, and it looks like every track from the twelve games is available. As a former contributor to the video game music file format scene, I’m just hopeful these aren’t MP3’s (where audio fidelity is lost).

Perhaps the most unfortunate part of the collection is that we didn’t get the console ports, such as Genesis and Super Nintendo versions. There were even MS-DOS versions and Game Boy Advance versions of Street Fighter. Still, these are twelve arcade-perfect ports. I did not experience sluggishness in playing between two computers. There are minor bugs, like saving and loading a game can crash it. I have faith an update can be released.

As mostly an outsider to the series, I’m finally getting the appeal of Street Fighter. And as fun as it is to hone my skill against a computer, these games are meant to be enjoyed with friends. Super Smash Brothers: Melee is still my favorite fighting game, but I think Street Fighter Alpha 2 is number two, and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is in the top five. In short, the collection is a necessity for fans, and enjoyable to the layperson. Mostly for me, I now have a go-to game for showing off the arcade. People who were writing about games years before I started writing told me to check this series out. I’m glad I did.



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