Detailed Museum mode does the series’ legacy justice
Some ‘improved’ home ports missing
Ridiculously cheap A.I. opponents
Joy Cons aren't ideal for fighting games
Available on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch (version tested)
Words like ‘legendary’ and ‘classic’ are thrown around a lot these days when describing videogames, usually ones that have had multiple sequels and a lineage that goes back more than five years. They’re words that have lost a bit of their meaning, overused and worn out. Street Fighter, however, is a series that is absolutely worthy of such acclaim. Many different entries still played to this day by players casual and competitive, and a series that remains at the top of its genre. To celebrate its 30th year (in its 31st year, but who’s keeping track of these things?) Capcom have bundled together twelve Street Fighter titles, covering a large chunk of franchise history.
And despite being one of the best-selling, most beloved series of all time, it had a really, really bad start.
Street Fighter – the original – is a TERRIBLE game. It’s clumsy, slow and awkward. Unresponsive to the point where it’s difficult to know whether the buttons you’re pressing are having any effect on the fighters doing anything in the match. Ryu and Ken, the only playable characters, do have their traditional special moves but they seem to come out at random when you input the commands. It’s cool to see a bunch of series regulars making their first appearance – Gen, Eagle, Birdie, Adon and of course, Sagat – but other than that, the original Street Fighter is little more than a curio these days. It’s a bad game, and frankly it’s amazing something this rubbish got a sequel.
It’s a bloody good job it did, mind!
Street Fighter II is the game that popularised fighting games and is fondly remembered by almost everyone who grew up with it, and there’s five versions of it available on this compilation. Everything from the barebones original to Super Turbo, a game that is played competitively to this day. It’s not just pure nostalgia either, as they are all damn fun to play here in 2018.
What is fascinating is watching the evolution of the game from the vanilla Street Fighter II to Super Turbo as you play through each installment. The first version remains the core of the series, with each character’s archetype representing a certain way of approaching a match up, and as the bosses, new characters and speed settings are introduced things get increasingly more technical until you hit Super Turbo, where new normals, special moves and Supers are added to the mix. Suddenly, Zangief can ‘Green Hand’ his way through fireballs, Ken and Ryu are starting to transition from a palette swap to very individual characters in their own right and most other characters gain new ways to fight one another.
The Alpha series is three quite different games, designed to be a much easier entry point than the others in this compilation. Air blocking, various strengths of Super move, and pre-made ‘chain combos’ were added to the Street Fighter II formula, allowing beginners to get a bit of a leg up when starting out. Taking the anime style from the popular Street Fighter animated movie, these still look great and, other than the slightly redundant first game, play brilliantly. Don’t get me wrong, Street Fighter Alpha is a fun game in its own right, but why you’d concentrate on it over Alpha 2, which was essentially a reboot of that title, and Alpha 3, is anyone’s guess.
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Alpha 3 especially is a wonderful fighting game that is full of variety. Every character a unique archetype, and they can be customised further by choosing from one of three ‘Isms’, which allow you access to different abilities based on your own skill level. An A-Ism, for instance, is the standard Street Fighter Alpha setup, while V-Ism removes the ability to air block and recover on the ground, as well as giving you one, slow charging Super meter. However, once maxed out you can perform a mega-damaging ‘Custom Combo’, allowing you to string together special moves that normally wouldn’t link at all and, provided you’ve got the skill to pull if all off, do some really flashy stuff. The X-Ism is a simplified, beginner-friendly option, that lives somewhere between the two, giving you plenty of options from both Isms but at the cost of damage.
And then there’s Street Fighter III, which comes in three different flavours. The vanilla release, 2nd Impact and the much-loved Third Strike, each one adding new characters, backgrounds and balance tweaks. Each character now has a choice of three ‘Super Arts’ and super jumps are now in the game. Street Fighter III’s biggest new inclusion, however, is the parry.
We’ve all seen that video – Evo Moment 37 – where Daigo Umehara parried every shot of Justin Wong’s attempt to beat him with Chun-Li’s Super Art. A parry is performed by tapping towards your opponent just as their attack lands, and you can cancel the parry into an attack of your own, essentially interrupting what would otherwise be a guaranteed hit and turning it into a combo of your own. The timing on these is fairly precise, and of course by pushing forward this means if you get the timing wrong you’ve walked into the attack, so you have to assess each situation and decide whether to simply block or go for broke. They’re one of the greatest mechanics in fighting game history, a catch-all defensive and offensive tool and the ultimate in risk/reward.
All versions are arcade perfect, even down to some extremely cheap button-reading A.I. in single player, clearly designed to rinse you for change back in the day, but here it can be quite frustrating. Capcom has managed to add fairly well fleshed out training and online modes to four of the titles – Hyper Fighting, Super Turbo, Alpha 3 and Third Strike – so you can sharpen your skills before you test them out against the world.
It’s not a perfect collection, however. The ‘arcade perfect’ claims are fair, but this means that some of the excellent stuff from home conversions is missing. The trials from Third Strike: Online Edition would’ve been a lovely inclusion (as well as the brilliant remixed soundtrack), and the PSP version of Alpha 3 – Alpha 3 MAX – not only features a load of extra single player modes, but also ELEVEN additional characters from Street Fighter’s history books.
A special mention has to go to the Switch version, which has an extra local multiplayer mode which apes the Super Street Fighter II tournament cabinets, allowing four Switch consoles to be networked together to run an eight player knockout tournament. It works really well, calling players to the appropriate ‘station’ when it’s their turn to fight and suits Nintendo’s console well. However, the console doesn’t do as great on some of the more execution heavy titles, as the separate directional buttons on the Joycons make hitting diagonals a bit of a nightmare, so a Pro Controller is very much recommended if you’re playing for anything more than a bit of fun. The game, however, works as well as the other versions, and it is truly wonderful to have this collection of fighting games on something you can take on a train.
This is a real love letter to the Street Fighter series. Eleven genuine classics (and one stinker) all ported with great care and with a museum of developmental and concept art, soundtracks and an interactive timeline of the series that’ll take a good hour or so to look through, it’s a great way to celebrate Street Fighter’s 30th birthday even before you factor in the online and training modes for the four marquee titles. Whether you’re interested in getting really good at Third Strike or Super Turbo or simply want that nostalgic thrill of days spent on a couch leathering your friends, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is a must.