Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition
Like power-ups and zombies, the Street Fighter franchise is a videogame staple that refuses to die. But is it really worth shelling out cash for a collection of old arcade games?
Street Fighter II changed the world. It's been 15 years since Capcom's bellwether game thundered into arcades worldwide, and the shockwaves are evident even today. While the company is home to several well-milked products, few would argue that Yoshiki Okamoto's Street Fighter II was the most important. In an instant, fighting games took over the videogame industry; there were tie-ins with all the major media, home versions for every available platform, tournaments across the globe, and millions and millions of pounds in profits. But is the series still relevant today? Capcom has brought out its heifer for a (last?) teat tug.
Let me state categorically upfront, if you haven't played Street Fighter II you might as well turn around right now. I'm not saying that there's nothing here for neophytes, but this well-worn couch was built for the ever-expanding asses of long-time Street Fighter II fans. Those of you who have never done a forwards-quarter-circle will look on in bemusement, with words like "nostalgia-ridden" and "fugly" floating into the conversation. That's okay; this game wasn't made for you, anyway.
Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition, to acknowledge the tell-all endowment, is a hodgepodge of the first five versions of the game: World Warrior, Championship Edition, Turbo, Super, and Super Turbo. This is the Dungeons & Dragons basement for Street Fighter II dorks, a place where we can find out just who is the better of World Warrior Ryu and Turbo Blanka. While this instantly makes obsolete reams of fan fiction, it's reassuring to know that we can all sleep easier knowing which version of Guile is the strongest.
Getting these doppelgangers to obey your commands isn't quite so straightforward though. The Dual Shock is not the best pad for the joystick-intensive mechanics of the Street Fighter franchise. Either of the available directional controls can be used, both of which come up short. Pulling off a Dragon Uppercut is made needlessly frustrating by the inaccurate digital pad, and the soggy analog stick doesn't feel much better. This is a game that cries out for an arcade stick.
Apart from the controls, though, just about everything you'd expect from the arcade games is accounted for. This is not an upgrade by any means, so all we get are the strobing animations, dynamic backgrounds and vibrant sprites from 15 years ago. Not that there's anything wrong with that. The action is as fast paced as it ever was, and cranking up the game speed to its maximum will have you sweating out each and every victory.
Most fighters demand that you have a real-life opponent in the room, and this game is no different. You will, however, not get by the computer without some effort. Capcom have included a full eight difficulty settings, ranging from yawn to argh. In fact, this malleability is prevalent throughout the package. All manner of options are yours for the tweaking, from choosing which of the three versions of the soundtrack to listen to, to deciding on such mundane gameplay settings as whether to allow continues or not. Everyone is provided for.
If that was it, this collection would still warrant a look, but it's the inclusion of various bonus features that will have series fans charging instead of renting. Gallery mode offers opening movies and staff rolls from all included versions, and, in typical 8-bit fashion, all the music and sound-bytes are laid bare for sampling. But it's the inclusion of Street Fighter II The Movie--the semi-decent animated one, not that god-awful live-action abomination--that shows Capcom's commitment to its legions. Cynics will point out that the movie has been available for several years now, and any sales it was going to pick up have been made, especially by fans serious enough to consider picking up this package. Still, it's worth it just to see Vega and Chun-Li lay into each other in suitably poorly voiced action sequences. It just wouldn't feel the same any other way.
When the 15th anniversary of the Street Fighter series rolled around in Japan last year, Capcom went all out for the celebrations, with art exhibitions, public appearances by several of the principal creators and merchandise galore. Since a similar showing isn't going to happen in the West anytime soon, Hyper Street Fighter 2: The Anniversary Collection is about as good as we can hope for. And with the game coming in at a budget price, there's no reason why everyone with even a peripheral interest in the series can't see what all the fuss is about for themselves.