Street Fighter Anniversary Collection (PlayStation 2) review
"What was... "
15 years ago, a genre was defined. With a mighty Hadoken and a flurry of kicks, Street Fighter 2 was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. This unexpected gift from Capcom, then masters of arcade gaming, was to my generation what Woodstock and the Beatles were to my mother's. Scores of silicon pugilists would gather at local gaming centers on weekends and during school hours to partake in what was then, the pinnacle of 1on1 versus competition. The coins were racked, the lines were formed, and round and round we would go. Challenger after challenger would step up to the cabinet, ready, willing and sometimes not so able to dethrone the reigning neighborhood champion. This was a game that defined a genre and gave millions of gamers the world over a reason to leave the house. In honor of this global success, Capcom have put together a commemorative 15th anniversary disc that combines elements of each of the five Street Fighter 2 games into one glorious arcade perfect package. Or so the press release would say..
In order to understand the evolution of fighting games, one must first understand what made Street Fighter 2 so popular to begin with. For you see, there isn't a single 1on1 fighting game that hasn't somehow been influenced by its shining legacy. Combo attacks, high and low blocking, fireballs and charged supers, almost everything that is taken for granted in a modern fighting game can be directly linked back to this one title. That much of what worked 15 years ago is still being used today speaks volumes for Capcom's craftsmanship. Even now, the chance to bask in the spectacle of two experienced battle hardened players trading round for round blows is a moment to be both treasured and enjoyed. As much psychological as it is physical, combat takes on almost Zen like qualities as it tests the mind as well as the reflexes. Charge in with a flying kick followed by a crouch and a quick succession of low punches before pausing for a fraction of a second to psyche out your opponent only to then deliver a hefty Dragon punch to the chin. Set against a wide range of exotic backdrops, Street Fighter 2 is strategic 2d fighting ballet at its very best.
While obviously looking dated, each of the 16 backgrounds has garnered a fine nobility that can only come with age. Perfect in their execution, beautiful in their simplicity, they have matured much like a fine wine with a whimsical after-taste that must be savored to be appreciated. The matching 16 characters are also doubtless classics whose designs have often been imitated but are rarely bettered. Ryu the stalwart martial artist, Blanka the raging man beast and Chun-li the dangerous yet beautiful token female. These simple definitions are as timeless as they are genre defining, and not a single 1on1 fighter goes by without drawing some sort of inspiration from Capcom's spring of eternity. There isn't a single aspect of this game that has failed the test of time. It is as relevant to today's gamer as it was to yesterday's.
The idea supporting Hyper Street Fighter 2's existence is one of excess. Mix and match, one size fits all, roll up roll up and witness the grand unifying battle of our generation. Take everything that made the original game what it was, then toss in the various design changes and character upgrades of each of the following 4 follow ups. Upon setting, hand the lot over to eager gamers so they can duke it out in an arcade style apocalypse. Original World Warrior Ken Masters versus his Super-X persona, one night only! Who will be the last man standing? This and many more questions that have never been asked, but remain fascinating none-the-less, are about to be answered. As good as this may sound, it does inevitably make for some heavily skewered matches as few of the original World Warriors stand a snowball's chance in hell against their older, more powerful siblings. As a result of this imbalance, what was once a relatively easy game is now a vastly different beast altogether. Perhaps I am slowing down in my old age, or perhaps Capcom have upped the difficulty levels, but either way I certainly wasn't prepared to have my ass handed to me as often as it was!
Offsetting this increased challenge are the controls that remain as tight and responsive as ever. The Playstation2 control pad does a marvelous job of reproducing the heart pounding, fast-as-white-knuckle-lighting arcade move sets perfectly. Hurricane punches, and the more difficult Dragon punch are simply a joy to perform and the multiple hit combos string together with such ease that long forgotten combinations soon come flooding back. Once the background audio tracks kick in, these tides of nostalgia will really begin to rise. Both CPS and CPS2 renditions of the soundtrack are present and accounted and are all directly accessible from the gallery menu. Sho-ryu-kkeeennn!!! Much to my dismay however, most of these bonus materials are extremely lacking in excitement. To say that the selection is lackluster is an understatement in every sense of the word. Flying in the face of all the promotional material and merchandise available, Capcom have taken the safe route and have gone with a standard selection of opening screens, sound effects and bgm tracks. While the inclusion of the FULL 1995 Street Fighter 2 animated movie was a pleasant surprise, its low bit rate and washed out colors made viewing a chore.
What should have been...
It's this seemingly low care factor that hurts Hyper Street Fighter 2 the most, not the core gameplay which is excellent. For a 15th anniversary celebration release, I found the entire package to be surprisingly lacking in credibility. Where are the art galleries? There is some amazing official Street Fighter 2 artwork available, why wasn't it included? Where are my single serving portions of each game? What if I wanted to revisit the glory days of Hyper-fight and play it in its original form? I'd be flat out of luck that's what! What this game needs is more, more of everything. More game modes, more extras, more things that fans of the series will truly appreciate. This is the 15th anniversary after all isn't it? Perhaps we will all have to wait for the inevitable 20th anniversary collection to have our dreams and desires fulfilled. Or perhaps knowing Capcom that release may be much sooner than we expect. Either way though, we should have had all this and more with this release, and the failure to deliver on Capcom's behalf is simply inexcusable.
Like most things in life however, everything hangs on one's expectations. And where matters of the heart are concerned, they are more often than not set too high. Maybe I am guilty of idealizing the potential of this release then, God only knows that Street Fighter 2 occupies a warm fuzzy place deep in my heart. Even with my expectations dashed though, I was still able to enjoy what is otherwise an excellent game. It may not be pretty by today's standards, but that old Cyclone kicking magic is still there. Make no mistake about it, this is still one of the best fighters of its kind currently available. History, prestige, nostalgia and some of the most competitive 2 player action this side of the local arcade make it a must have game for all 1on1 fight fans. Regardless of your age, you owe it to yourself to experience what Hyper Street Fighter 2 has to offer. After all, this was the where it all began...
* Classic 1on1 gameplay
* 16 characters, and everyone of them a legend
* Like fine wine and cheese, some things get better with age
* Higher difficulty level
* All the various background music tracks have been included
* It's possible to mix and match the characters
* The controls are tight and responsive
* This is Street Fighter 2... 'nuff said
* Why can't I play each version of Street Fighter 2 separately?
* The extras leave A LOT to be desired
Community review by midwinter (August 27, 2004)
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