Street Fighter Collection 2 Review
Then came the sequel, Street Fighter II': Champion Edition. This major update improved upon the original in a myriad of ways. The gameplay was faster, moves were tweaked, backgrounds were re-colored, and, best of all, players could now take control of any of the four boss characters.
The fighting game craze hit its stride soon after Champion Edition was released. Companies like SNK and Data East jumped on the bandwagon, releasing games like Fatal Fury and Fighter's History, and shady hackers in Asia produced unauthorized chips that, once attached to a Street Fighter II arcade board, allowed players to swap characters on the fly and perform special moves in mid-air.
In response to the competition, and no doubt to discourage arcade owners from purchasing illicit upgrade chips, Capcom produced Street Fighter II' Turbo: Hyper Fighting. Arguably the most balanced of the original three SF2 games, Hyper Fighting featured faster gameplay than Champion Edition and gave the majority of characters at least one new special move. Ken and Ryu could now perform their hurricane kicks in mid-air, Chun Li acquired a fireball attack, Dhalsim could teleport, and Blanka & E.Honda were given vertical splash attacks, just to name a few.
Let's say you want to play one of the three original Street Fighter II games at home. You want the best version available, but can't afford the money or space required to adopt an arcade machine. You also don't feel comfortable installing emulators and illegal ROMs on your computer. That means you need to get one of the many console ports that have been published throughout the years.
But which one do you get? Which is the closest to the arcade?
Certainly not the Super Nintendo or Genesis games, because, while they were technical marvels for their respective platforms, the graphics, audio, and gameplay had to be "trimmed" to fit into the constraints of the cartridge format.
Not the old PC releases. They run too fast on today's computers, and, besides that, who can find them?
Not the recent PlayStation 2 or Xbox versions included in Capcom Classics Collection either. The gameplay is faithful to the arcade, but the graphics are blurry and letterboxed, and the audio is "off." Also, the load times before and after matches are bothersome.
As tough as it may be to accept in this age of next-generation consoles, the most arcade-accurate versions of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, and Street Fighter II Turbo Hyper Fighting can be found in Street Fighter Collection 2, a compilation that Capcom published for the PSOne (the original PlayStation console) in 1998.
Nearly 8 years have passed and Street Fighter Collection 2 is still the best way to bring any of the three original SF2 games home without shelling out hundreds of dollars for an arcade machine.
The three games included on the disc are identical to the arcade originals. Unlike the blurry visuals found in the recent Capcom Classics Collection, the graphics here are crisp and colorful. Furthermore, all of the characters, backgrounds, and animations are exactly as you remember them. Back in the day, Capcom had to remove the animations for reverse walking, as well as numerous medium attacks, from the Super NES and Genesis games in order to cram them into 32MB of ROM space. Those animations are intact in this PSOne collection, including Blanka's goofy reverse walk and Chun Li's maddening instantaneous medium kick. All of the moves, timings, and combos are 100% faithful to the original arcade games. The music and sound effects are spot on too. Moments after loading up the disc, you'll find yourself mentally whisked back to your old arcade stomping grounds, where the frequent cries of Ryu's "Hadouken" fireball and Sagat's "Tiger" shot filled the air for hours and hours of your formative years.
Compared to today's 2-D fighting games, these do seem a little "dog-eared," but they've actually aged pretty well all things considered. Maybe the sprites and backgrounds aren't as detailed or photorealistic as those in Guilty Gear XX are. They're still aesthetically pleasing, colorful, and lively. Back in the day, Street Fighter II represented the pinnacle of 16-bit graphics. We loved the solid colors, the stereotypical character designs, and the multi-frame character animations (which were considered smooth back then). Above all, these games are still fun to play and packed with deep gameplay.
Play modes common to all three games include the typical fighting game mode selections (arcade, training, and 2-player versus). In the "options" menu, you'll find the standard set of difficulty settings and controller re-mappings that are present in every Capcom fighting game. After you beat a game once, you'll unlock the option to choose between the original music and a re-mixed instrumental soundtrack. A "deluxe" 2-player versus mode is available from the compilation's main menu, which lets players mix-and-match characters from the different games. For instance, one player can select World Warrior Ken, with his beefy damage and short-range Dragon Punch, while the other can select Hyper Fighting Ken, with his toned down damage, long-range Dragon Punches, and mid-air Hurricane Kicks. The only drawbacks to the deluxe play mode are 1) that you can't fight CPU-controlled opponents, and 2) that you have to beat all three games, each without losing a match, in order to unlock it. The rest of the bonus content comes in the form of multiple artwork galleries and secrets write-ups, which are also available from the compilation's main menu.
The only difference between the games on this disc and their original arcade counterparts is the disc accessing that occurs between matches. After the game shows the character portrait screen, a loading message appears. Six seconds later, it's gone and you're into the next match. That's not too unreasonable. What's really nice is that you can shave a whole two seconds off the load times by playing the disc in a PlayStation 2 with the "Fast Load" option enabled (Boot the system without the disc in the tray and tap the triangle button from the system menu to access the PlayStation 1 options).
To put those load times into perspective, the same games included in the recent Capcom Classics Collection for PlayStation 2 and Xbox make players wait an extra couple seconds for each match to start, and they have an additional two-second loading screen after each match. How is it that the PSOne can do a better job of emulating a 15-year-old game than the PS2 can with its faster drive, faster CPU, and additional memory? Capcom dropped the ball bringing these games to the PS2, but they sure did one hell of a job coding them for the PSOne.
If you have a hankering to play any of the three original Street Fighter II games at home, and happen to have a PSOne sitting around, then you absolutely need to track down a copy of Street Fighter Collection 2. Copies in excellent condition with original case and manual tend to go for about $25 on Ebay. It's worth it. These are the arcade games. Combine this disc with a Street Fighter Anniversary arcade stick or a MAS joystick and you can literally bring the arcade experience home without dropping $500+ on a space-wasting cabinet.
2/28/2006 Frank Provo