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Review – Street Fighter Alpha Anthology

posted on July 6th, 2006 by christian

Yeah, the menus are that simple.

The last few years have been tough for Street Fighter fans. As 2d gaming continues to wane, Capcom is far too wary to release anything new, for fear that even something as big as Street Fighter 4 would not sell enough to warrant the cost of development. Instead, they’ve decided to take the conservative route with their 2d offerings, either by cobbling together something quick and dirty like Capcom Fighting Jam, or by releasing compilations of their older stuff. Many people frown at the concept, since Capcom rarely give fans what they want (even though they’re the target audience) and because the games exist solely for the company to milk its prize franchises as much as possible

Of course this is all true, but I don’t really mind the idea of compilations. After all, it gives guys like me a chance to collect and experience these classic games without dishing out a hefty sum for an older console and/or rare copy. No, what pisses me off is the “not giving them what they really want” part. For example, back on the Dreamcast Capcom was kind enough to release Street Fighter 3 for the first time on a console. Only problem is that there are three different iterations of Street Fighter 3, and they chose to give them to us in two releases rather than one. It also happens that the best of the bunch, Third Strike, was the one released alone, and became very rare after a very short time. Not a good situation for DC gamers to be in.

Fast forward to the current generation (no, the DC isn’t current gen. It is timeless). Capcom delivers the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection for PS2 and Xbox. Being the 15th anniversary of the series, you would think that Capcom would go all out with a truckload of Street Fighter games, images, interviews and goodies (like what was done for the Mega Man anniversary). Instead the collection consisted of only two games: Third Strike, and Hyper Street Fighter 2. These are the best games in their respective series (at least from a gameplay perspective), but fans were hoping for something more. HSF2 is a great idea, but couldn’t we have gotten a few of the original arcade released as well? For as big of a stink as Capcom made about this collection, the actual content was criminally barebones.

I remembered Chun Li being a little more attractive.

And thus we have our dilemma. Capcom’s compilations have been incomplete and half assed, yet fans are so desperate for something new to play that they will often shell out for them anyway, which only gives Capcom the incentive to continue their ways. So when the Alpha Anthology was announced sometime earlier this year, there were of course many concerns. Screenshots of lackluster menus and little word on the quality of the ports pointed to what seemed to be another train wreck from a company that just didn’t seem to care anymore.

Shockingly, the final results are quite the opposite. For once, someone at Capcom actually gave a shit about what they were doing. This is the best Street Fighter compilation the U.S. has seen, and the best 2d offering from the company since Capcom VS SNK 2. Featuring all three Alpha games in perfect form, as well as a whole slew of secret goodies, this Anthology is truly worthy of the name. For once we have a game that fans can be proud to own and excited to play (unless you’re so hardcore that you can’t stand anything that isn’t on a PCB, in which case you should get back to soldering your joystick together). Time to get your fight back on ladies and gents, because the Alpha series is ready to kick your ass all over again.

Initially, the collection consists of the three Alphas, and two bonus games of sorts. The first is Alpha 2 Gold, which is just a revision of Alpha 2, while the second bonus is Pocket Fighter, a goofy Playstation era game featuring chibi characters and wacky special moves. All of the games have the usual modes like arcade, practice etc., as well as the Alpha series’ popular 2 on 1 Dramatic Battles. This alone is pretty damn impressive; five games on one disc isn’t so bad for $30, even if one of them isn’t completely new. This, however, is only the beginning of what the Anthology has to offer.

Hidden deep within the game are a ton of secrets. One can unlock the Arrange version of Alpha 3, which is more than welcome, since it unlocks all the characters from the Dreamcast and Playstation versions. Beating all of the games unlocks an even bigger bonus, Hyper Street Fighter Alpha. This is essentially in the same vein as Hyper Street Fighter 2; you have every version of every character from all three Alphas put together under one roof, complete with new secret Isms that reflect gameplay systems from other Capcom fighters (ie. a SF3 Ism, a Marvel Ism, a Darkstalkers Ism and a very old school SF2 Ism).

Oh sweet Jesus.

While this may not get much competitive play due to balance issues, the inclusion of HSFA is still very nice, as it provides another huge list of matchups and possibilities to explore. Sadly, the only modes it supports are versus and training, but there are ways to trick it into letting you face off against the computer. Considering how difficult it would be to include new AI routines that properly balanced each character and Ism, I can understand Capcom’s decision, and really I’m just glad to have this mode available in the first place.

This is all well and good, but I still haven’t answered the most important question; how good are the ports? Serious fighting game fans are ridiculously picky when it comes to console ports, because they often get screwed up in translation, causing loss of sound or graphical quality, or worse yet, screwed up combat engines that destroy strategies or glitches present in the arcade version.

There is a lot of debate among fans about some very specific tactics and combos, but for all intensive purposes the community seems to agree that all three Alpha games are arcade perfect. There might be some slight discrepancies for certain moves, but overall the combat, sound and visuals are intact, and only the most anal players seem to be worrying about the issue (these same players are also rarely very good, and simply want to flex their street cred by crying for perfection). I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alpha 2 and 3 popping up in competitive tourneys again in the near future, now that arcade versions of each are a breeze to obtain.

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