The original Street Fighter was mostly remembered for the pressure sensitive pads originally used on the arcade cab, but what a lot of people don't realise is that eventually they were switched for the six button layout we know so well today. Likewise, Akira Nishitani was tasked by Capcom to produce a scrolling beat 'em up using the Street Fighter name a couple of years later, but in the end it turned into Final Fight. These two factors then combined a few years hence, and produced the uber-classic called Street Fighter 2.
History lesson over. Thirteen years later and countless iterations down the line, the Street Fighter series is inherently ingrained into the consciousness of almost every gamesplayer on the planet. Be it the original SF2 versions, one form of the sequel SF3, or one from the SF Zero prequel series, they have been an unarguable influence since the heady days of the early Nineties. This package attempts to relive and revive those past memories by giving fans and non-fans alike the chance to experience those early days once again.
Included on the game disc are the first five entries into the SF2 series (World Warrior, Championship Edition, Turbo Hyper Fighting, Super, and Super Turbo) along with the first anime film that was released in the mid-Nineties. Although a bit crude and jerkily animated compared to other offerings since, it is still the best Street Fighter-related film that has been made, with a game-based plot involving all the major characters, and a nod to everyone else who had appeared in the series to date. The only downer is that it has been cut slightly, but if you don't know what's missing then it doesn't spoil your enjoyment of the film.
Capcom haven't just seen fit to convert the games over to the PS2, they've been a bit more intelligent than just achieving that task. Each player is able to choose from all sixteen characters on offer but then, crucially, is also able to select which persona (where applicable) of that character to play. In other words, if you wish to see how the original Ken, before his Dragon Punch range extended and his Hurricane Kick inflicted multiple hits, would fare against Turbo Sagat, then it is possible. Or Turbo Zangief with his additional range against T-Hawk. Or Championship Edition Chun-Li against Super Turbo Cammy. On paper, it sounds like a mouth-watering prospect.
Indeed, initial impressions are entirely favourable. Everyone across the board has been reproduced perfectly, down to the subtle differences in moves available, timing, command lists, animation frames and even the voice effects used. Where it might have been easy to use the same models and voices for each persona, Capcom have taken the time to bring all the relevant and applicable data into the conversion. Every persona of every character is truly unique in this respect.
Dig deeper however, and a few annoyances, oversights and omissions become obvious. When playing against the CPU, it is essentially like playing the Super Turbo version of the game. The only backdrops present are those from Super Turbo, which is rather bemusing when Capcom spent time bringing over all of the character iterations. Likewise the CPU only chooses Super Turbo opponents for you to play against; annoying then that the only way to play against other versions is to be competing against a human player. This in turn also means there are no bonus sections present - such classics as trashing the car and the barrels are conspicuous by their absence.
But competing against another person is where the real strength of fighting games comes into play, anyhow. For the most part it is still the perfect balance of skill, tactics and anticipating the opponent's strategy. It is easy to call up the moves list if you suddenly forget that Chun-Li's fireball is now done with a half-circle motion and not a charge-up, or wondering just how to pull off those Super Turbo special moves. SF2 truly was the ground-breaking competitive fighter of the early Nineties, and when into the swing of things, hours effortlessly pass by as two people try to punch and kick each other into the ground.
Everything is still very much in balance, but in the supposed interest of making it utterly level, Capcom have removed most of the glitches present in the original World Warrior that could result in a negative play experience. Such moves as Guile's Handcuffs and Ryu's frames of invincibility have now been consigned to the dustbin. Their removal would be understandable if any button-bashing newbie could pull them off, but considering the timing and skill required, then it is a curious change, especially when so much has been done to preserve the actual look and feel of the games in the first place. Such as it is, World Warrior Guile's four move redizzy combo is still in place, meaning there will still be arguments over whether he is actually fair or not.
Control via the Playstation pad is responsive, although true aficionados will get most out of this package when using a proper arcade stick. Certainly the split crosshair design isn't as good as the traditional patented Nintendo cross, and the analog stick is too twitchy to allow accurate movement. But that's a deficiency in the control method than a fault with the game itself. What is lacking sadly is memory card interfacing, which means button setups (for example) have to be defined every time the console is switched on.
This SF2 anniversary edition allows a retrospective look back on the series and you realise that, despite all the advances made since in the fighting genre, much of it stemmed from this game and that it is still highly playable, competitive, deep and rewarding. Capcom have done an excellent job with the conversion and implementation but, as noted, it could have been even better than what has been delivered. Given that it is being delivered at a budget price, though, means fighting fans don't have much excuse for not picking up a copy.