Super Street Fighter II Turbo Revival
If anything, Super Street Fighter II Turbo Revival (Capcom, 2001) takes home the award for longest name of a Street Fighter game. Why, slap on some EX + Alpha Double Third Strike Zero X and you’ve got yourself a bona fide super jam-packed fighter! However, it’s easy to see how such a game would be overlooked, seeing as how many people have already played SSF2 at some point in their lives if they dare to claim to be anything of a Street Fighter fan. This is in addition to the fact that many people (rightly) dismiss the Game Boy Advance as a landfill for half-hearted ports that could easily circle the equator 87 times. Many of these ports are nothing special, it’s true – where all the hoopla about the Super Mario Advance games came from, I’ll never know – but the right ingredients, meticulous attention to detail, and an unwillingness to fix what’s not broken make this re-release of SSF2 a surprising shark in a sea of minnows.
Super Street Fighter II is the upgrade that heralded several more changes for the series, not the least of which was the addition of four new challengers to the admittedly meager roster. Among these are Cammy, a small English girl in a beret whose devotion to Bison is sickening; Dee Jay, a buff black guy from the Caribbean donning poofy pants and a goofy grin; Fei Long, the Hong Kong action movie star who’s out to prove he’s got the goods as a fighter and as a stuntman (and who bears a strange resemblance to Tom Cruise in his profile shots); and last but not least, T. Hawk, the taller, more Native American version of Zangief who’s out to find himself and answers about his family. Since their presence does not detract from the well-roundedness and memorability of the others and in fact serves to enhance these two things, it’s safe to now put one foot in the water. Once you see how well the game has translated to the small screen, however, there’s no hesitation in plunging in headfirst into a fighting game that everyone should have the joy of experiencing.
The first easily noticeable feature is that SSF2TR comes packed to the hilt with modes of play aside from the usual arcade and versus modes, which provide plenty of intense action-packed fisticuffs by themselves, but man doth not live by bread alone, right? So then, more features that have since made themselves industry standards are included in the mix. A simple training arena lets you practice your favorite special attacks and Super Combos on the stationary World Warrior of your choosing, while a survival challenge and a time trial attack mode with plenty of fun challenges (such as fighting the four boss characters – Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and Bison – on one bar of energy) round out your many options. These add longevity to the game and can be returned to over and over to see if previous records can be bested, and add even more bragging rights to the series that was all about them from the time people discovered the code that let them play each other as the same character. With 16 characters to separately perform each task at hand as (and maybe a couple more that might drop by along the way, wink wink), there’s plenty to do and plenty to keep you busy.
However, a problem crops up immediately. How is a game that is so praised and revered for its adept use of six buttons going to make even a reasonably decent transition to a handheld containing four? Very well, that’s how. The GBA Super Street Fighter’s button scheme allows for choosing to tap or hold a certain button to produce a desired strength of blow, or even not using it all. Play your cards right and you can save your index fingers the strain of arthritis thirty, twenty, heck even ten minutes down the road. With an agreeable control scheme in place, you can dive into arcade mode and pick one of those sixteen challengers to go through the game with. Along the way in a normal arcade tour of the game, you fight eight of the regular competitors along with the four bosses from the end of the original Street Fighter II. And, as per the usual, you have quite the arsenal of trademark special moves that will inflict more damage than namby-pamby kicks and punches. Who could forget the classics? Chun-Li’s Spinning Bird Kick, Ryu and Ken’s Dragon Punch, Zangief’s Spinning Pile Driver – it’s hard to believe, but every single character from SF2 had some kind of memorable hard-hitter that squeezed its way into the museum of your video game memories.
Well, make room for more, because now there are not only added special moves, but the vaguely aforementioned Super Combos that factor heavily into play now. Regular Joe Blow special moves usually require little more than a quarter- or half-circle turn of the D-pad plus a button or a bit of backward or downward charging before advancing the opposite way and unleashing a projectile or heavy kick of some sort. Once the Super Combo meter at the bottom of your screen fills up all the way, you can unleash an attack (often an upgrade of a special move you already possess) of such ruthless speed and efficiency that the opposition is flat on its back in less time than you can say “hadouken.” These Super Combos, while easily counterable, keep adding more meat to a series that has plenty on its bones. Like all good attacks, they can be worked with ease into a fluid stream of kicks, punches, uppercuts, and projectiles. All the fears of the common old-school Street Fighter fan are peacefully laid to rest; nothing added takes away from that unseen aura of coolness that makes the original Street Fighter incarnations such classics. The only thing you need to worry about is finding this game and plugging it into a GBA as fast as your wallet will allow.
Though I acknowledge that my old-school nostalgic standpoint has pervaded most of the review to this point, it is also true that SSF2TR is just as recommendable to the amateur who’s new to 2D fighters in the portable arena. A flood of options are at everybody’s beck and call, the best of which is a series of time-based challenges to help improve on previously developed fighting skills or help novices get over that nastiest of fighting game diseases – button-mashitis. Challengers who feel they are worthy can take on five, ten, thirty, or one hundred combatants on the sustenance of but a single vitality bar, or take on the likes of partners Ken and Ryu (simultaneously) or the mighty Akuma, an almost demonic, muscular martial arts master whose strength and sheer discipline in battle will reduce the unwary challenger to a quivering puddle of Jell-O. Two-player link modes and the always reliable linear progression of arcade mode round out the whole package, squeezing the whole $35 worth out of this magnificent GBA port.
Though the animé look is clearer in later iterations of SF, the gradual transition to it can be seen here, and the game and series as a whole are better for it. Everything runs smoothly with most backgrounds and fighters (and their personalities) intact. There is literally no change in the look of the sprites from the arcade and the SNES to the Game Boy, and the backdrops that haven’t been tampered with appear the same as always. What has been re-arranged is most often for the better, though. A slew of cyclists now ride behind Chun-Li as she does battle with her opponents; Guile now battles on a bridge in the midst of an enormous fighter jet; and Ryu now mixes it up on the rooftops of downtown Japan. Everything is executed perfectly and runs at a constant speed no matter what Turbo setting you place the game on, and nothing dominates over anything else or distracts you as you make your way to the top of the Street Fighter ladder.
The only area where SSF2TR takes a blow to the groin is in the auditory section. Many sound effects added in seem either unnecessary, ridiculous, or a cringe-inducing combination of both. When Guile throws his trademark Sonic Boom, you’ll feel as though he has actually regressed to a sad condition of prepubescence. Many warriors utter totally out-of-character snickers under their breath upon victory (Sagat’s is most noticeable) or have a voice that doesn’t suit their personality in any regard whatsoever. Even worse, the music sounds like something ripped out of Mega Man’s later NES quests rather than something befitting of a system that has been christened “the portable SNES” by many. Sacrifices to the pleasure of your ears have been made at every corner; everything sounds either tinny or full of static.
This, however, is a minor gripe in light of the nicely rounded package that Super Street Fighter II Turbo Revival offers you. While it is another of the hundreds of ports that have stood in line to be a part of the GBA library, this one has guts and uses its relative lack of change as a way to truly transport you back to the past, when Street Fighter reigned as the king of two-dimensional single-plane brawling. The modes aside from arcade offer slight diversions that fill only a few minutes but test the thumbs on every combo they’ve ever executed. SSF2TR is one of the pleasures of nostalgia that make a GBA worth owning, and though you duke it out with the same seventeen formidable opponents every time you plug it in, it maintains a freshness that keeps you from becoming bored with it before the passing of a few short months. Game Boy Advance may be a young system, but when it busts out an old-school classic on your unsuspecting self, you strangely don’t hear cries of “poser” anywhere.