Street Fighter Alpha Anthology
Once upon a time, Street Fighter II dominated the gaming world. If you had any interest in the fighting genre during the last decade, this legendary brawler had the power to grab your attention, keep your eyes glued to the screen, and play an untold amount of hours against friends and computer-controlled enemies alike. There were tournaments to win, characters to master, and plenty of other in-game aspects that made this fighter pure bliss. However, Street Fighter II couldn’t hold onto its reign forever; gamers’ expectations gradually increased, new ideas were implemented, and the 2D fighting game genre was slowly but surely being ushered out of existence. In the midst of all this uncertainty, the minds behind the game had a difficult problem to overcome: creating a new Street Fighter game that not only stood up to the demands and expectations of newer games, but still retaining all that was good and righteous about the first batch of brawlers. Ten years since the creation of the Street Fighter Alpha series, the games have been been re-released on the Street Fighter Alpha Anthology one of the best fighting game compilations of this generation.
At the start of Street Fighter Alpha, Ryu has just emerged victorious after a brutal battle against Sagat in the final rounds of the last fighting tournament. Confused about his latent powers, the young warrior continues to train. The rest of the characters have their own storylines, be it Sagat’s quest for revenge, Rose’s search for M. Bison, or Guy’s apparent vacation from Metro City and fallout after Final Fight. Aside from featuring only a handful of fighters from the Street Fighter II games, this first look into the Alpha series is laden with many differences than its arcade and SNES ancestors. Thanks to the chain combo system, the need for timed attacks and overall fighting prowess has been thrown by the wayside. Nearly all of the punches and can be linked together with the simple mashing of buttons, making the game seem overly cheap and simplistic. The game is a mixed bag, featuring a tiny roster of underdeveloped characters, an unbalanced super move system, and some fairly impressive visuals. Though Street Fighter II was a hard act to follow, Street Fighter Alpha comes off as a lackluster effort at best.
Hazakashioto…or whatever it is…
Street Fighter Alpha 2 makes up for its predecessor’s shortcomings by abolishing the chain combo system in favor of linking time attacks for more technical gameplay. The character roster has also been updated, allowing gamers to choose among fighters like Adon, Birdie, and Charlie as well as re-introducing fans to older characters such as Gen and Rolento. The roster is further developed with Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold, complete with Cammy and retro versions of Dhalsim, Zangief, and several other characters. All of these warriors have retained their usual arsenal of punches and kicks, but have been further developed via the multileveled special combo meter. With every punch and kick you’ll land, your character’s energy gauge will fill up. Once it’s reached a certain point, you have the choice of unleashing a quick super move or letting the gauge fill up to its next level and letting loose a more powerful attack. The game also features the Custom Combo system, which basically allows you to charge up some energy, create a bunch of images of yourself, mash whatever buttons you want, and watch your helpless foe get decimated in the flurry of punches, kicks and special attacks. Though an awesome concept, the Custom Combo system comes with a nasty flaw; since the character automatically marches forward into the combo, he or she is left utterly defenseless should the foe manage to get behind them. Despite this seemingly tacked-on addition to the gameplay, Street Fighter Alpha 2 is a far more balanced and polished game than the first Alpha game.
However, many fighting fans and newcomers will likely spend their time with Street Fighter Alpha 3 . The plot of the Alpha series has finally come to its climax through a series of dialogue and specialized endings, revealing Ryu’s hidden powers, Sagat’s redemption, and Charlie’s demise. Evidently, Capcom decided to go out in style; the game features not only the usual Alpha cast, but includes the entire roster from Super Street Fighter II. For the first time since the old SNES games, you’ll get to control Blanka, Dee Jay, Karin, Vega, E. Honda, Cody and plenty of others never seen in the Alpha series. The game also includes new spins on the gameplay from the previous title; the need for timed attacks is still prevalent, but the multileveled special move gauge and Custom Combo system have been modified into distinct fighting styles called “Isms”. The gameplay is incredibly fast-paced, fluid, and brutally challenging for veterans and newcomers alike. There’s a myriad of highly detailed levels, catchy music tracks, and one of the largest casts of characters ever assembled in a fighting game. Needless to say, the Street Fighter series doesn’t get much better than this.
Electrifying stuff, this.
In a sharp contrast from the Alpha series, the anthology includes an arcade port of Super Gem Fighter Mini-Mix, better known as Pocket Fighter to console owners. This game throws out everything established by the previous games in favor of over-the-top cartoon antics, disturbingly cute child-sized renditions of several Street Fighters, and blends it all together with some item collecting on the side. The title serves as a crossover game, including Ryu, Ken, and a few other characters from Street Fighter II, Dan and Sakura from the Alpha series, Felecia and Morrigan from Darkstalkers and Ibuki from Street Fighter III. The game has some semblance of a plot, but it’s got nothing on the epic showdowns and cutscenes of the Alpha games. Each character comes with their usual moves, but these fighters don’t have to rely on their skill alone; each level is sprinkled with shiny gems that boost your fighter’s power. Should you collect enough of a certain colored gem, you’ll find that your special moves can stun your opponents, set them ablaze, and shock them into submission. Many of the special moves are either modified or entirely new for this game; you’ll get to see Chun Li transforming into Jill Valentine, Zangief stomp into you with his patented Russian dancing, and even M. Bison gliding across a winter wonderland. While it’s nowhere as serious or technical as the Alpha games, Super Gem Fighter Mini-Mix is a fun distraction.
Not only does Street Fighter Alpha Anthology provide PS2 owners with nearly perfect arcade ports of these games, but it includes a truckload of extras as well. Each of the Alpha games comes with usual Arcade, VS, Survival, and Dramatic Battle Modes. However, owners of the console version of Street Fighter Alpha 3 will notice that this latest version lacks the World Tour Mode, which allowed you to customize your own character and unlock secret characters. In its stead, the anthology features an unlockable bonus version of Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper, allowing you to choose among Dee Jay, Guile, Evil Ryu, and Shin Akuma. This version also allows you to further modify your characters via four additional Isms, including Normal, Saikyo, Mazi, and Classic, and even a Shadaloo Ism. These new playing styles reflect those of other games; you’ll get to see super combos from Marvel VS Capcom chain combos from Darkstalkers and Street Fighter Alpha, and parrying a la Street Fighter III. Each game comes riddled with unlockable characters, color editing, special modifications, and a few other surprises. However, the most impressive unlockable in the anthology is Hyper Street Fighter Alpha, which basically operates with the Alpha 3 fighting engine, but allows you to pit different versions of characters against each other, such as Alpha Guy versus Alpha 3 Sodom. With so many extras on an already great selection of games, it’ll be long before this anthology goes stale.
Talk about ganging up on girls…
Since these games are wonderfully accurate arcade ports, you’ll be treated to a myriad of visuals and music that will drive fans insane with nostalgia. You’ll get to see Ryu and his friends in their bland anime-styled Alpha versions, the slightly more detailed designs and animation of Alpha 2, and the incredibly vivid presentation of the massive roster from Alpha 3. You can see Ken’s arm burst into flame as he unleashes his most powerful maneuvers, Gen’s dual fighting stances, Rolento twirling his baton, Cody literally creating a whirlwind with his handcuffed fists, Akuma’s glowing eyes, and even Dan’s infamous taunt in all its glory. Every Shoryuken, Tiger Uppercut, and Hadoken is fired off with intensity and emotion, complete with the necessary sound effects and voice acting. Each game has their own set of levels, be it the corrupted streets of Metro City with Mayor Haggar making a cameo, the dingy alleyway in China, the iconic statues of Thailand, and the stormy field where the series finally ends. Toss in overly cutesy style and deformed characters from Super Gem Fighter Mini-Mix, blend it with a wide variety music tracks, and you’ve got one of the best and most varied presentation ever seen in a fighting game compilation.
Fighting game fans, take Tekken 5 out of your PS2, forget about Virtua Fighter 4 EVO for a moment, and give Guilty Gear X2 a rest. Street Fighter Alpha Anthology features some of the best that the 2D fighting genre has to offer. The compilation suffers from the relatively lame Street Fighter Alpha, the lack of the World Tour Mode from Street Fighter Alpha 3, and the notable absence of online play, be these issues won’t deter fans of the series or fighting enthusiasts. This anthology presents gamers with arcade ports of four incredibly popular fighting games, for better or worse. You’ll get to se the progress of the Alpha series through its initially bland introduction, the steady development of its technical gameplay, a huge roster of varied characters, tons of extra features, and an unlockable game that combines three of the games into an all-out brawl. The Street Fighter Alpha series may be a decade old, but its games are still among the best fighters that you’ll ever get to play.
Nine out of ten