16 fighters enter a martial arts tournament with their own goals. Some seek to prove their best, while others are seeking vengeance or even world domination. They will all fight for their dream, yet only one will become champion.-summary
If you broke open the time capsule to the time period of 1991 - 1993 and asked many hardcore gamers who spent a good chunk of their life in the arcades this question: "Which game you think was a serious quarter muncher in the arcades? I'm pretty sure Street Fighter II, any variation of the game would pop up. The game ate more quarters than some of the side scrolling brawlers, and when you think about it, that is actually something to brag about because those games were made for the sole reason to eat quarters. Street Fighter II breathed long time life into the arcades when it paved the way for future 2 player fighting games. Unfortunately, there really was a point when the game became quite stale. Fans were getting tired of the constant part "II's" and not an actual sequel, but Capcom really didn't care because they hit a gold mine with the game and they knew it. Therefore, they just milked it for what it was worth with small updates.
When 1993 came around and they introduced Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers which featured four brand new characters, as someone who was in the arcades, I can tell you the reception wasn't as great when the first SF II had been released. Fighting game fans loyalties had begun to sway in favor of the far superior Mortal Kombat II and even Samurai Shodown, in which people wanted something different. Later on, Capcom would respond with something slightly different, as they introduced Super Street Fighter II Turbo. This game featured the same characters with one secret character being the legendary Akuma; but the main attraction was the introduction of the Super Finisher Combo, in which, this new element would continue to remain in the Street Fighter franchise and only continue to evolve. This collection for the PSone contains both of those games along with Street Fighter Alpha II Gold rounding out this collection on two disk.
Now when this compilation was released back in 1997 there were several complaints on Capcom releasing the SF II games in reverse order. People didn't understand how come the original SF II and its updates didn't appear first. I remember reading back then it was because SF II Alpha for the Playstation One had pretty much gotten shafted with less secret characters. The Sega Saturn featured Evil Ryu while the PS One didn't, so this version contains all secret characters and additional modes. I'll go ahead and move on to the review.
For those who may not know, SF II is a two player fighting game that follows a select character in single player mode, as you try to defeat 12 characters to win the game in best of three round fighting. At any time during the main campaign a second player can join to fight you, or you can both choose to battle it out in the vs. mode. More on that later.
There are various fighting styles across the board consisting of karate, sumo, wrestling, and other arts. The first disk features Super Street Fighter II with a total of 16 playable fighters. The fighting engine really didn't change much from the previous entries which is actually a great thing, and despite the fact SF II's popularity had begun to fall at some point, I would dare anyone to try and tell me that it didn't run the smoothest when compared to every fighter out there. The combat here is still intricate and requires some type of skill to master. Very good players will hardly ever lose to novices and button mashers will be crushed. The blocking along with hit detection is spot on and there are various play styles to master. You can either go the route of using a projectile heavy character, or choose someone who can get around projectiles; this is one of the improvements I can think of with this particular update. Slower characters such as Zangief and E. Honda received a decent to very good makeover, as they can actually dominate projectile characters if used right. New addition being T-Hawk, who is a faster over-sized brute than Zangief adds another dynamic to the slow guy offense. He has some really good moves to punish projectile abusers, plus an awesome grab move. He has always been my favorite out of the new characters. The computer AI is a little tougher here when compared to both Champion Edition and Hyper Fighting. I think it was a little better using some type of strategy and even knowing when to spam certain moves.
The main problem with this game, is even though there are finally some new characters, the actual game play was too identical to what came before it. Capcom cut a lot of corners, and they added some really weak twist to most of the characters moves; such as Ryu's fireball actually burning opponents to include Ken's dragon punch doing the same. I always thought this was cheesy and it really added nothing to the game play or to the characters. Nearly the entire roster suffered from some type of really cheap change.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo was a better upgrade though, but it would have made one lazy sequel had Capcom decided to add a "III" at the end of the title. The one feature everyone looked forward to was the Super meter, which allowed you to unleash the character's Super Combo Finish. The meter would gradually fill as the character used and landed moves. I notice that certain special's would increase it faster than others; this also goes for linking combos into specials. The only drawback to this is that after every round the meter bar resets. At times, it can be very slow to fill up, and most players can find themselves stretching matches in an attempt to pull off the move. Although the pay off would be good pulling off this terribly damaging move should you land it; the problem is possibly losing a match trying to get it up. Thankfully, Capcom would improve on the super meter in later entries.
The characters also went through a slight offensive upgrade, with characters like Ryu and Guile for example, possessing a light charging move in the form of a kick or a punch. I enjoyed this because it added more to offensive combat in regards to closing distance; it was another more reliable option over jumping in and opening yourself for counter attack. Zangief received his glowfist move in this game, in which he throws a slight charging backfist to eliminate projectiles. And through a short code, Akuma can become playable but he's nowhere near as unbalance as when you fight him. The AI is also far more competitive, I mean the characters will really fight you. There's a strong possibility in being beaten by the third character, and I don't think the game is cheap in its difficulty.
This update is fun to play due to these new improvements, and Akuma was no doubt the best thing since slice bread; using a character who's a combination of both Ryu and Ken, with their moves being amazingly beefed up is a lot of fun to play, and if you enjoy some real competition through a battle hardened AI, then you'll more than likely forget about regular Super SF. My only gripe with this game is the new speed default. You can increase the characters speed between slow and fast before you begin the game. The problem I found here is the added difficulty, I find it a bit too hard fighting at such a quick pace because it lowers your reaction time, while the AI is doing whatever at will. I normally play this at a normal pace.
Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold which is on the second disk will more than likely have you forgetting about both games, with its roster of 18 characters along with Evil Ryu and Shin-Akuma as secret characters, and they can be easily selected without any codes. In addition, in the VS. mode only, Cammy is playable as well.
Now the Alpha series is a totally different animal, as it takes the Super Meter concept and go a little crazy with it. This time the meter fills much quicker and it has 3 levels. It's very possible to use one level at a time in order to save your meter, but the true damage comes in using it completely either in a combo or just catching your opponent sleeping. The levels make a huge difference, for example, Ryu's Super Fireball will land 3 hits on level 1, while level 3 will land 5 hits for heavier damage. Each of the characters have something cool to pull off. Plus this time around as opposed to only having one Super Special like in Super SF Turbo, characters have from 2 to 4. To include, expanding on the multiple super special concept introduced in Street Fighter Alpha One, Alpha 2 now features the Custom Combo. This is used to link more damaging rush combos, the trick is to juggle the opponent and use key attacks for larger damage, this can be used by simultaneously pressing a kick or punch button at Level 3. Honestly, I never liked this new feature, and I always preferred the more basic chain links from the first Alpha.
Alpha 2 is also responsible for new characters such as Sakura, who has a pretty cool story behind her, being that she admires Ryu so much, she decided to imitate his moves; characters like Rolento are new to the series, but like Guy and Sodom he was pulled from the Final Fight series, and he possesses many of his moves from that game, such as hurling grenades and fighting with his baton. Gen is quite possibly the most interesting simply because he can switch from Praying Mantis to Crane style of kung fu on the fly. Alpha 2 Gold's main campaign is pretty fun especially since it is story driven, and some of the characters have their own boss to fight at the end, such as Ryu battling Akuma, Sagat facing Ryu, and both Charlie and Chun-Li hoping to kill M. Bison. The rivalries are pretty interesting.
The game also boasts a survival mode where you choose a character, and face off against the entire roster in a sudden bout, along with Akuma mode, where you face Shin-Akuma to the finish and that bastard is hard. There's also an option to fight with your Super Meter constantly charged making it possible to spam Super Finishers over and over.
Now as good as the main campaign can be, it's the Vs. mode where people will spend the most time. You can increase the rounds from best of three to best of five, remove the time clock, or increase the speed. You can also work these into the main campaign as well. The game itself can be finished with one character in about 25 minutes, but the replay comes in trying to finish it with all of the characters obviously. It's a real challenge trying to win with the slower or more advanced characters such as Zangief, Dhalsim, and Gen.
The controls are completely responsive for all three games, and very smooth when pulling off the more complicated directional pad motions, such as the double 360 for Zangief and T-Hawk. There is a slight learning curve from one game to the next that comes in the directional pad inputs for Super Specials. So if this is the first time you came into these games, it will take some practice to pull off highly damaging moves and combos. However, if you been playing SF for awhile, these moves should already be recorded to memory.
For the first two games it's no secret that Capcom were pretty lazy and they reused sprites as well as character animations from the earlier games. There were some slight upgrades, like Chun-Li's fireball attack being a little more cheeky in Super SF and Turbo. For the most part, they are very well animated with fluid motions, and the backgrounds definitely work into the characters personalities. Stages like Las Vegas when you confront Balrog feels quite lively with the spectators in the background. The music went through an update with remixed versions of the original tracks, and this time the BGM plays completely through into the next match, but it changes to the quick paced, near defeat tune when someone is about to be finished for good. The remixed music is something I always enjoyed with these two games.
Now Alpha 2 Gold was pretty amazing back then, and it still looks great even now. There's an obvious anime influence that delivers a cartoon-like feel which fits great with the zany style of the game. The colors are vibrant, lively, and I can't think of one occasion where they don't bring out the best in the backgrounds. The backgrounds are indeed worth noting because they can be easily overlooked. For example, Ken's stage doesn't only play into his free spirited persona, but they also deliver a good deal of fan service to Capcom diehards; you can see Felicia from the Darkstalkers series as well as Strider Hiryu from Strider. Charile's stage is quite awesome as it notes his profession in the Air Force. Birdie takes you on in a public bathroom, this stage suits his hired thug character perfectly, as this is the type of place I would expect to find him waiting. Rolento's escalating scaffold stage is a throwback to Final Fight where you met him in that game as a boss, to include, his theme is a remix of the BGM that took place in the park battle for that game. Every time I fight him I get the feel to replay that game again. And since I'm talking about the music anyway, there really isn't a single song that disappoints. The BGM is indeed J-pop & techno influenced with a highly energetic feel. The original pieces for characters like Sakura are quite cheery and energetic, while Gen's more mellow instrumental contains small touches that reflects his kung-fu origin. The remixed tracks on old classic characters like Ryu, Ken, & Chun-li deliver that nostalgic trip back to the original SF II. Alpha is the best of the three by far concerning sound effects and voice overs. There seems to be more of a difference between weak and strong attacks; weaker attacks sound almost like the fighters being tapped, while the harder ones sound like every blow is a knockout. Also worth noting, is that it's mandatory to go into the options and increase the volume on the sound effects for the first two games. On the normal setting they are too low which leads to being barely noticeable.
This is a fighting game so the replay is mainly in the vs. mode. The main campaign is fun when it comes down to unlocking endings, and it's great practice on the higher difficulty. The Survival and Akuma modes feel like last minute add-ons, and I never gave these modes a lot of my attention.
When compared to the later games in the franchise, most notably, Street Fighter III: Third Strike and the Super Street Fighter IV series. You will be surprised how dated the Alpha 2 game really doesn't feel game play wise. When coming back into this game, it felt pretty good having more than one Super Special in my arsenal. Honestly, this is one of the features I missed in the later games. I feel more of a threat to my human opponents with various Supers to nail them with. Unfortunately, the first two games feel ancient, and I can't imagine those who haven't grown up on them enjoying them that much. I only replayed them for review's sake and I tried to rush through them quickly.
In any case, unless you're a diehard SF fan who must own them all, I really don't recommend this collection simply because the first two games are not must owns, and even if you really want them, you can pick up Capcom's Classic Collection Volumes 1 & 2; between those two collections you get most of the original SF II series with the only one left out being Super Street Fighter II, while Turbo is on the second collection. As for Alpha Gold 2, you can get that on Street Fighter Alpha Anthology; with that said, you're only missing one game and the truth is, well, you're not missing anything. It's your call, but if must own this collection for only one game, then dirt cheap is the way to go.
-Alpha 2 Gold is still awesome, first two games playable
-Not really necessary since better compilations are out there