19 fighters enter a martial arts tournament for different reasons. Ryu and Ken hope to settle their rivalry, the demonic warrior Akuma, whom completely mastered their style wants nothing more then a death match with anyone worthy enough to face him. And Interpol agent Chun-Li who helped bring down M. Bison's Shadowloo organization finds herself up against a new one; each of the fighters have reasons for participating, but many seem to hold a grudge against the sponsor of the tournament, a god-like being by the name of Gill. -summary
Although Capcom may have developed a reputation for being a lazy company that loves to add small updates to old franchises in their attempt to drain that last dollar. They do deserve some credit for attempting to give back to their loyal fan base over the years. Some time in 2004, two of their best selling franchises being Megaman and Street Fighter II had been around for about 15 years. They decided to celebrate the anniversaries with compilation sets, which brings me to the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection. This compilation collects Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Hyper Street Fighter II, & Street Fighter: The Animated Movie. Back in 2004, this was one of the games I had on my list because I loved Third Strike for the Sega Dreamcast. However, my interest was piqued a little more when I saw Hyper Fighting was a blend of the complete SF II series. How on Earth was Capcom going to pull off mashing 5 games into one? Well read on to find out.
For those who may not know, Street Fighter II, III, any form of it at all, is a two player fighter that pits a single character against various opponents in one on one, two out of three rounds fighting. You will fight your way to the boss whom is usually M. Bison; this isn't the case in this sequel though as he was defeated in SFII. The game also has a vs. mode and the matches can be increased to four out of seven. Plus there's a training mode and the movie can be found in the options category of Hyper Fighting Street Fighter.
OK to begin with, I'm cool with Capcom making an attempt to give the fans something, and this is actually a cool collection because you get Third Strike, which I believe is worth the price of admission all by itself. Capcom really did put a lot of effort into making this a completely different Street Fighter, as it combines elements from the previous games in the series along with the Street Fighter Alpha series. The characters possess their usual amount of special moves, ie, Ryu and Ken tossing their fireballs, dragon punches, etc. Plus the frighteningly damaging Super Special Combos appears here, but they're quite toned down in quantity from the Alpha series. SF Alpha gave the characters between 2 to 4 Super Specials at their disposal that can be used when the Super Meter had been powered up. This game gives the characters three, but the catch is that only one can be selected for battle. Originally I did have a problem with this because it does lighten your arsenal, since your opponent already knows which big move to look out for; over time though, with plenty and plenty of time to practice. This is something that grew on me, I'll explain why later.
The game doesn't only provide characters with Super Specials and Specials, but the Meter can also be used to perform EX-Specials. These are lightly beefed up special moves that consume a little bit of the meter bar. An example of what these moves are; Ryu's original single hit fireball will land two hits as an ex-move, with the second setting the enemy on fire. This may seem like nothing at first, but in the heat of battle, this can be a great weapon to consume your enemies single projectile while leaving you with a second fireball heading their path, they may not be able to block it if it isn't expected. All of Ryu's special attacks can be powered in this way creating an ex-move. Each of the characters have their own beefed up ex-moves that add a great deal of variety to the offense. They can be used as desperation defensive attacks to get out of corners, by-pass projectiles, set up juggle opportunities for increased damage, or just plain add insult to injury. Part of the fun is playing with all the characters and learning what cool things they can do to turn the battle in your favor.
Unfortunately, Third Strike is probably the only game in the franchise that isn't the least bit beginner friendly. New players, to include even well rounded Street Fighter players will be at a complete disadvantage against someone who has been playing this for awhile, and this is all because of one new feature added to the franchise, and sadly for some never to return again in the later sequel; the ability to parry attacks. Real talk here, this is the one defensive feature that is very difficult to master, and quite frankly, all the people who do not like the game is because they can't pull it off at will. In other words folks, they just suck at the game and they're mad about it.
The parry works almost like performing a forward dash, but you tap the directional pad forward twice quickly right before you're hit, this results in slapping away the attack. When pressing down twice, it does the same for lower attacks. This technique adds a brand new dimension to Street Fighter; it completely eliminates jumping as the preferred method of attack. The parry can be used offensively to slap away a move, or give yourself breathing space against Shoto-spammers who love to throw fireballs. It gives you a split second to unleash a solid offensive, which brings me into my reason on why only one Super Special grew on me. After the parry, and if you should have a full Super Special bar, you can actually link two-in-one combos into specials, and then into Super Specials for amazing damage. Therefore, if you become very well at performing the parry, plus already mastered pass strategies then you have a better chance at landing those Super Specials. People well versed in playing SF only in the traditional way of zoning and spacing just don't stand a chance against people who mastered this. In addition, they will also be taken apart by the AI, who has this down to a science. Third Strike is by far the deepest version of Street Fighter to date and I know plenty of people who hail it as the best. This is one of those games that rewards you for your effort, by allowing you to mercilessly brutalize and humiliate your opponents. There is nothing like thrashing someone and then throwing out your character's taunt. Slower characters against quicker ones have more than a hope in hell at winning, which is great for me, because the slower non projectile characters are by far my favorite to use in the series; with Alex and Hugo being my favorites here and E.Honda, T-Hawk, and Zangief in all other versions.
One of the bonus stages helps you develop your parry move, but that is not going to be enough. There's a training mode where you select two characters. Let's say you choose Alex to learn with, you pick Ken as your aggressor. You attack Alex for a certain amount of time, then you play with Alex to parry whatever crazy combo you just pulled out of nowhere. This mode helped me out a lot against the AI and great human players.
Ryu, Ken, Chun-LI, and Akuma are the only familiar faces in this game from the SF Universe.The rest are new faces that feel like fused versions of the older line up. One character by the name of Necro feels like a cross between Dhalsim and Blanka with the stretching limbs and elastic body along with the electro-shock move. Alex is among my faves, as he's just a gritty, unorthodox grappler with a variety of cool moves, such as a leaping power bomb, dashing elbow, and some really nice grabs. Hugo, who happens to be one of the over-sized grunts straight out of Final Fight is the new Zangief. I really like using him with those devastating throw moves along with his melee attacks. Personally, I think this is the deepest SF roster with capoeira, boxing, kung-fu, and other styles rounding it out.
Third Strike really isn't for the less patient. The game is difficult to master and at times pretty frustrating. The final boss named Gill is very, very, hard if you're not at least decent with the parry. He battles with fire and ice elemental abilities, plus he has Super Specials that can inflict up to 90% damage. I can deal with this because Gill is a tough boss that can be beaten with skill. He's not one of those overly cheap bosses found in SNK fighting games.
Now Hyper Fighting Street Fighter II.... It's a great idea in theory, sadly it doesn't live up to its full potential. This is the rundown of it; the game features all 5 of the part II games in Arcade form: World Warrior, Champion Edition, Hyper Fighting, Super, and Super Turbo crammed into one. You select one of the games and from there select your character. Let's say you select Ken from World Warrior which is the first game in the SF line up. This is Ken at his most basic. He does not have the super special move found in Turbo, but he can inflict more damage than the later versions. He takes on the roster of Super SF Turbo. He can battle his future self who is at the peak of his power armed with a super special, additional rush in attacks, overhead attacks, etc. The problem with this mode is despite the fact you can choose any character you want, you can only face the default line up which is Super Turbo; therefore, forget about any match ups with the other versions as this throws the many possibilities such as Champion Edition Ken vs. Hyper Fighting Ryu out the window. You can only pull this off in two player vs. mode, and honestly, it never really appealed to me. Up to this day, I still can't put my finger on it, but something about it just bothers me. If Capcom wanted to make this a real anniversary, it should have been a multiple disk set with each of the games on it, plus the earlier versions of SF III being the Next Generation and 2nd Impact. I would've really liked to see how the game evolved, because I don't even remember those first two games.
I very recently replayed the earlier SF II's right before coming back into Hyper Fighting, and I don't believe the controls are just as fine tuned at all. I found myself on certain occasions having to mildly exaggerate half circle motions, etc., just to get out moves. It was a problem for me on some occasions, and the AI plays kind of cheap. This lead to some frustrating loses. In the case of Third Strike the controls are perfect. There's no move I cannot perform at all, parry's are simple enough and if they don't work for you, then practice is the key. I can easily move from two-in-one combos into more damaging moves. For this game, there's nothing negative I can say about it.
SF II series shows its age in many ways. The character designs are still pretty good while on the other hand the animations do feel dated. They look a little stiff if anything. The only real winner here to me is still the backgrounds as they capture the characters personalities very well, like Ken's stage where he needs that attention from the public. The game features three different soundtracks that can be chosen in the options. You can choose the original music found in World Warrior up to Hyper Fighting, the updated version found in Super and Super Turbo, or completely remixed versions. I normally avoid the remixes, not because they're bad but I just didn't grow up with those. The sound effects in regards to the voice overs are arcade perfect. They're exactly how I remember them from the "Hadoken" chant to Blanka's yell.
Now Third Strike still looks very good despite being over a decade old. I really don't care how I come off here, but anyone who tells me that the graphics in this game are terrible either need a new set of eyes, or they simply need to let go of their hatred towards the fighting engine. There are so many small details displaying how visually amazing this game is. The character designs are very good as the older cast appears to have aged a few years. Chun-Li looks more like a woman as opposed to her Alpha prequel counterpart. The newer cast have some very interesting designs, like the hermit Oro who battles with only one arm looking like some little demon. The females showing off some skin look great, but Capcom does resort to the Shoto-fighter design swaps, with Ryu, Ken, Sean, and Akuma using the same design. They do have a few animations that sets them apart though thankfully.
I have to point out the animations which look really good. The bikini wearing African princess Elena has one of the best ready stance movements. She battles using capoeira and during her stance she is constantly moving as if she's dancing in place. I love watching her in action with her break dance style of fighting. The way she spins around it seems as if she has no bones in her body. Makoto's fighting stance appears as if her body is in constant harmony when she slowly moves forward slightly waving her arms in front of her. Ryu's fireball clearly comes from within, as the inner chi burst causes his outfit to expand from the inside. There are many details to look for in the characters movements. The graphics have some truly outstanding backgrounds consisting of dark eerie forests, secluded streets, in front of a Gothic nightclub, another forest area where the fight is taking place at dawn and snakes fall from the trees every time someone hits the ground hard. The only flaw I can think of is how lifeless the spectators are. They look like a window full of mannequins. The BGM compliments the settings with one being a jazz/hip hop hybrid, and at least one trance score that would probably make Paul Oakenfold proud. Some of the characters like Alex, Gill, and Urien have small lines of dialog, while others have their classic move chants. I have no issues with the voices or even the bone crushing sound effects. The blows to the face stand out the most sounding very painful.
Of course the vs. mode is going to see many replay sessions, but for me, the training mode refining my skills kept me playing this game. Recently I got back into it because now this game can be played online through the PSN. I found it to be a pretty good experience. I was amazed to see how many people are still playing this game. Now, of course I'm reviewing the PS2 version, however since I did play this online I'll give a heads up on that as well. I gave this several tries after being out of practice for awhile, and I found myself up against high ranked players and got waxed. I'm not sure if I can blame the match set up, it was probably more my fault just diving in. I know how to play the game, so I can imagine the hell newbies are going to experience. It just may turn them off completely. I did notice a little bit of lag which felt like it delayed moves. The matches still turned out well though. I would really love to dedicate more time to this game, unfortunately there are just so many other things on my list to play or replay.
SF II Movie:
For those who saw the movie already, I'll let you know this is the edited version. The blood splatter when Ryu tore open Sagat's chest with the Shoryuken is gone, along with various things in the Chun-Li scene, etc. You're better off putting in your copy of the movie. To others who never saw this; it's the animated version and not that Van Damme garbage. The movie has a bare bones plot that tries to fit in each of the characters for the sake of fighting each other. The animation is definitely a high point, as you will be treated to some really well done fights. The choreography has moments of brilliance, as you will see some nice take-downs and actual martial arts moves.
I would love to give this collection a higher rating, too bad though Hyper Fighting and the butchered movie keeps me from doing this. Third Strike is a great fighting game and it's moving closer towards being my favorite in the franchise; with that said, I really have to mention that over the last several years I began skipping all negative reviews of this game, in which this is just unlike me. It's not because I don't want to hear anything negative about the game. It's just that the negative criticism comes from people not knowing how to play it, which leads them to rip the character roster and visuals only to pad their complaints. I believe if this game was more beginner friendly then the graphics would be great, fighting roster deep and creative, etc. I feel Third Strike is among the most unfairly bashed fighting games out there. If you have a very low level of patience then this game is not for you.
Pros: -SF III Third Strike
Cons: -Everything else, Learning curve for Third Strike
A very nice addition to the SF mythos. Street Fighter 3: Third Strike boasted a more intricate fighting system by introducing the parry to block projectile attacks without taking chip damage. Unlike many of the Street Fighter II editions, which mainly boasted characters with different colors, or lazy new characters, this one managed to take steps towards some type of new development. Plus the final boss was HARD. This set features Street Fighter III: Third Strike and Hyper Street … more