Longtime readers of my little reviews probably know by now that originally I had planned to not review any of the larger mainstream titles for any of the best selling systems. What's the point in reviewing a game that everyone who's interested in the system has already played? Why even bother when your intended audience already has their own experience and opinion?
Well, I'll tell you why - it's for the kids. Those young children cursed to have grown up in the 32-128 bit era who are now just discovering the wonders and joys of old school gaming and realizing how awesome it is. I do it for them. (Also it's a good excuse to replay all my favorite games again.)
Such children may see fighting games today, with their 318 selectable characters made out of ten trillion polygons bump mapped with the actor's faces executing real life motion captured martial arts moves performed by world champions along with all kinds of other crazy special effects and shit that I have no idea how they do it, then they may look at this 16-bit game where Ryu has a four frame fireball animation and think "Ghetto." What these kids don't realize is before this game there were no fighting games. There was the occasional pseudo, prototype fighting game (ala Street Fighter I, Pit Fighter, Karate Master, and the like) but a one-one fighter where each player got to select different characters with unique special moves, that was unheard of.
These children would also not understand just how big of a hit this game was. People would stand around this machine for hours, spending hundreds of dollars playing it. The gaming mags would print articles and move lists on Street Fighter for months on end, even going as far as to make shit up when they ran out of material. They made toys, movies, and tv shows from this game. Nowadays no game even comes close to the kind of phenomena SFII caused. You think Halo is popular? You think World of Warcraft makes a lot of money? In terms of sales, marketing, and cultural impact both those franchises are child's play compared to Street Fighter.
Ok, crazy rant is now over... onward to the actual game.
This particular game can be seen as the point at which it officially became "cooler" to own an Snes than Sega's Genesis. In the time before one could download an arcade rom and play it perfectly on their PC, the only way one could enjoy said arcade games at home was to buy the home version, which due to the home system's limited hardware usually came bundled with large amounts of suck attached. Generally this was forgivable as long as the basic gameplay elements of the game remained intact, however there was no such thing as a "perfect" arcade translation. Until Street Fighter II that is.
The game is as close to flawless as you could get at the time. The characters are slightly smaller, the audio samples are a bit lower in quality, the stages have minute changes in the backgrounds. However you'd only notice these inconsistencies if you were to put one version right next to the other. Needless to say this game blew us all away and was the must have killer app for several seasons afterwards. All eight classic characters are represented, all of them are looking good. There are a few instances where frames of animation have been removed in certain character's attacks (Blanka's roll or crouching fierce kick for instance.) But once again it's nitpicking at this point.
As this is the original game in the series the engine feels very primitive by today's standards. There are no finishing moves, no air blocking, no alpha counters or parrying, no recovering from throws, no air juggling. Combos seem to come more from exploitable glitches than something deliberately designed into the engine. Also two players are unable to choose the same character (a feature not implemented until SF2 Champion Edition, the first of many revisions to this game.) Extras are limited to a sound test and the ability to lengthen/shorten life bars and set the timer. This was Super Nintendo, we didn't need no fifteen levels of chainable assisted super combos in our fighting games.
What you are left with is a bit simple, but it's also got a somewhat "pure" feeling. The fighting game genre is one with a very steep learning curve, where a noob will get utterly destroyed in seconds flat against someone with experience (which is part of the reason the audience for fighting games traditionally shrinks with each additional sequel.) Thus as this game is the first in the series it's also one of the few where pretty much anyone can pick it up, and after learning the basics have as much a chance of winning as a ten year veteran.
Is there a reason to play this particular version of this game nowadays? Probably not unless you're a collector. Fighting game veterans probably won't get much out of this except the nostalgia factor. It's still occasionally fun however to bust out this particular version and take a walk down memory lane.
Good stuff: Best translation of any arcade game up until that time. Great graphics, sound, and gameplay is spot on.
Bad stuff: Fighting games have come a long way since 1991.
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