Arcades or places that featured arcade cabinets, like milk bars and corner stores, experienced a sustained moment of complete cultural relevance in the early 1990s thanks to the arrival of Capcom’s Street Fighter II: The World Warrior. The second title in a fighting game series that almost no-one really knew about. The original, which is included in this collection, came out in 1987 to little fanfare. Although it did introduce the idea of special attacks, fireballs, uppercuts - Hadouken, Shoryuken.
Street Fighter II though, that’s a different story.
To quantify just how much of an impact Street Fighter II had would be nigh on impossible, but it’s safe to say that a generation grew up with intimate knowledge not only of the mechanics but of the world and its characters. Like a hero shooter long before that was even a thing, not a single character in the cast of Street Fighter II feels like a placeholder or not worthy enough to be the star of their very own game. As a pure special attack driven fighter, the core Street Fighter II flow was a revelation. Balanced, nuanced, and full of strategy driven by moves like powerful somersault kicks, fireballs, and flying across the screen like Superman – but only if he was a Sumo Wrestler totally into slapping.
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection features 12 titles from the classic 2D era of the series, complete and perfectly represented in their original arcade forms. Near-perfect arcade emulation for such a fast-paced and competitive series that fans have poured days, weeks, and years into is no small feat. Everything from Super Street Fighter II: Turbo, to Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Street Fighter III: Third Strike look and feel exactly like they did back when they first hit the arcade scene. And if you're a fan you'll thank his holiness the Space Pope that you invested in that pair of arcade sticks years ago. Or, immediately go online to buy some.
Although what you get is essentially five versions of Street Fighter II and all three Street Fighter Alpha’s, this speaks more to the era than it does Capcom padding out this release. In the era before patches, arcade board revisions were carried out at the developer level, and often led to new versions of games with fundamental changes hitting arcades in subsequent months and years. For Street Fighter II, the first Champion Edition added each boss to the roster of playable characters. Hyper Fighting upped the speed and balancing, and Super Street Fighter II: Turbo was the “here’s everything” rendition of the original with added stages, characters, abilities (thanks to the super bar), and more. So much so that it’s still the baseline for Street Fighter II competition at the professional level.
As arcade perfect ports what stands out, especially for those that have spent more time with the Super Nintendo versions, or recent console re-releases is the sheer quality and detail found in the artwork, sprites, and animation. Street Fighter III in particular, originally released in 1997, looks incredible even today – thanks to the intricate hand-drawn approach that adds life to not only character movement but that of their clothing and accessories. With all the main revisions here, thankfully Capcom has included detail and behind the scenes goodies to accompany each Street Fighter. From concept art to cabinet design, it’s the right kind of fan service. Right down to animation and special attack breakdowns and an informative look at the creation of Street Fighter 2.
Then there’s the descriptions that go through the major changes and additions and reasoning behind each release, which brings back memories of the split between those that loved Street Fighter Alpha 2 over Street Fighter Alpha 3. Most of the arcade ports are the vanilla or first versions released – which does leave a few gaps in some of the rosters and fine tuning for the maintenance-like updates that arrived at later dates. But again, for such a lovingly put together package of classic 2D Street Fighters it’s hard not to be consistently impressed by developer Digital Eclipse and publisher Capcom’s effort. The fact that the arcade monitor filter, which gives each game a vintage arcade cabinet look, is pulled off at all – let alone is as impressive as it is – speaks volumes to the quality of this collection. An essential release for Street Fighter fans.