Review: Street Fighter Alpha Anthology (PS2)

Street Fighter Alpha Anthology
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Genre: 2D Fighter
Release Date: 6/14/2006
Systems Released On: Sony Playstation 2

Ah, my beloved Street Fighter Alpha After sitting through Street Fighter 2, Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Street Fighter 2 Championship Edition, Super Street Fighter 2 and Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, I was overjoyed to see Capcom finally moving on to something new with the series I fell in love with so many Arcades ago. The Street Fighter 2 remained stagnant while SNK’s King of Fighters passed it by in terms of quality and fun…although certainly not in graphics.

That’s why in mid to late 1995, my friend Lynn Nokes and I were in line the day Street Fighter Alpha was released to arcades. Realize this was before the days of Gamefaqs or internet cheat sheets, so no one in line had any idea of hidden character like Dan or M. Bison. We just knew that Alpha/Zero was a prequel to the World Warrior tournament and hoped it would be the game we’d been waiting for, complete with special moves ala Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo.

Alas, I wish I could say that I was the first person to beat Street Fighter Alpha in my major metropolitan arcade of choice, but Lynn was in front of me, and he beat the game on one shiny quarter with Ken, getting a nice cheer from the fanboys when the ending started. Not to be outdone, I ended up repeating Lynn’s effort, using my beloved Sagat to pummel the end boss Ryu with a Tiger Genocide level 3 super combo, which I have to admit was totally by accident on my part. Still, we would go on to be the only two people in the two-three hours we were in that arcade to beat SFA on a single quarter. Ah yes my children, when I was your age, arcades were only a quarter each and had many fun games in them equal to or greater than what you could play on a home console. And we also had this thing called “OK Soda,” but that’s a yarn for another time.

Eventually Street Fighter Alpha would hit home systems on both the Sony Playstation and the Sega Saturn. As long time 2D fighting zealots already know, the generation before preferred their Street Fighter 2 on the Genesis thanks to the Arcade style layout of the joysticks instead of the SNES with layout that would have been better suited to SNK fighters. As we would see with the Saturn, this would continue to hold true, with that version of the game and its controller being so much better than the PSX option, it wasn’t even funny. Verily, the Saturn dominated the PSX in terms of the quality of the Capcom fighters. Where the PSX had mediocre renditions of the games, The Saturn managed ARCADE PERFECT versions of Super Street Fighter 2, Street Fighter Alpha 2, X-Men vs. Street Fighter and more. This same trend would continue with the Dreamcast vs the Playstation 2. If you wanted a high class quality 2D fighter, you avoided the PS2 like it had herpes, and you embraced the Naomi board loving Dreamcast. Vampire Chronicles, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Capcom vs. SNK and so many other wonderful titles.

Now however, Sega is quite dead (console wise), and the PS2 has yet to receive a quality rendition of a Street Fighter game. The Street Fighter Anniversary Collection was pretty lackluster, and Capcom Classics Collection was universally reviled for the horrible crap masquerading as Street Fighter games on it (while the rest of the collection was great). So imagine my dread when SFAA was announced only for the PS2, but also in a quantity that made Panzer Dragon Saga look plentiful.

So has Capcom finally pulled its head from its own ass and given us a high quality SF game? Have they managed the impossible and given us “arcade perfect” renditions of five games? Or is it typical PS2 “Let’s milk the license one mo’ time” from Capcom?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Unlike the SF2 series, the SF Alpha games do their best to give you a little more substance storywise. Although it’s not much more. SFA1 and 2 give you an exposition before the final battle in the game and then an ending, but other than that the first two Street Fighter Alpha have little more to their tale then “a bunch of freaky duded beating the crap out of each other. SFA3 ups the content a tiny bit more by giving you a fragment of story at the halfway point, but the Street Fighter Alpha games were/are still slightly below the MK and KoF series with regards to how much story you get to know while actually playing the games.

Oddly enough, of all the games on here, Gem Fighter has the most plot with an opening of why the character you chose is running around the planet cracking in skulls.

In all, there’s never been a Street Fighter game with a ton of depth to its characters or story. Sure we can all go online now and learn the plot for each game and who is supposed to have won and why Alex is the main character instead of Ryu in SF3 and so on. That doesn’t count though as it’s outside the disc I have inserted into my PS2. The stories may be a tiny step up from what we were given in SF2, but that’s like saying a paragraph is a lot more substantial than a run-on sentence.

Story Rating: 4/10

2. Graphics

It’s impressive to see the difference between each game in the series right up close like this. I remember back in 1995 that Street Fighter Alpha was beautiful in every way compared to what else was out there. I remember losing a battle or two in SFA2 way back when because I kept being drawn to the backgrounds while going, “Look! There’s Haggar!” By the time SFA3 came out though, it was about par for the course with games that were out, and actually being overshadowed by other games. The SF graphics appeared to have hit their peak. Sure it was an improvement over SFA2 Gold, but it wasn’t that much of an improvement. Not to mention by the time SFA3 came out, it was in competition with SFA3: Double Impact and SFA3: Third Strike, Marvel vs Capcom 2, Capcom vs SNK 2 and even the almighty SNK vs Capcom: MOTM for the Neo geo Pocket Colour, although the latter is in terms of gameplay, not graphics.

Gem Fighter is adorable and you know how easily won over I am by cute things. Ken has the best player select with his angry thumbs down and sneering face, but ah the cute lil’ Chibi-Darkstalker gals. Sigh. Capcom, give me a Darkstalkers collection. Please?

Really the only game that holds up to this generation of graphics is SFA3 which is still quite pleasing to look at. Gem Fighter has some amazing visuals in the backgrounds and also with several of the special attacks in the game. it still looks like it could be a game released for this generation of gaming consoles. SFA2 and SFA2 Gold look dated, but better than games actually on the PS2 like say, Nightmare of Druaga. SFA is really the only game with graphics that might turn off the graphics first, gameplay second oriented gamer that sounds grows in their vocal minority every passing day. It’s a shame because it still holds up remarkably well in gameplay, but it’s showing its eleven years of age, that’s for sure.

There is no slowdown which is amazing due to the fact pretty much EVERY Capcom fighter released on a Sony system has had that issue. Everything is still quite crisp and authentic to the original arcade cabinet appearances of the games (Save Gem Fighter for obvious reasons).

Even though some of the games are pushing 10+ years, the Street Fighter Alpha Anthology is a product of its time period and the graphics are still able to inject long time fans with nostalgia and might even impress a more modern gamer with how good graphics could be even back in their heyday. Compared to more modern games they are dated, but just remember in 1995, Street Fighter Alpha was jaw droppingly gorgeous.

Graphics Rating: 6/10

3. Sound

I’ll be honest here. As Darkstalkers is my favorite fighting game series of all time with Night Warriors as my reigning game of games, I loved that Gem Fighter had authentic DS music and sound effects. Talk about a happy camper. Again Capcom, I insist upon a DARKSTALKERS COLLECTION!

I’ve always really loved the Street Fighter collections of games for their music and sound effects. I don’t think I can ever get tired of “Shoruken! Hadouken!” or “Tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger will you stop you cheesy ass pussy motherf*cker no tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger!” Maybe I’m showing my age here, but so much of the game’s “voice acting” is so rooted in my skull, that it’s almost iconic to me. It’s hard for any other game to supplant the SF series as one of the best series across the board for FX noises. Personally, I think the series peaked aurally with SFA2 Gold (as do many people; just replace sound FX with “in every way possible), but SFA3 is still quite excellent.

Musically, the Alpha games are as universally known for their background stage music as the SF2 games, and that’s a shame. Some of the music in these games are directly ripped from earlier SF games, but it’s always the good stuff. Even the new music is well done and enjoyable. The tunes easily get stuck in your head and even now while writing this review I’ve got Charlie’s background music crammed in my head and it won’t leave. Arrrgh.

The graphics may not be able to go toe to toe with more modern games, but I’ll be damned if the music and sound effects don’t. Gaming at its finest right here. They’re called “Classics” for a reason folks.

Sound Rating: 10/10

4. Control and Gameplay

Look, I’ll just get it out of the way here. Control wise, NONE of these games are arcade perfect. Hell, they’re not even up to the Sega Saturn versions of these games, or the Dreamcast version if we’re talking Street Fighter Alpha 3. I whipped out SFA2Gold and SFA and played a game of each on both the Saturn and PS2 with the same characters, and even with my big honking 15th anniversary SF Arcade Stick that I could kill a man with, the Saturn controls, collision detection and everything is superior. There are some rough spots in the PS2 versions of these games, but unless you compare the games to the arcade perfect ports of a long dead system or go to an arcade, you might never notice.

The controls are a little sluggish to respond to commands in some areas, and in SFA and SFA2 (not gold) there’s the annoying “go to jump in a direction but on screen they just jump straight up” effect, and I notice with Sagat in SFA, the Tiger Uppercut is a harder to do than it should be, which is bizarre as I was able to pull off the Dragon punch with Akuma, Ken, and Ryu without even thinking. So yes, there are issues with the controls, but only people like myself or the other frame rate memorizers or the type of people who spend days perfect Geese Howard in KoF games are really going to care of quibble. For the average gamer and even the non fanatical Street Fighter fan, you’re going to enjoy this game. Otherwise, OMG! Watch the message boards for irate fanboys!

It’s nigh impossible for me to go into all five games here and discuss the differences in controls. In all the games though, the controls are 85% the same. There are three different types of punches, three different types of kicks, and depending on which game you are playing, different special moves for each character. As well, the gauge systems in each game vary. With SFA and SFA2/2G You can have auto Super Combos or choose to perform them normally. Alpha 2. 2 Gold, and Street Fighter Alpha 3 let you have custom combos. SFA3 also lets you pick from different “Ism’s” ala the Capcom vs. SNK series. Finally Gem Fighter is just insane. I’d need a whole other review to talk about the crazy shit in there.

The games aren’t arcade perfect. It seems Capcom can’t make the SF series work on the Playstation systems like they should. You want arcade perfect? Go buy a Saturn or hop on Ebay for an old arcade cabinet. If you only want to pay $30 for five excellent games that are enjoyable but not perfect, well then here you go. It’s a miracle Capcom got them working this well, compared to the crappy SF ports they’ve released to the PS2 so far.

Control and Gameplay rating: 7/10

5. Replyability

Hello? Five games for thirty bucks. Each with unlockable characters, modes, level backgrounds and more. Not to mention a massively adjustable difficulty level on each game. There’s not much I can say here without being incredibly sarcastic. You can’t get much more replay out of a title than this. And we still haven’t included HYPER STREET FIGHTER ALPHA which is unlockable. Hell, this game alone should keep you busy for months. Highest possible score here.

Replayability Rating: 10/10

6. Balance

Alas. Goodbye insane balance scheme of the original Street Fighter 2 game where half the fun was figuring out the crazy bugs like double redizzy combos and Guile’s “Handcuffs.” Street Fighter Alpha began the concept of “all fighters are equal with some a little more equal than most.” Sure only a newbie or sick sadistic nutjob played as Sodom or Dan after the first fortnight SFA was in Arcades, but it was probably the most balanced fighter Capcom had ever released, and with SFA2, SFA2G, and SFA3, the playing field continued to level. With the home versions we also have a sliding difficulty scale on all five games contained in the anthology, giving you the learning curve you need.

Some characters will always be a little harder for the newer gamer than others because of how the computer plays them (Ryu will always give you more of a challenge that oh, Birdie) or your skill level, but that’s to be expected. The game also gives you practice mode so you can get your “Tiger Genocide” and other super combos down pat before kicking some CPU kiester.

No matter your skill level of experience, the Street Fighter Alpha Anthology is geared to give you as much (or as little) of a challenge as you need.

Balance Rating: 8/10

7. Originality

It’s an anthology of ports. Every single one of these games has been released on at least two different consoles before now. Obviously it’s not THAT original. Even SFA2 Gold has been released in Anthology form before by Capcom.

However, one must not just look at that aspect. We need to look at what an effect the Alpha series had on not just the Street Fighter franchise but fighting games in general. SFA gave us the autoguard, and easy commands. It gave us alpha counters and Super Combos. SFA2 gave us Custom Combos. SFA3 gave us damage reduction, guard crush, Ism’s (although Capcom vs SNK came first) and Shadooloo mode. All of these were considered big changes when each respective game came out. they may not seem like much now, but my god in 1995 was SFA a big deal that everyone seemed to think was superior to the SF2 series.

So we have a balance year. Decade old games vs. the legacy of greatness and improvements they made over each previous game. Let’s call it a push, shall we?

Originality Rating: 5/10

8.Addictiveness

Oh god, how can someone NOT get addicted to these games. The SF and KoF series are the only games I get so into the game I swear and smack my controller if something doesn’t go off perfectly. These games bring out the anal perfectionist in me and I will not stop until I have say, gotten Akuma as my alternate boss fight in SFA, even with Sodom. Man, have I picked on him a lot in this review or what? I am not a person that gets easily
into video games. I freely admit to being jaded and pessimistic and find most games to be mediocre nowadays. But holy hell, can I lose myself in SFAA. One game becomes 5-6 and two hours are shot to hell as I try to outdo my high score.

I realize that 2D fighters and shooters are my crack. They may not be everyone’s, but Street Fighter Alpha alone was considered one of the most addicting games ever when it was first released, and SFA2 Gold is its superior in almost every way. The only reason this isn’t getting a ten in this category is because I realize I’m easily addicted to the series and my feelings and passion for the Street Fighter Alpha games is not indictative of most peoples.

Addictiveness Rating: 8/10

9. Appeal Factor

There’s only two types of people who don’t love 2d fighters.

Serial killers and furries. And furries can enjoy Gem Fighter on this Anthology because it has Felicia.

Seriously though. SFA was not quite on par with the level of insanity that Street Fighter 2‘s many incarnations had, but it was pretty close. It was a big deal and a giant leap for the series in 1995. Everyone who was into gaming in those days tried it at least once. Even the SNK zealots. Hell, I *AM* an SNK Zealot and I love the Alpha games. Unless you are so utterly into graphics you will enjoy these games. You will love these games. You will probably get frustrated and swear at these games, but you will still adore them for their quality, challenge, and sheer greatness. There are games in this world that the vast majority of mankind seem to love. Pac-Man. Super Mario Bros. 3. Pokemon. Street Fighter. The SFA games are superior to both the SF2 and SF3 games in my opinion, so you’re getting the best Capcom has to offer here that doesn’t involve werewolves and british rocking out zombies.

Appeal Factor: 8/10

10. Miscellaneous

I really wanted to give this game a perfect score here. After all it’s five games for thirty bucks. I basically paid six dollars for Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold. Even now I can’t get my head around that. But there’s two quibbles for me.

A) Where’s my World Tour Mode on Street Fighter Alpha 3. To be honest, it’s the only reason I had for buying it on the DC and PSX. Without it, I find SFA3 to be superior to the first two Alpha games in graphics only.

B) It’s not arcade perfect. It’s good, but it’s not great. Sorry, but I’m spoiled by the fact I KNOW Capcom can do it if they’re not be lazy. I have Night Warriors, Street Fighter vs X-Men and Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold on my Saturn. I know it’s possible. But it simply didn’t happen here.

But other than that, this is as close to perfection with a collection as Capcom has ever come. It’s better than the Mega Man collection, better than Capcom Classics Collection, better than the SF Anniversary crap fest, and I can keep going.

Simply put, I think this is the best thing Capcom has released this generation of gaming. Yes, that includes RE4.

It’s not perfect, but I am extremely thankful to have this available to me, especially as the print run is staggeringly low. This is a great set of games that every gamers needs to grab the second they see a copy still available on the shelves.

Miscellaneous Rating: 8/10

The Scores
Story: 4/10
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 10/10
Control & Gameplay: 7/10
Replayability: 10/10
Balance: 8/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 8/10
Appeal Factor: 8/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10
Total Score 74/10
Final Score: 7.5 (Really really good!)

Short Attention Span Summary
Street Fighter Alpha Anthology has the highest score I’ve given a game this year. That’s kind of good and bad at the same time depending on how you look at it. If this was the mid 90’s, you’d see Appeal, Miscellaneous, and Graphics maxed out though, giving the games a collective 8.5. I actually agonized over the game getting “only” a 7.5 from me, but there are no places I could justify to myself a higher score anywhere on the listing. Regardless, this is my game of the year so far, and after 111 reviews and an average score of 6.17 per game, a 7.5 is pretty good after all. It’s been a good run and I can’t think of a better game to go out reviewing on than one of my favorite series of all time. TIGER TIGER TIGER TIGER TIGER TIGER TIGER TIGER KNEE TIGER TIGER TIGER TIGER TIGER TIGER TIGER GENOCIDE!