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The GoodFirst there was Street Fighter II. And now there is a Hyper one. Of it.
Street Fighter II, it's fair to say, was something of a success upon its emergence into arcades in 1991. While Street Fighter was a not-unpopular, but hardly world-shattering title, its sequel was the very definition of success. Responsible for spawning not only a great number of sequels of its own, but an entire genre of one-on-one fighting games, the arcade version kept arcades alive and thriving well into the 90's while the ports to the 16-bit home consoles were almost immediately snapped up by players keen to hone their skills (or just save having to keep changing their pocket money into 20p coins). Quite successful, indeed.
And those sequels, eh? So many were released under the Street Fighter banner that even Capcom, the game's developer, poked fun by naming the sole entry in their 1996 puzzle series Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. Each of the SF2 sequels brought a number of changes to the table, adding new moves and tweaking old ones, and introducing additional characters and features into the mix. Debates as to the merits of each - be it the original "The World Warrior", as released on Capcom's CPSI hardware, through to the concluding Super Street Fighter II Turbo (which stars the complete cast, including newcomer Akuma) on the CPSII, rage to this day.
So, fifteen years after the first release of the game, Capcom decided to celebrate by releasing a polished, up-to-date rerelease with as many bells and whistles as they could, unleashing this into arcades and home consoles as Hyper Street Fighter II. I have the PAL PlayStation 2 version of this game, and being something of a fan (despite being absolutely no good whatsoever) I popped it in straight away to settle down with some hot fireball action.
The game opens with a nice montage of the different title screens, building up to the new Hyper SF2 logo at the main menu. The introduction, with Ryu hurling a hadoken at the screen, and the game's logo itself, are all definitely modified from their Super SF2 counterparts, which is no bad thing: from the titles alone, the game already feels like part of the series. All the menu sounds are straight from the arcade, while the music is the rarely-heard arranged soundtrack produced for the 3DO and Amiga CD32 ports of Super Turbo. The PAL version thoughtfully offers a choice of 50Hz or 60Hz video output, too; while more common today, this is still a plus point worth mention.
Pop into the menus, and further treats await. Not only is the arranged soundtrack present, but the complete CPS I and CPS II arcade soundtracks as well, as well as their requisite sounds. Even the songs added for stages only present on CPS II versions of the game are present in the CPS I soundtrack, recreated on the older hardware to listen to. (The results are quite surprisingly accurate. One can guess that the Z80-based console ports of Super SF2 were used as a reference.) In addition, introduction and credits videos are available for each canonical version, so if you really want to see the original skyscraper-and-fistfight of the original SF2, you can do.
Yet more treasure is buried in the Gallery menu - the complete Street Fighter II anime is present and available to watch in its entirety. If you choose to buy the game pre-owned, you might actually find it available cheaper than a DVD of the movie on its own. Not bad.
Upon actually starting the game part of the game, the familiar character selection screen appears, complete with a redrawn world map. Before getting to make your pick, however, you're offered a choice of which version of SF2 you'd like to pick your character from. Confused? Allow me to explain.
In each iteration of the series, characters were introduced, moves were added or dropped, commands changed, and varying other elements modified. Even the character portraits differ between versions, and the sprites used change slightly too. In vanilla SF2, for instance, Ryu and Ken were almost carbon copies of each other; by the end of the series, Ken's hadoken was smaller and could not immolate their opponent, while his shoryuken could hit up to three times and immolate while Ryu's hit fewer times with no fire. In Hyper SF2, you choose which game your character should be drawn from. Naturally, if you choose a game in which a character was unselectable, you cannot then go on to pick them, so no SF2 Cammy for you.
Once chosen, the game begins, and goes on much like it always has done. Two-player is just as good as it ever was, and allows for some interesting matches - Super Turbo characters get their Super Combos, while nobody else does. A miniature version of the character portrait appears under their life guage, again as with Super Turbo (although this appears no matter which vintage you choose). One-player pits the player against the entire roster in the traditional fashion.
The BadLet's begin with the different games represented in the character selection. This is fantastic in two-player, as each person can mix and match to their heart's content. Even the sounds that are made by your moves differ to match those made on the original hardware, based on your selection. It's a shame, therefore, that no matter what you pick in single player, the computer always goes with Super Turbo. Always. Never changing. Which means that you'll have opponents with their full movesets available, in their Super Turbo colours, all with Super Combos. You might as well just pick the Super Turbo version of your own favourite character just to keep up.
The backgrounds, sounds, and life guages are all Super Turbo, as well. The announcer ("Round one! Fight!") is a particular sticking point, as the classic SF2 voices are all present and available in the sound test. The game is being distributed on a DVD-ROM; there's no lack of space for the backgrounds, so why omit them? This does not bode well for the rest of the compilation.
Other omissions are more prominent and all the more irritating. One particular bone of contention is the bonus rounds: they have been almost completely excised from the game. No car-wrecking, no pyramid of barrels, nothing: the single player just goes straight on through the opponents. The only evidence of their having ever existed is the distinctive music, available in the sound test. Also missing is the tournament mode available in the home versions, a feature which would probably have taken all of a day to re-implement. The character selection screen refuses to offer Akuma as an available option, requiring the tedious entering of a code every time you wish to play as him.
It goes on. The videos of the games' intros and credits sequences are in noticeably low quality, having been obviously recorded from another system rather than shown in Hyper SF2's engine. Meanwhile, the video player for the anime is woefully lacking in features, offering the most rudimentary of unlabelled control schemes. I hesitate to say this, but the PS2's DVD player is better. Minor graphical problems exist in the rest of the game itself, where artifacts occasionally creep in such as the background of Cammy's gorgeous stage. Meanwhile, graphical alterations have been made to Ryu's stage (obstacles being added which didn't exist before), and to Fei Long's Hong Kong stage's flag, here shown as the flag of China despite previously having been the flag used during British rule. If Capcom can keep so up to date on world affairs as this, perhaps they could acknowledge the fall of the USSR? It's only been 18 years.
I've saved the most glaring problem until last. The game features no save option. At all. Anywhere. You simply cannot save your data of any sort to any kind of device. At all. You can redefine your controls, set your favourite choice of music, tweak the difficulty level - and all will be lost when the power is switched off. Come on, Capcom. It's 2008. We have memory cards.
The Bottom LineIt's such a shame that what could have been the be-all and end-all of Street Fighter II released turned out to be so riddled with completely avoidable problems. Being able to play against different varieties of SF2 fighters is advertised as a major selling point for this collection, so why restrict it to effectively two player only? Why on Earth not include some form of rudimentary save selection? I can't even think of the last console game I bought which didn't try to save something somewhere.
This collection is clearly targeted at the established fan - the person who knows which version they prefer, or who appreciates the subtle differences - the person who knew that World Warrior Ryu's portrait was uniquely different in Hyper Fighting. The 2D fighter as a genre is a niche today, so you'd have thought they'd have polished this as much as possible. That simply isn't the case here.
So, to devise a score, then. Where '5' is an average, neither good nor bad game, I award Hyper Street Fighter II 6/10 for the average gamer, who doesn't particularly go for 2D fighters or the series in general. It's good, but won't make anybody break down and weep tears of joy. For the established fan, however, that score drops to 5/10. The game's faults aren't enough to make it bad, but what compelling reasons are there to buy it? You probably already have the individual SF2 games already - and with higher production values than this collection. If you really want a polished Street Fighter, wait until the high-definition prettiness that is Street Fighter II HD Remix, which should be out eventually.