Capcom is celebrating the 15th year of their seminal fighting series with the release of Street Fighter Anniversary Collection for the PS2. Two basic games are included, but these encompass the majority of the series highpoints. Hyper SFII is a 'compilation' of the companies classic SF titles which allows you to select character variations from all the various permutations of the original series. With its high-quality hand-drawn graphics and an extremely deep fighting system, Street Fighter III marks the pinnacle of modern Street Fighter gameplay. The inclusion of SFIII is an excellent choice that rounds out this solid nostalgia pack. Capcom has also included a few other surprises as well that should please the legions of SF fans.
It's hard to imagine, but there was once a time a little over a decade ago when fighting games dominated the gaming landscape. You literally couldn't walk a foot in a game store without finding one, and it seemed every magazine cover featured one fighting game or another. Capcom began this phenomenon 15 years ago with the original Street Fighter. The first game released in 1987 didn't have much of an impact, but with the release of Street Fighter 2, Capcom changed everything. Everything from it's legendary cast of characters, multiple moves and techniques to the presentation was pitch perfect and created a huge, enduring series that continues to addict gamers even now. In fact, the legendary Street Fighter franchise has become such an established part of the modern world of gaming that it's become impossible to imagine where things would be without it. To mark the 15th Birthday of their fighting series, Capcom is treating gamers to a walk down memory lane with the release of Street Fighter II Anniversary Edition for the PS2.
This package includes two complete classic SF titles: Hyper Street Fighter II and Street Fighter II: Third Strike. Hyper Street Fighter II is an amalgamation of the classic series that allows you to play the characters from the original series once again. While not a true compilation in the strictest sense, this collection is more a combined reissue of the classic characters and stages. Before each match, you can select which of 12 characters you want to play as, then which version of the character you'll play as. The game includes versions of the characters from the original Street Fighter II, SF2 Hyper, SF2 Champion Edition, SF2 Turbo, Super Street Fighter and Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Once selected, you can mix and match them to create some intruiging battles among the classic characters. For example, you can pit the original Ken against Cammy's Super Street Fighter version and see which one would end up victorious. This makes for some very interesting matches and you can see how the characters' moves and abilities evolved and changed over time, which gives the game a high replay value. For an excellent illustration of this, try playing against the same character from different versions of the game and see how they've changed. In some cases, there is little difference, but in other characters, the changes are much more dramatic. This is a really cool aspect of the game that should please die-hard fans to no end. As you'd expect, there are several modes of play for both solo and competitive play. Additional options allow you to change the background music and choose between CPS1, CPS2 and Arranged soundtracks and unlock extras such as Gallery Artwork, view opening animations of all the classic SF games and more.
Playing Hyper SF is strange, especially if you're used to the more elaborate animations, detailed character designs and more forgiving AI of the more recent SF series. Those familiar with the recent Vs., Alpha and III titles, will probably find the older titles a bit limiting, but they hold up well considering their age. The graphics engine seems a bit pale in comparison to these later titles with limited animation frames and moves. However, the fluid challenge of the gameplay more than makes up for this. If you really want to see how far the series has come over the past decade, switch over to Street Fighter III: Third Strike, an excellent conversion of the cult classic arcade game that was previously only available on the Dreamcast. While Street Fighter III didn't have the impact of that SF2 did, it wasn't for a lack of quality or depth. The game showcased a more back to basics approach but added a new Progressive Hit system, which allowed a more accurate reading on where players would hit opponents, adding to the game's overall challenge. Third Strike's other major innovation was the Grade Judge system which ranked players after each match based on their abilities and techniques. The "Special Arts" combo system was simplified, but made more powerful as well, making for a harder but smoother fighting game experience overall. The beautiful animations, off-beat characters and excellent play balance make this one of the better of the recent SF titles. Whatever the reason SFIII failed to match the success of previous games, the series reached its apex with Third Strike, with the added appearance of a few classic characters, better balance, refined move-lists and improved gameplay mechanics making it the best in the series to date. As you'd expect, Third Strike includes a standard Arcade Mode as well as Training and Versus modes to extend it's longevity. This is probably the least-played of the many Street Fighter series, but now players who missed out on it have a second chance, and those familiar with it will be happy to know that this conversion comes through with all its appeal intact. As an extra bonus, Capcom has also included the entire Street Fighter II animated movie on the disc as well. It's not nearly as terrible as the dreadful live-action movie released a few years back and makes a pleasant diversion for anime fans.
From a technical standpoint, this package is decent with excellent conversions of both titles flawlessly recreated on the PS2 with little slowdown or the screen-quishing the plagued earlier console conversions. The standard PS2 controller does an adequate job for this game, but purists will probably want to invest in a high-quality joystick to truly experience Street Fighter the way it was meant to be played. While you could accuse Capcom of cashing in on their franchise once again, both Hyper Street Fighter II and Street Fighter III: Third Strike are solid, entertaining fighting games. While the original SF is finally starting to show some signs of age, it's still a solidly entertaining brawler. The ability to use characters from different versions of the games is cool and makes the game feel somewhat rejuvenated. Comparing the engine used in Hyper to the incredible one used in Third Strike is illuminating and shows just how much the series has evolved in terms of sophistication, depth and artistry, and the solid gameplay, intricate moves lists and intricate Grade Judge techniques make for an addictive and challenging title. Both of these components would make an excellent release on their own, but taken together make Street Fighter Anniversary Edition an irresistible purchase for any fighting game fan.