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I can’t overstate Street Fighter’s impact on the gaming industry: Capcom’s series of 1-on-1 fighters defined an entire genre, redefined competitive gaming, and led multiple companies to create some of their most famous franchises. We measured two entire generations of consoles in part by their ability to faithfully reproduce various Street Fighter games.
As a longtime fan of the franchise, I’d call Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection a dream come true — Capcom and developer Digital Eclipse (the studio behind excellent retro compilations such as The Disney Afternoon Collection) include no-compromises, zero loading time ports of every major Street Fighter arcade title from the 1987 original through the 1999 release of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. It’s available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PCs; I tested the Switch version.
Bundling 12 titles for $40 means you’ll pay less than $3.50 per game, a pittance given what Street Fighter fans used to spend daily just to play in arcades. A few bonus features also increase the 30th Anniversary Collection’s value. But a few problems make the set less appealing, particularly on the Switch.
What you’ll like
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Every Street Fighter game starts with the same basic formula: You control one martial artist using an 8-way joystick to jump, crouch, or move forward or backward while choosing from three punch or three kick buttons — weak, medium, or strong. You face a series of opponents in international “street fights,” typically best-of-three matches in which the last person standing wins. Every match is either human-on-computer or human-on-human, ending after a dozen or so matches with a final boss.
In the first Street Fighter (below), player one controls karateka Ryu, while a second player can join as his friend Ken. The game controls all of the other characters, and ends when you defeat brutal Thai kickboxer Sagat. Beyond standard attacks, Ryu and Ken could use special joystick and button combos for “special moves” — a fireball, a tornado kick, and an upward dragon punch. Visually, Street Fighter was many steps beyond earlier titles such as Konami’s Yie Ar Kung Fu and Data East’s Karate Champ, but its controls and audio left a lot to be desired.
Street Fighter II was video gaming’s biggest ever leap in execution and depth between generations. Ryu and Ken were joined as player characters by six all-new rivals, such as kung fu expert Chun Li (a Chinese woman), plus four computer-controlled bosses. Each character had a bigger collection of moves and sound effects, plus an individual stage and theme song. Four SF2 followups (Champion Edition, Turbo/Hyper Fighting, Super, and Super Turbo) made the bosses playable, tweaked moves and speed options, and added five more characters.
Faced with numerous competitors and the first 3D game consoles, Capcom struggled to develop a true sequel to its hit. It tried anime for the Street Fighter Alpha series, which was set between Street Fighter and Street Fighter II, adding characters from Capcom’s brawler Final Fight. The Alpha games were particularly potent on home consoles, thanks to great ports that sometimes included extra characters.
Street Fighter III debuted on much more powerful arcade hardware, offering Disney-quality animated characters and more complex backgrounds. But it discarded all but Ryu and Ken from the SF2 roster, adding eight new fighters who didn’t catch on with players. Bringing back the demonic Akuma from SF2, the semi-sequel 2nd Impact included 14 playable characters, while 3rd Strike reintroduced Chun Li among 19 playable characters.
Capcom presents each of the games in its original arcade format, pixel-perfect, with no internal loading times. Four of the games — Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Street Fighter III 3rd Strike — work in either local or online multiplayer modes across multiple consoles. Except for the Switch-exclusive Tournament Battle mode discussed below, all of the other games run only offline with single- and two-player options.
Virtually arcade perfect
Truly arcade-perfect Street Fighter ports used to be rare because consoles couldn’t match Capcom’s arcade hardware — developers had to cut corners, particularly with the backgrounds. Here, you get all the original parallax scrolling layers, breakable objects, and character animation frames, plus the original sound effects and music. Look carefully and you might notice that the floor in Guile’s SF2 stage has been changed for some bizarre reason, but most of the original games are faithful to the originals.
The retention of “everything” becomes more impressive with each successive title, as Capcom added more animations and better backgrounds as each series continued. Nintendo’s Switch gets a special nod here, as nearly the entire Street Fighter series can now be (mostly) enjoyed in a portable format.
Learn about Capcom’s biggest characters — and mistakes
Ever wonder why Street Fighter fans get so excited when new games (such as IV and V) bring old fighters back? Well, there are a lot of them, including some odd ones. Take blonde wrestler bro Alex, who Capcom designed to become the star of Street Fighter III, despite being even less charismatic than the Russian grappler Zangief.
In a postmatch cutscene, you can see Alex insulting Elena, the game’s first African combatant, even though she’s a much better character, has fantastic animations, and fights on stages that are downright gorgeous compared with Alex’s trashy New York City levels. What was Capcom thinking with this guy?
But there are lots of interesting fighters, too. The female ninja Ibuki, mystical Rose, and freaky science experiments Necro and Twelve introduced new fighting styles and character types that broadened the spectrum of fighting games.
Enjoy plenty of Street Fighter (and Final Fight) history
Capcom also includes an in-game museum, showing off obscure screenshots, sketches, and promotional materials for various SF games, plus character bios and Making Of sections for each of the major releases. Some of the details are great — early logos, abandoned designs, and even hints as to why Final Fight characters joined the Street Fighter Alpha series.
See and hear dozens of levels, including forgotten variations
While the Street Fighter II games kept their levels pretty much the same, the Alpha and III titles kept swapping stages and even music, such that the third game in each series was markedly different from (and better than) the first.
Capcom could have satisfied a lot of players by just bundling the final iteration of each franchise, but including all the interim titles lets you experience different settings as you fight. The screenshots above and below show Hugo’s stages in Street Fighter III’s 2nd Impact and 3rd Strike, while characters such as Yang and Elena have multiple arenas and settings that change based on different times of day.
Yes, there are 3D fighting games with more impressive dynamic changes. But there are few 2D fighting games with as many different backdrops as you’ll find in the 30th Anniversary Collection. There are also hundreds of audio tracks, which you can hear in album-like fashion across each game through the Museum. Some of the Street Fighter II and Street Fighter III 3rd Strike songs remain among the best compositions in all of fighting game history.
Arcade-perfect or modern screen preferences
You can pick between three screen modes. One presents each game in its original aspect ratio with borders on all sides — each game gets an arcade-style bezel. Another fills the screen’s top and bottom but leaves bezels on the sides. The last stretches everything to fit a 16:9 aspect ratio, removing the bezels entirely. You can also flip the bezel from artwork to black if you prefer.
Three filters are also offered. TV and Arcade both provide scanline-style grids, darkening the visuals, but TV’s filter is brighter than Arcade’s. The “off” filter presents everything without scanlines, making the colors and brightness stronger.
What you won’t like
Basic settings (and no multibutton keymapping)
Rather than providing full arcade game dipswitch access or complete console-style options menus, Capcom includes threadbare arcade settings for each game. You can reconfigure button placement for the six punch and kick buttons, as well as the start button, but that’s it — no multibutton combos, simplified special moves, or other common console frills. Street Fighter II gives you nothing more than eight difficulty settings.
A very basic training mode is also included for the same four titles that have online support. Tiny indicators can show you button inputs and damage inflicted against punching bag-like opponents. This feature was added at the last moment by Capcom in response to fan requests, so it might get better.
They’re not all hits
Some of the titles in the collection, including Street Fighter 1 and the first iterations of Street Fighter Alpha and Street Fighter III, weren’t fantastic. I see little reason to go back to those games given how much better their followups became, and some of their stages and music have justifiably been forgotten to history. You might enjoy seeing them anyway.
Overly familiar character tropes
Arguably the biggest weakness of the collection is the amount of overlap you’ll experience from title to title; there are certainly differences in fighting systems and super moves, but you’lll find a lot of similarities from generation to generation. As just one example, Capcom didn’t shy away from Ryu- and Ken-alikes over the years, including female Ryu wannabe Sakura, Ken’s highly similar protege Sean, SNK-mocking Dan, and demonic Akuma. They’re joined by several very similar boxers, Guile clone Charlie, a few wrestlers, and a lot of leggy ladies.
Missing titles: Later variants on 2 and 3, EX, and Movie
The 30th Anniversary Collection isn’t all-inclusive — a few big games are missing. Perhaps the most noteworthy is Street Fighter Alpha 3’s “Max” version, which included a gigantic 38-character roster and was in the Street Fighter Alpha Anthology 12 years ago.
Also missing: three Street Fighter EX titles, where former Capcom employees tested 3D characters in the series for the first time — with decidedly mixed results. Another absence is Street Fighter: The Movie, a horribly awkward melding of Mortal Kombat-style digitized characters with Street Fighter II. Unlike the final version of Alpha 3, no one is going to care that these titles didn’t make the 30th Anniversary cut.
Nintendo Switch gets the short shrift — no SFIV and weak controls
Though Capcom is releasing the Collection across the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC today, the four releases aren’t identical. Every platform except the Switch includes a standalone download of the 2D/3D fighting game Ultra Street Fighter IV as a preorder bonus, instantly increasing the value of the game on those platforms.
By comparison, the Switch version gets an oddball Tournament Battle mode that enables eight people to play a round robin-style linked battle using four wirelessly linked Switch consoles. Brought over as a feature from Super Street Fighter II, it’s only a little more likely to be used by players than the utterly obscure original arcade version, which required four separate SSFII cabinets to be linked together.
The Switch version currently suffers from sketchy directional controls, though that’s not wholly Capcom’s fault. I have two Pro Controllers and two separate sets of Joy-Cons, but I found none of the directional controls (D-pads or analog sticks) to be reliable for dragon punches and other sharp, quick special moves. Reports online suggest that this issue depends on your Pro Controllers — some are better than others — but generally, expect Switch controls to be less reliable than stock PS4 or Xbox controllers.
Some people aren’t thrilled that Capcom chose to support only four titles with online functionality — someone surely wants to play the original Street Fighter online. I think it’s going to be hard enough to build Street Fighter lobbies with this collection’s four supported games, given that Street Fighter V and other fighting games are also available online, but Capcom picked the right titles to support here. However, it’s unclear at this point how robust the netcode will be, and there are no guarantees that the online performance will be up to the ultra-low latency demands of the hardest core fighting gamers. If that’s a show-stopper for you, wait until the game’s been out a week or two and see how the reports settle out.
Bundling 12 Street Fighter games at a reasonable price makes the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection a no-brainer purchase. The low cost per game enables you to explore even the stilted, not particularly satisfying first Street Fighter without guilt, and enjoy whatever minor pleasures you can wring from stepping stone games like Street Fighter Alpha 1 and Street Fighter III 2nd Impact.
Along the way, you’ll also have the opportunity to enjoy some of Capcom’s best work — the fully realized, genre-defining Street Fighter II and its several followups, plus the still-resonant Alpha 3 and 3rd Strike. Any one of these games would be a good budget standalone title today, but in a package with all the additional games, music, and museum content to choose from, there’s enough to keep any fighting game fan entertained for weeks.
My only regret is that the Switch version I tested is crippled by Nintendo’s directional controls. If the Switch title’s portability wasn’t so compelling, the control issues alone would force me to choose another platform — Ultra Street Fighter IV would be another good reason to look elsewhere. I can only hope Capcom releases a patch of some sort to mitigate the Switch’s D-pad issues.
That aside, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection delivers something that many people have been waiting at least 25 years to enjoy — virtually arcade-perfect, zero loading-time versions of some of the very best fighting games out there. It might be a little late in arriving, and imperfectly executed, but overall, that’s worthy of a celebration.
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection comes out for the Microsoft Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4, and Windows PCs (via Steam) on May 29. Capcom sent us a code for this review.
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