David Low
14 Jul, 2006

Street Fighter Alpha Anthology Review

PS2 Review | Warriors' Dream?
While the last real game in the Street Fighter series was released seven years ago (3rd Strike: Street Fighter III) Capcom has somehow continued to churn out Street Fighter releases at a regular pace, either by porting the old games to new platforms, or in compilations. The company's latest release, Street Fighter Alpha Anthology is the sixth (!) compilation of Street Fighter games in the last two generations (even without counting crossovers), and it contains the sixth unique port of Alpha 3 in as many years. But, unlike the odd pairing of Hyper Street Fighter II and 3rd Strike in Street Fighter Anniversary Collection, this time there's some order to proceedings, with the disc containing the entire Alpha series. And while there have been better home versions of each of these games individually, as a package, Street Fighter Alpha Anthology is one of the best ever console Street Fighter releases.

After finally finishing the Street Fighter 2 series with 1994's Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Capcom was apparently at a loss for what to do next. Instead of going straight to the much-anticipated Street Fighter III, new producer of the series Noritaka Funamizu decided to take a step to the side and, in 1995, created a prequel to Street Fighter 2 called Street Fighter Zero. Featuring younger versions of the Street Fighter 2 cast and some newbies mostly imported from Final Fight and the original Street Fighter, it featured a visual style clearly inspired by the Street Fighter II animated movie. Re-named Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors Dreams for western release, the first game in the series took the basic gameplay and feel of Super Turbo, and added a few new tricks befitting the next generation of fighters. Air blocking, chain combos, alpha counters, and a refined and enhanced (and spectacular for the time) super move system made the fighting system deeper – if not the game.

Alpha 1 is a good game, but it's really just a trailer for its classic sequel

Alpha 1 is a good game, but it's really just a trailer for its classic sequel
Capcom had learned that the best way to make money in arcades was to release as many versions and updates of a game as possible, and the original Alpha was rushed to release half-finished with relatively few characters, some boring background graphics, and unbalanced gameplay. But, while disappointed, fans didn't despair, as the new visual style and jazz/rock/pop soundtrack were great, and it was obvious a sequel would be coming soon. A short eight months later, Street Fighter Alpha 2 hit the scene, and improved on pretty much every element of its predecessor. It added more characters, many excellent backgrounds, it refined and balanced Alpha's gameplay to near perfection, and in Alpha 2, Capcom had created a fighting classic that still stands as one of the best 2D fighters ever made. A slightly updated version of Alpha 2 was released in Japan called Street Fighter Zero 2 Alpha (confused yet?), and along with a some balance tweaks, Cammy was added as a secret character. It was only ever released in the west as part of 1997's Street Fighter Alpha Collection for Saturn and PlayStation as Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold, and is included in this collection as a separate game under that name.

Alpha 3 has always been a favorite of casual fans of the series. Released several years after the first two Alpha games, at the time it seemed like a breath of fresh air in an arcade world dominated by Marvel vs Street Fighter craziness and the high-tech but alienating Street Fighter 3. Alpha 3 was a surprise, almost 'retro' release, that brought back most (but not all) of Super Street Fighter 2's cast in a seemingly more straightforward fighting game. And when it became the first Street Fighter game to receive a half-decent conversion to the PlayStation with even more characters (including fan favorite Guile), sales went through the roof, and Alpha 3's popularity was cemented.

This is a shame, because Alpha 3's gameplay is inferior to it's predecessor in almost every way. In an effort to keep things fresh for the third Alpha, Capcom added a whole bunch of new gameplay features to what was already a beautifully tuned engine, and the result is a fast and flashy game that's just not as satisfying. It feigns depth by spinning off Alpha 2's custom combos and super combo options into the 'ism' system, and characters may have slightly different moves depending on which ism you choose. This idea would be developed into a worthwhile concept in Capcom vs SNK 2, but in Alpha 3 it unnecessarily overcomplicates things without much real gain. Capcom also added in some features from its Marvel fighting games, like easy air juggles and generic air recovery moves, which don't work as well as in those games, and further remove the third Alpha from its namesake. Combined with a new guard meter, these changes encourage cheap play for easy victories, as the player who uses the cheapest tactics almost always wins.

Blanca's just upset that he wasn't in Alpha 2.

Blanca's just upset that he wasn't in Alpha 2.
One thing Alpha 3 did have going for it was presentation – the front end is flashy and attractive, and it has a huge but still decently balanced character roster, all with well integrated story elements. The sound was a bit of a letdown though – gone are the catchy tunes and understated Japanese announcer of the first two games, replaced by a relentless thumping techno soundtrack and ultra-annoying American announcer who just doesn't shut up.

Street Fighter Alpha Anthology also includes the Street Fighter parody game Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix – known in Japan by the far better title Pocket Fighter. It combines cutesy-ified characters from many Capcom fighting games (including Street Fighter III and Darkstalkers) in a light-hearted brawler, which bizarrely is actually a sequel to Capcom's Tetris/Puyo-style puzzle game Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo – hence 'Gem Fighter'. It has its own simple but unique fighting system involving collecting gems and chain combos, but that's not really the point. The game's backgrounds and animations are packed full of hilarious references to many Capcom games, and it uses the female skewed cast as an excuse to play dress ups every time you pull off a 'Flash Combo'. It requires a fair knowledge of Capcom's games to appreciate most of the effort, and once you've seen it all it's unlikely you'll bother going back. Nonetheless, it's a great extra to have here, and it's the first ever English language console release of the game with all the animations intact. It would have been great (and made more sense) if they had included Puzzle Fighter too, but beggars can't be choosers.

Pocket Fighter is really just an excuse to dress up (or down) the ladies of Capcom fighting.

Pocket Fighter is really just an excuse to dress up (or down) the ladies of Capcom fighting.
If you take a good look at the graphics of the games in Street Fighter Alpha Anthology, you may think to yourself 'these games don't look as good as I remember'. And you'd be right - but it's probably not Capcom's fault. Pretty much every old arcade game on PS2 has display problems, and typical of the low-res 2D on the system, it manages to look both blocky and a bit blurry at the same time. There are some sharpness and filter options to adjust the display in each game, but what was really needed was a scanlines option to create that authentic arcade look. Without visible scanlines (which make old games look like they're running at the lower resolution that they were designed at) some parts of the games look washed out, flat, or have visible cross hatch patterns that are supposed to appear as transparencies. As it is, the gritty atmosphere of Gen's stage in Alpha 2 is ruined, and it ends up looking like a badly compressed jpeg. Apart from these display issues, Alpha 3 seems to have survived the transition reasonably well, but the other four games also have some framerate and vertical refresh issues. These problems don't affect gameplay too much, but are another (small) black mark against the ports graphically.

When it comes to gameplay, none of the games are arcade perfect conversions, but they're pretty good ports, and it would take a fighting game fanatic (or at least a Dhalsim player) to notice the differences. All the frames of animation are here, but a few hit boxes are a little off and the characters are slightly smaller then they are in the Arcade and Saturn versions of each game. Control is overall very good, but while after ten years it probably goes without saying, it should be noted that Street Fighter is near unplayable with a standard Sony pad. Unless you have or are planning to get a decent joystick or fighting pad, you can remove a full two points from the game's final score. With a decent controller, special moves come off perfectly – as is a habit of Capcom's, many moves actually seem easier to do than in the original releases - '360 degree' moves seem to register at a little over a 180 degree motion, meaning Zangief is actually playable to a non-specialist.

Unfortunately, the one area where all the games are near 'arcade perfect' is in terms of soundtracks and extras. Gone are the beautiful arranged soundtracks of Alpha 1 and 2's previous home releases, leaving only the midi-synth of the arcade, which was designed to ring out over the din of crowds and pinball machines, but at home sounds like a GBA game. Presentation wise, Street Fighter Alpha Anthology is a mixed bag, but solid where it really counts. There's a 60Hz option in the PAL version (and even progressive scan support), and apart from the aforementioned graphical issues and differences from the originals, the ports are decent.

When a game is selected from the (rather plain) main menu, there's a few seconds loading, and that's it - no more loading time at all while you remain in that game. It's a phenomenal achievement, especially when compared to the load times the much older Street Fighter games in Capcom Classics Collection suffered from. Within each game you only have the most basic options; none of the art galleries and 'world tours' of the previous home versions are included. There's a secret menu in each game that allows you to swap between revisions of the original arcade boards, which is nice, but will probably only be of actual use to really hardcore fans.

Gen teaches Chunners not to laugh at a Kung-fu man's slippers!

Gen teaches Chunners not to laugh at a Kung-fu man's slippers!
There's not much in the way of extras, but there are a few major unlockable surprises. The Alpha 3 version on the main menu is based on the original arcade release, which had less characters then the home versions. Upon beating it with any character, another version is unlocked which includes all the extra characters and fighting modes from the home versions. The main draw for hardcore fans is unlocked after all games have been completed once – Hyper Street Fighter Alpha. It's a versus-only version of Alpha 3 that allows you to select older versions of any characters that appeared in the previous games. It's totally unbalanced and biased toward the later versions of characters, but a fun inclusion for those who always wanted to see Guile fight Alpha 2 Ken, or any other dream bout. There are even some hidden modes (yes, hidden modes within a hidden mode) that allow the game to play in the style of other Capcom Fighters like Street Fighter III and Darkstalkers.

For anyone that cares, the Sega Saturn versions of all five games probably remain the definitive home versions, in terms of both graphics and gameplay. Street Fighter Alpha Anthology's graphical and porting issues (combined with the lack of the extra features we've come to expect in our fighting games) let each game down individually, but as a package, it's solid. There's mountains of classic fighting content here so it's excellent value, and with the addition of the different arcade board options and Hyper Street Fighter Alpha, it has plenty to offer a casual and hardcore fan alike. If you're into 2D fighters then this is a no-brainer. If you're not – it's never too late, and this is a decent place to start.
The Score
A good package of great fighting games that has it where it counts. A no-brainer purchase if you're interested in 2D fighters, worth a look for anyone else. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Street Fighter Alpha Anthology Content

Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max Review
29 Mar, 2006 Maximum pain or maximum pleasure?
Street Fighter Anniversary Collection Review
18 Nov, 2004 Capcom delivers an excellent Street Fighter compilation for the 15th year anniversary of a classic that started it all.
7 years ago
So who did you have to hurt to get the review? icon_wink.gif
7 years ago
ugh the boot wrote
So who did you have to hurt to get the review? icon_wink.gif
David lives and breathes Street Fighter, thus he was able to compete against himself using his hands and feet.
7 years ago
Hey Capcom, make SF:AC on xbox backwards compitable on the 360! Bastards....
7 years ago
^ man i've been saying that ever since my old xbox died! If I had to choose 1 game that I wanted emulated it would be that!

Third Strike on xbox live... please god....somebody....anybody....
7 years ago
My story is as sad, and quite similar. My xbox has died about 2 months from the launch of the 360 and I pawned all my games expect Halo 2 and SFAC. But they won't bloody emulate it! Come on M$, sort us out!
7 years ago
^you pawned your microsoft games but microsoft pwned you. muwaha
7 years ago
Nice review, infact it made me buy the game.

First 2D Fighter I've bought since Marvel vs. Capcom 2, which was about 3 years ago.

Liking the game so far, just played through Alpha 1 and started Alpha 2. Though the real fun won't start until I have mangaman over.
7 years ago
The review is making me not want to buy the game. icon_surprised.gif(
I thought they were arcade ports and perfectly done. icon_surprised.gif(
However I havn't visited the Shoryuken forums or anything to read their thoughts.

I was anticipating this game alot and planing to buy ASAP. But why buy when I have perfect arcadedness on MAME?
7 years ago
Was it really that long since an actual SF game came out? Holy crap!
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