Nothing makes you realise how strong the tendrils of gaming have weaved themselves into your life than sitting down and playing a game that’s celebrating its thirtieth anniversary. When I think back thirty years ago, I remember being in awe of gaming arcades with all their shining lights, loud noises and the supreme variety of what was on offer to play. Then I remember experiencing the same joy and excitement when I realised that I could play the same games at home.
The first Street Fighter game I played was Street Fighter II on the SNES. I religiously picked Blanka simply because he was a green, crazy looking maniac. Button mashing appeared to be the easiest way to win a match. Combos be damned. And, if you could conquer Dhalsim and his extendable limbs, then you were surely doing something right.
Being young, I was ignorant to the fact that Capcom were pioneers in the world of pseudo-DLC. Sure, way back in the day DLC wasn’t a thing – after all, everything was available on physical media. But, that didn’t stop Capcom from delivering reimagined versions of their signature, landmark fighting series. After Street Fighter conquered the arcades and created a generation of carpal tunnel syndrome gamers, Capcom saw their efficiency as a challenge and pushed out more intense, powerful versions of the core entries.
Street Fighter paved the way for Street Fighter II, which in turn paved the way for Super Street Fighter II, and in turn, Super Street Fighter II: Turbo (it was the nineties after all), and then Street Fighter Alpha. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by extensive line-up of titles in the series, especially when you look at the timeline and see that at some points there were more than one Street Fighter release in one year. In case you’ve forgotten the history of Street Fighter (or are too lazy to check out the Wikipedia entry), there’s the Museum Mode which gives you a look at concept art, music and design documents which showcase the way characters have changed over the years. On top of this is a timeline that runs through the whole history of Street Fighter – allowing for the blemishes to get their brief moment in the spotlight (yep, even the Street Fighter: The Movie game gets a mention).
It’s clear that Capcom have gone the extra distance for series faithfuls and those who are new to the genre by releasing this essential 30th Anniversary Collection. Bundling almost every Street Fighter game released prior to Street Fighter IV (all that’s missing are the 3D EX games) into one, neat, surprisingly affordable package is one of the smartest moves Capcom could do to honour the series.
You could be cynical and look at this is a mere cash grab, but given the high quality of the collection, the idea this is a cash grab is so far from the truth. On one level, Street Fighter: 30th Anniversary Collection works as a great historical artefact, showcasing how a core template can be tweaked and adjusted over three decades. The original game with eight base opponents seems almost quaint compared to the stacked roster of twenty five characters in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike.
On paper, not really much has changed with the core gameplay since the original entry– two fighters beat the living crap out of each other til one is either KO’d or the timer runs out. Simple. The intricacies of the gameplay become evident as you dig further into each characters combo set. There’s the trademark moves of Ken, Ryu and Chun-Li, but the true fighter will learn each characters move set like the bible, and in turn, become a master at frame counting.
Having picked up the SNES Classic Mini console when that launched, and being disappointed by some of the latency issues when playing high speed games like Super Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, I was concerned that that would be a problem with this collection. After all, you’re only as good as the fighter you’re battling against. I am a true novice in the world of fighting games. I adore them, and find myself ploughing hours into them, but sadly my reflexes just aren’t what they used to be. Fortunately this collection is optimised for the modern generations of TV’s. Gone is the flickering nature of the early 90’s giggle boxes, left behind in the dust by clear, pristine graphics that shimmer and shine, showcasing every frame in all their necessary glory. Games play out in their original format with stunning artistic borders showcasing each entries fighters. It’s an aesthetically pleasing format that enhances the experience, rather than detracting completely from the action on screen.
I found great joy in exploring the many different modes on offer. Accessing each game is as simple as picking them out from the main user face – really no different than picking out which fighter you want to use. Within seconds you’ll be in toughing it out against either an AI opponent, or your mate via two player battle, or for a small handful of the games, heading online and taking your tiff to the world at large.
While I had no issues in playing online, there have been comments made that online play is less than optimal. I honestly did not expect online play to be available at all, but the fact it is there at all is a nice bonus. One can hope that the instabilities that are present for some players now will be patched out down the line. Sure, there’s only four games you can play online (Super Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike), but four is better than nothing.
There’s a reason why Street Fighter is a series that continues on strong after thirty years – it’s damn great. Sure, the first game in the series is a little hokey, but after that, there are few fighting games around today that can hold a candle to the some of the series best. It’s not hyperbole to say that if you have a passing interest in fighting games, gaming history, or enjoy a good, healthy dose of nostalgia, you need to get this collection.