Street Fighter Alpha Anthology review


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Buy your copy from Street Fighter Alpha Anthology (2006) starstarstarstarno star Publisher: Capcom
Category: Fighting
Available for: PlayStation 2
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When video game designers hit upon a good thing, everyone wants a piece of the action. So perhaps some of you can remember when the fighting game genre exploded back in the ‘90s, led by the “Street Fighter” and “Mortal Kombat” franchises, every guy and his brother in the gaming industry tried to come up with their own bigger and better variations on the theme. Some, like Sega and its “Virtua Fighter” series succeeded, but most failed (“Time Killers,” “Primal Rage,” “Clay Fighter,” “Ballz”). Even the mighty “Mortal Kombat” series started tanking after a fashion. However, Capcom took its mega hit “Street Fighter” franchise and completely redesigned it, giving it a new life and style in the “Street Fighter Alpha” series. Now, thanks to those fine folks at Capcom, PS2 owners have their own exclusive anthology that collects every title in the series, and then some.

For those of you who quit playing “Street Fighter” after “Street Fighter : The Movie” game came out (and who could blame you) and have never tried the “Alpha” series, you’re in for a treat. What Capcom basically did here with the first in this series was overhaul the look of the game and its gameplay mechanics, making the whole series feel fresh and new again. The artistic style changed from your standard video game-looking characters and settings to something much more cartoony and crisp. The colors are more vibrant, and the movement cleaner and much smoother. It’s the same look that other Capcom titles of the time received, so if you’ve ever played “Marvel Super Heroes” or “Darkstalkers,” then you’ll be familiar with the look of “Street Fighter Alpha.”

The gameplay tweaks were also a nice step forward, what with air counters,
“alpha” counters, and super combos being thrown in to the mix. There were all sorts of new ways to play a defensive game here, so while players who were familiar with the original series and all its tactics could still do some of the same stuff in the new series, they also had to learn the new mechanisms and strategies offered in “Alpha.” As stated before, this was indeed a complete rehaul of the series and not just a bunch of cosmetic changes and new characters thrown in making for a “new” game.

And lest anyone be doubters here, there are big differences from game to game in this anthology. Whereas the original “Street Fighter” series and its sequels often relied more on simple upgrades like new characters and speed, the “Alpha” series offered up such changes between the first two titles as custom combos replacing “chains,” and so forth. So in essence, the series got better as it went along, unlike the wildly varying “Street Fighter” series where an older title in the lineup could be better than the new one in the arcade. Indeed, “Street Fighter Alpha 3” is the big thrill of the collection here, offering up every previous character, an “Ism” selection, and plenty of new combos to drill your opponent with. It’s a deep game and a lot of fun, well worth the price alone. But every game here is customizable, allowing almost endless variation and deep replayability. If you’ve ever loved “Street Fighter,” then this is your collection. Even more so than the slightly stale “Street Fighter Anniversary Collection.”

Also thrown in here is the wacky “Super Gem Fighter MiniMix.” Now, if you were a PlayStation fan, then perhaps you enjoyed a game on the original system called “Pocket Fighter.” Well, that’s what this game is under its original Japanese name. In this game, you have pint sized “Street Fighter” and “Darkstalkers” characters duking it out and collecting gems. It’s cute and all, but don’t expect greatness here. The pint-sized fighters worked much better in the beyond classic “Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo” game. Still, it’s a fun enough diversion, though probably not the title that’s going to be played the most here.

This collection also boasts cool unlockables, so needless to say, there’s plenty of game playing to be had here. And while the “Alpha” series definitely got better as it went along, each of the titles here is well worth playing. There’s plenty of variety going around to make any fan, old or new, happy here. Hats off to Capcom for knowing how to keep a good thing going and collecting the cream of their crops in cool compilations like this one. Other developers could still learn a lot from these guys about what makes a great game series and how to keep the players coming back for more.

~Jason Thompson