You no longer have any excuse not to try the Street Fighter classics!
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection has arrived today, bringing twelve classic Street Fighter arcade titles to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch. (If you pre-ordered online, you also received a digital version of Ultra Street Fighter IV, pretty much giving you the entire main Street Fighter series to date except for Street Fighter V.) This collection’s much-lauded goal: to celebrate 30 years of Street Fighter by bringing us “arcade perfect” versions of these games on modern platforms. And while they’re not truly arcade perfect, this collection is undeniably a celebration.
The compilation package covers the origin of Street Fighter itself — the 1987 arcade game of the same name — and follows the sequels through the Street Fighter II, Street Fighter Alpha, and Street Fighter III series. All twelve titles are playable in a literal Arcade mode that emulates the original cabinet gameplay, and a Versus mode for easier local one-on-one fighting; four titles that arguably represent the “high point” of each series are also equipped with online play and Training modes. These are:
- Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting
- Super Street Fighter II Turbo
- Street Fighter Alpha 3
- Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
Being the final versions of their respective series, these titles are pretty much where the competitive scene for each game is centered, so it makes sense that they get the support over the others — with the exception being Street Fighter Alpha 2. Being so different than its sequel (and by many players, preferred) it’s a shame that Alpha 3 gets the online play and Training mode instead of this one. By all rights, SFA2 should also be on that list — but at the very least, Versus mode still allows for more practice options than the basic Arcade mode would.
But before we go further into that, let’s look at the overall package and presentation we’re getting here. (Note that our review copy from Capcom was the PlayStation 4 version, and there may be differences between platforms.)
A shrine to Street Fighter.
This compilation is a tribute to Street Fighter’s 30-year legacy, and it does a very good job of presenting and honoring its source material. The collection is divided into three sections: offline play, online play, and the extensive Museum. Before I discuss the games themselves, I want to point out how great the Museum mode is for anyone with an interest in Street Fighter development, lore, and history.
It’s deep, it’s detailed, and it’s easy and fun to explore all of the material included — and there’s plenty of material included. You can track the games and related media across a historical timeline, see concept and promotional artwork, listen to the games’ soundtracks, and even jump right over to the games themselves to play them without backing out of the Museum mode. You can read about each playable character’s background, and even look at animation frames of their iconic special moves. As a showcase for the games and their place in our culture, this is handled beautifully. Those that are interested in this part of the collection will find a lot to enjoy here.
The Grand Master (CPU) Challenge.
The Offline options include playing the Arcade modes of the titles, or going into Versus or Training (for the four games that support it). From the Arcade menu you can read details on the game you want to play (which includes trivia, and sometimes codes you can use to unlock hidden characters or features), or adjust limited gameplay settings for them before jumping in. Playing Arcade mode is going to be a blast from the past for any fans that haven’t had regular access to these games in their natural habitat for a while.
It warrants a mention that once 30th Anniversary Collection boots up, loading time is practically absent. Moving in between game modes — or between different titles on the compiliation — is quick and easy. A big plus. Arcade mode emulates the game running as if it was on its original cabinet, right down to display options that include cabinet art, and scan lines to get just the right “look” for the sprite-based visuals. You can customize your picture by removing the art, resizing the screen area, and removing the scan lines if desired — though the lines do somewhat help smooth the sprites’ jagged edges on an HD display. The picture options aren’t extensive, but they are adequate.
The marquee game, Street Fighter, certainly hasn’t aged that well — as charming as it is to see the beginnings of the series, it’s very rough around the edges compared to what we look for in gameplay today. The other titles hold up better — but I recommend playing through all of them if you haven’t before. Playing against the CPU in Arcade mode is a classic experience all its own — and those unfamiliar with the arcade origins of “modern” Street Fighter now can experience the psychic sadism of the notoriously difficult CPU opponents in Super Turbo. But the original arcade ladders contain a lot of the classic gameplay and storytelling experience that comprises these timeless games, and they’re worth some attention.
Versus mode delivers what it says on the box, and lets you play against a human opponent without having to join in during an arcade run. It also allows stage selection, so you can go to your favorite stages directly.
For the games that do have Training modes, you’ll be able to use somewhat simple but helpful training options to help you work on your gameplay — definitely not as extensive as modern titles, but you still get some basic state settings and a recording slot to work with.
The online frontier.
The collection’s future on the greater scale depends on how well it runs online — and that’s a bit difficult to tell at this early stage, as our review period has been before the wide release to the general public. What I can say so far: it’s a bit iffy.
The menu system is kinda clunky and non-intuitive; searching manually for Casual or Ranked matches always returns you to the game selection menu if you stop rematching. Thankfully, using the fight request-style function while playing Arcade mode gets around this. However: there doesn’t seem to be a means to control your matchmaking connection quality outside of searching for player lobbies manually. At the time I write this, the lobby system also seems outright broken, not enabling players to connect properly in private or public lounges — hopefully, this is only a result of the game’s early online structure setting up, and is not a continuing issue after wide release.
As for connection quality in the matches I played, it was literally 50/50 for me: my gameplay felt smooth enough that there were no noticeable issues mid-fight, or it was laggy to the point of unplayability. No middle ground! Time will tell, and your own mileage will vary, I expect.
Almost arcade perfect?
Now, a dose of realism — these are games that originally ran on entirely different hardware. These versions are really, really, really close — but they are not “arcade perfect”. They can’t be, not completely. Capcom should not be throwing that term around, and the only reason they are is that “arcade perfect” sounds much better as a marketing catchphrase than “as close to arcade perfect as is reasonably possible while considering the hardware differentiation and emulation process”.
These games run really well. They even include many of the glitches — both desired and undesired — from the arcade originals, spelling errors in text (“Get lose!”), you name it. But game-breaking bugs have been squashed, and as these versions are pushed more and more in heavy play by the community, we’re going to see that some things that work on the original boards just won’t seem to fly here. And that’s reasonable, because there are too many factors to guarantee that so-advertised perfection.
But: they come so close that, for the greatest percentage of the fanbase and players, they might as well be. These are certainly the best versions of these games that we’ve yet seen on home consoles. If arcade perfection is your only goal, you need to play the game on the original arcade hardware. That is not practical for many of the players out there, and what we’re getting in this collection is an excellent and enjoyable substitute.
Who is this collection for?
Are you a newcomer to the franchise? This collection will catch you up on Street Fighter history very effectively. Are you an old-school fan? This collection will connect you to the games you love in the most convenient way we’ve had available for ages.
Are you a serious competitor, say, of the dedicated Super Turbo or 3rd Strike scenes? Well, this collection is not a replacement for your arcade hardware. But it offers two important things, even to you: it is close enough to the arcade original that it will allow you to play, practice, and enjoy your game when you don’t have immediate access to an arcade cabinet. And it is introducing your game to many new players that haven’t had easy access to it for ages — and those that love it as much as you do are going to be coming your way to play the “real thing” when they get the chance.
Care and respect for the games and the franchise are evident throughout the collection itself; the original programmers, developers, artists, and composers loved these games, and the love Capcom and Digital Eclipse have for these games is clear as soon as you start the compilation up. So basically, this collection is for anyone and everyone that loves — or has ever loved — Street Fighter.