Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection Review
Nostalgia can be a powerful seductress. It often colors our objective judgement, having us look back on our youth as halcyon and carefree. When something like the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection comes along, the adolescent world warrior in us looks upon it with gilded glasses, fawning over what we think we remember.
We see the gorgeous packaging, the high-octane trailers, and the clever marketing and remind ourselves that "those games were good -- great, even". We tell ourselves that everything was simpler when that iconic music wafted from our television's speakers and those indelible characters fluttered across our screens in rapturous martial arts glory.
We tell ourselves that these games were more challenging and most importantly, more fun than some of the games of today. That they "had" something. Given the perspective of 30 years, that simple definition of fun begins to grow terribly tenuous.
All things being equal, the 12 games in the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection are classics that still hold up today. However, there's a little wrinkle here you may not have considered or known about. These entries are the arcade ROMs of these classic fighting games, not the console versions you fondly remember.
Programmed to take all of your quarters, the games in this collection are utterly relentless in their mission to steal your sanity. Casuals beware: this game just ain't (that) fair -- no matter how you cut it.
When Getting Gud's Not Enough
There's no doubt playing difficult games and overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds is one of the trademarks of gaming. It's something that bestows upon the player immense pride and gratification. However, it all becomes a different story when the odds are so overwhelmingly stacked against you that fun devolves into demoralization.
I've played my fair share of Street Fighter games. Alpha 3, which is part of this collection, is still one of my favorite fighting games of all time. I practiced for hours to get the high score that would unlock Shin Akuma and still remember my numb thumbs forging ahead with determined purpose after each failed attempt until finally, victory.
Sure, that was more than 15 years ago and sure, my sensibilities have changed in that time, but the Alpha 3 found in the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is way, way, way harder than the Alpha 3 released on the original PlayStation. Even Street Fighter II Turbo, which I can handily beat on my dusty SNES, is nearly impossible to complete when you go up against the spammy likes of E. Honda, Vega, and M. Bison.
I'm not trying to spiral into a whiny diatribe here, but I'm saying all of this to drill home the fact that these games are brutally, sometimes spitefully, difficult. A.I. opponents will do everything to win a match but outright cheat -- and sometimes I'm not sure the computer isn't cheating.
Animations are mostly fluid, but some do miss opponents for no reason at all. Sometimes they hit, sometimes they don't. Neither the rhyme nor the reason is clear, which can lead to increasingly frustrated play. Input lag appears non-existent -- or at least not a major contributing factor -- but precision is even more imperative when attacks don't like to connect like they should. That's not to mention that characters in some of the games, particularly Street Fighter II, have basically unblocakble attacks that almost instantly melt your entire life bar (I'm looking at you, E. Honda and Vega).
You can beat these games (with the possible exception of the awfully janky and nigh unplayable Street Fighter), but your thumbs will bleed. I'd suggest investing in a fight stick if you want to go the distance with the 30th Anniversary Collection. You'll thank me in the end.
What You Get and Don't Get
Despite my reservations about the collection's difficulty curve and overpowered A.I., the 30th Anniversary is one of the better ways to play these classic games on modern consoles. If you're not into emulating, don't have a subscription to PlayStation Now, or don't want to buy the games individually on Xbox Live (which can get pricey), this collection is currently your only choice.
So what do you get for $39.99? For starters, you get a loosely labeled 12 Street Fighter games. I say "loosely" because five of them are one iteration or another of Street Fighter II, while three of them are one of the iterations of Street Fighter III. The remaining three are in the Alpha series. Here are the specifics:
- Street Fighter
- Street Fighter II
- Street Fighter II: Champion Edition
- Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting
- Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers
- Super Street Fighter II: Turbo
- Street Fighter Alpha
- Street Fighter Alpha 2
- Street Fighter Alpha 3
- Street Fighter III
- Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact Giant Attack
- Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
That's a great deal of content for the price point. The only downside with the games themselves is that again, these are the arcade ROMs. That means they won't have all the bells and whistles that are associated with their console counterparts. For example, Alpha 3 doesn't have World Tour Mode, while Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike doesn't have the online version's trial mode.
That's a small(ish) price to pay for what you do get, but since I'm a tad salty about not having every, single thing in one package, it's worth noting again.
A Series Retrospective
On the plus side of things, you'll find an extensive Museum Mode that is a veritable encyclopedia of Street Fighter knowledge. Having just read Undisputed Street Fighter: A 30th Anniversary Retrospective (which we'll have a review for soon and I highly recommend), it was great to see some of that book featured in the collection.
When you enter the museum, you'll find four options: History, Characters, Music, and the Making of Street Fighter. The complete history comes as an easy-to-digest timeline. Most entries have micro-encyclopedic entries and all cards have fantastic artwork. It's a great way to see the progression of the series.
The Characters option is even more in depth. Here you'll find dossiers on each character in the series up to 3rd Impact. If you've ever wanted to know Chun-Li's origins or Ken's likes and dislikes -- or what fighting style Blanka uses -- this is your one-stop shop and it is far prettier than any wiki page.
The Music section is exactly what it sounds like. This is where you'll find all of the iconic music from every game in the collection. And these aren't just snippets: they're full music tracks -- and even now in the Internet Age, it's hard to find high-quality files of these songs, so this is a welcomed perk.
Finally, we come to what many will see as the coup de gras: the Making of Street Fighter section. Here you'll find the original six-page Street Fighter pitch document, a 72-page making of Street Fighter II document, a 26-page Street Fighter Alpha development document, and an 89-page Street Fighter III development document. All of these pages have captions, original artwork, and even the original notes for the moves and controls. If you wanted one of the best behind-the-scenes looks at the series, this is one of your best bets.
I'll go ahead and say it: I'm terrible at Street Fighter online multiplayer. My reflexes just aren't quick enough, I suppose. Or, more likely, I'm just somehow more anxious than I am when facing off against an opponent in the flesh. I'm not bad in person, really. However, regardless of how good (or terrible) I am at SF online multiplayer, the 30th Anniversary Collection does an admirable job of giving players who are interested in the mode something to chew on.
Whether you stand victorious over your opponents or get utterly humiliated, you've got several option to choose from: online arcade, ranked matches, and casual matches. You can create lobbies for friends and join lobbies, of course, and there's a leaderboard to track all of your progress through the ranks.
You can further tweak your experience by changing your lobby's skill level from novice through advanced, changing your lobby type from public to private, changing your input lag, and changing your connection strength. Most of that is pretty pedestrian stuff for online multiplayer, but changing your difficulty is a nice touch, letting you face opponents that are (theoretically) closer to your experience level.
Overall, I had a somewhat "difficult" time finding matches. At the beginning, I found that I would often wait somewhere between one and three full minutes to find a match, but after resetting everything in the multiplayer menus to default, I found matches a lot more quickly. So although I didn't spend an exorbitant amount of time with the online multiplayer component, I feel it's safe to say that the more you tweak and hone your options, the harder it will be to quickly find a match. It's a shame because it shows that not as many players are duking it out as there should be.
Lastly, it's worth noting that while you can play all of the collection's 12 games in local multiplayer, you can only play four of them in online multiplayer: Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. If you know anything about the competitive scenes for these games, you know that these are the only four games worth playing against other players in any real competitive sense.
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection isn't perfect. In fact, it's more likely to speak to series purists than the casual SF gamer. Those that grew up during the height of the Street Fighter arcade period will find an experience only rivaled by the actual arcade cabinets themselves. Those who grew up with these games on consoles may be a wee bit disappointed.
However, even if you are bit jaded that these are "just" arcade ROMs, there's plenty here to be excited about. At $39.99, this collection is still hard to beat. Sure, you'll have to sharpen your street fighting skills, but this is the perfect game by which to do that.
My only real reservations are that the game is overly difficult and frustrating at times, that it's hard to find tailored online matches, and that all of the console goodies aren't included. Tweak those three things (read: make this a console collection instead) and this would get a near perfect score. But since it's an arcade collection, nothing's going to change that, and console curmudgeons like me just need to get over it.
[Note: Capcom provided the copy of Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection used for this review.]