Capcom Fighting Collection — Issue 47

Give this col­lec­tion a fight­ing chance

Cap­com tends to tread a lot of the same ground these days. Whether it’s “get­ting back to their roots” with Street Fight­er’s mod­ern ver­sions or return­ing to the past with a lot of upgrad­ed col­lec­tions, Cap­com sure has a way of remind­ing you that, yes, they made Street Fight­er and a bunch of oth­er fight­ing games. The ques­tion is do we care? Yes and no, if this cur­rent col­lec­tion is to be judged.

I will admit that, despite being a strict Mor­tal Kom­bat old head, I am inclined to speak up about my favorite genre in fight­ing games and how it relates to Cap­com. This col­lec­tion, filled to the brim with noth­ing but Cap­com fight­ers, aims to show that Cap­com had some hits and mem­o­rable prop­er­ties. Fight­ing Col­lec­tion fea­tures 10 entries: Vampire/Darkstalkers 1–3, Vam­pire Hunter 2, Vam­pire Sav­ior 2, Cyber­bots: Full Met­al Mad­ness, WarZard/Red Earth, Hyper Street Fight­er II: The Anniver­sary Edi­tion, Super Gem Fight­er Mini Mix/Pocket Fight­er and Super Puz­zle Fight­er II Tur­bo, with the North Amer­i­can or Japan­ese ver­sions avail­able for play. In all cas­es, these are arcade rom ver­sions gath­ered togeth­er in one spot and you can freely switch between them on free play. Col­lec­tion-wise, this is a top-tier pack­age for those who love fight­ing games made by Cap­com. Main­stream mon­ey mak­er that’s still around today? That’s Hyper Street Fight­er II. Obscure weird fight­er that no one even knows that Cap­com made it? Take your pick from Cyber­bots and WarZard. Cutesy, chibi fight­er that unabashed­ly mocks its mak­er? Puz­zle Fight­er and Pock­et Fight­er have that on lock. Defunct series that should still be a thing, but Cap­com does­n’t pay atten­tion? All of the Vam­pire you can pos­si­bly shake a stick at sat­is­fies that require­ment. There is lit­er­al­ly some­thing for every­one here. But the ques­tion is, do you want it, espe­cial­ly now that you know what’s avail­able here? As ear­li­er, yes and no.

While the pre­sen­ta­tion is top-notch, the actu­al assort­ment of the games involved is a mixed bag. Gen­tle read­ers, I just com­piled and cre­at­ed an entire issue devot­ed to Vam­pire (Edi­tor’s note: That’d be Issue 46. Go down­load it now if you haven’t.) and its inner work­ings and the his­to­ry behind the series. Know­ing that, please explain to me why I have Vam­pire burnout and why I had it before I did that issue because of this col­lec­tion. Cap­com does this song and dance every sin­gle time Vam­pire is whis­pered some­where by some unsus­pect­ing gamer who loves the series and wants to see it once more have its day in the sun. I wrote an entire col­umn in that pre­vi­ous issue dis­cussing the need for a Vam­pire revival — a new game, not an old rehash — and how we were nev­er going to get that because Cap­com does the series dirty constantly. 

Well, would­n’t you know it, Cap­com pulled a skunk out of their hat by includ­ing all of the Vam­pire games here. It’s like they said, “Well, you asked for more Vam­pire. Here, be sat­is­fied that we released all of them final­ly in North Amer­i­ca and shut up.” You know, I’m slight­ly hap­py but I’m more offend­ed than any­thing else. Because, as you should have read by now gen­tle read­er, Cap­com is nev­er going to give us a new Vam­pire game with­out there being some weird­ness attached. And because this col­lec­tion sold “OK,” — not great, just OK — you know we aren’t get­ting a new game. Because it did­n’t set the world on fire in sales does­n’t mean the demand isn’t there. But I digress. Every­thing else in this col­lec­tion has been released in some way, shape or form in either region, so it was­n’t nec­es­sary for their inclu­sion, either. 

What I would have pre­ferred to see are Rival Schools, Project Jus­tice, Star Glad­i­a­tor and Plas­ma Sword. These are defunct Cap­com series that they also like to act like they did­n’t cre­ate. Rival Schools and Project Jus­tice are espe­cial­ly egre­gious because while they’ve been port­ed to PlaySta­tion Net­work, we haven’t got­ten a full, unal­tered port of either game. A mod­ern trans­la­tion of the board game and sim­u­la­tion mode in both games is not that hard, but I digress again because we know we are nev­er get­ting it. It’s a shame because this col­lec­tion as pulled togeth­er in 2022 could have used some bet­ter curation.

While I love Cap­com fight­ing games, I’m OK about this col­lec­tion. It’s nice to have these in a mod­ern pack­age for mod­ern con­soles but I’m not enthused about the behind-the-scenes fool­ish­ness that could have been avoid­ed with bet­ter curat­ing on Cap­com’s part. There are some heavy hit­ters that could have been includ­ed imme­di­ate­ly that would have made it a bet­ter pack­age, and the extras includ­ed could have been bet­ter also. How­ev­er, it’s not a ter­ri­ble pack­age and is infi­nite­ly use­ful and valu­able to the fight­ing game pop­u­la­tion so it’s not a total wash. Cap­com could col­lect bet­ter, though.

Darkstalkers Resurrection — Issue 46

Dark­stalk­ers com­bo a fun,
fright­ful fight

Duo of Vam­pire Hunter, Sav­ior offered in package

At this point, we know what Dark­stalk­ers is and isn’t. My wor­ried brow of con­cern isn’t with get­ting a new one but more with the re-releas­es of the tril­o­gy of games and the two sup­ple­men­tal games released as upgrades. We know what to expect when it comes to Dark­stalk­ers, but as occa­sion­al com­pi­la­tions are released, we have to take a crit­i­cal look at whether it’s worth your time and cur­ren­cy to engage in Cap­com’s release the Krak­en in the form of remakes strategy.

Dark­stalk­ers Res­ur­rec­tion aims to do what Cap­com’s pre­vi­ous release in Mar­vel Origins

Vam­pire Sav­ior: Mor­ri­g­an vs. Jedah

did: Release two games in the series as start­ing points to get you to explore more. Res­ur­rec­tion con­sists of two games: Night War­riors: Dark­stalk­ers’ Revenge and Dark­stalk­ers 3. Both games are includ­ed in their entire­ty as Amer­i­can arcade ports emu­lat­ed on disc with extras added for the home release. Much as with Mar­vel Ori­gins, there’s online play and gallery unlocks from chal­lenges added. Every­thing has been giv­en a fresh coat of paint with new­er art and visu­als, which means a lot con­sid­er­ing Dark­stalk­ers 3 was released in 1997. All of this results in a nice-look­ing, souped-up package. 

Vam­pire Hunter: Dono­van vs. Jon Talbain

The game­play is as clean as it ever was, and because it’s emu­lat­ed from the arcade ports, it’s bet­ter than any oth­er release that came before it with the excep­tion of the PlaySta­tion 2 Vam­pire Col­lec­tion. Every­thing works the way it should in terms of com­bos and Dark­stalk­ers’ noto­ri­ous­ly hard-to-do moveset. The moves land the way you want and there’s no lag. Not­ing that this is an accept­able port for high-lev­el com­pe­ti­tion, Res­ur­rec­tion hits the right spot in terms of playa­bil­i­ty. If you want­ed to know how Dark­stalk­ers played in the arcade with­out try­ing to emu­late it with MAME or Fight­cade, Res­ur­rec­tion is your answer.

There real­ly isn’t any­thing wrong with Res­ur­rec­tion, either. The only annoy­ing thing about the game is the fact that it did­n’t sell well. That isn’t the game’s fault, though. This is a tech­ni­cal­ly sound port of two fan­tas­tic fight­ing games that play well and work well in what they’re being asked to do: Be a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a long-dead fight­ing fran­chise to intro­duce new­er folks to the Vampire/Darkstalkers scene. It’s done its job admirably with strong mechan­ics and gor­geous updat­ed visu­als. You can’t ask for more from a retro fight­ing game. This fan­tas­tic fight­ing fright fest deserves more respect for its abil­i­ty to shine 25 years after its last release and should scare up a spot in your fight­ing game collection.

Star Gladiator — Episode 1: Final Crusade — Issue 43

Cap­com’s space opera side series sad­dles up

I pre­vi­ous­ly reviewed Plas­ma Sword, the sequel to Cap­com’s 3D weapon fight­ing game Star Glad­i­a­tor. I played Plas­ma Sword and real­ly liked Cap­com’s approach that com­bined ele­ments from Star Wars with ele­ments of ani­me and fight­ing games. Years lat­er, hav­ing played games like Soul­cal­ibur, I want­ed to play a fight­ing game with weapons. I’m glad I got my hands on the first game in the series, Star Glad­i­a­tor — Episode 1: Final Crusade.
In Star Glad­i­a­tor, in the year 2348 humans have explored space for cen­turies, allow­ing for reg­u­lar peace­ful and trade rela­tion­ships with var­i­ous alien life­forms. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, some alien species have made threats against Earth, result­ing in a defense project cre­at­ed by Dr. Edward Bil­stein that uses ener­gy of the human mind or plas­ma pow­er. Once the project became known, Bil­stein gained fame and prof­it. How­ev­er, the Earth Fed­er­a­tion uncov­ers that Bil­stein engaged in unlaw­ful human exper­i­men­ta­tion dur­ing plas­ma pow­er research and impris­oned him in a satel­lite. Four years lat­er, a fed­er­a­tion base was attacked by dis­ci­ples of Bil­stein known as the Fourth Empire. With the Fourth Empire’s attacks toward Earth con­tin­u­ing, the Fed­er­a­tion’s hopes rely on a project allow­ing plas­ma-pow­ered users to acti­vate their gifts on a whim. That pro­jec­t’s name is Star Gladiator.
Star Glad­i­a­tor is a com­plete depar­ture from usu­al set­up for fight­ing games like Street Fight­er and Dark­stalk­ers. Instead of using a six-but­ton scheme for punch­es and kicks, Cap­com used a four-but­ton set­up that resem­bles Soul­cal­ibur. You have but­tons assigned for kicks, defense, and weapon attacks. I found this sim­ple and easy as I did not strug­gle with fight mechanics. 
You also have use of two counter moves called Plas­ma Revers­es: One is called a Plas­ma Reflect, which allows block­ing of an oppo­nen­t’s move and stun­ning them for a brief peri­od. The oth­er, Plas­ma Revenge, allows you to counter an oppo­nen­t’s fast attack while you unleash your own light­ing attack. Star Glad­i­a­tor also intro­duces the Plas­ma Com­bo Sys­tem, which allows you to set­up rapid attacks that, with the right tim­ing, can result in a tech­nique called Plas­ma Final that inflicts major dam­age. Final­ly, anoth­er stand­out fea­ture in Star Glad­i­a­tor is the plas­ma strike abil­i­ty that lets you deliv­er heavy dam­age, if timed per­fect­ly on the opponent. 
Keep­ing with the mechan­ics, let me deliv­er a safe­ty warn­ing: This game has a rotat­ing and hov­er­ing are­na that may cause motion sick­ness. With the rotat­ing are­na, if you are knocked out of bounds, you will lose auto­mat­i­cal­ly. I learned a hard les­son about using the Plas­ma Reflect and Plas­ma Final tech­niques: Like any oth­er weapon-based fight­er, your tim­ing must be accu­rate; oth­er­wise, your char­ac­ter will be open for a ring-out attack or Plas­ma Final that will end the round before you can blink. And, for those who see the Plas­ma Strike as an easy use any­time weapon: Plas­ma Strike is an impres­sive move; how­ev­er, it can only be used once per round. 
The graph­ics and music are top tier for a 3D fight­ing game from the era it was released. It looks good and tries hard but with­out being over the top. The replay val­ue is strong and is a great show­case for the start of the 3D weapon fight­er genre. 
Star Glad­i­a­tor is a clas­sic 3D fight­er that showed how fight­ing games tran­si­tioned from the arcade to the home mar­ket. I com­mend Cap­com for think­ing for­ward and not rely­ing on the same for­mu­la. Star Glad­i­a­tor is an exam­ple of Cap­com’s bril­liance in the fight­ing game are­na and the series is long over­due to return. There’s cer­tain­ly room for it in today’s space.

Street Fighter Alpha 3 — Issue 43

The Alpha of the genre wears its crown well

Street Fight­er per­fec­tion.” That’s what they were call­ing it in adver­tise­ments in 1999. Per­fec­tion it is. There are a select few Street Fight­er games that we can call per­fect, and Street Fight­er Alpha 3 is at the top of that list.
Street Fight­er Alpha 3 begins and ends with the con­cepts of Street Fight­er II and choic­es. Alpha 3 — set between 1987’s Street Fight­er and 1991’s Street Fight­er II — goes back­ward in sto­ry­line to tell the sto­ry of the future. Street Fight­er II is what it is: A fight­ing game with sim­ple mechan­ics and super moves — as of Super Tur­bo in 1994. But choic­es? In a Street Fight­er game, no less? Unheard of, until Alpha 3. 
The mechan­ics present choic­es ear­ly and fre­quent­ly. Once you pick your char­ac­ter, you then choose the fight­ing style from three main choic­es (four in the Dream­cast ver­sion). A‑ISM is straight-up Street Fight­er Alpha. It plays just like the pre­vi­ous games in the series and grants access to three bars of mul­ti­ple super moves. V‑ISM fea­tures man­u­al cus­tom com­bos, first seen in Alpha 2 and removes super moves. X‑ISM is most con­sis­tent­ly like Super Street Fight­er II Tur­bo, with access to one bar of super meter and one super move. There are dis­tinct dif­fer­ences and nuances to using each ISM, and advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages in their styles with top char­ac­ters for each. What works for Alpha 3 the most is the fact that there is so much vari­ety for a sin­gle char­ac­ter across all three ISMs. You can make some­thing out of noth­ing with almost every­one on the ros­ter, even the low­er-tier characters.
And the ros­ter is some­thing to behold in this game. The arcade ver­sion has a nice ros­ter of who’s who in Street Fight­er up to this point but get­ting it home for the con­sole ver­sions adds even more playable char­ac­ters. Favorites like Evil Ryu, Shin Aku­ma and Guile join in the fun and make it an even more round­ed cast. Basi­cal­ly, if they were in Super Tur­bo or men­tioned in Street Fight­er they’re here with a few new addi­tions like Cody, R. Mika and Karin.
The ros­ter plays nice­ly as well. The mechan­ics are easy to under­stand, espe­cial­ly if you have pre­vi­ous expo­sure to Street Fight­er in any form. It plays beau­ti­ful­ly and han­dles well in all of its var­i­ous modes.
And a vari­ety of modes there are. While some have to be unlocked — such as Final Bat­tle and Dra­mat­ic Bat­tle — the oth­er modes are fun to play and are well-inter­con­nect­ed. One of the best modes avail­able from the out­set is World Tour Mode. This is where you should spend most of your time because it’s fan­tas­tic. Trav­el­ing around the world fac­ing var­i­ous Street Fight­ers with spe­cif­ic con­di­tions that uti­lize the dif­fer­ent ISMs is the per­fect way to learn how Alpha 3 works. Using World Tour Mode effec­tive­ly blows the game wide open and is fun to play through with a ton of replay value. 
Also adding val­ue is the sound­track, one of Cap­com’s mas­ter­pieces. The game is set in the mid-to-late 1980s and it sounds appro­pri­ate to that era. Beyond the bangers for mul­ti­ple char­ac­ters — Sagat, Bal­rog and Juli/Juni instant­ly come to mind — even the nar­ra­tion deserves praise. It’s over the top but it fits per­fect­ly. The sound­track also works well with the graph­ics. The sprites are big and col­or­ful as are the detailed and stun­ning stages. It’s one of Cap­com’s bet­ter-look­ing games and is a mas­sive improve­ment from the rest of the Alpha series. It almost looks like it belongs in an entire­ly dif­fer­ent game series.
A per­fect sound­track, visu­als and game­play expe­ri­ence is what Street Fight­er Alpha 3 brings to the table. As usu­al, it took Cap­com to get it right by the count of three, but right is an under­state­ment. Even after near­ly 25 years, this is tru­ly Street Fight­er perfection.

Street Fight­er Alpha 3 Dream­cast version
The Dream­cast ver­sion war­rants men­tion because it is sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent from the PlaySta­tion and Sat­urn ver­sions. The Dream­cast ver­sion is enhanced with the addi­tion of an online mode and lat­er the Japan only Match­ing Ser­vice, which allowed online play as Cap­com had with sev­er­al oth­er fight­ing game titles such as Vam­pire Chron­i­cles, Mar­vel vs. Cap­com 2 and Super Street Fight­er II X.
The most notable and use­ful changes are the secret char­ac­ters Guile, Evil Ryu and Shin Aku­ma are already unlocked for use and the addi­tion­al ISMs and ISM-Plus mechan­ics avail­able to unlock. The PlaySta­tion ver­sion was plagued by a bug that pre­vent­ed some ISM-Plus items unlock­ing in World Tour Mode. These were made avail­able for the full expe­ri­ence, and the S‑ISM that CPU-con­trolled Final M. Bison uses was also made available.
Final­ly, the Saikyo Dojo mode is avail­able here. This mode pits a weak char­ac­ter against two strong oppo­nents. It imi­tates the Saikyo char­ac­ter select mode avail­able in the PlaySta­tion version.

Ports of Street Fight­er Alpha 3
Street Fight­er Alpha 3, Sony PlaySta­tion, 1999
Street Fight­er Zero 3, Sega Sat­urn, 1999 (Japan only)
Street Fight­er Alpha 3: Saikyo Dojo, Dream­cast, 1999
Street Fight­er Alpha 3: Saikyo-ryu Dojo for Match­ing Ser­vice, Dream­cast, 2000
Street Fight­er Zero 3 Upper, Arcade, 2001
Street Fight­er Alpha 3 Upper, Game Boy Advance, 2003
Street Fight­er Alpha 3 MAX, PlaySta­tion Portable, 2006
Street Fight­er Alpha Anthol­o­gy, PlaySta­tion 2, 2006
Street Fight­er Alpha 3, PlaySta­tion Clas­sic down­load, 2011
Street Fight­er 30th Anniver­sary Col­lec­tion, mul­ti­ple con­soles, 2018

Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha — Issue 43

A Street Fight­er lookalike

I want to love Street Fight­er EX Plus Alpha. I promise, I real­ly do. 
It’s Street Fight­er with­out being Street Fight­er, but that’s the prob­lem. It’s Street Fight­er adja­cent, and it’s not real­ly Street Fight­er. There are mechan­ics, char­ac­ters, and oth­er Street Fight­ery-type things here that make it part of the brand mys­tique, but this isn’t like the oth­ers and that isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly a good thing.
Street Fight­er EX Plus Alpha starts off lur­ing you with the promise of being some kind of “dif­fer­ent” Street Fight­er. It has most if not all of Street Fight­er Alpha’s mechan­ics and it adds a few more. The most notable addi­tions are the ded­i­cat­ed Guard Break and can­ce­lable super moves. Guard Break here is a stun move that leads to a dizzy instead of open­ing an oppo­nent up like in the Alpha series. Super can­cel­ing means you can can­cel one super move into anoth­er. Both mechan­ics instant­ly fresh­en the Street Fight­er II well-worn com­bo for­mu­la and give it a new feel. The game plays solid­ly, akin more to the sim­i­lar­ly toned Rival Schools, and when the AI isn’t being obnox­ious, you can do a lot and feel sat­is­fied about the way it flows.
The ros­ter is decent and com­ple­ments the Street Fight­er name. Sure, you have a lot of Street Fight­er vet­er­ans and main­stays here like Ryu, Guile, Chun-Li, Zang­ief and Ken, but there are some inter­est­ing Ari­ka char­ac­ters, too. Doc­trine Dark and Hoku­to are cool as is Skul­lo­ma­nia. The char­ac­ter designs are nice and make it just a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent from reg­u­lar Street Fight­er with some vari­ety and thought put into them.
While I love the ros­ter, there is some­thing that grinds my nerves. Note that I said when the AI isn’t being obnox­ious it’s playable. At this point, we all are aware of how Cap­com’s AI can be in fight­ing games. Even on the low­est dif­fi­cul­ty lev­el, though, it’s not friend­ly. There were times I bare­ly made it to the fourth fight before I got tak­en out, and I’m a Street Fight­er and over­all fight­ing game vet­er­an. It’s hard to gauge if it’s inten­tion­al giv­en that this once began life as an arcade update, but it cer­tain­ly has that quar­ter-eater feel to it in a bad way.
While I despise the AI, I don’t hate the graph­ics as much as I should. The pre­sen­ta­tion, for its time, is good. The back­grounds are gor­geous in some stages, and the poly­gons are super blocky and polyg­o­nal. How­ev­er, this was 1997, so it’s accept­able giv­en what every­thing else poly­gon-based looked like at the time. Again, as Rival Schools was around at the same time, it’s com­pa­ra­ble to that game but it does­n’t look quite as good. The sound­track is pass­able, much like the graph­ics. It was­n’t impres­sive but it was­n’t ter­ri­ble, either. It’s rem­i­nis­cent of oth­er Cap­com fight­ers at the time, despite this not being devel­oped by Capcom.
There was work to be done going from here, and Ari­ka did make improve­ments. Street Fight­er EX Plus Alpha is ser­vice­able and a good start, but I don’t think I’d stay in this region of Street Fight­er adja­cent. It’s got enough to get me inter­est­ed and going but the AI makes this a frus­trat­ing expe­ri­ence, and it all feels just a lit­tle bit like “well, we aren’t Street Fight­er, but we can slap the name on and try.” Skip this one and see if there’s a lit­tle more Street Fight­er and pizazz to your lik­ing in the lat­er sequels.

Street Fighter Collection — Issue 43

World War­riors col­lect­ing mad mon­ey in this bundle

Let’s be frank and call Street Fight­er Col­lec­tion what it real­ly is: A mon­ey grab of the finest order. Thank­ful­ly, it’s a good mon­ey grab for the time peri­od it was released in but make no mis­take that you’d have to be a hard-up Street Fight­er devo­tee to grasp the inher­ent val­ue of the con­tents from Capcom.
Street Fight­er Col­lec­tion fea­tures three games: Street Fight­er Alpha 2 Gold, Super Street Fight­er II and Super Street Fight­er II Tur­bo, two cer­ti­fied hits then and now and one that could have been left at home in com­par­i­son with the others.
Street Fight­er Alpha 2 Gold is a slight­ly more enhanced port of the cus­tom com­bo clas­sic, fea­tur­ing Cam­my as a secret char­ac­ter and the peren­ni­al sec­ond-best evil shotokan Evil Ryu. There isn’t much else dif­fer­ent in this port, and Alpha 2 is what it is: a bet­ter ver­sion of War­rior’s Dreams. Take that for what it’s worth if it’s the decid­ing fac­tor in purchasing.
The oth­er side of the coin are the Super Street Fight­er II games. Plain old New Chal­lengers is here, and it’s instant­ly made irrel­e­vant by includ­ing Super Tur­bo. Super Tur­bo is every­thing New Chal­lengers hoped to be with super moves includ­ed, so the col­lec­tion real­ly did­n’t need New Chal­lengers. The only pos­si­ble rea­son that both revi­sions were includ­ed in the col­lec­tion is because it was a way to have the most recent Street Fight­er II revi­sions in the lat­est gen­er­a­tion at the time. Super Tur­bo was­n’t released for home con­soles for obvi­ous rea­sons — no one was spend­ing $70 for anoth­er Street Fight­er revi­sion when New Chal­lengers had just been released in 1993 for the dom­i­nant Super Nin­ten­do. Cap­com might have been fool­ish, but they weren’t try­ing to push their luck, either. Make no mis­take, Super Tur­bo is the draw here, just by its exis­tence alone.
Because this is a col­lec­tion of already exist­ing games, we’re not touch­ing on the graph­ics, sights and sounds, because you’re already famil­iar with Street Fight­er II and Street Fight­er Alpha 2. None of that changed for these ports and that’s actu­al­ly a good thing.
If you’re going to buy this col­lec­tion, buy it because it’s arcade per­fect for Super and Super Tur­bo. Sure, you can find oth­er ver­sions of these games these days and in faster, bet­ter for­mats, but this isn’t a bad col­lec­tion if you remem­ber what exact­ly they stood for: Acces­si­ble Super Street Fight­er II revi­sions and an exer­cise in Cap­com cash grab mechanics.

Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 — Issue 42

The fight of the century

Who would win between Cap­com and SNK?
That’s the ques­tion that was at the fore­front of every­one’s mind in the ear­ly 2000s. The rival­ry between the com­pa­nies was well known, and the streets were hot with love for their respec­tive fight­ing game series. When Cap­com vs. SNK was released, the ques­tion was answered, though we still did­n’t know who was bet­ter defin­i­tive­ly. There’s a sequel for that.
What CvS did get right was the ini­tial ques­tion. Take some of the best and most pop­u­lar fight­ing game char­ac­ters from both com­pa­nies and pit them against each oth­er. Mar­quee SNK names like Ter­ry Bog­a­rd, Mai Shu­ranui, King and Rugal Bern­stein face off against Cap­com main­stays like Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, and Sagat. The full ros­ter has some­one for every­one from each com­pa­ny. If you like grap­plers, there’s Zang­ief rep­re­sent­ing Cap­com while Raiden shows up for SNK. Love fight­ing teenage girls? You’re cov­ered with Saku­ra and Yuri. The selec­tion is a nice buf­fet to choose from.
But then it gets a lit­tle more inter­est­ing. Each char­ac­ter is slot­ted into a one-to-four ratio cat­e­go­ry. Heavy hit­ters like Aku­ma and Orochi Iori, usu­al­ly hid­den boss char­ac­ters in their respec­tive games, are Ratio 4. Ratio 3 fea­tures boss char­ac­ters such as M. Bison, Geese and Rugal. Ratio 2 is for the mid­dle-class fight­er like Ryu, Ken, Kyo Kusana­gi and Mai. In the low­est ratio are light­weights like Saku­ra, Ben­i­maru, Yuri and Dhal­sim. The Ratio Sys­tem allows mul­ti­ple com­bi­na­tions so long as the ratio equals four. Build­ing your team is cru­cial because of the pow­er bal­ance impli­ca­tions and their poten­tial matchups.
The in-depth fight­ing sys­tem is not with­out its flaws, how­ev­er. The place­ment of some char­ac­ters in the Ratio Sys­tem is ques­tion­able and their movesets being pressed between EX and reg­u­lar cat­e­go­riza­tion is arti­fi­cial lim­i­ta­tions imposed at best. This is fixed in the sequel but here it’s a prob­lem that slight­ly affects game­play adversely.
In addi­tion to the Ratio Sys­tem there is the Groove Sys­tem. A two-part func­tion, the Groove Sys­tem deter­mines how the char­ac­ters per­form cer­tain basic moves like rolling and dash­ing and how super moves work. Cap­com Groove plays a lot like Street Fight­er Alpha 3 with access to Lev­el 3 supers imme­di­ate­ly with enough super meter built up. SNK Groove plays sim­i­lar­ly to the Extra Mode in the King of Fight­ers series. Here, you only get access to Lev­el 3 supers when your life meter is flash­ing, though you can charge your meter man­u­al­ly to gain Lev­el 1 supers. There’s a lot of strat­e­gy involved in choos­ing the right Groove and apply­ing its prop­er­ties to your advan­tage, which is a nice change of pace.
Cap­com vs. SNK also gets its envi­ron­ment right. The game looks fan­tas­tic, with beau­ti­ful back­grounds of famil­iar loca­tions for both com­pa­nies. Of spe­cial note is the SNK graph­ic mode for Cap­com char­ac­ters. Shinkiro out­did him­self with the stun­ning and life­like art­work. I was­n’t super famil­iar with his work before­hand because I was­n’t an SNK enthu­si­ast. But, you can con­sid­er me a devo­tee as of this game because I fell in love with his art through his char­ac­ter portraits.
And, along­side the gor­geous envi­ron­ments is a won­der­ful­ly nos­tal­gic sound­track. Sure, there are some new tracks, but the meat and pota­toes are in the old­er remixed tracks. The sound mix­es well with the action, and there are quite a few bops to be had here. The sound­track is one worth adding to the collection.
Cap­com vs. SNK is a great start for the fran­chise. It’s built with vet­er­ans in mind, but even as a new­com­er you can find a char­ac­ter to learn and devel­op. Cap­com banked on the unini­ti­at­ed tak­ing the time to learn the back­ground of the char­ac­ters fea­tured, and the result is worth tak­ing a spin 22 years after its ini­tial release. No, the ques­tion of who’s the best was­n’t answered here, but it’s one worth explor­ing in a top-notch release for the Dream­cast fight­ing game library.

Retro Replay — Soulcalibur II (GameCube version) — Issue 41

Heart and soul of calibur

Some­times, when you’re the sequel to one of the great­est fight­ing games of all time, you need no intro­duc­tion and you’re allowed to have repeat praise heaped on your shoulders.

We pre­vi­ous­ly reviewed the PlaySta­tion 2 ver­sion of Soul­cal­ibur II in 4Q2010, yet here we are again talk­ing about it in glow­ing terms for the Game­Cube ver­sion. There isn’t much new to say oth­er than this port is just as beau­ti­ful as the PS2 version. 

With the addi­tion of Link to the cast for this ver­sion, the game is even bet­ter. Link fits right in with the pro­ceed­ings and man­ages to unbal­ance the game heav­i­ly in his favor. He’s the per­fect addi­tion, to be honest.

With a killer sound­track, beau­ti­ful graph­ics that hold up after 20 years, a deep sto­ry­line and supe­ri­or game­play to almost every­thing avail­able on the mar­ket at the time, Soul­cal­ibur II is a wor­thy suc­ces­sor in every way to one of the great­est fight­ing games ever made.

Street Fighter V — Issue 41

Don’t call it a come­back: SFV cleans up after launch

I’m going to be intense­ly per­son­al for a minute: My life by the time of my mid-30s was not fun. It was a time of change, reboots in near­ly every area (part­ner, career, school again), loss and learn­ing from the mis­takes of my 20s. I’m good now, but it wasn’t with­out strug­gle and pain.
And the old­est entry in the fight game can com­mis­er­ate with me because they know what that time is like. Street Fight­er V is sit­ting at the bar with me, drown­ing its sor­rows because it and the series, too, went through it in its mid-30s and like me is doing much bet­ter than one could expect after the struggle.
SFV didn’t start out as mag­i­cal as it has become. The launch was mired in prob­lems and things just weren’t where they should be. The game’s sto­ry mode didn’t launch along­side the actu­al game and the net­code was ter­ri­ble. But what a dif­fer­ence time makes. 

The sto­ry, while still not as engross­ing as past entries, has improved. It moves the SF world mythos along and makes sense if you know the series’ past. Tak­ing place between Ultra SFIV and SF3: 3rd Strike, Char­lie wakes up in a tomb and is guid­ed to steal an item from Guile, which would help him defeat M. Bison. Third Strike boss Gill dri­ves the plot over­all, tying up the loose ends between SFII and the endgame of 3rd Strike, which is the known end of the series sto­ry­line-wise. I love that Gill is tied into this as it always seemed like he was out of place as the end of SF lore. I nev­er ful­ly under­stood why he was the boss of that tril­o­gy of games except as some­thing new for Cap­com to try because every­one was sick of M. Bison by that point.

While I’m impressed with the sto­ry, I’m more impressed with the pre­sen­ta­tion. Much like its pre­de­ces­sors, SFV looks gor­geous. The back­grounds are beau­ti­ful as are most of the char­ac­ter designs. Even the menus look good. Some­times, when I start the game, I take a sec­ond just to mar­vel at the main menu and how the modes are pre­sent­ed. And let’s talk about the sound­track for a sec­ond. The music is all-around amaz­ing. Every time I get in-game, I dis­cov­er anoth­er track that I feel like I haven’t pre­vi­ous­ly heard, and I fall in love all over again. It’s so good that it’s worth track­ing down and adding to your music collection.

While I love the game, there is a big sec­tion I don’t care for: the play style. I’m an Alpha purist, specif­i­cal­ly SF Alpha 3. That’s my Street Fight­er style and has been for years. How­ev­er, SFV plays kind of stiff — a lot like SFIV — and that’s hard for me to grasp. It’s playable, obvi­ous­ly, but it’s not my style of Street Fight­er play. And that’s OK. It real­ly doesn’t detract from the game’s abil­i­ty to shine or be Street Fight­er, but it’s not my per­son­al pref­er­ence to play. It is a lot of fun to watch being played pro­fes­sion­al­ly, though.

Street Fight­er V has come a long way as the most cur­rent entry in the series. Game ele­ments have got­ten a lot of pol­ish, whether it’s fix­ing the net­code or expand­ing the ros­ter with old favorites and skins allud­ing to long-dor­mant char­ac­ters. It’s now the flag­ship game it should have been, and it’s still rul­ing the fight game roost while every­one waits for the announced Street Fight­er 6. 

Some­times, with the strug­gle comes the rewards and SFV has more than earned its life fight money.

Samurai Shodown 2019 — Issue 39

Show­ing up to show out

Vet­er­an fight­ing series Samu­rai Shodown returns with few flaws

SNK has done it again. Gor­geous graph­ics, fun play mechan­ics and a sol­id fight­ing game engine make up the core of one of its flag­ship fight­ing fran­chis­es fea­tur­ing samu­rai. If you’re in the mode for beau­ti­ful fight­ing in the Japan­ese feu­dal era, you’ve come to the right place in the 2019 revival of Samu­rai Shodown.

Get­ting back to the root of what makes Samu­rai Shodown fun and unique, the 2019 reboot is basic in every way. The bare­bones options mean there isn’t much to do, but if you’re look­ing to just pick a fight­er and jump in, it’s clear­ly there for that. You choose from 18 base ros­ter fight­ers and duke it out in feu­dal Japan with var­i­ous moti­va­tions. All are inves­ti­gat­ing a com­ing cat­a­stro­phe, but their inten­tion in the face of a sin­is­ter envi­ron­ment is unique. Time­line-wise, the game is set between the pre­quel Samu­rai Shodown V and the orig­i­nal Samu­rai Shodown. So, you’re get­ting a taste of the sto­ry before the main series even kicks off.

The char­ac­ters, as well as the back­grounds, are stun­ning. SNK has always been known for its impres­sive atten­tion to detail when it comes to graph­ics with Samu­rai Shodown, and this entry is no dif­fer­ent. The col­ors pop with an empha­sis on non-real­is­tic graph­ics that resem­ble what we know in the West as ukiyo‑e and wood­block paint­ings; every­thing is utter­ly gor­geous, begin­ning with the menu and options screens.

As a title set in feu­dal Japan, the music must reflect the envi­ron­ment — and it’s well done as well. The use of tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese instru­ments has always been present in Samu­rai Shodown and it’s used lib­er­al­ly and to great effect. Also, the voice work is excel­lent. We appre­ci­ate the Japan­ese lan­guage, and it sounds beau­ti­ful and clear here.

We do have an obvi­ous issue with the reboot, despite its beau­ty. There is a notice­able lack of things to do once you stop mar­veling at the graph­ics. Where are the modes beyond the stan­dard offer­ings? So much more could have been added, espe­cial­ly with the series’ his­to­ry at hand. It’s a pret­ty pack­age but it’s miss­ing a lot.

Samu­rai Shodown has been around for a long time, and this revival is just that: A return to the roots of a fan­tas­tic fight­ing game series. This entry is stun­ning and grace­ful yet just enough to whet the appetite of a fight­ing game new­com­er or a sea­soned vet­er­an. With this suc­cess, SNK now knows what it needs to do to show up and show out with the renewed inter­est in the show­stop­per that is Samu­rai Shodown.