Sonic the Hedgehog 2 — Issue 45

Son­ic reigns supreme in sec­ond outing

Ah, Son­ic the Hedge­hog. Sega’s top mas­cot has had a bit of a revival late­ly. From tril­o­gy games on the Gen­e­sis and oth­er sys­tems devel­oped by Sega and its com­peti­tors to com­ic books and var­i­ous mer­chan­dise, car­toon series and two block­buster movies, Son­ic and Co. are liv­ing large. He reached a sim­i­lar zenith in his sec­ond game — Son­ic the Hedge­hog 2 — which also intro­duced fans to his equal-yet-unique part­ner, Miles Prow­er aka “Tails” (because he’s a two-tailed fox) who joins our favorite blue speedy demon in a new bat­tle to stop Dr. Robotnik. 
In Son­ic 2, Son­ic and Tails and their friends are enjoy­ing peace­ful days on West Island until Dr. Robot­nik and his cronies arrive, kid­nap­ping the inhab­i­tants, and trans­form­ing them into robot­ic slaves. The slaves would help Robot­nik search for the leg­endary Chaos Emer­alds, which he plans to use to pow­er his space sta­tion. With Robot­nik’s lat­est threat, It’s up to Son­ic and Tails to find the Emer­alds to foil Robot­nik and his dreams for world domination. 
Game­play in Son­ic 2 is much like the first Son­ic game, but with some new addi­tions. Each lev­el or “act” (there are 20 in total) will have you bash­ing ene­mies and avoid­ing var­i­ous haz­ards such as spikes and bot­tom­less pits. While dash­ing through you must uti­lize some patience and tim­ing to avoid these var­i­ous obsta­cles. Son­ic is still easy to con­trol but he now also has a cool new trick called the Spin Dash. This lets him go even faster and take down more ene­mies. Tails has the same skills, but his two tails give him a lit­tle more flair. 
Son­ic 2 has the option of Son­ic or Tails going after Robot­nik alone or join­ing forces in either sin­gle- or two-play­er modes. Robot­nik has some new allies in the form of a robot­ic mon­key named Coconuts and a robot­ic crab named Thrash­er whose shell is com­prised of a pin­ball bumper. With Robot­nik hav­ing new meth­ods to attack and hench bots to car­ry them out, the usu­al powerups (Rings, Speed Sneak­ers, and invin­ci­bil­i­ty) are vast and abun­dant, but Son­ic and Tails can take advan­tage of a new pow­er shield that gives tem­po­rary pro­tec­tion against hits. 
The graph­ics are of 16-bit qual­i­ty, but they do an excel­lent job of shin­ing, whether it’s char­ac­ters or back­grounds. Each stage is burst­ing with high ener­gy col­or; the Chem­i­cal Plant Zone, Metrop­o­lis Zone and the bonus stages are my some of my per­son­al favorites. 
I was pleased with Son­ic 2’s music from begin­ning to end as it paired per­fect­ly with the stages, beat by beat. The Green Hill, Chem­i­cal Plant, Casi­no Night and Mys­tic Cave zones hit the spot with spe­cial recog­ni­tion for the Sky Chase Zone for its relax­ing beats. 
Son­ic 2 is wor­thy of revis­it­ing often, espe­cial­ly if you want to expe­ri­ence 16-bit gam­ing at its finest. There is no doubt that Son­ic 2 would be a sure-fire hit game to intro­duce to a new gen­er­a­tion of gamers look­ing to expe­ri­ence good old-school gaming.
Son­ic the Hedge­hog 2 is a cer­ti­fi­able banger in the annals of video game his­to­ry. One of the best sequels ever released kept Sega in the 16-bit wars and gave us leg­endary Son­ic game­play that still holds up. Spin Dash on blue blur.

 

Jet Grind Radio — Issue 45

Jet Grind Radio sets cool standard

Bom­bas­tic yet cool. This is the dichoto­my you encounter in the atmos­phere of Jet Grind Radio. There’s noth­ing quite like it — except its sequel — and that’s a bless­ing because I don’t think the world could han­dle any­thing else. It’s quirky, futur­is­tic, stun­ning, and unde­ni­ably cool when you get down to it: Jet Grind Radio is the future.
Set in a futur­is­tic Tokyo, Jet Grind Radio fea­tures a wide cast of rollerblad­ing graf­fi­ti gangs vying for suprema­cy and strug­gling against an ego­ma­ni­a­cal mad­man and his con­glom­er­ate, which are attempt­ing to take over the world. The sto­ry­line serves its pur­pose but it’s the char­ac­ters that are the draw here. Each char­ac­ter — includ­ing the unlock­able — has an inter­est­ing look and sto­ry going on. They are the lifeblood, and it’s fun to learn about them and their motivations. 
While we’re lov­ing the char­ac­ters, let’s also give love to the art style that brings them to life. The art style is gor­geous and still holds up after 23 years. The graf­fi­ti cel-shad­ed look has aged well; graf­fi­ti nev­er fails to be awe­some and impact­ful, and Jet Grind Radio looks phe­nom­e­nal. It’s the first game to use this tech­nique, and it set the stan­dard in 2000 in terms of pre­sen­ta­tion. The back­grounds are also well done and inspire runs through the game. It’s clear­ly an ear­ly 2000s game, but that only por­tends good things about the Dream­cast and what it was capa­ble of.
And as good as the game looks, the graph­ics almost don’t hold a can­dle to the sound­track. This is one of the best sound­tracks ever done, and it will have you bop­ping while you’re run­ning around on inline skates. This is one of those sound­tracks that you put on while work­ing and you get some of your best work done. Funky and pop-cen­tric, the sound­track has so much going on the­mat­i­cal­ly that there’s bound to be some­thing for everyone. 
And in terms of appeal­ing to mass con­sump­tion, the con­trols are a com­mon denom­i­na­tor kind of sen­si­bil­i­ty. The imme­di­ate com­par­i­son here is Tony Hawk, which isn’t sur­pris­ing since the Hawk­man had just released his first game — Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater — a year ear­li­er to crit­i­cal acclaim. Jet Grind Radio does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly grind on Hawk’s coat­tails, but you’re bound to say to your­self at least once, “These con­trols sure feel famil­iar.” And you would­n’t be wrong. That’s a good thing, because it plays like ear­ly Tony Hawk, you know when it was good.
While every­thing is great in terms of pre­sen­ta­tion and con­trol, I’d be remiss in men­tion­ing that there is one both­er­some flaw with Jet Grind Radio. While the con­trols are eas­i­ly anal­o­gous to ear­ly Tony Hawk games, it was­n’t easy to pick up the game and know what’s going on imme­di­ate­ly. It’s a lit­tle too inac­ces­si­ble at first, like it’s ask­ing you to have some in-depth knowl­edge ahead of play­ing for the first time. You may not be famil­iar with the con­cepts the game is throw­ing at you, and it’s the game’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to ease you into the fray. Thank­ful­ly, the sur­round­ing game is so good that you’ll come back to get more in-depth with the trap­pings of Tokyo-to.
The Jet Grind series has last­ed into the mod­ern era with re-releas­es and a rumored reboot, and the orig­i­nal game details exact­ly why. Easy con­trols, var­ied modes, an engag­ing cast (love Pots, Piran­ha and Beat!) and pop­ping sound­track make for an imme­di­ate­ly unfor­get­table expe­ri­ence. Get in-line to get down with the fan­tas­tic Jet Grind Radio.

Altered Beast — Issue 44

Beast & Co. alter gaming

As a young lad grow­ing up in the era of arcades (AKA the gold­en age of gam­ing) one of the for­mer kings of gam­ing, Sega was the name that had instant recog­ni­tion with me. From titles like After Burn­er, Out­run, Shi­no­bi, and Vir­tu­al Fight­er, Sega has mas­tered the art of sep­a­rat­ing one from their gam­ing tokens with­out fail. Dur­ing my arcade trav­els, I saw a Sega title that turned out to be not only a clas­sic arcade hit, but also was the inspi­ra­tion for the Bloody Roar series: the revered but maligned Altered Beast for the Genesis.

In Altered Beast, you take on the role of an ancient Roman Cen­tu­ri­on war­rior res­ur­rect­ed by Zeus to res­cue his daugh­ter Athena who was kid­napped by the under­world ruler Neff. As this unnamed war­rior, you do have a small-but-pow­er­ful advan­tage over Neff and his armies: the abil­i­ty to pow­er up into var­i­ous beasts that change the tide of the bat­tle. With this abil­i­ty, the Cen­tu­ri­on war­rior sets off on his divine man­date to res­cue Athena and defeat Neff. 

Game­play of Altered Beast is real­ly sim­ple: As some­one who played side-scrolling games, I instant­ly took to the basic punch, kick and jump mechan­ics. As you go through each ene­my, you’ll get a pow­er-up orb that lit­er­al­ly says “Pow­er-up!”; this made me think that Zeus came down and gave com­mands. On the third pow­er-up, you’ll go into your actu­al beast mode, which con­sists of forms such as a drag­on, were­wolf, were­bear, weretiger, and a gold­en were­wolf, each with their own unique pow­ers. At this point, I’m think­ing that this game is the ori­gin for the pop­u­lar phase “Beast Mode.” At the end of each lev­el, you bat­tle Neff in var­i­ous forms. The graph­ics are pret­ty good for a tran­si­tion from arcade to 16-bit con­sole with lit­tle notice­able dif­fer­ence in qual­i­ty for the time period. 

Altered Beast does have a few flaws: When you defeat Neff at the end of each stage, he some­how takes away your pow­er-up forms as a last part­ing shot, which is obnox­ious. Also, the brief inter­mis­sion scenes are grainy, mak­ing it hard to under­stand what’s going on. On the bright side, the replay val­ue is awe­some for those who want to relieve the gold­en days of the Gen­e­sis and those who want side scrolling action with a mix of horror.

Altered Beast is one of Sega’s clas­sic gems that is wor­thy of anoth­er look. There was a mod­ern-day remake released in 2005 for PS2, but it was crit­i­cal­ly panned. For­tu­nate­ly, Sega decid­ed to give Altered Beast anoth­er look, this time plac­ing it among its oth­er well-known prop­er­ties in var­i­ous TV and film projects. Sega altered the side-scrolling land­scape with this epic tale of good ver­sus evil.

The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse — Issue 44

Hop ‘n bop Dis­ney style

Hop ‘n bops are the lifeblood of the old­er con­soles. You did­n’t have a decent con­sole if it did­n’t have one romp with a mas­cot-like char­ac­ter at the helm. Even the ter­ri­ble con­soles had at least one. So, it should be no sur­prise that a great sys­tem such as the Super Nin­ten­do was chock full of great bops. While a bit on the easy side and slight­ly deriv­a­tive, Mag­i­cal Quest Star­ring Mick­ey Mouse is in the pan­theon of good plat­form­ers for the SNES.

The game starts out with cutesy lore: Mick­ey and his friends Goofy and Don­ald are play­ing a game of catch with Plu­to at the park. The ball gets thrown too far and Plu­to runs off. Goofy and Don­ald chase Plu­to and even­tu­al­ly dis­ap­pear, leav­ing Mick­ey to search for them. Mick­ey tum­bles down a cliff and finds him­self in a strange mag­i­cal land. After a bit of search­ing, a wiz­ard appears to inform Mick­ey that Pete is a tyrant over the land and has cap­tured Plu­to. With that infor­ma­tion, it’s now up to Mick­ey to save his canine com­pan­ion and reunite with his friends.

While search­ing for Plu­to isn’t hard, some of the mechan­ics are lit­tle cum­ber­some. The spin-and-throw mechan­ic is weird at first, but even­tu­al­ly it becomes sec­ond nature. It’s a lit­tle too off some­times, mak­ing clean hits more miss than suc­cess. There are cos­tume changes for Mick­ey that serve to high­light the mag­ic usage of the game, and each has a way to be use­ful. The prob­lem is, it’s not always clear what you should be using the suits for indi­vid­u­al­ly. And upgrad­ing them is some­times a chore. How­ev­er, the over­all basic hop ‘n bop mechan­ics are excel­lent and feel tight. Mick­ey is easy to con­trol, and bop­ping through the beau­ti­ful scenery is an easy affair.

While the sto­ry isn’t any­thing to real­ly get excit­ed about, the graph­ics are. They’re super lush and beau­ti­ful, with detailed sprites and abun­dant col­ors to bright­en even the dark­est of realms. The music is also appro­pri­ate­ly bright, with a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties to the lat­er excel­lent Aladdin sound­track. It’s a Cap­com music show so the sound­track is at worst decent. The tracks do add a lit­tle some­thing to the romp through loca­tions, so the music is serviceable.

This is the very def­i­n­i­tion of hop ‘n bop in the ear­ly days of 16-bit plat­form­ers. It’s got a decent sto­ry, beau­ti­ful graph­ics and a decent sound­track with excel­lent plat­form­ing and a vari­ety of mechan­ics to learn. If it had a save fea­ture, that might have pushed it to the upper ech­e­lon of SNES plat­form­ing. But, that bit of miss­ing mag­ic along with some quirky con­trol issues keep it from being an epic Mick­ey quest.

Gunbird 2 — Issue 44

This is good and clean bul­let hell fun

Bom­bas­tic bul­lets, bombs, and spe­cial attacks. You’re get­ting a taste of every­thing in the wild ver­ti­cal shoot­er Gun­bird 2 from shoot-’em-up prac­ti­tion­er Psikyo. Whether that taste is enough to whet your appetite for fur­ther shmup adven­tures is anoth­er sto­ry, one I believe is worth at least reading.

Gun­bird 2 is your aver­age ver­ti­cal shoot­er in that it sub­scribes to bul­let hell envi­ron­ments. There are sev­en char­ac­ters to choose from, each with their own moti­va­tions for cap­tur­ing three mys­ti­cal ele­ments and pre­sent­ing them to their god. All of them fly around var­i­ous stages in the Gun­bird world, blow­ing up ene­mies and tak­ing on the boss Shark and her cronies Blade and Gim­mick of the Queen Pirates. The sto­ry is sim­ple to get into and won’t take up too much of your time through sta­t­ic screens explain­ing the sit­u­a­tion at hand. 

It’s easy to under­stand the mechan­ics as well. Each char­ac­ter has five attacks: Pri­ma­ry, sec­ondary, charge, melee, and super weapon. The pri­ma­ry weapon is either a con­cen­trat­ed or spread shot with all oth­er weapons spe­cif­ic to the char­ac­ter in ani­ma­tion. It’s fun to try all of the char­ac­ters to see how their weapons ani­mate and behave, and it’s impor­tant to as well, because there is strat­e­gy involved. Know­ing when to ini­ti­ate a super weapon is cru­cial for main­tain­ing com­bos and sav­ing your­self or your team­mate if you’re play­ing along­side some­one else. The attacks are all assigned to but­tons so you don’t have to do too much to move around and attack. It’s sim­plis­tic and yet chaot­ic at times, but it’s fun chaos.

The pre­sen­ta­tion is gor­geous while you’re dodg­ing ene­mies and get­ting shot from all direc­tions. The col­or palette is beau­ti­ful and the char­ac­ter ani­ma­tion shines. And, yes, even though Psikyo car­ried over Mor­ri­g­an’s dog-tired sprite from Dark­stalk­ers it still works here. You imme­di­ate­ly know who she is, and it does­n’t look to ter­ri­ble against the back­drops of bul­let hell. The oth­er char­ac­ters look good for late ’90s ani­ma­tion. While the ani­ma­tion is good, the sound­track is pass­ing, if not a bit late ’90s mediocre. It’s not ter­ri­ble, but it does­n’t stand­out. A sin­gle track caught our atten­tion, which is OK. Not all shoot-’em-ups get to be Gala­ga Arrange­ment or Gradius.

Over­all, Gun­bird 2 is a good ver­ti­cal shoot­er in a crowd­ed genre pop­u­lat­ed by heavy hit­ters. It shoots its way to the mid­dle of the pack, and while it won’t knock your socks off, it’s got replay val­ue and charm built into its laser.

Golden Axe — Issue 44

A gold­en era of gaming

I know I’ve cov­ered a lot of Sega games, but I’m a big fan. I par­tial­ly owned a NES, a Mas­ter Sys­tem and a Gen­e­sis, and while I did not have a lot of games for those sys­tems, I enjoyed the games that I had for them, espe­cial­ly the Gen­e­sis. One of those games has an arcade back­ground shared with Gaunt­let with ele­ments of the Dun­geons and Drag­ons table­top games. If you old­er read­ers know what I’m talk­ing about, respect. For you younger read­ers, lis­ten and learn of the tale of Gold­en Axe.

Inspired also by the Conan the Bar­bar­ian movie series of the 1980s, Gold­en Axe gives you a choice of three war­riors: Ax Bat­tler, who wields a broadsword; Gilius Thun­der­head, a dwarf war­rior with a bat­tle ax; and, an Ama­zon­ian war­rior, Tyris Flare, whose weapon of choice is a longsword. These war­riors were brought togeth­er by twist of fate thanks to an evil enti­ty known as Death Adder, who has cap­tured the king­dom of Yuria along with its king and his daugh­ter. The three heroes have also lost loved ones at Death Adder’s hands and set off on their quest to destroy Death Adder and restore hope and peace to Yuria. 

Game­play is sim­ple with each char­ac­ter have the basic attack, jump and spe­cial attacks you find in reg­u­lar side-scroller games. The one major advan­tage that Ax, Gilius, and Tyris have is their unique abil­i­ty to cast mag­ic spells that does seri­ous dam­age to all ene­mies on screen. How­ev­er, this spe­cial attack comes with two caveats: mag­ic ener­gy has a high cost and pro­tect­ing your nec­es­sary mag­ic potions from thiev­ing elves is a chore. Now, this is the part where you ask, “what’s the pay­off with the char­ac­ter’s mag­ic attacks?” Good ques­tion! Tyris wields fire mag­ic, Ax’s spe­cial­ty is earth spells and my favorite char­ac­ter, Gilius, lit­er­al­ly brings the thun­der with light­ing spells. It’s easy to under­stand the mechan­ics and use every­thing in the heat of battle. 

If there was one neg­a­tive thing that I found about Gold­en Axe, it’s that it’s too short on game­play. The first stage is set on a giant sea tur­tle that moves across the sea in the sec­ond stage. You move to a sleep­ing giant eagle in the third stage and are trans­port­ed to the fourth and final stage by said eagle. That’s entire­ly too short of an adven­ture. Eas­i­ly there could have been a few more stages to flesh out the story.

The music has a strong com­bi­na­tion of hero­ic and fairy­tale beats that are not too shab­by but is a per­fect fit for the game. The replay val­ue is pret­ty good for a 16-bit game that has a short lev­el of game­play. Over­all, this is a valiant effort by Sega to be cre­ative with a game that has poten­tial sad­ly but lacks creativity.

While it can be fun to play, the game need­ed some pol­ish and a lit­tle bit more finesse to real­ly shine. You’ll pull some hair at the length and some ele­ments, but over­all, it’s a decent hack ‘n slash. Just exer­cise calm and steadi­ness in this promis­ing yet cru­el venture.

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.