As I’m sure you can understand, the prospect of beloved games from my childhood celebrating milestone birthdays is, quite frankly, terrifying. This year marks the 30th anniversary of seminal arcade fighting game Street Fighter, which also happens to coincide with my own 30th trip around the Sun. Through some strange twist of fate, it seems as though I’ve become the ‘fighting game’ guy here at WellPlayed and although I was a little apprehensive to accept that title at first, it now feels like a nicely worn-in pair of boxing gloves.
If you’ve been anywhere within earshot of an arcade or video game console in the last 30 years, I’m positive that you will have heard about Street Fighter, but for the uninitiated, I’ll give you a brief rundown. Players select a character from a roster of fighters, each with varying martial arts styles and duke it out in 2D arenas. The truly skilled can utilise special moves by learning (sometimes pretty complex) button combinations and keep the pressure on their opponents with huge attack combo strings. Due to the intense combat, nuanced plays and slick pixel-art graphics, Street Fighter was a massive success in arcades around the world and is still played competitively to this day.
Guile’s Theme goes with everything, especially fighting Guile
From the get-go, it’s pretty clear that this anniversary collection is one for the long-term Street Fighter Fans. It charts the evolution of the series from the humble beginnings of the janky original, all the way through to the various versions of Street Fighter 2 in the early 90s and culminating in the super technical but graphically gorgeous Street Fighter 3: Third Strike. While the collection technically includes twelve complete ports, players that are unfamiliar with the series and how it grew and changed over time may find themselves wondering why there are five iterations of Street Fighter 2 and three of Street Fighter 3. Since I’m not a grizzled veteran, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you the difference between Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior and Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo other than the obvious roster expansion, but I’m sure there are many out there who would know.
Four of the included titles also have an online mode available, that lets you brawl with players around the world in either ranked or casual matches. The casual lobbies are a fun way to feel nostalgic and attempt to master the infamous ‘Hadoken’, but ranked battles are where the pros and old guard have returned to test their mettle. I never really stood a chance, but somehow it was still quite fun to watch how some players can take 30(ish)-year-old gameplay mechanics and make them dance across the screen with deadly effectiveness. Sadly though, the online component of this collection is, so far, outside the same checks and balance tweaks one would expect from a competitive fighting game, so some characters can feel a bit overpowered.
There’s a lot to get through…kind of
Strangely, most of my time spent with this anniversary collection wasn’t actually duking it out in the arena; it was deep diving in the lovingly curated museum of Street Fighter included with the game. The history mode has everything a fan could ever want, from early concept art to soundtrack playlists and even extensive character lore breakdowns. I’m not ashamed to admit that I actually spent hours reading about M.Bison’s doll project and the familial connections that Guile and Ken share. If I had to pick a favourite part of the history mode, it would have to be the frame-by-frame breakdown of some of the most famous character move animations, which not only look amazing, but also give a glimpse into how the art of the game developed alongside the mechanics.
Speaking of the superb pixel-art, all of the titles contained in the collection have been ported fantastically, and look just as good (if not better) than they did when they were first released. You have the option of playing in the classic 4:3 aspect ratio that arcade fans will be familiar with, complete with cabinet borders and subtle screen filters to really give it that authentic feel. If you prefer though, you can stretch the picture to fit whatever screen you’re playing on and just focus on the action, but it will compromise the fidelity if you do. However you decide to play, I guarantee that all of the visuals are some of the most beautiful and influential 2D graphics to date.
Just like the good ol’ days
If you aren’t a Street Fighter superfan, or if you’ve only really picked up the series in the most recent sequels, you may find this collection wanting. Due to being faithful ports of arcade titles, the controls aren’t as tight or forgiving as what console players are used to. It can also be really difficult at times (even when I put the AI on the lowest difficulty setting) which can lead to frustration and disappointment, rather than an incentive to improve at the game. I had one match against the lowest level AI Guile, who literally just spammed Sonic Booms at me until I was defeated. Since this was the first level of a new game, I just rage quit and went back to the museum section for a while.
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is a fantastic compilation of some of gaming’s most influential fighting titles. It really has been made with old-school fans and arcade kids in mind, which sadly may be a little alienating for newcomers. If you grew up alongside Ryu, Chun-Li and Blanka, I highly recommend grabbing this for a hard dose of nostalgia and posterity, but if you aren’t a super fan, you may get bored fairly quickly. Either way, if you find yourself in front of this anthology of combat, please set aside a few hours to trawl through the history section, you won’t regret it.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro | Review code supplied by publisher