Street Fighter EX2 Plus

Beat-em-up reviewed

Time Capsule Computers

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As well as this prestigious pedigree background, there's a certain degree of infamy attached to Capcom's title. Notoriously greedy, the Japanese mega-corp released several flavours of the game in arcades and game stores across the world: at one point 5 (five!) different versions of Street Fighter 2 came out in 2 years, and on several different platforms. Combining the number of versions with the number of platforms it's been released on, it isn't surprising that there have been around 40 Street Fighter games since the series began. But is this, the latest instalment, any good? As certain consoles were released in the mid-nineties, the SF series fragmented into several sub-sorts. The graphics of this particular title, straying from the 2D stable from where it was bred, are a concession to the fast-advancing world of high-quality graphics, and it was obvious to compete with Tekken and other young pretenders, the series would have to be updated somewhat. The EX series is a 3D version, originally designed for the PlayStation a couple of years ago, and this is the sequel. Not 3D in the true sense, rather just characters comprised of polygons superimposed onto various backgrounds, with a polygonal floor. This means the gameplay doesn't stray too much from the 2D series: dodging to the sides is not allowed, and to be honest there's only a couple of signs that it differs much. One is the odd camera switch to show throws and other moves in detail. The other, more serious flaw, is the difference in speed. My personal favourite Street Fighter game is Street Fighter Alpha 2 for the Playstation. It felt more like an SNK/Neo Geo game than a Capcom one: more defined, cartoon-style characters, lots of them, in fact, and a faster system of play. EX2 Plus feels rather sluggish in comparison. (The original EX was like playing in treacle, fortunately there's a marked improvement here). Sorry Capcom, but I like my fighting games fast and furious. Some may argue this allows more time for tactics and refined strategies, but part of the enjoyment of earlier titles was learning them inside-out, and pulling off huge, game-winning moves in a split second, much to the chagrin of your opponent. Please do not think this ruined the game; it just wasn't my particular cup of tea. It's still a decent fighting game in its own right, but with such a fine lineage behind it, it felt a little cold. Perhaps recognising the criticisms levelled at the prequel, Capcom did its level best to beef up EX2 Plus somewhat. There's now 22 available characters, including 2 brand new, and 8 unique to the EX series. Versus mode contains a Team Battle mode (hurrah!), and there's a chance to try out some of the bonus games from the original SF2 in new 3D mode, including my personal favourite Barrel Smashing! A new twist is the Director mode, allowing you to carry out a 1-on-1 battle then save it to memory card, and edit the camera angles on each move. The editing system is perhaps a little limited, but in a series so shamelessly derivative and milked as SF, it's refreshing to see a little ingenuity. As any seasoned player will now, there's only so much fun to be had with Arcade mode: you need to venture into Versus mode for the real action. I summoned my friend Mark to the main chamber, and the games we had reminded me of the battles we had all those years ago on the SNES's Street Fighter Turbo. The basic framework of the game is still there, but it's grown up, and some might say toned down, like an ageing hippie who stopped tokin' and started working out. But, like the 90s, I went Guile and he went Ken, and we both tried out the new characters for a laugh (Nothing on the old ones!). It's spirited 2-or-more player tournaments that really bring the series into its own. The gameplay, as mentioned, has evolved slightly. Combos have been getting more and more in vogue in recent years, with games like Killer Instinct setting the trend all those years ago. These, like in many other recent SF games, are present, as are the usual array of crazy button-smashing special moves. The characters gamers as unfamiliar with also have a huge arsenal of these, and fans would do well to check these out. Who knows, you might even find someone to usurp the purists' favourite, Ryu. Basically, apart from the drop in speed, it's as enjoyable as most in the series.

Conclusion

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This is usually the point in reviews where the writer says, "If you love SF, you'll love this!" But in this case it's really down to preference on a personal level. The puritanical 2D worshipper would probably want to steer clear, but old Street Fighter fans, as well as all other fighting game fans might want to check it out. Not ground breaking, not original, but not bad.

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