Street Fighter Anniversary Collection
Hadoken? Yes, about 50 times, thanks.
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Intros are hard. You have to keep things short. You have to grab people's attention. You have to state your intent. You have to make a point. Often, to achieve all this, you have to say something new.
The question is, how in the name of M Bison do I say something new about Street Fighter? We're talking about one of gaming's most treasured memories here. Heck, we're talking about one of my most treasured memories.
The answer to that question lies not with me, or you, but with Capcom. It isn't our prerogative to think up new things to say about a 15 year-old game, nor is it yours to rush out and buy it. If Capcom wants new things to be said about Street Fighter, then let's have some new Street Fighter.
Strikes us as familiar
In many ways, Street Fighter Anniversary Collection is a wonderful gift to fans of the franchise. Not only does it contain Hyper Street Fighter II (an amalgamation of every version of Street Fighter II) but it has a port of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike too. On top of that, it lets you play both online. Sounds good, right? And so it should - to the fans at least. But think about it for a second. We are being asked to buy Street Fighter II... again. We are being asked to buy 3rd Strike... again. The only real incentive? Xbox Live, which only accounts for a fraction of players anyway.
This game will never play badly. That's a fact. It is brilliant on a core level, in the same way that Pong, Asteroids and Mario Bros still manage to attract new fans despite the uber-code that graces our shelves today. But I, for one, have had my fill of old Street Fighter. The prospect of online play might have struck a spark of excitement in me, but it fizzled out quicker than a drunken Ryu's fireball. 3rd Strike's artwork may still be gorgeous but, like Vega's mask, it can't hide the aging underneath.
It doesn't help that the Xbox controller was never really made with 2D fighters in mind. While the stick control works fairly well, the D-pad (surely the weapon of choice for console SF fans) is too flimsy and uncomfortable, and the use of triggers and the white and black buttons won't come naturally to fans of the series. In saying that, the face buttons are comfortably mashed, and help to ease painful memories of Street Fighter Alpha on the PSX.
The ability to choose any version of any character in the SFII universe is a nice addition, too, but why not add a few new characters? Sure, it would hardly add much to gameplay - and god knows there ought to be enough of them in there already - but that's the kind of thing fans like. It might sound naïve, but would it have been so difficult to let players customise their own characters for the game? Would it have been so hard to incorporate a simple paint program and let players touch up their favourites? Imagine taking to an online battle with your very own Ryu/Guile hybrid - now that would have been something.
Capcom have done some very good business with this series over the years. In some ways, by giving fans the chance to play against each other all over the world, they have marked its anniversary fittingly. The global appeal of a classic is thus embodied. The Street Fighter family is complete. But Street Fighter's 15th birthday shouldn't have us once again looking to the past. In a way, by selling this series on history alone, Capcom is killing its chance of having a future.