Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Retro 101's Favourite Beat'em ups Part 3: Capcom, From Alpha to Vampire

Last time we looked at how Capcom used the Marvel license to create some of the most fun and chaotic fighting games of all time. This time around we are taking a look at the most famous fighting franchise in the world (minus certain very bad games), and Capcom's, often forgotten, other fighting series.

Street Fighter 2 Turbo
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Street Fighter 2 is probably the most famous and important fighting game in the history of the industry. When it was converted to home systems for the first time it had an impact that only a handful of other games can come anywhere near to. Capcom struck gold with Street Fighter 2 and they have been bringing out new versions of it ever since.

Though there have been many different versions of the game with various differing features you will never find a better one than Street Fighter 2 Turbo on the Super Nintendo. The turbo edition allowed players to play as the four boss characters and also remixed and balanced the moves of classic combatants.

There is an argument as to if the Megadrive or SNES version of the game is better. For our money the Super Nintendo one wins hands down every time. Street Fighter 2 belongs on the Nintendo system and, fittingly, can be found very easily and cheaply in cartridge form or on the Wii Virtual Console. Whatever you do don't get the awful Live Arcade version though.


                                   Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix
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After Street Fighter 2 came Super Street Fighter 2. The new version added a further five characters which comprised of the excellent Cammy, Akuma and Fei Long and the not so good Dee Jay and T Hawk. Once again classic characters had their move sets tweaked as well. However, it is a little unbalanced if you know how to exploit it.

Though the game is available in various forms on the SNES, Megadrive, PS2, Saturn and Dreamcast, the best version by far can be found on Xbox Live Arcade for the sum of 1200 points. Here you can play the classic version or the HD Remix version which makes certain moves easier to pull off on the awful 360 pad.

The Xbox 360 version really is worth a look as serious effort has been put into sprucing up the game. The new title screen music is worth the asking price on its own.

Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold/Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper
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The Street Fighter Alpha series mixes characters from the Final Fight universe with classic street fighters. There are three main games in the series and numerous different versions of each with tweaks and the occasionally added character. The Alpha series also introduced numerous new techniques such as air blocking, countering and dash attacks.

Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold added Cammy into the mix and still holds up exceptionally well. There is something about it that just feels so right and the bright characters and backgrounds help give the game a real vibrancy. It is also the version of Alpha 2 that really got the balance of all the new features right.
Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper is the final version of Alpha 3 and has an absolute mass of characters to choose from. Any version of Alpha 3 is worth playing but the added characters and slight balancing of features makes this the most tactical of all the Street Fighter games.

Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper is one of the most flawless fighting games you will ever come across and in a real high point of an already excellent franchise. It is also, arguably, our favourite Street Fighter game ever.

You can pick up Alpha 3 on the Playstation and Dreamcast but the best version (and best place to find Alpha 2 Gold), is on the PS2 Street Fighter Alpha Anthology. Here you get all the games along with Gem fighters. However, you will have to unlock Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper by reaching the boss in the normal Alpha 3 game first.

It also has to be said that there is an absolutely stunning version of Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper on the Game Boy Advance. A marvel to behold, it's unbelievable that the development team managed to squeeze everything into it. It looks amazing as well.


                                              Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
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It took three re-workings but finally Capcom managed to make the game they were trying to. It's not really worth bothering with the first two versions of the game but 3rd Strike cannot be ignored. Characters are much bigger and the tactical elements have been refined down to a core handful. However, the one big addition is the new way of blocking.

Pushing towards your opponent just at the point they strike you will parry and leave them open for a counter attack. This creates a nerve shredding game of cat and mouse. If you want evidence of the chaos this can cause then look at one of the many videos around the net.

Many people don't get on with Street Fighter 3 and it is fairly easy to see why. Aside from a handful of characters everyone is new and unfamiliar. This means players have to learn new techniques. The character designs are also a little uninspiring and certainly not as iconic as many of the others in the series.

If you can overcome this, there is a solid and tactical fighter waiting to be found. Street Fighter 3 certainly has a little slower pace than some of the other games but it also has its own distinct personality.

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is best played on the Dreamcast. It can be a little tricky to find and the game may set you back the price of a new title but it is well worth investing in if you are a Street Fighter fan. An excellent version is also available via Xbox Live and the Playstation network.

Super/Street Fighter IV
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Street Fighter IV may be the new kid on the block but it is a master class in how to revitalise an old franchise. It's much more accessible to newcomers than the Alpha series or Street Fighter III and has had most of the complicated techniques from those games removed. Yet, it still has stupid amounts of depth and some new tricks of its own.

The new graphical style is jaw dropping and the rounds go at a breakneck speed. All the characters from the original Street Fighter 2 are included along with Cammy, Fei Long and Akuma from Super Street Fighter 2, Rose, Gen and Dan from Street Fighter Alpha 3 and several new characters.

All the characters, with the possible exception of Rose, feel right at home in their new surroundings. After you have got to grips with the style of the game and the pad it is simply impossible to put down. Add in a host of new games modes and superb online play and this really is one of the most essential games for years. The 'super' and 'arcade' versions of the game add more characters and moves for an even deeper experience.

Capcom vs. SNK Millennium Fight 2000/Capcom vs. SNK 2
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Not happy with Ryu and co mixing it up with the stars of the Marvel universe, Capcom also secured a deal to have them knocking ten bells out of SNK characters as well. Capcom vs. SNK 1 and 2 are very different games and both are worth a look as they use significantly different control schemes. The list of characters in each also varies widely.

Capcom vs. SNK Millennium Fight 2000 uses the four button system found in most SNK beat'em fighters. Characters only have a light and heavy attack which makes for a much faster paced and less tactical game. This is fine as the vs. series has always been about arcade style fighting.

In this respect Capcom vs. SNK can't really be faulted. The music and sound effects do an amazing job of creating an adrenaline fuelled game and it is incredibly hard to put down. Fights don't last long but they are chaotic, full on and filled with pyrotechnics.

Capcom vs. SNK 2 uses the six button control scheme found in most Capcom fighting games. It also adds characters from the Samurai Shodown and the Last Blade universe and greatly expands the character roster. You can also choose a number of different special bars and styles to suit how you want to play.

The game is massively unbalanced though. Mixing just about every different game from the Capcom and SNK universe creates some characters that simply don't fit together. Furthermore, the SNK characters feel far more uncomfortable with six button controls than the Capcom ones do with four.

Though a touch uneven and messy Capcom vs. SNK 2 is still good fun and well worth picking up for fans. Capcom vs. SNK Millennium Fight 2000 is best found on the Dreamcast. Capcom vs. SNK 2 only made it to pal territories on the PS2 and can still be found if you keep your eyes open.

Vampire Chronicle for Matching Service
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The Vampire Chronicle series, otherwise known as Dark Stalkers, basically takes the Street Fighter template and puts zombies, were-wolves and vampires in the place of Ryu and his fellow fighters. The games may not have the same sort of appeal as the main Street Fighter series but they are undoubtedly good fun and well put together.

The long running franchise culminated in this little oddity on the Dreamcast. Vampire Chronicle for Matching Service is basically a compilation of all the versions of all the characters from the series. This means that if you like a character in his incarnation in the second game of the series then you can pick that version. This idea was later used by Capcom for the Street Fighter 2 Hyper Fighting Anthology on the PS2.

Originally, the game let you play online using the Dreamcast's wonderfully innovative service. Obviously, that part of the game is now long gone but it remains a very special fighter in it's own right.

There are an awful lot of bad versions of various Vampire Chronicle games around. It's best to avoid the PSP game and anything on the Playstation. This means that you will either need to import a game for the Saturn (We recommend Vampire Saviour), or get hold of the exceedingly rare Dreamcast game which was only ever given away to members of Club Sega in Japan. An HD remake is set to appear very soon so it may be worth holding out for that.

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