Everyone has experienced Street Fighter in some way or another. Older fans may remember the arcade phenomenon that exploded in ’91 and kicked off the Golden Age of arcade fighters. Younger fans have undoubtedly been exposed to some of the game’s most popular characters elsewhere, possibly in group therapy during Wreck-It Ralph. For decades now the series has transcended the bounds of pop-culture itself, so much so that not even Capcom could have predicted it would become the juggernaut it’s become.
This is why after thirty years Capcom’s iconic fighting game franchise continues to be revered by people who vigorously dropped down their quarters and sidled up to countless arcade cabinets, as well as newer generations of gamers the world over. As a result, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is a compilation that gives us the excellence and essentials of the mainline series, plus almost everything you’d want in throwback fisticuffs.
This definitely isn’t the first anthology of its kind that Capcom has offered fans over the years, but it’s certainly the most comprehensive. There are twelve games derived from six titles: the original Street Fighter, Street Fighter II (the bulk of SF30AC is made up of five iterations), all three Street Fighter Alpha titles, and finally each entry of Street Fighter III in all their esteemed, tournament friendly glory.
If you’re unfamiliar with Street Fighter then allow me to quickly run through the basics. 2D fighting games generally owe their existence to this series, although it would be difficult to acknowledge if you started with the first Street Fighter — which doesn’t hold up well even when it was originally released. Admittedly, it remains an amusing curiosity for those interested in the series’ humble origins. Street Fighter II and all of its subsequent updates, on other hand, pretty much birthed everything relevant to the entire genre, especially SSF2T (Super II Turbo), which serves as the pinnacle from the classic age.
The Alpha titles (Street Fighter Alpha 3 in particular) are the most accessible, solidifying the vibe of Capcom throughout the latter half of the nineties. SFA2 has a loyal fanbase but SFA3 is universally acclaimed as one of the best games here. With visuals that cohesively meld detailed anime looks and real-world locales, an remarkable cast of characters, immense soundtrack and the craziest announcer of them all.
For many, Street Fighter III will be a different experience that more seasoned players will appreciate. Back when it arrived at arcades in 1997 it didn’t get a lot of love, and its highly technical gameplay is still being explored two decades later in SFIII: Third Strike. Capcom practically wiped the slate clean with a fresh roster and deeper learning curve that involved deflecting attacks through parrying, a cornerstone that certainly alienated all except the most hardcore purist. Contrarily, these remain some of the most beautifully animated games to have ever appeared in the arcades thanks to its advanced coin-op hardware at the time.
The presentation and accolades are only as good as the individual games themselves, and I’m happy to report that everything in-game is faithfully reproduced. All those pixel frames and effects appear to be pulled right from the JAMMA boards themselves, graphically crisp with emulation being 1:1 to arcade-perfect as you’re possibly going to get.
This is good, but just as equally unusual without an arcade stick to operate on, anything less for inputs like a regular controller just feels like a handicap. And no, this isn’t me being as elitist but there’s a noticeable amount of input lag involved for reasons unknown, it just doesn’t feel quite right or accurate. Many can work around this burden but it’s worth noting for competitive players who haven’t properly invested in a standalone joystick.
There are other additions, namely an extensive training mode and online matchmaking to bring this package into the modern ages. However, both are only available for four titles in this collection: Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Street Fighter III: Third Strike. Some will balk at this decision but these entries will get the most attention due to online capability — a decent compromise.
Matches can be Casual and ranked, along with lobbies that can be filtered by game, skill level and connection with the option to accept challengers while playing through the arcade mode. My experience so far been stellar with rare moments of lag in between thanks to rollback netcode similar to GGPO.
Fanatics will drool over the Museum, a wealth of curated media and design documents featuring full character profiles, development notes, and a load of high-res concept artwork. All of this is a treasure for people enamored with the elusive “design works team” from Capcom’s creative vault, and a lot of it is supplemented by an interactive timeline containing trivia and fun pop-up facts to boot. Let’s also not forget that all the soundtracks are open for normal listening.
SF30AC is one hell of an effort but I do have complaints. One could argue that this assortment isn’t complete in terms of content, and I’m inclined agree to some extent. SFA3 is an example where the home versions added characters like Guile, Fei-Long, and T-Hawk. So why did Digital Eclipse forget to include the superior Street Fighter Zero 3 Upper (3↑) which has all of those in coin-op form? Another gripe would be localization options – because there are none to speak of. It would have been cool to revert things to their Japanese namesakes and censorship tweaks. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker but a missed opportunity nonetheless for a compilation chock-full of goodies.
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is a time capsule that proudly displays the legendary series — and Capcom — in their prime and when the universe happened to be in absolute harmony. For those fans who legitimately remember one of the most competitive eras in arcade gaming it’s almost certainly a must-buy, if only to recapture the glory days. At the very least the games and stellar presentation are stark reminders why this beleaguered brand is still one of the most respected in gaming history. Ultimately, this a celebration of Street Fighter’s enviable past – and hopeful future.