It’s impossible to overstate just how important Street Fighter is to the history of gaming. It catapulted the fighting genre to absurd levels of popularity, and helped drive arcades to extreme success in the 1990’s. While current entries in the series may not have maintained the same cultural clout, the classic titles are still highly revered in the industry. For the franchises’ upcoming 30th anniversary, Capcom has gotten the biggest hits together for the mammoth Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection. Spanning the golden years of 1987 to 1999, the compilation is a gift for the hardcore fans.
In order to tell the entire Street Fighter story, I suppose you have to start from the beginning. Unfortunately, this means 1987’s Street Fighter has to be included in the Anniversary Collection. Of the 12 games included with the set, it’s the only out and out dud to be packed in. It’s plodding, awkward and simply lacks the depth that its highly successful follow-up would capitalize on. Obviously, for historical purposes, this needed to be included, so I’m not gonna complain about that. However, for the curious gamer out there, you can get away with playing it once, then shelving it permanently.
What can even really be said about Street Fighter II at this point? In my opinion, it’s the most important fighting game ever, and it’s a testament to the title’s strengths that unlike some of it’s contemporaries, it remains enjoyable to play even today. For the 30th Anniversary Collection, Capcom is including every iteration of it that was released during it’s heyday. This includes the original, Champion Edition, Hyper Fighting, Super and Super Turbo.
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of these versions, as since they all maintain the same basic gameplay, they’re all pretty damn good. I grew up playing Hyper Fighting, so that’s what I was instantly drawn to, but if you’re more of a Super Turbo guy, I won’t begrudge that. Just remember that the later editions brought in features that would eventually become staples, such as super combos and the ability to play as powerful foes such as M. Bison and Akuma.
If Street Fighter II was what introduced me to fighting games, then the Street Fighter Alpha series was what kept me interested. Taking the odd route of being a prequel story-wise, but an evolution mechanic-wise, the series would introduce a handful of improvements, such as air blocking and tiered super combos. However, unlike the II line-up, each iteration of Alpha feels almost entirely unique from the other. While I’m of the mind that none of the three are bad, the latter two Alpha titles are definitely a step above the original. The first one feels a little too close to the II series still, the smaller roster replaces fan favorites with less interesting alternatives and the chain combo engine feels a little underdeveloped.
Thankfully, both Alpha 2 and Alpha 3 rectify these mistakes, and as such, have blossomed into fan favorites. Growing up, I was definitely more of an Alpha 3 man, but playing through it now, I’m not sure I still feel that way. While I love the roster additions, particularly the debuts of Cody and R. Mika, I don’t care for the “Ism” system that was implemented. I can understand why some would like the ability to customize their fighting style to match how they play, but it messes with the game’s balance too much for my liking. For my money, then, Alpha 2 is the best of the three. The roster may not be as fleshed out as the third’s, but it brings in a good mix of classic (Dhalsim) and new (Sakura) characters. The gameplay feels the most balanced of the three as well, and the custom combo engine is a better alternative to the previous title’s chain combo system.
The first time I played Street Fighter III, I absolutely hated it. The new roster was both off-putting and uninteresting, and I despised the new gameplay additions, such as parrying. After playing so much II and Alpha, the true sequel felt completely wrong to me. Of course, years removed from that first experience, I recognize that the series stands out as having three of the best fighters ever made. Whether it’s New Generation, 2nd Impact or 3rd Strike, all three carry the same excellent engine that builds and evolves upon the franchises’ strengths. 3rd Strike sits as my favorite to play, as it features the strongest roster and most balanced gameplay, but I know the other two iterations have their defenders as well. Like with the other two series’ included in the 30th Anniversary Collection, you really can’t go wrong with any of the SF3 releases included here.
Ultimately what I’m trying to say with all of my rambling here, is that the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is an excellently compiled anthology. It bundles together 11 good to great fighting games, along with another historically important, but mostly un-entertaining novelty. As far as measures of success go, that’s a pretty solid rate for re-release collections. And what elevates this above other previously released sets is that these are the best arcade ports of them that have ever been released for home consoles. Each one looks and plays flawlessly, and with the visual options given for each one, it’s almost like you’re at the arcades. Minus the smell, of course.
The fact that the versions of the games packed with the set are the arcade versions is a bit of a double-edged sword, however. As mentioned, each title is a blast to play, and it’s hard to overstate just how important being arcade perfect really is. However, since these are not the home versions, each one lacks the additional features that were included when they first came to consoles. This includes everything from extra characters to additional modes. With none of these extras included, it can make the set feel lacking in features, which is strange to say considering you’re getting 12 fighters, but that’s just how it is.
There’s also the fact that only a quarter of the included titles include online play and a training mode. Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II: Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike are the beneficiaries of this design decision. Admittedly, if Capcom was only going to include a limited amount of online support, this is a pretty good selection. Still, it doesn’t fully take away the sting that comes from some of the others not receiving the same support, specifically Alpha 2. I can understand why it had to be this way, but it does make this milestone collection feel a little under prepared.
Admittedly, since I have been playing the set pre-release, I haven’t had a ton of time to explore the online options. In fact, I’ve only had the chance to play a few rounds online, and they’ve all been 3rd Strike matches. Whether it’s been my schedule or just the lack of people online, I haven’t been able to find others to compete against. Since I have only had limited experience online, I don’t want to fully cast judgment on the netcode yet. With that said, though, every match I played was a slog. They were laggy, and borderline unplayable. Lag is always annoying, but for fighting games, it’s pretty much a death sentence. Hopefully, this is just an isolated issue for me, and not an ominous sign of what’s to come.
I’ve been playing the 30th Anniversary Collection on the Nintendo Switch, which has been a bit of a mixed bag. I love the fact that I can bring all of these titles on the go with me, and not have to worry about the quality not being up to snuff. However, both the Joy-Cons and Pro Controller aren’t particularly great for fighting games. The d-pad and analog sticks for both controllers don’t seem like they were designed with fighters in mind, and as such, are a pain to use. There are arcade controllers available for the Switch now, so that’s always an option if you don’t particularly enjoy standard controls.
The Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection was clearly designed with hardcore fans in mind, which wasn’t entirely what I was expecting when it was first unveiled. Having arcade perfect versions of these classic fighters on a home console is a blessing, and the sheer amount of quality here cannot be overstated. However, the lack of the features that were included with the previous home releases is disappointing, and the limited amount of online support is underwhelming. As a set taken on it’s own, this is still an excellent compilation. However, for a franchise as big as Street Fighter’s 30th anniversary, Capcom could have made a bigger deal out of such a milestone.
This review was based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game, which we were provided with.
Although slightly lacking in features, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is still a well-put together set that brings together 11 arcade-perfect versions of the some of the best fighters ever developed.