Right street, wrong direction.
No matter how you slice it, the Street Fighter series is pretty absurd. Over a period of fifteen years and a span of nearly ninety games, it has changed the least of any fighting game series in video gaming. As a result, playing any "new' Street Fighter game is guaranteed d'j" vu that, at its best, merely transports the average gamer to several different adolescent spaces and times.
For example, whenever I pull off a quick Dragon Punch, my inner 11 year-old (who couldn't Dragon Punch reliably) cheers. When I do a jumping fierce, low fierce, rolling fierce combo with Blanka, my inner 16 year-old stoner smiles. And when I completely dominate with ruthless sonic boom, jab, flashkick combos as Guile, I can almost hear my inner 20 year-old college dorm mates lamenting my cheapness and lethality.
In this regard, Capcom occupies an enviable position. When other publishers take a dump on the market, it's usually in the form of movie merchandising or bad sports games. However, when Capcom puts together a weak product like the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection for the PS2, they can at least be sure to pull at your heartstrings a little.
The Anniversary Collection includes two main gameplay modes: Hyper Street Fighter II (a blend of Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II Championship Edition, Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Street Fighter II, and Super Street Fighter II Turbo) and a port of Street Fighter III: Third Strike, which appeared back in 1999 on the Dreamcast.
Hyper Street Fighter II is thinner than Dhalsim on the Atkins Diet. There is no kooky plot to explain the fusion of the five games, and the menus and intros are the definition of budget. Once you begin a game and enter the Character Select screen, you are asked to choose from one of the five game types. You'll then be able to choose from any character in that particular game, which means two players can fight as two characters from two totally different Street Fighters.
While it kind of makes sense to include both Championship Edition and Turbo due to the old Genesis/SNES rivalry, only the biggest uber nerds could take a Pepsi challenge with these two games and not fail miserably, because they're basically identical. The same goes for Super SF II and Super SF II Turbo. For practical purposes, these five games wind up feeling like three.
Which is a shame, because matching up Street Fighter characters from various titles is an interesting concept that seems to build on the idea introduced in the Vs. titles. I mean, how cool would it be to own someone playing Strider from Marvel Vs. Capcom with the original Ken? Instead, you get to kick T. Hawk's ass with Blanka, or destroy everybody with the ultra-cheap Cammy.
However, there are some interesting balance issues to take into account as the effectiveness of various moves wax and wane in different games. For example, in the originalStreet Fighter II, Blanka's jumping fierce is pretty unstoppable, whereas in Super Street Fighter II Turbo it's been toned down considerably.
These factors especially come into play during matches against the CPU. Although the AI is extremely cunning in Hyper Street Fighter II, the weird balancing issues present the player with a ton of options. Super Street Fighter II Turbo's Bison can do nothing against the original Blanka, even though he's lethal against any other Super Street Fighter II Turbo character. As a result, if you switch up characters and play modes, you'll occasionally be able to find a combination that is unstoppable against your current opponent.
Even though Hyper Street Fighter II isn't nearly as ambitious as we would have liked, Capcom was smart enough to include all the portraits, sounds, and endings for every character in all five games. At least they got that part right.
Street Fighter Anniversary Collection also comes with a fully intact version of Street Fighter III: Third Strike. While it's the most balanced of the three Street Fighter III games, it came out in 1999 and just isn't a very exciting addition. The game is essentially like all the other Street Fighters, but with a parrying system and many new characters, all of whom are equipped with unique abilities and brutal Super Art moves.
The parrying system is easy to understand but difficult to master. If you push forward just before a high attack lands or down just before a low attack lands, you will parry the attack and have an opportunity to counter. The counter can be any move in your arsenal, although you only have a brief window in which to execute it before your opponent recovers.
Neither Hyper Street Fighter II nor Street Fighter III: Third Strike does anything remotely interesting graphically; unsurprising when you consider that these games have barely grown at all visually in fifteen years. Third Strike is the best looking Street Fighter game to come out in the last four years, but only because the Capcom vs SNK games have had terrible character models. The music in Hyper Street Fighter is some of the worst I've ever heard in a Street Fighter game. Even Yanni would be ashamed.
If you dig around the Options menu, you'll find the full Street Fighter 2 animated movie. And then you'll change the difficulty level and leave the Options menu, because you saw the animated movie ten years ago, and it was lame. And no, you can't play this game online.
Extremely hardcore Street Fighter fans might appreciate the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection only because they're obsessed with this now-ancient series, but a more sane gamer will easily surmise that it's probably Capcom's most disappointing offering to the fighting game genre since 1997's dismal Street Fighter Collection. The gameplay mechanics might be fine, but there's simply not enough here to warrant a 30 dollar purchase. How about more rare titles like the Street Fighter: The Movie coin-op? Heck, with 90 games to choose from, you'd figure they could do better than this. I, for one, am tired of d'j" vu, tired of writing the same review, and tired of Street Fighter. And most likely, so are you.