Street Fighter II: Cocaine Alpha-Turbo XXX

Many Iterations of the Fighter That Will Not Die

Welcome back to our in-depth look at the evolution and development of graphics and the role graphic art has played in digital media over the past several decades. Today we’ll examine the many, many iterations of the classic game, Street Fighter II, and what they are all about.


A long time ago, in the far-off past of the 1990s, a game came to arcades and home consoles across the world that would define a genre for generations. That game was Street Fighter II [ 1 ]. While the Street Fighter franchise has had dozens of titles beyond this one, we’re going to be focusing on the second iteration of this iconic series; specifically, the many rollouts that came with it.

You see, back when internet connections were barely faster than 56 kilobits per second (and extremely uncommon in the regular household at all), getting an update of a game out to the consumers meant making an entirely new game cartridge and selling it all over again. These slow “patches” to the game showed that Capcom felt a need to change or improve their game, which was something you rarely saw in those days outside of game sequels. While Street Fighter II can be considered a classic game that doesn’t really have any problems (aside from some major glitches), there is always room for improvement. Classic does not mean perfect. We’re going to examine these many iterations of Street Fighter II to see what changed and if those changes improved the game. We will also examine if these changes to the game justified a wholly new release, or if these releases unfairly sought to squeeze money out of customers.

Street Fighter II: The initial release

The very first SFII cartridge to hit the home console in 1991 was Street Fighter II—The World Warrior [ 1 ]. This is the most basic iteration of the classic game, featuring a roster of only eight characters: Ryu, Ken, Guile, Chun Li, E. Honda, Blanka, Zangief, and Dhalsim. It functions as one might expect a fighting game to function—it has a two-player versus mode and an arcade mode, where you battle your way through the entire roster of fighters, including the then-hidden computer only fighters of Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison (World-of-Longplays. “Arcade Longplay [370] Street Fighter II: The World Warrior.” YouTube, YouTube, 29 May 2013. youtube.com/watch?v=xI284D4y1q4.). This first outing into the home console is an interesting one because it’s where the idea of “Combos”—combination attacks, came into being, albeit accidentally. While this is not the earliest recorded instance of combos existing, it is the first competitive format to have them. There is no “combo counter” yet, nor are there set combinations for characters like you might see in modern fighting games [ 2 ].

The original iteration, The World Warrior was a massive leap forward from its predecessor.

Graphic presentation is on par with the standards for the Super NES. Characters move semi-smoothly, as frame rates are not perfect in their stability. Even so, the responsiveness of the controls and the visuals are on beat, allowing for proper control of one’s fighter without losing too much momentum when the frame rate happens to drop. Backgrounds are fun and detailed, and the music and sound effects are some of the best of the generation.

There is a notable problem in this first game, and that is Guile’s glitch attacks [ 1 ]. Things like stance, no charge sonic booms, magic throw, and the ability to make Guile invincible, obviously make Guile quite broken in any competitive setting, considering you could end up using these bugs accidentally [ 3 ]. There are still glitches present in the other versions of Street Fighter II, which makes one wonder how seriously Capcom took these glitches in the past.

So, it’s a good game, right? Glitches aside, many people greatly enjoyed this competitive fighting game. A natural progression would be to make a sequel, and we obviously did see many more sequels to this game come out, but first, we got a new version of the same game. Several new versions in fact, rolled out over the next three years, each attempting to improve upon the first version of the game. After these early updates, the game would move on to sequels, but this wouldn’t be the end for Street Fighter II, as there would be two more iterations of the game in 2003 and 2017 respectively. So, while we look over these various versions of one iconic game, we once more need to keep in mind our old principles: were these changes necessary? Did they contribute to the game in a meaningful way? Did they address an existing problem that needed to be fixed? And, of course, how much of this is driven by capitalistic desire, rather than a desire for actual improvement upon the game?

Street Fighter II: Champion Edition

So, this version is the same game, but a few updates. The most notable change is that the four hidden characters are now playable, which is of course awesome. Adding in these additional fighters naturally has implications for competitive play, and without a doubt made many players adjust their strategies when it came to character selection and matchups. The second cool new change is that players can choose the same fighter in versus mode, with each fighter having two color schemes to distinguish them on screen, as well as having their names printed in blue below the life bar [ 4 ]. That ability to have mirror matchups also has serious implications for competitive play, as now players would have to figure out how to counter their own selection with the same move set. This also affected single-player mode, adding in a mirror match fight, bringing the fight total up to 12. Lastly, but no less important among the rule changes was reducing the maximum number of rounds to four.

The Champion Edition opened up the three or four boss characters previously unavailable.

Apart from these most noticed and most fun changes, there are also some improvements made to background art, and stages were redrawn and redone. While this might be hard to see without an immediate side-by-side comparison, it is nice that Capcom put in the effort to improve the basic artwork. There are also revisions of the gameplay to help balance out the new and old characters. As you might hope, the glitches I mentioned for Guile, as well as some others, were fixed. The problem was that new glitches were introduced, which is often the case when patching; you are never sure that your fix won’t break something else.

Seems like a short list, right? Given that this is about what you might see in a modern-day game patch or DLC, it seems like it’s not enough to justify selling a whole new game. But lacking digital distribution, as well as awareness of such business practices in general, that is exactly what happened. I wouldn’t quite put this in the capitalistic greed category, however, since there were true improvements to the base game, as well as additional features that improved the overall experience of it. It’s also not guilty of being overly meddlesome with original art styles or animations. It falls into the same category as expansion packs do, but with the unfortunate side effect of being full price since it is essentially the full game plus extras. So, by our established standards, this seems to be fine, not overly exploitative, just a bit on the pricey side.

Street Fighter Turbo 2: Hyper Fighting

Here is where we start to get into the more modern-feeling Street Fighter games. Turbo II: Hyper Fighting [ 5 ] was first distributed as a response to the various modified bootlegs of Champion Edition [ 1 ]. The biggest new addition to the game is the increased game speed, making every match more frantic and intense. This speed increase was a welcome change from the relatively slow pace of the previous iterations of the game. Now, button-mashing had quick reactions from the on-screen sprites. This speed increase also meant that previous timing glitches couldn’t quite be performed, resulting in a slightly fairer game. Another notable but less game-changing upgrade was new color schemes for all fighters, with their old color schemes now being alternate costumes, apart from M. Bison.

The increased game speed meant a lot. It’s hard to really explain the impact of everything moving faster and responding faster on screen in relation to button inputs. While the game remained strategic in its maneuvers, being faster meant every match was decided sooner and made for far more exciting game play as players frantically zipped around the screen trying to outmatch one another. Special moves firing off in true rapid succession. Combination attacks landing so quickly that if you mis-time a block, you are in for a world of hurt. Having to learn all the new timings requires to pull off said combinations.

This is essentially an entirely different game than the original, albeit with a very similar look and feel. There are also some additional special moves added to nearly every character, with the exceptions being Guile, Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison. These new special moves were intended to give a little more ability to those characters, who were perceived to be slightly less strong than those on the exclusion list. Some other moves were rebalanced, so as not to be spammable and totally broken, which would be necessary given the increase in speed. More cosmetically, the game also features a new victory scene, where the character is standing atop a victory stand in the first-place position, with M. Bison and Sagat in the 2nd and 3rd place positions (unless the player is using one of those characters, in which case they are replaced by Vega). 

So, does an increase in playing speed justify a new release? Well, probably not, but as noted, this was a response to the bootlegs of Champion Edition that had featured a speed increase, a feature that players seemed to want. This response seems to be the result of community mods showing that the game could still be improved, but with a capitalistic edge. I can’t imagine Capcom would want people to favor a bootleg copy of their games over the real thing—that would be rather embarrassing for the company. So, it would seem they had no choice but to release this new version of the game, if for no other reason than to save face with their customer base. This being an official release, rather than a bootleg hacked game, means it has the advantage of better-quality programming strait from the game developers. Even so, Turbo 2: Hyper Fighting is only a slight improvement upon what has already been built. It might have been a better idea for Capcom to wait and release the next game on this list.

Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers

As you might surmise from the title, Super SF II: The New Challengers does indeed feature more fighters than the previous iterations of the game [ 6 ]. This is seen as sort of a natural progression in modern-day fighting games—the farther along in a series, the more fighters you include in the game, keeping the fan favorites while adding something new to keep it interesting. The four new characters—T. Hawk, Cammy, Fei-Long, and Dee Jay bring the total roster up to 16, and each of these new fighters has their own interesting style to bring to the tournament. It is also Capcom’s first game for the CP System II hardware, which allowed for the inclusion of new graphics and audio [ 6 ]. Naturally, this makes the arcade cabinet version superior to the home console versions, as we are still in the 16-bit era, but that is expected.

The Turbo Edition provided graphical updates, speed increases, modified the hitbox and other abilities, such as Chun Li’s kikkoken fireball.

The next big change in this version is the scoring system that keeps track of first attacks, combos, reversals, and recoveries made by the player. While fighters still didn’t have “official” combination attacks—that is to say, a pre-programmed series of button presses that results in a specific combination—combos in the classic sense of just stringing moves together still exists. Also of note here is the addition of reversal moves, which allows for fast recovery into an attack after being knocked down or blocking. The faster game speed introduced in Hyper Fighting is no longer the default, but instead, there is an option to scale the game speed, between one and four stars, with four being the fastest. There are various tweaks to character move sets for balancing purposes, and significant changes to the dizzying system.

New dizzying animations were added, with a grim reaper to indicate a dizzy that is hard to recover from, stars or birds to represent a standard dizzying recovery, and an angel to represent a dizzy that could be quickly recovered from [ 6 ]. In a similar vein, the amount of re-dizzying combos was greatly reduced. Cosmetically, there was additional refinement of the background and stage art, with most of the artwork being redrawn or recolored. New animation frames were drawn for all the characters for their basic and special moves, as well as new victory poses. And on top of this, each character now had eight color schemes. There is also a new game mode, exclusive to the arcade cabinets, called Tournament Battle. It requires four cabinets to be connected and properly configured. This mode is an eight-player single-elimination tournament, where three sets of four simultaneous matches are played: the initial round, the semi-finals, and the finals. Obviously, this game mode was built with actual fighting game tournaments in mind, though such a thing could only happen in an arcade setup to support it.

This game has the most significant changes so far, introducing a new fan-favorite character in Cammy, introducing the now iconic flaming Shoryuken of Ken Masters, as well as adding several important features that change how fights happen, such as reversals. These seemingly small changes can have massive impacts on how players choose to engage their opponents. This version of the game seems to be a genuine effort to continue the improvements that had already been made, but perhaps it should have been the only one to feature the increased playing speed, rather than releasing the previous version as a standalone response to those bootleg features. It is a more complete product, and more deserving of fans’ attention for far more reasons than a speed boost.

Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Hyper Street Fighter II, Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers

In the interest of not having four more sections, I’m going to put these together, listing the most significant changes in each game. 

Super SF II Turbo is an update of Super SF II, adding in the four speed settings first seen in The New Challengers, as well as a slew of new mechanics [ 7 ]. This game brings us the Super Combo, a move that can only be performed when the new Super Combo gauge has been filled. As it sounds, the Super Combo is an incredibly strong series of attacks performed rapidly that has the potential to finish off an opponent. There is also the introduction of Air Combos, which are quite like the technique of Juggling, or hitting an opponent midair with the intention of keeping them in the air. The difference here is the character performing the combo also follows the victim into the air and continues attacking. This game also introduced the first hidden character, Akuma, to the franchise. Unique to this game are the extra “Super” characters, which are different versions of the same fighter. These Super characters are the “old” version of said character, and cannot (ironically) perform Super Combos, nor can they fall safely from being thrown. However, they do have other benefits to them, such as Super Sagat being able to cancel his short kick into any special move, or Super Ken/Super Ryu having invincibility frames in their Dragon Punch.

The presence of the Super Combo and the Air Combos are massive changes to this game, even more so than the speed increases. Unleashing a Super Combo at the right time can turn a fight completely around, allowing a skilled but slightly unlucky player to even things out. Air Combos also add an entirely new strategy to the game, allowing the use of vertical space to string attacks together, making blocking or reversing a lot trickier. Lighter-weighted characters can sustain an air combo for longer, giving the players of those characters a bit more of an opportunity to shine. And of course, Akuma has had a significant impact on the SF fandom, becoming a fast favorite among old and new fans alike.

The next iterations of Street Fighter II don’t come along till much later, with a 9-year gap between our last entry and Hyper Street Fighter II [ 8 ]. Released in 2003 for the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox, this game is a faithful recreation of the previous versions of Street Fighter II. It runs a lot smoother, as one might expect, but otherwise the older era 16-bit sprites and effects are perfectly preserved in this anniversary release. The standout feature of this game is being able to choose between five different character rosters, which correspond to the rosters of the previous game iterations and lock you into the original move sets of those games. A very interesting feature to have, as it allows players to experience the original game versions and preserves these versions for future generations. This feature touches on another idea that we’ve gone over in these articles—preservation of old games, which is often left to the community to do since most companies simply move on from their old games without regard for preservation. Here, we have a direct example of a company taking at least some care to do so, which I always like to see. The only new feature of note here is Training Mode, which has been in other iterations of the franchise but was not added to any version of Street Fighter II until now.

This release, obviously, did not introduce anything new in terms of balance or characters, it just brought old games to a newer generation of players. It’s interesting to think that newer fans of the fighting genre, and the SF franchise would be able to legally play the older versions of the game. While there are a lot of differences in versions, the “fighting game instinct” is quite able to cross over to just about any game of the genre. This is mostly due to control schemes being deliberately designed to be like other fighting games, rather than a particular human skillset, but it does mean that newer players could pick up the older games and be able to play them somewhat skillfully. I’d say this release is worth it for the preservation aspect alone, but it also has the nostalgia factor going for it.

The New Challengers opened things up further by adding the characters Dee Jay, T. Hawk, Cammy and Fei Long.

Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix is an interesting one [ 9 ]. It was released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 live stores and has both the original Street Fighter II Turbo and a remixed version of the game. The remix has all-new, high-definition graphics, with character drawings and backgrounds very similar to that of the Alpha series of games. The game also features completely remixed music tracks from the video game music tribute website, OverClocked ReMix [ 10 ]. The new graphics and music are a welcome change, bringing the classic game up to date with its more modern brethren. 

One could be forgiven for thinking that HD Remix would be the last and final remake of Street Fighter II, but it was not so. Ultra SF II: The Final Challengers came along in 2017, released on the Nintendo Switch [ 11 ]. This game, much like the last one, has two options for its graphics—Classic and New Style. The New Style reuses the sprite drawings and backgrounds from HD Remix, as well as the Classic and New Style sound options, though the new sounds are not the same as those from HD Remix, instead being closer to those of SSF II Turbo

Believe it or not, this final iteration of the game does feature gameplay changes. Firstly, it adds Evil Ryu and Violent Ken to the fighters’ roster, and Shin Akuma as a hidden character, while regular Akuma is selectable from the start. This game also reverts some of the balance changes back to what they were in SSF II Turbo, rather than using the rebalancing from HD Remix. It is also possible to “tech” throws in this version—that is if you are being thrown, and if you can react quickly enough, you can cause your character to land on their feet, rather than slam onto the ground and take damage. It also has several game modes and a very nice art gallery.

I have to say, just for my personal taste, that HD Remix is the superior version of these last two iterations. It has community created music that pays homage to the originals while still being fresh. It has excellent graphics that improved on the old without losing what made them memorable in the first place. This isn’t to say that there is nothing of value in Ultra SF 2, but I think taking away the remixed music is a big slap in the face to those community creators, not to mention the problematic presentations of Evil Ryu and Violent Ken, which are just darker-skinned versions of their counterparts (yikes). If there is any game on this list that seems to be mostly motivated by capitalistic greed, rather than artistic or creative desires, I would say Ultra SF II is that game. Contrast that with HD Remix, which contains not only new graphics, but also an incredible set of remixed music for every stage, and a few tweaks to the overall game balance. It really isn’t a fair comparison, if I’m being honest. HD Remix just has everything going for it.

Okay, So Why Did They Remake One Game So Much?

It has been said that if an artist were to continue to try to perfect a single painting, they would never finish. Street Fighter II is Capcom’s still imperfect painting that they seem to keep coming back to every so often. The early and rapidly released iterations of the game show a sincere desire for improvement through gameplay changes, roster additions, and balance tweaks. The last two games seem to speak to something else, however: a nostalgic desire for the old to become new again, without losing what made it good in the first place. That is a difficult tightrope to walk for any creator, and the fact that Capcom was able to do this so well in HD Remix speaks volumes to the dedication of the Street Fighter team. And even as they updated the graphics of the game, they preserved the original 16-bit glory of it, knowing that the art style that worked so well in that era would still hold up just fine today and that many old fans would gravitate towards it. It is a lesson in both style and restraint, to know that your original work still has value. 

When you are revisiting old art or old games and trying to re-imagine them, even the very best can fall short when it comes to the execution of that idea. We’ve seen here that at least twice Capcom failed to make something truly innovative with their newer releases of Street Fighter II, first having to play catch up with the modding community by adding increased speed, and then most recently with The Final Challengers tried to make a better game than HD Remix but fell very much short of that ideal. I’m sure we’ll see another iteration of Street Fighter II in the future, and we can only hope that it will live up to the high standards that Capcom has set for itself and its modern fighting game titles.

Images

  1. “The original iteration, The World Warrior was a massive leap forward from its predecessor.” Street Fighter 2: The World Warriors. Arcade. Capcom, 1991. 
  2. “The Champion Edition opened up the three or four boss characters previously unavailable.” Street Fighter 2: Championship Edition. Arcade. Capcom, 1992.
  3. “The Turbo Edition provided graphical updates, speed increases, modified the hitbox and other abilities, such as Chun Li’s kikkoken fireball.“ Street Fighter 2: Turbo. Arcade. Capcom, 1994.
  4. “The New Challengers opened things up further by adding the characters Dee Jay, T. Hawk, Cammy and Fei Long.” Super Street Fighter 2: The New Challengers. Arcade. Capcom, 1993.

Resources

  1. “Street Fighter II: The World Warrior.” Street Fighter Wiki, FANDOM. streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Street_Fighter_II:_The_World_Warrior. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020.
  2. “Combo.” Street Fighter Wiki, FANDOM. streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Combo. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020.
  3. Noob no Controle. “How to Glitch Guile on Street Fighter 2.” YouTube, YouTube, 20 May 2017. youtube.com/watch?v=cx0mBow9zjE.
  4. “Street Fighter II: The World Warrior.” Street Fighter Wiki, FANDOM. streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Street_Fighter_II:_The_World_Warrior. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020.
  5. “Street Fighter II’: Hyper Fighting.” Street Fighter Wiki, FANDOM. streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Street_Fighter_II’:_Hyper_Fighting. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020.
  6. “Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers.” Street Fighter Wiki, FANDOM. streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Super_Street_Fighter_II:_The_New_Challengers. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020.
  7. “Super Street Fighter II Turbo.” Street Fighter Wiki, FANDOM. streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Super_Street_Fighter_II_Turbo. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020.
  8. “Hyper Street Fighter II.” Street Fighter Wiki, FANDOM. streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Hyper_Street_Fighter_II. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020.
  9. “Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix.” Street Fighter Wiki, FANDOM. streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Super_Street_Fighter_II_Turbo_HD_Remix. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020.
  10. “OverClocked ReMix: Video Game Music Community.” OC ReMix, OverClocked ReMix, LLC, ocremix.org/. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020.
  11. “Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers.” Street Fighter Wiki, FANDOM. streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Ultra_Street_Fighter_II:_The_Final_Challengers. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020.