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|[ Writer ] = BAD|
|[ 09/09/06 ] = The Fighter's Generation|
Known also as Street Fighter Alpha Anthology in the USA, this is Capcom's latest 2-D compilation, featuring original and updated versions of Street Fighter Alpha/Zero, Street Fighter Alpha/Zero 2, Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold/Zero 2 Alpha, Street Fighter Alpha/Zero 3, and Pocket Fighter. This article is not about those five games, however, it's about the sixth title which Capcom has dubbed "Hyper Street Fighter Zero" (or "Hyper Street Fighter Alpha" for the US version). A Street Fighter Alpha 3 upgrade of sorts designed especially for tournament and/or group play (similar to Super Street Fighter II: The Tournament Battle), Hyper Street Fighter Zero features nearly every version of every character from almost every Street Fighter Alpha game (similar to Hyper Street Fighter II). The only exception is Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max/Street Fighter Zero 3 Double Upper; for some reason Capcom decided to bench Maki, Eagle, Yun, and Ingrid from SFA3M/SFA3DU. Maki is one of my favorite Capcom characters ever, Yun is cool, and Ingrid especially would have fit well in HSFA (since she was already in CFE on the same hardware). But roster change-ups also keep things fresh, and even without SFA3M's four new characters the sheer amount of different match-ups in HSFA is truly staggering. Though many probably disagree, it's actually good to see that Capcom didn't think they had to include all of the same characters from previous entries. The cast of SFA3M wasn't carried over in verbatim, and new moves were given to the returning cast, so critics can't say that HSFA is just a rehash of SFA3M.
Capcom may have left the four new characters from SFA3M out of HSFA, but at the same time they went in and added even more ways to play the returning characters (in addition to the three ISMs and four modes from SFA3/SFZ3). To start, HSFA is broken down into four systems (Alpha/Zero, Alpha 2/Zero 2, Alpha 2 Gold/Zero 2 Alpha, Alpha 3/Zero 3), each of which determines the incarnation of the selected character (similar to Vampire Chronicle: The Chaos Tower). That is, each system allows the selected character to be played as he/she was in the original title the corresponding system was derived from. For example, if Zero/Alpha is chosen for Ken (1P), and Alpha 3/Zero 3 is chosen for Ryu (2P), Ken will play exactly like his Alpha/Zero incarnation (with chain combos, etc.) and Ryu will play like his SFA3 incarnation (based on the variations of the ISMs). Performing techniques like Air Recoveries and Alpha Counters depends on the system chosen; each system features techniques and other subtleties not found in the other systems (SFA2G/SFZ2A's Classic mode, for example). The three original ISMs (X-ISM, A-ISM, and V-ISM) and four modes (Normal, Mazi, Saikyo, and Classic) from SFA3/SFZ3 are selectable only under the Alpha 3/Zero 3 system, and there's a new ISM (S-ISM) that has taken the place of I-ISM.
S-ISM itself consists of four completely new modes inspired by other Capcom fighting games; DarkStalkers/Vampire, Street Fighter III, Street Fighter II, and Hyper. Chain combos and Guard Counters can be used in DarkStalkers/Vampire mode, Street Fighter III mode features Super Cancels and introduces Parrying to the SFA/SFZ series, Street Fighter II Champion Edition mode reverts characters back to their old-school incarnations, and in Hyper mode some characters get new or altered Special Moves and/or Super Moves. Hyper mode is arguably the most intriguing of the four; some characters have moves from the VS series (XMVSSF, etc.), a few get entirely new moves, and one character even gets a new stance! The changes are as follows:
] = Ken
[ Character ]
] = Dan
[ Character ]
] = Guy
[ Character ]
= Evil Ryu
[ Character ]
[ Character ]
= Shin Akuma
Fans of the VS series incarnations of the SFA characters will notice that some moves were carried over, while others weren't. But not everything was supposed to be carried over from the VS games. The S-ISM Hyper Mode has been dubbed as "VS Mode," but a close look at its system shows evidence that it has been mislabeled. This error makes it look like the VS incarnations of SFA characters that appeared in the VS series are playable in HSFA's S-ISM Hyper Mode, which is not true. In HSFA's S-ISM Hyper Mode, none of the characters that were in the VS series are playable in their VS series incarnations. Even though the mode features Special Moves and Super Moves from the VS games, they were only given to some characters, and several moves were left out. The S-ISM Hyper Mode also doesn't feature the "dial-a-combo" system the VS games are known for. If Capcom had intended the S-ISM Hyper Mode to mimic the system of the VS series as the other modes mimic their respective series (SFA2, DS, SFIII, etc.), the unique combo system, Special Moves, and Super Moves from the VS series would have been carried over with consistency. If it were supposed to be classified as S-ISM VS Mode, the combo system would have closely resembled that of the S-ISM DarkStalkers/Vampire Mode (which was carried over faithfully from the original), more characters would have been able to do Special Moves in the air, Chun-Li would have had her screen-filling Kikosho, Sakura and Ryu would have had the beam versions of their Shinkuu Hadoken, and the list goes on and on. Moreover, new stuff like Evil Ryu's new stance, Guy's new teleport, and normal Sakura's Shun Goku Satsu were additions not derived from the VS series. Plainly put, a lot more would have been added to the mode if the focus were actually on the system of the VS series. Moreover, the additions to S-ISM Hyper Mode closely resemble the "Hyper" changes and enhancements made from SFIICE/SFII' to SFIIT/SFII'T (air Special Moves and other alterations).
The only play style missing from previous entries is I-ISM, (used for custom World Tour characters in SFA3SD/SFZ3U and SFA3M), and it's a disappointment. Even though the "majority" hates custom characters and such, and HSFA was designed for tournaments, a dedicated World Tour mode would have been nice to see. I've been saying it since the original PlayStation hardware SFA3, and I'll say it again: there's nothing like building a character and then facing off against one someone else has built. As for the systems, ISMs, and modes in general comparison, it seems the SFA/SFZ system and the SFIICE mode are both particularly strong, with the Hyper mode not far behind. Another thing to note is that in the S-ISM DarkStalkers/Vampire mode, counters don't drain Super bar energy when used; something that could make it a mode of choice. The other modes seem to pale in comparison to the sheer power of the SFIICE mode, but there are so many possibilities that anything beyond an initial impression is difficult to provide. The new systems, ISM, and modes really add a lot more to the gameplay; ratios, priorities, and weaknesses from previous titles have all been mixed together, shattering bullshit tiers and forcing players to relearn. And yes, relearning is a good thing (no matter what lazy glitch exploiters have told you). There were changes in SFA3M/SFA3DU and SFA3SD/SFZ3SD/SFA3DU before it, but the ones in HSFA are many and surprising; every time I play the game I see or learn something new. The depth in HSFA is beyond comprehension. I'd like to see them make tiers for this one!
As expected, the visuals are fantastic. The resolution is crystal-clear, and the characters look just as awesome as they do in CFE/CFJ and SFA3M. Every character in the game animates with unrivaled fluidity. Not only that, but HSFA features added character animation never before seen in the SFA series (such as the aforementioned Special Moves and Super Moves from XMVSSF and MSHVSSF). Character animation changes depending on the system, ISM, and/or mode chosen, and in HSFA Capcom went in and added some new frames. The most noticeable is the new S-ISM SFIICE mode, where the original eight World Warriors and Final Four get their old-school SFIICE moves back. It may not seem surprising, but they actually get their Special Moves and individual punches and kicks from SFIICE...Alpha style! In other words, new animation was added so that the SFA characters could emulate their SFIICE counterparts as closely as possible; Ken's anti-air standing FK and RK, and M.Bison's standing SP and FP are some examples. The background selections for this SF entry are a bit abnormal, though; all of them seem to be rocky scenery. The backdrops include the different versions of the cliff stage from SFA3SD, Chun-Li's stage from SFA (both night and day), and the secret waterfall stage from SFA2/SFZ2 and SFA2G/SFZ2A. There could be more unlockable ones, but I've been playing the game and haven't seen any indications that there are any others (which would be nice). With no hardware or memory limitations, Capcom could have done more with the stages in this one, though. They could have easily put in some of the fan favorites; Charlie's stage from SFA/SFZ, Ken's SFA2/SFZ2 stage, and Ryu's SFA3/SFZ3 stage, just to name a few. Even if time constraints prevented them from putting all of the previous backgrounds in, the more lively, populated ones would have been a lot better.
As for effects, Capcom decided to keep the original hit sparks and other effects (like SFA3M), opting against the splashy, glitzy effects seen in CFE/CFJ. New or enhanced effects similar to CFE/CFJ would have been great, but the game doesn't suffer at all without them. However, some cool new color explosions were added for finishes in the new systems and modes; in HSFA there are now orange and violet explosions (based off the red, green, and blue ones in SFA3M) for Super Move finishes and Custom Combo finishes (respectively). A special version has also been made for Sakura's Shun Goku Satsu finish, also, and M. Bison's finish explosion from SFA3SD/SFA3U is used for the S-ISM modes. Many will undoubtedly complain about the "jagggid gwafficks," but the character sprites and animation of the SFA series still look incredible even after all these years.
Sound is another area HSFA got some nice upgrades in. In addition to the already stellar SFA3SD/SFA3U tracks, there are also a ton of classic tunes from past Capcom fighters! The background music is determined by the chosen system, ISM, and/or mode, and includes (but is not limited to) memorable tracks from SFIICE, SSFII, Final Fight, and even Final Fight 3! This is one of the really enjoyable aspects about HSFA. Battling to unforgettable background music from classic fighters like SFIICE and Final Fight brings back memories of good times during the CPS reign. For veteran fans (not the overnighters who've recently crowded the scene), these tracks will flood your mind with so much nostalgia that you'll barely be able to concentrate on matches. They'll remind you of when videogames weren't a fashion trend.
Though HSFA came out hot on the heels of SFA3M, they are two different games with different features and balance. There isn't another fighter out there that offers as many play styles as HSFA does; from simple to complex, there's literally a play style for every type of player out there. Even with its flaws, this is what makes it such a fun and interesting game to play. It's just awesome being able to pit characters from different games against each other. It's truly a test of reflexes and skill because there are so many styles that just about anything can happen; the possibilities are endless! But HSFA has one crucial flaw that prevents it from being fully-enjoyed by everyone. That flaw is an overemphasis on multi-player. Why the hell did they make it only for tournament play? The game could have been so much better if it weren't for the lack of single-player support; this is the worst thing about the game, hands down. When I fired the game up, I soon noticed it was trouble in paradise. Like Super Street Fighter II - The Tournament Battle, HSFA is meant to be played in tournaments or in a group. And that's not a bad thing, but at least Super Street Fighter II - The Tournament Battle had regular single-player support, as well. Hyper Street Fighter II - The Anniversary Edition had a few flaws, and it's the trend to hate CFE/CFJ, but at least those games have something to offer for single-player! Even the four secret DS, VS, VH2, and VS2 upgrades in the previously-released Vampire - DarkStalkers Collection have single-player support! Why Capcom decided not to even put in any more than a single, never-ending battle mode is beyond me. It's not online playable, either! The hardware is capable of and providing the means for both, yet somehow neither were put in the game. Too bad. They came so close to gold with this one...
Take your pick. The previously-released SFA3M (also on Sony hardware) has new characters, more characters, new play modes, more play modes, custom characters, and best of all, online play. HSFA, on the other hand, has more fighting styles, new moves, some new effects, and added background music. The changes and additions made to HSFA really make it unique from past entries in the series, but I liked SFA3M more simply because of its multi-player and single-player support. A lot of changes were made to HSFA, but its strict focus on multi-player forces it to take a back seat to SFA3M. True, there are a ton of different ways to play each character (with the four new fighting styles added) in HSFA, but SFA3M matches it with sheer selection of characters (that include newcomers Maki, Yun, Eagle, and Ingrid). Don't get me wrong, HSFA is interesting and worthy of purchase, but it really can't be recommended for anything but the tournament and/or group play it was specifically intended for. SFA3M is the model 2-D fighting game. As a whole, SFA3M is a more complete, comprehensive game. HSFA is also a comprehensive game...that is, for multi-player. HSFA may be the ultimate SF for competition, but SFA3M is the ultimate SF game for everyone.