Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting Review
Street Fighter II started it all for fighting games way back in arcades in 1991. Sure, Capcom's first game in the series, Street Fighter, was pretty good, but its slow-to-respond controls and mere two playable characters took away any lasting replay value it might've had. But the sequel became a smash hit with its near-perfect controls, eight playable characters, and great versus play that kept bring people back to the arcades time and time again. It was balanced fairly well, had great characters, and tons of strategy - something that was missing in the cooperative beat-em-up games (like Final Fight) that preceded the "fighting game" genre. Street Fighter II was easily one of the most influential and successful arcade games ever conceived, and now Capcom is delivering Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting to Xbox Live Arcade on the Xbox 360.
While Capcom wanted to innovate and offer new games in the genre, they didn't want to rock the boat too hard, which led to new versions that updated the game while keeping the original characters and moves intact. The version of the game seen here on Xbox Live, was the second major upgrade to SF2 that arcades saw. It allows you to play the four boss characters for a total of 12 total playable characters and also gives some of the more forgotten characters like Blanka and E.Honda new vertical moves to keep them competitive. Finally, the speed was jacked up to make for a more frantic game. All of those aspects are reproduced in this arcade-perfect port, although the most important feature - real online play - just doesn't work with the pace at which SF2 runs at.
The standard, offline arcade mode works exactly like an arcade junkie will remember, and versus play works just like it did in the arcade. You can get achievements and just have fun fighting the rather sinister AI, although I want to mention that even on the easiest mode, anyone that's new to this game is going to have a lot of trouble. This is a much tougher version of the game than previous arcade or home console iterations. The speed of the game also cannot be adjusted in any online or offline mode, which is frustrating for players like me who enjoy the slower pace of classic SF2 more than Hyper Fighting's super-fast gameplay.
As far as authenticity and presentation goes, this port gets everything pretty much as right as the developers could've. All 12 characters have their original animations, sounds, and stages, and the controller can be configured however you want - along with shortcut buttons for pressing all 3 punch buttons or all 3 kick buttons at once (that's important for Zangief or Balrog players). But the controller does wind up being a problem for me, as I have found that the Xbox 360 controller's D-pad and overall shape just aren't nearly as good as some controllers or authentic arcade-style sticks I've used in the past. The only solution is the Dead or Alive 4 arcade stick that Hori made for the 360, but that stick is getting more and more rare now that they're pretty much out of production. If you are a serious SF2 player and love playing online with Live Arcade, then you'll probably want to track one down. Otherwise, maybe one day we'll be able to use an adapter to plug PS2 controllers into the Xbox 360, and then we could use the excellent and inexpensive Street Fighter-branded PS2 controllers to play.
The Xbox 360 displays SF2's old graphics as best as it can, and there are options to adjust the size and position of the actual playing screen - this is very helpful if you're playing on a widescreen HDTV, and you can even jack up the size to widescreen proportions and have the game fill the screen. You can do this without any ugly stretching, too, if you push the vertical extremities of the playable area off of the screen - SF2 didn't put anything really vital in these areas anyway. You'll get a different, smaller screen with a special border when playing in some online modes, but it doesn't really take away from the action at all.
Online play comes with several modes, including the Ranked and Player matches that you see in many online games for the 360. These games are usually pretty easy to jump into, but you might find that there are a lot of disconnects before the match starts - if both players don't have their DSL/Cable routers set up correctly for port forwarding, then it seems the chance for a premature disconnect is pretty high. Still, when you get in, the game works, although the split-second lag is going to definitely change how you play when you join someone's game. You'll need to hit the button for your attacks about a third of a second earlier than you want them to connect, actually changing the game into something different than the original arcade version. Whether that's better or not, well, I'd have to say it's not. It's worse. But it's still a lot of fun and can be pretty rewarding.
There's an online ranking system that will track your overall "skill", world rank, and number of wins and losses. There's also another mode that people will find interesting: Quarter Mode. This is a non-ranked style of play where four people can jump into a lobby, and two people will play while the other two watch. The guy who loses goes to the back of the line, while the guy at the front moves up to challenge. All players can talk over the mic in this mode at all times (and can do the same in the other online modes), which of course is a double-edged sword - it's fun to play with your friends, but playing against the masses in Ranked mode can lead to plenty of teenagers calling you every name they can think of just because you threw a couple of Hadoukens. The point is, there are a lot of abrasive and annoying people online, and bad sportsmanship is much more rampant here online than it was in the arcades back in the day. While I appreciate what Capcom's tried to do with Quarter mode and with the Live chat overall, it doesn't really recreate the arcade atmosphere of the 1990s - unless you're playing only with friends you know.
SF2' Hyper Fighting will cost you 800 points in the Xbox Live Marketplace, which calculates out to $10. For those who are jonesing for some classic Ryu-Ken action, I've got to say that overall I think that past ports of similar Street Fighter titles on the Xbox and PS2 were better overall, but few of those have online play, and there probably aren't any players left in those versions' online modes anyway. You've got to really get used to (and stick with) the online play here to make this Arcade title really worth it, because the controller limitations and the lag, which is manageable once you get used to it, will really kill off the fun for the more casual or offline-only players. Even at the reasonable $10 price point, I still recommend that only those who really enjoyed SF2 back in its arcade heyday actually put down the Marketplace points for this Xbox Live port.