One year ago I published a rather ambitious article reviewing the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection in which I reviewed all twelve games included in the package in great detail. In hindsight I think that article is too long for its own good, but at least it still accurately reflects my thoughts on the collection’s quality. Maybe I’ll rewrite that review in a more concise form one day, but today a new challenger approaches just in time for the 35th anniversary of Street Fighter, the Capcom Fighting Collection. This new compilation covers more than just Street Fighter, bringing back long-forgotten games like Darkstalkers, Cyberbots, and Red Earth. It’s a very promising line up, but before I dig into the details I would once again like to take a moment to examine the quality of life features that apply to all 10 games in the collection.
Firstly, and arguably most importantly, online play has seen a remarkable improvement. Rollback netcode has been implemented to reduce latency when playing with people over long distances and gives me hope that this technology will soon become an industry standard rather than a selling point. The only outstanding issue I can see with the online is the matchmaking system which is often quite slow, especially if you’re only looking to play specific games. Secondly, every game in the collection has a training mode so new players can now familiarize themselves with the controls and their character’s abilities before playing real matches. It’s a fairly basic training mode, but compared to the last collection it’s a nice step up. Thirdly, the way the collection is presented has a lot more personality with the inclusion of things like an announcer who hypes up whichever game you’re about to play and colorful graffiti backgrounds which are much more fun to look at compared to the rather bland menus of the previous title.
So it’s pretty obvious that this collection goes to great lengths to improve upon the faults I and many other fans had with the Street Fighter collection 5 years ago. The only question left then is are the 10 games on offer here worth playing? I’ll try to keep this as short as possible, but the variety of games on offer here is substantial so my apologies in advance if this ends up being another long review.
The Darkstalkers Series(1994-1997)
First up on the chopping block is Darkstalkers, a spooky monster-themed fighting game franchise taking up a frighteningly large half of the collection. The games on offer are Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors, Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge, Vampire Savior: The Lord of Vampire, and the previously Japan-exclusive Night Warriors 2 and Vampire Savior 2. Story-wise the games lack a strong overarching plot with the protagonists and antagonists being shuffled around constantly, but this doesn’t stop the characters from being very fun and memorable as their expressive animations and homages to classic monster archetypes we all know and love naturally draw the player into the experience despite the lackluster narrative.
In terms of gameplay mechanics, Darkstalkers is fairly similar to Street Fighter with 3 punch buttons, 3 kick buttons, and motion input special moves. It also introduces brand new mechanics to set itself apart with chain combos, air blocking, and aggressive use of the super meter(all of which would later influence the design of the Street Fighter Alpha series which is a personal favorite of mine). Each iteration is more or less a refinement of these foundational mechanics adding new characters and moves along the way. All of this comes together to create flashy, fast-paced action that in my opinion makes Darkstalkers the best addition to the collection. I will say however, the previously Japan-exclusive titles Night Warriors 2 and Vampire Savior 2 feel a little redundant as they are mostly just alternative versions of Vampire Savior with a few changes to the character roster.
Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness(1994)
Cyberbots is the spiritual successor to one of my all time favorite belt-scrolling beat ‘em up games, Armored Warriors, so my expectations were pretty high going into this one. That being said, I think I may have set my expectations a little too high on this one. The story is set so far into the future that connections to Armored Warriors feel tenuous at best as well as dropping the largely serious tone for something a bit more quirky… and by quirky I mean it completely jumps the shark. Don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge that the final boss of Armored Warriors being an alien cyborg called Azrael piloting a sinister-looking black robot is pretty on the nose, but Cyberbots having a villain named Princess Devilotte de DeathSatan IX of the Heldorado Empire piloting a giant octopus mech is down right farcical by comparison.
So the story’s not that great, but does the gameplay compensate for it? Honestly I’m a bit mixed on it. Unlike most fighting games, your abilities in combat are not tied to the character you pick, but rather the mech you choose to put them in. There are 4 mechs to choose from, each with 3 variations equipped with different weapons and special moves. On paper I’d say I like this system as it captures the idea of modular mechs from Armored Warriors fairly well, but in practice it makes the movesets of some mechs feel very disjointed and clunky. Don’t get me wrong, the game can still be fun if you stumble upon a mech with special moves that actually compliment one another, but otherwise it’ll just be a really awkward experience. Overall, even if Cyberbots isn’t the epic clash of steel titans I wanted, it at least managed to avoid falling onto the scrap heap.
Out of the arcades and into our homes for the very first time, Red Earth is a rather unique fantasy themed fighting game blended with elements from roleplaying games and a larger focus on the single player experience as opposed to competitive multiplayer. There are only 4 playable characters, a lion-headed warrior, a kung fu girl, a ninja, and a witch(sounds like the beginning of a tavern joke) all on a quest to save the world from an evil warlord and the monsters he commands. The story is about as complex as your average game of Dungeons & Dragons, which is to say not terribly deep, but nothing frustratingly bad.
Red Earth’s single player mode is unique from most other fighting games since most of the opponents are giant monsters with powerful attacks not afforded to playable characters, but they still have many of the same weaknesses as player characters so there’s still plenty of skill involved on the road to victory. The player characters also have very limited movesets at first, but as they win fights they’ll level up and unlock new moves in a similar fashion to a roleplaying game. These elements of the game are undoubtedly weird, but once I got over that first hurdle I realized that Red Earth is easily the most engaging single player experience this genre has to offer. Modern fighting games try to pretend that expensive cutscenes telling a contrived story in between basic fights is a good single player mode, but Red Earth wisely puts gameplay first and is consequently much more fun than any of the cinematic mediocrity produced two decades later.
Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition(2004)
Originally created for the 15th anniversary of the Street Fighter franchise, Hyper Street Fighter II is a serious contender for the best version of Street Fighter II. I’m sure those of you reading this who are familiar with the 30th anniversary collection are already groaning at the prospect of Capcom re-releasing yet another iteration of a game that’s been remastered and ported to just about every video game system under the sun since 1991, but trust me when I say Hyper Street Fighter II is a worthy addition to this collection. Hyper Street Fighter II is every version of Street Fighter II simultaneously, giving the players the ability to select their preferred versions of each character independently of their opponent. So if player one wanted to play Ryu as he was in The World Warrior(the original) and player two wanted to play Ryu as he was in Super Turbo(the final arcade release) they absolutely can. It’s not a very balanced system, but the fact that everyone gets to play the version of Street Fighter II they want without compromise is amazing all the same.
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo(1996)
And now for something completely different. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo is a puzzle game featuring a cross section of Street Fighter and Darkstalkers characters. The game has no story to speak of, but considering the satirical name and chibi art style this game was clearly never meant to be taken seriously.
In Puzzle Fighter two players go head-to-head stacking up different colored gems on their side of the screen which are then cleared by dropping an orb shaped gem on top of a chain of the same color. Clearing lots of gems will put junk blocks on the opponent’s side of the screen which cannot be cleared for a set period of time. The player who’s stack of gems reaches the top of the screen first loses. Compared to other puzzle games like Puyo Puyo and Tetris, Puzzle Fighter is more difficult in terms of understanding how to set up and cash out big chains, but if you manage to figure a few things out it can certainly be just as fun.
Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix(1997)
Finally, we arrive at the last game in the collection, Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix. Apparently someone at Capcom really liked Puzzle Fighter’s chibi crossover parody concept so they did it again, this time in a fashion much closer to a traditional 2D fighter. The roster once again features popular Street Fighter and Darkstalkers characters as well as Tessa from Red Earth, all of whom have light hearted storylines to match the comedic tone. The game is also bursting with references to other Capcom games with lots of extra characters hanging out in the backgrounds and special attacks where the fighters wear the clothing of other characters to use new special moves, such as Chun-Li dressing like Jill Valentine from Resident Evil. Think of Gem Fighter as Capcom’s version of Super Smash Bros(technically this game came first so maybe Nintendo is the real knock off brand).
As fun as Gem Fighter is in concept however, the gameplay doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. The characters have very limited selections of special moves and combos are similarly simplified. As damage is dealt gems will spill out onto the floor which players collect to power up their character and use their super special moves. Other items like food will also appear randomly to cause even more chaos. There’s just not much depth to the gameplay here compared to the other games in the collection which is probably by design, but if they had pushed the mechanics a little further it could have been much more engaging.
And with that, the Capcom Fighting Collection is complete. If it wasn’t obvious enough by now, I really enjoyed it and think it is a vastly superior product compared to the previous compilation. Sure Cyberbots and Gem Fighter weren’t the best and the two Japan-exclusive Darkstalker games feel like overkill, but the other games on offer more than make up for it in my opinion. If you love fighting games, Capcom Fighting Collection is a must have.
Night Warriors: 5/5
Vampire Savior: 5/5
Night Warriors 2: 3/5
Vampire Savior 2: 3/5
Red Earth: 5/5
Hyper Street Fighter II: 5/5
Puzzle Fighter: 4/5
Gem Fighter: 3/5
Additional Features: 5/5
Morality and Parental Warnings: Capcom Fighting Collection contains many games involving violent physical confrontations with varying degrees of intensity. Characters fight using martial arts, supernatural powers, swords, guns, and other weapons depending on the game. All games also feature some characters who wear sexualized outfits. Fantasy theme games such as Darkstalkers and Red Earth feature demons, monsters, magic, and pagan mythology.
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