GameSpite Journal 10 | Street Fighter Alpha 2

Street Fighter Alpha 2 | Dev.: Capcom | Pub: Capcom | Genre: Fighting | Release: Oct. 1996

A technological showcase of its time, Street Fighter II demonstrated how powerful the Super NES could be, with large, beautiful sprites fighting in a variety of exquisitely detailed backgrounds. Simply put, Capcom’s landmark fighting game was a showpiece for Nintendo’s new system. It is ironic that Street Fighter Alpha 2 would show just how aged the system had become.

Though Street Fighter Alpha debuted after the numerous variants of Street Fighter II, it actually served as its prequel. Alpha’s character roster contained a unique hodgepodge of fighters from both installments of the mainline series, new challengers, and even characters yanked from Capcom’s Final Fight titles. The realistic art style previously used for the series was replaced by a flashier, anime-inspired motif. While fundamentally similar to Street Fighter II, Alpha introduced a variety of new mechanics, such as an evolved super meter and air blocking. While these changes made for a refreshing experience, Alpha felt incomplete; the character roster had been painfully reduced, and many of the new mechanics felt unrefined.

Thankfully, Street Fighter Alpha 2 improved upon its predecessor in every regard. The character roster was increased dramatically and became the largest roster assembled for a Street Fighter game at the time. The new characters were uniformly excellent, ranging from returning favorites such as Zangief, blasts from the past like the hoary-yet-deadly assassin Gen (originally from Street Fighter) and a new challenger the Ryu-idolizing schoolgirl Sakura. The backgrounds were completely overhauled, the uninteresting stages from Alpha replaced with beautiful, engaging backdrops. The core mechanics introduced in Alpha were refined and tightened, and a new “Custom Combo” feature was introduced, allowing players to create their own devastating attacks. To this day, Street Fighter Alpha 2 is considered one of the finest installments in the long-running franchise.

This is all well and good, but how did the Super NES port fare? The results were mixed. Alpha 2 was by far the most taxing fighter the Super NES had ever seen. Even the PlayStation couldn’t handle an arcade-perfect port; only the Saturn would be graced with a near-flawless version. In fact, the Super NES port required the service of a rarely-used decompression chip, the S-DD1, in order to cram all of the delicious sprite data into the cartridge. Despite this concession, the port was plagued with slowdown, missing frames of animation, and perhaps worst of all, irritating and numerous load times, a cardinal sin for a cartridge-based game. The background music takes four second or longer to load in some stages, as do the entrance and victory animations. The SNES is seemingly in agony at some points, as if it’s trying to scream “I wasn’t meant to play this!”

So, how does one remember Street Fighter Alpha 2 on the Super NES? On one hand, the port is far from perfect, and the numerous load times and bouts with slowdown make it the least-optimal way to play, to say nothing of the missing frames of animation and lackluster BGM quality. Conversely, it is still quite playable despite these numerous setbacks, and the core game is one of the finest in the franchise’s history. Furthermore, the fact that such a robust game was successfully ported to the SNES at all was a marvel of software engineering. Much like how Street Fighter II demonstrated what was possible on the Super NES, Street Fighter Alpha 2 showed just how far the system could be pushed, even if it pushed a little too hard for its own good.

By Matt Williams? | May 8, 2012 | Previous: Kirby Super Star | Next: Terranigma