Classic review: Super Street Fighter II (Mega Drive)

Super Street Fighter II

This review was first published in E12, August 1994.

Love it or loathe it, you simply can’t ignore it. With its irrepressible Street Fighter series, Capcom have almost momnopolised the one-on-one beat ‘em up genre. Other beat ‘em ups may look and sound better than Capcom’s efforts, but none of them ‘feel’ as good to play. And Capcom is well aware of this – worldwide sales of ten million SFII units is a pretty good indication that it’s done something right.

So what does it do after scoring with SFII? It doesn’t produce a Street Fighter III, that’s for sure – when you’ve got proven formula like SFII, making wholesale changes is far too risky. Instead, it enhances the original game. Enter a procession of ‘upgraded’ SFIIs: Street Fighter II Champion Edition, Street Fighter II Turbo Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II and, of course, Super Street Fighter II Turbo.

It would be logical to assume that interest in Street Fighter II would have waned by now. But surprisingly, the apparently endless parade of Capcom siblings doesn’t seem to have reduced public demand in the slightest. The fact is, people still want to play SFII on their consoles, and the cachet involved in owning the latest Super Street Fighter II game, rather than the suddenly passé previous version, provides a powerful enough pull to keep the punters coming back for more.

Super Street Fighter II, released for both SNES and Mega Drive, is the latest incarnation. Judging by the way it’s selling in some import shops around the country, it could be the most successful version of the game yet, and the biggest cash cow for Capcom since the original console conversion appeared on the SNES.

This Mega Drive version weighs in at a hefty 40 megabits, which is all well and good in theory, but does Super Street Fighter II look and sound like a 40 Mbit cartridge? Not quite. The tunes, speech and samples are all laughably weak, some of the backdrops look distinctly pixelated, and the definition isn’t as high as it could have been – even on a Japanese SCART machine. So where did those extra megabits go? For once, they were used to improve what is arguably the mos important aspect of any game – playability.

Capcom has bolted on lots of innovative features to make the game even more appealing to Street Fighter II fans. Firstly, Capcom has added four completely new characters: Dee Jay, the ever-smiling, maraca-playing Jamaican; Cammy, the freckle-faced, pigtailed English rose, who has joined the tournament to prove to the world that Chun Li isn’t the strongest – or prettiest – female fighter around; Thunderhawk, who fights out of Mexico and is the biggest and strongest of the new characters; and Fei long, from Hong Kong, who’s the smallest and weakest fighter in the entire game, but makes up for his unprepossessing physique with excellent martial arts skills and devastating speed.

These four characters alone would make Super Street Fighter II a worthwhile investment for most self-respecting Street Fighter aficionados. But there’s more; to make the game even more appealing, some of the original characters get new moves. Ken now has a Flaming Dragon Punch, which, if timed correctly, can score four direct hits in rapid succession. Not to be outdone, Ryu gains a new fireball which burns and stuns his opponents. Blanka gets a new Beast Roll which opponents find extremely hard to avoid, and the lumbering Russian, Zangief, acquires numerous extra throws and holds.

This review first appeared in Edge issue 12, pictured here. It was published in August 1994.

As well as adding extra characters and moves, Capcom has made some of the old moves easier to pull off. To execute Chun Li’s fireball, for example, you simply move back, step forward, and then press punch. It’s improvements like these – which seem trivial at first but have a real effect on the way the game plays – that make what is arguably the most playable beat ‘em up ever even more accessible to grandmasters and virgin Street Fighters alike.

Capcom has also given the game five different play modes: Super, Tournament, Challenge, Group Battle and Versus, all of which contribute towards an excellent beat ‘em up package. Sadly, there’s no sign of the ‘Turbo’ feature, but there is a game speed facility which just about makes up for that.

Basically, this is Street Fighter II with huge knobs on. In terms of sound and visuals it can only be described as average, but you can forgive it any weaknesses in those departments because it gains huge strength from its exceptional playability. You wouldn’t have thought that a few extra characters and additional moves would be enough to place this on a higher pedestal than its predecessors, but they are. Despite its disappointing aesthetic deficiencies, Super Street Fighter II is possibly the best beat ‘em up ever.