Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting
Diehard Street Fighter fans all over the globe were salivating once the announcement for Hyper Fighting came out over the wire. Some were ecstatic at the prospect of being able to play the game with friends across the country while others were just interested in a piece of arcade nostalgia. I fall into both categories, though I do feel more of a twinge in terms of the nostalgic sensation of beating the snot out of Dhalsim with Blanka.
When this game first came out in arcades I was lined up with quarters in hand to play against the other sweaty fat kids that had nothing better to do. Yes, the arcade reeked of man stench, but it was a small price to pay in order to see who the best of the best was. Things got much easier on the wallet, and the olfactory senses, once the game was released on the SNES. At that point the only costs of playing the game were late nights and a damaged bladder thanks to the egregious amounts of Mountain Dew that was consumed by me and my friends.
Flash forward nearly 15 years later. The fans of the original game have grown up now and the newest generation of gamers may only be familiar with the latest incarnations to the franchise. So how has Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting aged? Let's find out.
In terms of gameplay, things are exactly as I remembered them from the last moment I played the game some twelve years ago. Well, the game is exactly like I remembered; my skills are not, I should say. Disbelief about how rusty I got aside, the game plays like a gem when you're fighting through single player. Sure it's a frustrating, annoying, yet sometimes rewarding gem, but it's a gem nonetheless.
You see, while the SNES controller's d-pad worked wonders for the port back in the day, the Xbox 360 controller does not. Pressing back and down to block low attacks is ineffective and trying to pull of some moves leaves you just jumping around like Richard Simmons. I found the analog to be a little easier but even then you can't really substitute that for an arcade stick. It was a little inconvenient but I found myself having to swap between d-pad and analog depending on what character I was using. Some moves just worked better one way more than they did the other.
The game offers you a few different modes of play right from the moment you fire it up. Arcade is the single player experience in which you get the snot beaten out of you by the all-too-cheap CPU. You can also practice in the Training mode before going online to fight your friends and random strangers.
It may not be necessarily a flaw of this port, but the fact that the gameplay was ironed out in the subsequent Street Fighter sequels does make Hyper Fighting feel a little archaic. Cheesy combos and complaints of cheating will feel all too familiar once you start playing online. Some characters are just so out of balance compared to others in terms of strength, countering, and maneuver dominance. Just don't be surprised when you play a Ranked match that 90% of the people you face will use Ryu or Ken and just jump around and kick. Worse offenders pick E. Honda and do nothing but the hundred hand slap in an attempt to corner you. Yes, this game does bring back memories; even if they are sometimes irritating ones.
Adding to the frustration is the online mode which is very hard to predict and is extremely unstable. Ranked matches are an exercise in aggravation especially when every match you find comes up with a time out or tells you that you can't join it. You literally have to scour the available matches and try six to seven times before you can even get into a game. Once you're there and the match is over it's time to head back to the menu and try again. Patience is a virtue that you must have in order to endure trying to get your rank going.
Unfortunately the online problems don't stop there. In any of the other modes from Quarter Matches to regular old challenges the online stability and lag is a problem. I lost count of how many times I was fighting with a friend and our connection just ended. It was to the point that out of about 20 matches I participated in about 15 of them actually saw completion. I typically never have problems with Xbox Live games in this regard so it wasn't just my connection.
In the end, Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting is a worthwhile pick from the Xbox Live Marketplace. It clocks in with an 800 point download cost and offers plenty of playability once you get past the whole annoying controller thing. When you and your buddies get together and you find a solid connection there are few things that are as entertaining (or rare). A more stable online experience would have gone a long way to making this a must have release. As it stands it's a recommendation for those that are interested, but anyone on the fence could probably get by without it. It's just a shame that Capcom didn't spring for Super Street Fighter or even an Alpha release for this download, but we all know how much they like to milk their franchises.
If the gameplay doesn't send you back to the early 90s then the graphics will. Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting offers a direct port of the arcade graphics for all of its 2D goodness. The only problem is that in this day and age of HDTV and top of the line technology things look really rough at times. Of course that's one of the biggest downfalls for the Xbox Live Arcade. Great classic games that look horrid compared to stuff on the market. Nostalgia carries material only so much.
Just like the visuals, the audio for Street Fighter II will send you back 15 years the moment you hear that first "Hadouken" or "Sonic Boom." The sound quality is fine but it's no better now than it was back when the game first came out. After playing for a bit, I have to admit that I had forgotten how annoying the elephants on Dhalsim's stage could be. Voice chat through the Live headset is fine too though trash-talking is a prevalent thing even from onlookers in the Quarter Matches. I guess it really does simulate the original arcade experience!
It's kind of funny but after all these years and countless hours that I have poured into Street Fighter II I find myself addicted once again. Sure the single player can be frustrating and the online stability is a little shaky, but when things clicks it's like your transported back to an arcade in the early 90s. Nearly everything in Hyper Fighting has been left intact though the 360 controller isn't the most ideal for 2D fighters. It's also a tad depressing knowing that Capcom is going to probably milk the franchise again for another release down the road. Even more depressing is the realization that most of us will probably buy that upgrade too.
For $10 you really can't go wrong with the game and diehard fans will fall in love all over again. Due to the functionality flaws this release gets knocked down a peg or two, but don't let that discourage you. Stuff like this is the reason the Xbox Live Arcade exists.