Back when Street Fighter II-mania was gripping the global gaming community, Capcom’s decision to release the first home port of the game on Nintendo’s SNES spoke volumes. This move showed that the company was backing Nintendo in the 16-bit war (up to this point all of Capcom’s Megadrive/Genesis games had actually been re-programmed by Sega under license and not actually by Capcom themselves). Sega fans wept in the streets as it became clear that if they wanted to play this revolutionary video game, they would have to invest in rival hardware.
However, fast forward a few months and Capcom’s viewpoint had changed. The impressive performance of the Genesis in the US forced the developer to reconsider its stance towards the machine, and the announcement that Street Fighter II would be coming to Sega’s 16-bitter in the shape of an enhanced ‘Special Champion Edition’ sent shockwaves through the industry; Capcom had leveled the playing field in dramatic fashion. Of course, this is all ancient history now and it has to be said that playing the Genesis version of Street Fighter II today doesn’t have quite the same impact, especially when you consider how many versions of the game are currently available on the retro compilations and the Virtual Console itself.
Although the game bears the ‘Champion Edition’ moniker it does in fact include improvements seen in the arcade ‘Hyper Fighting’ edition of the game (which was ported to the SNES as Street Fighter II: Turbo). The gameplay is much faster and this makes a world of difference – playing the original SFII on the SNES just shows how slow and plodding it has become. Naturally there’s the ability to play as the boss characters and also pit the same character against him or herself. The additional moves – such as Chun-Li’s fireball – also make the cut. The only other notable addition for hardcore fans is the inclusion of a five-on-five group battle mode, which makes multiplayer tournaments a little more exciting.
In the case of the Genesis original control was a rather touchy subject - the original Genesis pad only featured three fascia buttons and required the player to toggle between punch and kick by pressing 'Start' - and yes, this solution was as unworkable as it sounds. However, the 6 button pad released alongside the game in 1993 was fantastic, offering even better control than the SNES pad, and in many respects made this the best version to own. The Virtual Console version experiences a similar divide - using the Wii Remote requires you to switch between punch and kick, which means that you should only really consider purchasing this if you own a Classic Controller.
Although Special Champion Edition is astonishingly close to the SNES port in terms of visuals and gameplay the fact of the matter is there’s already better versions of this game available on the Virtual Console. Given the fact that it’s hard to actually differentiate between this and the SNES Turbo: Hyper Fighting, it’s hard to imagine that there’s many people out there that are nostalgic for the Genesis port.
As it stands Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition is a pretty impressive achievement considering the hardware it was produced for, but it’s nothing more than an interesting footnote in the Street Fighter lineage. The group battle option is neat and the fact that it includes both the Champion Edition and Hyper Fighting variants of the game is a bonus for completists, but we still can't recommend this entirely. If you’ve yet to download a Street Fighter II title on the Virtual Console then this is a solid option but otherwise save your points for something more worthwhile.