No company in the storied history of video gaming has tried harder to not create a true sequel to one of their hit games quite like Capcom did with the myriad releases that followed their hit fighting game Street Fighter 2. Not only did they create a number of tweaked releases of game itself, but they also managed to find time to create a spin-off series of prequels called Street Fighter Alpha.
Street Fighter Alpha took characters from Street Fighter, Street Fighter 2, and even Capcom's beat 'em up series Final Fight and placed them in a one-on-one fighting game complete with a rather unique and fairly intricate fighting engine. While the original Street Fighter Alpha wasn't released on the Super Nintendo console, Capcom decided to bring the sequel back to the machine that played host to the domestic debut of Street Fighter 2. So how exactly does this rather ambitious arcade fighter hold up on the old 16-bit workhorse all these years later?
The fighting engine of Street Fighter Alpha 2 is fairly similar in design to that of the original release although there are minor tweaks here and there that end up balancing out the many fighters a bit better this time around. You can choose to play the game as a solo experience, selecting your fighter and taking on a host of eight combatants that are randomly chosen for you - at least until you reach the final fighter. Of course if you want to get the most out of the game, you can choose the two-player mode where you and another opponent can each pick a fighter of your own and duke it out using various sets of rules and time limits.
Each of the game's 18 playable characters feature their own set of weak, medium, and strong punches and kicks. They also have a set of special attacks that can be pulled off in typical Street Fighter 2 fashion by performing specific movements on the controller's D-pad in conjunction with various punch/kick combinations.
Of course since this is an Alpha release, you also have the game's Super Combo system at your disposal as well. As you land attacks on your opponent, your Super Combo gauge at the bottom of the screen will begin to fill up. Once you get the gauge above a certain level, you can then unleash one of your character's Super Combo attacks. These are ready-made combinations that can be particularly devastating to your opponent when executed at the proper time. You can also perform your own Custom Combos if you'd rather put together your own attack routines within a specified time limit, which will appear above your Super Combo gauge when the Custom Combo attack is performed. It's the use of these combos that gives the game its unique fighting style and makes things quite strategic for those who know how to properly make use of it.
The gameplay in Street Fighter Alpha 2 is extremely responsive and well executed from start to finish. Sure, a few of the characters can be a bit cheap - especially for those who know how to use them - but overall the game shows a surprising semblance of balance for a Street Fighter release. Toss in the super cool combo system and you end up with one of the more playable and intense Street Fighter experiences available on the SNES. Unless you're just one of those Street Fighter 2 purists that can't get past the game's sometimes cheap combo system, you're likely to find a lot to enjoy from a tactical standpoint with this game's intense fighting system.
Considering the lofty arcade parentage of Street Fighter Alpha 2 you know some cuts would have to be made to bring the game home to the 16-bit Super Nintendo console. That being said, the developers were able to accurately convey the majority of the game's best visual moments and the end result is one of the most graphically stunning fighting titles available for the machine. Of course there are some missing frames of animation and the backdrops aren't quite as detailed as those of the arcade version, but all in all this port keeps with the tradition of strong arcade-to-home translations the series has enjoyed on the Super Nintendo console.
Much like the visuals, the musical score and sound effects of this home release do a fantastic job of sticking as closely as possible to those of their arcade counterpart. The voice announcer isn't quite as easy to understand due to the compression of the dialog, but it's still adequate given the type of game it is. The musical tracks themselves are all very well done and do a nice job of conveying the specific area or region they're being played in as well. A bit more character dialog would have been nice, but it's difficult to complain knowing how much the developers were able to squeeze into what is really a limited-sized Super Nintendo cartridge release.
It's impossible to review this title without touching upon the thorny issue of loading times. There are some rather lengthy 4 or 5 second pauses where the game will load audio bits or level data just before the fights kick off - kind of unusual for a cartridge release - but they're very minor and are certainly nowhere near some of the load times we saw during the early 32-bit generation of optical media consoles.
There's no denying that the original Super Nintendo port of Capcom's Street Fighter 2 arcade hit was extremely impressive and damn near arcade-perfect, but there's also something to be said for the job they did in bringing a very ambitious Street Fighter Alpha 2 arcade title to the console without having to sacrifice too much in the transition. Sure the visuals are a bit toned down and the brief loading times are irksome but overall the game is intact and still every bit as playable as it was in the arcades. Fans of the Alpha series will likely find this Super Nintendo release quite solid and a good bargain at 800 Wii Points. And anyone that has yet to give the Alpha series a try, now might be as good a time as any.