Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting

By late 1992 there was some actual competition developing in the fighting game market. While Capcom sought to stay a step ahead by releasing a new version of their popular fighter, entirely new games with their own styles, characters, and fighting systems were appearing and gaining their own followings. So it was that eight months after the release of Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Capcom decided to revamp their now-flagship franchise once again.

Arcade owners had long been hacking into the hardware of Street Fighter II, reprogramming the game to run more quickly for faster action and more combo potential. "Combos" were becoming quite the rage, you see. And it was in this sort of illegal modification world that Capcom figured they could make a buck and sate their fanbase. Thus, the primary new feature of Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting was a substantially increased game speed. To play one of the older versions and jump straight into this was like a sugar rush, and honestly a bit disorienting at first.

Floater.The second major change from the previous versions was the addition of new special moves for many of the characters. For instance, as pictured, Chun Li can now shoot a fireball. Dhalsim can now teleport, borrowing a popular convention from a rival game. Ryu and Ken can now hurricane kick while in mid-air. The new moves naturally alter the way most of these characters can be played, opening up entirely new strategies, and therefore requiring entirely new strategies to defeat them as well. Which might be exciting and interesting, but the moves haven't been balanced incredibly well. Most of the new moves are a bit overpowered here in their first incarnation, though they'd eventually become great additions to the franchise. Dhalsim's teleport comes to mind, which allows him to clip through most any attack during the animation - before he actually performs the teleport itself.

The third difference in Hyper Fighting from its predecessors is really the most head-scratching. With the exception of M. Bison, every character in the game has had his or her primary costume colors altered. While some, like Ryu, don't produce a huge difference, some create bizarre appearances. Others are just plain ugly. As an example, Zangief had always worn red trunks and been covered in red bear-wrestling scars. For Hyper Fighting, his trunks were changed to blue. Which is no biggie on its own, but the way the colors were programmed into the game, it made it so that every bit of red on his body was now blue. Blue scars, heck, even a blue tongue. It's just odd. Blanka isn't even green anymore. I can't imagine why they felt it was necessary to make these changes, but the good news is that the original costumes are available as alternates, by pressing the start button to select your character instead of a different input.

Blubber crush.Of course, when you toy with the game speed and give everyone new moves, gameplay balance is bound to change quite a bit. That's not necessarily bad in every case, but it really doesn't strike me as a positive in this game. I'd like to single out E. Honda as possibly the most broken character in Hyper Fighting for that reason. He was never a fast guy, so he was always fairly strong...probably third behind Balrog and Zangief in terms of sheer strength. He also had a couple decent special moves and okay mobility. But now they give him a giant butt splash that allows him to leap diagonally from one corner of the screen to another, hitting potentially twice. Of course, it's commanded with a charge (holding a direction a certain amount of time before releasing, to give the general idea), to prevent you from abusing it. But the computer doesn't need to charge anything - it just says "This move is in my programming, I want to do it now, done." So he'll chain this crap and it's stupidly powerful. Not to mention he is now able to actually walk while doing his rapid hand slap attack. A sample (and honestly not unusual in the least) match against E. Honda might go like this:

1) Announcer says "Fight."
2) Honda attacks you and you block.
3) You press any button other than block to move or counter.
4) Honda instantly butt splashes you for a third of your life.
5) He does it again for another third, which also stuns you.
6) Now you're in a corner, so he hand-slaps you while walking forward, effectively trapping you and forcing you to take every hit.
7) You're dead after 12 ticks of the clock.

Even his throws are absurd, one of them doing at least half your life bar in damage when it fully connects. There are other instances of broken moves or unbalanced characters, but this is by far the most glaring.

Overall, Hyper Fighting was a bit of a step back for the Street Fighter II franchise. The speed, which was supposed to be its greatest feature, is actually its greatest shortcoming. The action on screen (and the match timer by association) is all much quicker, but the system can't recognize your inputs any faster to match. So you're always a step or two behind the game in trying to do anything, which can get frustrating in a hurry. You'll be driven crazy at the constant shouting of "Tiger!" from Sagat when his new AI tells him to stand on the other side of the screen doing nothing but barraging you with projectiles, faster than a human could possibly input them. And the new special moves aren't bad, but really aren't appealing enough to cause this game to be preferable to either of its previous incarnations. As a result, Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting is the worst version of the game. If you have a choice to play one of the other ones instead, do it.

Bottom Line: 11/20

1 comment:

  1. This, like Champion Edition, was not averaged into the totals as a game in its own right.

    Also, to mention the significant home versions of the game: Street Fighter II Turbo (as they were called) was not exactly Hyper Fighting. There were actually selectable game speeds that mirrored Hyper Fighting on the one, and Champion Edition on the other, although neither was a 100% identical port. So while it's a bit different, I'm not going to review Turbo, as it is essentially just Champion Edition and Hyper Fighting on the same cartridge.