Want to know how much Blanka weighs? Or what Chun Li's blood type is? Then Street Fighter 2 is the game for you. The manual is full of this kind of stuff. Why? Nobody knows. It plays no part in the game itself, and not even the most ardent Street Fighter fans could think the characters are, well, real. (Oh no! Thousands of Street Fighter fans.) Oh, what a faux pas!
For the benefit of folk who've managed to steer clear of the consoles, the saturation advertising and every playground in the world for the last six months. Street Fighter 2 is a beat-'em-up. But that's not all! (Thinks.) Oh, yes it is. (Cough.) (I remember that joke! Coo, takes me back a bit. Ed) it can be played two ways - either you're a single character out to beat up all the others in turn, or you take on a friend head-to-head. Whichever game you play, you'll have to master a complicated control method which involves pressing buttons and moving joysticks in strange ways. At least it's a little different, eh? Oh, please yourselves.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
Street Fighter 2 is crammed with good points, bad points and, erm, ugly points. (Congratulations! I take great pleasure in awarding you the trophy for Most Tenuously-Linked Headline On Page Twelve. Ed) It's as if two sets of programmers were employed - one lot, studious and talented, intent on coding the best conversion possible, and another group who, basically, are crap. Let's take a trip through the game to demonstrate.
Loading the program is a nightmare. It suffers from the worst ever Speccy multiload (yes folks, this 128K only game is a multiload... but it doesn't come on +3 disk). After loading the first bit, choosing a one- or two-player game, selecting your characters and the country they fight in, setting the difficulty level and defining the keys, you're presented with the message 'Start the tape'. No block names come up and there's no indication of which chunk of code the Speccy's looking for. So you have to let the tape run through the entire first side to pick up on the anonymous blocks the program wants. (Hope the two fighters you picked are near the beginning, because Street Fighter 2 comes on a C60 tape.) And, after the fighters have loaded, you have to turn over and load the background graphics (though to be fair, you can turn these off from the main menu). And, yup, you have to run through the lot with no idea of the section the Speccy is looking for.
Then! When you've finished your fight (which doesn't take that long) you have to rewind to the beginning of the first side (this is no joke, folks) and reload the entire thing to select your next opponent. Truly, a game where you spend more time loading than playing. Five words spring to mind: stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid and STUPID. I had to snap various levels on to my +D just to save enough time to play the game. Ooo. I'm annoyed. (Better move on to the good points then. Ed)
Once the game has loaded (AARGHH!) and an obliging relative has woken you up, you can get on with the serious business of hitting somebody rather a lot. As we said in the preview a couple of issues ago, the graphics are very big (like Final Fights) and very fast (not like Final Fights at all then). The level of detail is. to be jolly honest, stunning. Rarely has a late-period Speccy game looked so good. And the artists haven't shirked on the backgrounds either - they're also packed with excitingly grouped pixels. The sound is okayish - some white noise thumps and crunches - but nothing special. Still, eh? (Well put Ed) As mentioned above, control is a mixture of button pushing and odd joystick movements.
Apart from the obvious punching, jumping and kicking, each fighter has a load of secret moves. The trick is, you have to work out exactly what to push and pull in order to access them. Some are fairly straightforward - to make Ken punch up and knock out any jumping opponents you pull him down into a crouch, then hit jump and fire simultaneously - but the majority will only be found by twiddling everything in sight. (Have those notepads ready, folks.) in addition, the fighters have special attacks, like piledrivers, fireballs and so on. Luckily, the manual tells you how to do these. Phew, eh? Playing against a Speccy opponent, I very quickly got bored, gameplay being reduced to the oh-so-usual hit the buttons at random nonsense. However, with two players it's a whole different kettle of lemons.
IT'S A KNOCKOUT!
Sample two-player Street Fighter 2 game: 'Ha!' 'Aarghh!' 'Oh, come on!' 'You rat' 'I felt that!' 'You complete rat!' 'Bite yer head!' 'Rats!' 'Didn't see that one coming, did you?' 'I hate you.' 'Another go?' You get the idea. Because of the sheer variety of moves each player can make, a bit of strategy creeps in to the game in the form of deciding who's the best character to beat your opponent's champion. You find yourself trying all sorts of unlikely joystick combinations to try to unearth those secret moves. (There's nothing quite like unleashing a move that your opponent doesn't even know exists, heh heh heh.) It is, to put in non-YS, sensible language, incredibly good fun. Or, to put it in YS-y lingo, it's a stonking corker with marvy graphics and the elusive cherry of playability perched on top.
Even the atmosphere of corporate facelessness doesn't spoil the game. (Eh? Ed) Let me explain. (Oh good. Ed) The manual is quite smart, detailing most of the moves the characters can perform in a friendly and readable style. Then! When you load the game (AARGHH!) you get a message saying 'Due to machine limitations, this version may differ from examples in the manual." So, erm, what you're saying then, US Gold, is that unspecified portions of the the manual are, erm again, useless. Or in other words, the profit margin wasn't enough to print a bit of paper saying 'So-and-so moves aren't available on the Speccy version' rather than leaving you to work out whether the move is really missing, or whether you're just not trying to access it properly. Well, thanks a bunch. (Steady on, Jonathan. Ed) But enough of this scampish sarcasm. It's summary time!
(Sound of small fanfare on plastic trumpets.) From the top - the one-player mode is very boring. Without another human player, the game is just another fight number. But! Grab that close friend and give 'em a joystick (using keys is far easier) and I think everyone will agree that Street Fighter 2 is highly playable and immense fun. What a tragedy then that it's been seriously injured (nay, practically crippled) by a horrible, asinine multlload system.
As with all beat-'em-ups it's a one-note game, but the diversity of moves and characters ensures it will last a good deal longer than most. (If your tape recorder can stand it.) Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to challenge Linda. She doesn't know about Zangief's spinning piledriver, and I'll feign innocence until (ar-har) she's in me power! (Twiddles imaginary moustache.) (Not so fast, you dastardly villain! You forgot that I have to check the page before it goes to the printers. Ed) Curses! Foiled again.
Here it is! What more can I say. Around Christmas time there was a big controversy in the newspapers and on TV about the effect games were having on youngsters. The argument centred around the two big console manufacturers and their respective famous branded characters - Sega's Sonic and Nintendo's Mario. But Streetfighter 2 sold as many SNES's this Crimbo as Mario, despite costing over sixty smackeroolies.
As soon is it became apparent that it wasn't only children's minds that were at risk but their parent's wallets too (some newspaper editor probably had to join the real world and cough up for his son) the whole hoo ha reached epic proportions and of course Sega and Nintendo ended up laughing all the way to the bank.
In all of this not one mention was made of the Spectrum (are any of us really surprised?) and the fact that US Gold are still able to release a version of the game for one-fifth of the price of the Nintendo product. But the again the Spectrum is crap isn't it?
No... Take one look at Street Fighter 2 and you will appreciate just how good the Speccy can be with a decent product and imaginative programming. For a start all the characters are there, and these aren't sad representations either, they actually look like the real thing and they're animated like the real thing too. They have roughly the same amount of moves as either the arcade or the S-NES too though the control procedure with only one fire button is a tad restrictive.
At the outset Tony Bickley, SF2's project manager, told us that he didn't think the Vs battle option would be available on the Speccy because of loading and memory restrictions. However, he must have had his boys up all night, every night, because it IS available in the released version. The game basically works like this:
First you load the title screen and options menu. Here you get three choices; the options menu allows you to turn on or off SFX, sound, backgrounds (which should make the game a little faster but doesn't really make a lot of difference) etc., change the controls or set the difficulty level between 0 and 9. The Championship option allows you to enter the competition and fight the computer in its chosen order of ranking, while the Vs game allows you and a friend to choose a fighter each and proceed to beat the stuffing out of each other. Lovely!
If I say Street Fighter 2 isn't particularly colourful some smart arse is going to write in and tell me that I'm talking rubbish and there is actually a wide variety of colours to choose from. This is correct. You can have blue sprites on a white background. or red on white, or yellow on blue or... ad infinitum. Basically though you won't have any more than two colours or shades thereof on a fight screen at once. This is a blessing though when you consider the complexity of the sprites and the potential for colour clash.
The sound is acceptable but where the game really comes into its own is in playability. To be honest I thought playing Speccy Street Fighter 2 would be like watching slugs practice karate but, oh lordy, it's just not so OK, it's not Ben Johnson but it's certainly fast enough to have a decent game. Even some of the guys from Mean Machines and Nintendo Magazine System were impressed when I invited them up the Towers into my games suite (complete with mini bar) to view 'the game'.
It takes time to get used to all the moves, and don't trust the instruction manual, you'll have to find out how to do some yourself - it helps if you're a contortionist. The only real gripe I have about Street Fighter 2 is that it isn't available on disk and the tape loading procedure is a long but necessary evil. Top marks to USG though for the best looking Speccy title in years, and no mistake.
I'd have loved to give Street Fighter 2 an SU Gold award. Graphically it deserves it, playability-wise it almost deserves it. However the main let down is the unfeasibly labourious loading procedure which means that it takes centuries to fight a few rounds. Great effort though, and considering that it's likely to be the last big licence coin op conversion ever on the Speccy it's worthwhile getting - if only to hold onto fond dinosaur memories of what the Speccy is capable of if pushed.
Label: US Gold
Memory: 128K Only
Price: £12.99 Tape
Reviewer: Big Al Dykes
STEVE KEEN: Well I never! I was as dubious as a canary being offered seed by a cat when Big Al' asked me to take a look at Street Fighter 2, and to be honest, by the time it loaded I had lost hope altogether. However, once I started playing I quickly found myself enjoying this version immensely. Just make sure you have plenty of other things to do while it's loading!
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