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.
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