Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection Review

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The series that defined a genre is returning to the Nintendo Switch. But, rather than just being a half-baked effort to “test the waters” like Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, Capcom is now back to celebrate 30 years of one of the most important franchises in gaming history. Make way for the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, a package that not only gathers together virtually every popular 2D arcade port of the mainline series but also brings an encyclopedia worth of history along with it.

When compilations of our favorite franchises are released, we generally have our own little fantasy of what should be included. Usually, it never quite lives up to our expectation, but the effort put in place can tend to be satisfying enough to at least provide some sort of reflection to suit our need. The Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection has surprisingly smashed through this barrier. It may not be the first anniversary title to celebrate the series, but it’s definitely the most robust package any fan could possibly ask for.

Before we dig into the ports themselves, one thing that particularly stands out is the staggering amount of content sewn into this collection. The museum options alone are filled to the brim with artwork from across the generations. They contain document sketches from early development concepts that show ideas thrown about before final decisions were made. This includes unused character designs, stages and background stories that I wasn’t even aware of, despite being a huge fan of the series for many years now.

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There’s a 30-year retrospective timeline that pretty much shows everything besides the V.S series relating to the Street Fighter legacy – from game and movies releases to the more obscure projects like the NES platformer, Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight. You can listen to all the iconic music from every iteration of the collection and there’s plenty of lore for every character to read. You can even flick through frames of animations of your favourite fighter’s special moves as an addition to their biography. To top it off, everything is accessible at a lightning pace as there are literally no loading screens whatsoever. To put it mildly, it’s a Street Fighter nerdgasm of Tantric proportions.

Before you even select a game, you can access a handy and informative blurb about that certain title. It gives you a description of what added features that version brought along with it, and what new mechanics each individual title introduced. Not only that, it gives you a rundown of secrets that the cabinets contained back in the day. This includes guides on how to unlock hidden features such as the 2-on-1 dramatic battle mode found in the Alpha games, along with telling you the requirements to unlock secret characters within the titles that contain them. What is a nice touch is how there’s an arcade machine on display already running the game to accompany the text, and with a single press of a button you will instantly be thrown straight into the action.

There are 12 arcade-perfect titles to choose from, many of which are renditions of core sequels with their own bells and whistles attached. You have the one that started it all being, of course, the original Street Fighter. A game that was barely playable even back in the day yet laid some rather important foundations that would pave the way for the series to move forward. While it will probably stand as the most ignored out of the bunch, leaving this one out would make the package a little less complete.

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Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, on the other hand, was the game changer. It was the first fighting game made to have any real depth, and a massive hit across the world. Every competitive fighter released since has had some sort of influence from this very title. A pioneer of the genre and one of the most important of its kind in history. It took a good seven years before the series eventually moved to a third chapter, due to the many improved entries that followed it.

There are four sequels to the World Warrior series in this collection, each with their own unique flavour and flair. Just comparing how they evolved with the ability to jump seamlessly between them adds to the magic of it all. It feels like a landmark celebration having the option to relive the nostalgia of the vanilla 1991 classic, or play more competitively on the later, more complete refinements like Super Street Fighter II Turbo. It’s a history lesson for newcomers to the franchise and a TARDIS for the lifelong aficionado.

When the Alpha games came out, it evolved the formula and changed the series visual style quite significantly. They have a more anime look to them with a few gameplay mechanics that are usually the bread and butter in the modern anime fighter. Having the ability to air block or quick recover are now common in games like Guilty Gear and Dragon Ball FighterZ. Yet it’s only really the Alpha games that truly implement these features in the canon Street Fighter series.

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The Alpha trilogy is set after the original Street Fighter but before the World Warrior series. They were packed with plenty of influence from the 1994 manga animated adaptation that saw fans re-enacting the epic showdown between Ryu and Sagat on a stormy field or the Ryu and Ken team up against an overpowered M. Bison. While the third game dons the bigger roster and features, I’ve always favoured Alpha 2 personally. It was the game that I spent the most time with among friends gathered around a SEGA Saturn as a teenager. Remember, this is a U.S. arcade port, so don’t go in expecting the extra six console characters found in the 2001 Japanese arcade exclusive Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper.

The Street Fighter III series was for the big boys. It’s the Ikaruga of the bunch in how it was initially snubbed to eventually become regarded as one of the greatest fighting games in history. The first edition of Street Fighter III was quite the brave move for Capcom. It got rid of the whole cast besides Ryu and Ken in an effort to freshen up the franchise. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as popular due to fans and casuals alike having such a strong connection with the initial roster, along with the fact that the candle of the arcade scene was beginning to burn out.

This didn’t stop Capcom from updating the series, however, as later that year Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact would bring even more gameplay refinements and characters along with it. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is the more popular amongst competitive gamers with its addition of even more characters including the return of Chun Li. The third chapter as a whole is by far the best looking in the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection with character animations that stand up incredibly well even after 20 years later. What made the series shine on a technical level besides its gorgeous visuals was the parry system. By snapping the stick towards your opponent at the exact moment of impact you could potentially stop every strike in the game. The mechanic also led to one of the greatest fighting game moments caught on camera.

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In spite of being straight arcade conversions, an effort has been made to cater for those who want to hone their skills. As well as a dedicated free select VS mode, there’s an added training mode in place for the selection of titles that have an online feature. It is a great and necessary addition that was included due to the feedback of fans and is available as a day one software update. It’s not quite as in-depth as the training mode on Street Fighter V has come to be, but the basic necessities like dummy settings, dummy record and input/damage information are present. It would have been nice to be able to study the hitbox display but it was a last minute addition and one that Capcom rarely adds with the exception of 2008’s Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix.

The online mode has handpicked four of the more tournament-known titles to duke it out in. These include Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. Ranked matches use a belt system this time round to categorise your progress, while friends and public lobby matches allow you to decide which version you want to play before a bout. If your opponent chooses a different version, the game will be randomly selected. You can, however, customise which games are allowed in a lobby if you don’t want a certain title to be included.

The netcode promises a new “rewind” technology to reduce low latency and you can manually adjust input lag to suit your need. It all works well enough assuming that the connection is strong between players, although the odd lack of connection strength icon and the portable home console’s reliance on Wi-Fi is a bit concerning. I only managed to squeeze in around 20 matches which were 50/50 overall. On a good game it does run smoothly enough, however, I did run into plenty of choppy encounters. The lobby layout is quick and easy to adjust to, and having the choice of title in casual lobbies is a cool feature.

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The only real personal gripe I had wasn’t necessarily down to the actual collection, but more with the Nintendo Switch hardware itself. The games run absolutely perfectly both docked and undocked, it’s more the Joy-Con design that can be a bit of an issue. If you have a controller with a decent d-pad or if your weapon of choice is a fight stick then you will be fine. However, learning the ropes with the Joy-Con may take some getting used to, especially when you split a pair for some on-the-go rivalry.

It stands slightly more expensive than its PlayStation 4 and Xbox One counterparts – more likely due to the cartridge tax. Unfortunately, because Ultra Street Fighter IV isn’t on the system, Switch owners can’t take advantage of the pre-order bonus game either. There is, however, an exclusive tournament battle where eight players across four consoles can battle it out to become the champ. It was a Japanese-only feature across a network link of four arcade cabinets, and one that never managed to make it overseas.

If fighting games are your jam then Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is not only the best compilation for the series to come out of Capcom, it’s probably one of the greatest collections ever made. It seems as if Capcom is finally learning by stuffing in as much content into a series that deserves to be celebrated. The ports themselves are excellent and the optional screen filter does a decent job of keeping it looking authentic. Many of the titles do hold up exceedingly well and a good handful of them still feature in professional tournament play even after all these years. Whether you are new to the series or an old-school veteran, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is a must regardless of what console you own.

Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Capcom

Total Score
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