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The Classics

October 10th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Street Fighter series has gone through several major arcs over its 20+ year history. Each new release has received heavy tournament play all over the world for many years at a time. In order for a competitive game to survive under such harsh conditions, it must be elegantly designed, meticulously balanced, and of course somewhat lucky. After all, if a team of fifty designers and testers spend two years working on a game, a community of a fifty thousand players will surpass their combined man-hours within the first week of public availability. Here’s the widely accepted list of Capcom fighting games to have passed the test of time.

Street Fighter II Series

SF2: Hyper Fighting – Quite possibly the purest Street Fighter game ever made, HF demands incredibly sound fundamental skills without providing any super moves or custom combos to bail players out of tough spots. Its quick pace builds reaction time and helps improve concentration. Almost every character on the roster is competitively viable and the top tier contains a broad variety of styles. It may seem a little intimidating at first, but HF is easily one of the most accessible Street Fighter games ever produced in terms of how long it takes to reach “the good part” of competitive play.

Super SF2 Turbo – Even after fifteen years, ST remains widely supported in the tournament scene. It introduced super moves and throw softening to Street Fighter, along with countless new bells and whistles such as overheads and juggle combos. No advantages transfer from round to round because super meter levels do not carry over. The established top tier contains at least five characters: Dhalsim, O.Sagat, Vega, Balrog, and Ryu – with Bison, Chun Li, and Dee Jay also making strong showings.

The Rest – World Warrior is always fun to play for nostalgia’s sake, just to see how many things have changed since the beginning. However, WW is inherently flawed due to the inability to choose the same character as well as the lack of reversals to escape throw setups. Champion Edition solves the reversal problem, but doesn’t properly balance the boss characters – especially Bison, whose insane Scissor Kick frame advantage actually leads to lockdown strings. Super Street Fighter 2 managed to hurt the entire Capcom fighting game scene with its painfully slow gameplay after Hyper Fighting raised the bar across the board. Many years later, Hyper Street Fighter 2 mixed together all these versions to create an entertaining but ultimately unbalanced mashup, with several unpleasant control bugs to boot.

Street Fighter Alpha Series

SFA2/SFA3 – Depending on who you ask, either Alpha 2 or Alpha 3 (but usually not both) will be listed as a classic title. In a lot of ways, SFA2 revitalized the Street Fighter community after SSF2 drove so many people away. SFA2 is fast and chaotic fun, yet still fundamentally sound in terms of what it takes to win. By contrast, SFA3 is one of the most technical Street Fighter games ever created, with a wonderfully unique combo engine to explore. Most importantly, A2 and A3 changed the fighting game genre forever by introducing two different kinds of Custom Combos. It’s impossible to discuss either game without delving into the merits and downfalls of the Custom Combo feature. Therefore it’s not surprising that most of the disagreement between A2 fans and A3 fans comes down to CC preferences. A2 Customs generate insane amounts of damage for relatively little work, but thankfully they’re over very quickly. A3 Customs manifest with much greater diversity and require way more technical skill, but they can drag on forever.

The Rest – As with many of Capcom’s first attempts, SFA1 is relatively slow, somewhat bland, contains some new poorly designed or implemented feature (in this case cast-wide chain combos), and contains one or two massively overpowered characters (in this case Ken and Guy). Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold (or Street Fighter Zero 2 Alpha in Japan) were both slight upgrades over SFA2, with slight changes made in the interest of balance – Alpha Counters costing an extra half level of meter and weakening Custom Combos in every way. However, these upgrades have never been well-received by the Capcom fighting game community because nerfing everything usually comes off as a lazy shortcut and makes the game less fun. Hyper Street Fighter Alpha is a mashup of the entire Alpha series similar to HSF2, but HSFA received too little tournament play to accurately determine its status, despite being obviously more polished than HSF2.

Street Fighter III

SF3: 3rd Strike – After being sidelined immediately upon release due to Chun Li’s early dominance, 3S gradually gained popularity until it was reinstated into the Evolution tournament lineup. Steadily increasing access to Japanese match footage showed us that characters like Ken, Yun, Makoto, and Urien could overcome Chun Li’s attack priority and frustratingly solid ground game. 3S remained one of the most popular Evo titles until SF4 was finally released.

The Rest – SF3: New Generation received massive immediate backlash for several reasons: the cast was unreasonably small and contained only two familiar faces, the parry system conceptually negated much of the fundamental spacing skills at the core of the SF2 series, it was poorly implemented because almost everything could be parried low, and it was full of dumb infinites. SF3: 2nd Impact dealt with most of the objections against NG, in addition to introducing EX moves, semi-useful Taunts, and three new characters. Considering SF3’s bad rep, 2I was relatively well-received and carved its own niche as a tournament game until 3S made it obsolete. 2I comes very close to being a classic game, but Akuma and Ibuki are a little too overpowered.

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Marvel Series

Marvel vs Capcom 2 – Many people (who don’t understand what they’re talking about) complain about there being too few viable competitive characters in this game. In reality, it’s nothing short of miraculous that MvC2 is as balanced as it turned out to be. There were literally countless points in MvC2’s tournament timeline where it seemed like one tactic was becoming irreversibly dominant, only to be overcome by something new and unexpected. Today the top four characters are cemented as Sentinel, Storm, Magneto, and Cable, but the number of viable teams measures in the dozens; as does the number of characters who were considered top tier at some point or another during the game’s lifespan.

The Rest – It all started with X-Men: Children of the Atom, and Capcom clearly had no idea how to deal with what they’d just let loose. COTA is ridiculously broken in far too many ways to count. However its followup, Marvel Super Heroes, is probably the second most respected game in the entire series and was considered a classic until it was replaced by the next Marvel title. Unfortunately MSH hasn’t received much tournament support since then, so it’s impossible to judge whether it would still be considered balanced enough if everyone started applying the isolated combos and tactics we’ve uncovered in recent years. X-Men vs Street Fighter is quite possibly the most fun to play game in the entire series, but unfortunately the anything-is-possible nature of XSF’s combo system leads to way too many infinites. Marvel vs Street Fighter miraculously eliminates nearly all of the infinite combo design archetypes found in XSF, but falls into the trap of making every character too bland, too weak, and too similar to one another. Marvel vs Capcom brings back the breathtakingly chaotic nature of the Versus Series, but fails to properly balance its new Variable Cross feature, leading to ridiculously broken shenanigans.

Capcom vs SNK Series

Capcom vs SNK 2 – Everything CvS1 lacked, CvS2 brought back in spades. The sheer combination of characters and systems found here is absolutely unmatched by any other fighting game. What’s even more remarkable is that three (or even four) of the six available Grooves (subsystem configurations) are competitively viable and that the top tier consists of over ten characters: Blanka, Sagat, Bison, Vega, Sakura, Cammy, Guile, Chun Li, Honda, Hibiki, and Rolento. That’s simply unprecedented. The one knock against CvS2 is that it requires too much technical execution ability, which translates into a huge barrier to entry for beginners.

The Rest – Not only did CvS1 have only four buttons, but it was also cursed with a terribly flawed ratio system which systematically promoted the least interesting characters into top tier slots. All startegy quickly devolved into turtlefests with little variety from match to match. Add Nakoruru’s broken nonsense to the mix and it becomes difficult to find anything salvageable in this mess. Capcom vs SNK Pro was an attempt to fix the ratio system by raising the damage and defense modifiers of the higher ratio characters and making subtle moveset adjustments, but ultimately no one cared and no one bothered playing the game. Capcom Fighting Evolution (or Capcom Fighting Jam, as it’s known in Japan) doesn’t feature any SNK characters but is built on the CvS game engine. Unfortunately its production values and marketing budget were shockingly low, so it was largely ignored and received next to zero tournament support. It seemingly ended up quite balanced, despite the Darkstalkers initially ruling the rankings, but most people agree that CvS2 is a better game overall.

The List

That brings the final tally to: SF2HF, SSF2T, SFA2 and/or SFA3, SF3:3S, MvC2, and CvS2.

Jury’s still out on Street Fighter IV and SSF2T HD Remix.

I’ve left out a few series of Capcom fighting games, but only because of lack of experience with them. If someone wants to chime in on behalf of the Darkstalkers series, Street Fighter EX series, and whatever else, by all means feel free.

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  1. c001357
    October 10th, 2009 at 07:00 | #1

    Hah, good post. you managed to say so much more than any other srk thread on the subject.

    also you missed mentioning hdremix

  2. October 11th, 2009 at 02:43 | #2

    Thank you sir. Sorry about missing HDR. I went back and added that, but there isn’t much to say about it yet. Still way too soon to judge whether it’s actually better than arcade ST.

    Some of HDR’s changes were good, but many of them seem arbitrary and counterintuitive to oldschool ST players. It’s getting a lot of attention now, mostly because of the SF4 hype train, but it’s hard to say whether it’ll stay popular. Either way it’s great that HDR got made, even if it ends up being remembered as just another oddball console version of ST.

  3. Kareeeeem
    October 11th, 2009 at 17:00 | #3

    I like HDR for giving me to play SF2 online without GGPO and stuff (my computer sucks REALLY bad). But offline, at sessions, I pretty much just play VST.

    Good post btw, I’m relatively new to fighting games but find the old ones much more fun than the newer games. Too bad that means having to catch up to people with ridiculous experience.

  4. October 13th, 2009 at 12:15 | #4

    VST stands for vanilla ST? I can dig that. Of course i’d like to call it classic ST but that’d be confusing/ambiguous because HDR has a Classic Arcade mode. Sirliiinn!

  5. ShadowXSnake
    May 30th, 2010 at 09:16 | #5

    Personally, I always loved the EX series, even though no one agrees with me. I first played EX 2 in Korea many years ago, and it was the coolest thing ever to have the classic Street Fighter characters in 3D, and at the time, the graphics seemed just as good as the current Tekken game. People may complain about the fighting system for being clumsy and slow, but I thought that some of the features were really fun, like the excel combos. That and the music was incredible. Also Skullomania. Skullomania was the best character ever, and I’m sad we’ll never see him again.

    The machine is still in the arcade, I went back over the summer. It’s in a small little corner of the arcade, and the sound is turned off, and no one else wants to play it, but I’m happy that it’s there after all these years. That’s a classic for me.

  6. May 30th, 2010 at 13:34 | #6

    Actually i think graphics are what killed EX2, not gameplay. Everyone i’ve talked to about the game, it seems like they’re split into two camps. Either they never played it much (like me), or they thought it was a great game at its core.

    But your dates must be slightly off, because the one major flaw of the EX series was that they were always a year behind everyone else in the graphics department. Every single one of those games was ugly for its time. Sometimes you can get away with that when you’ve got hand-drawn 2D art, but dated 3D just plain looks bad.

    With the Tekken series, Namco made a giant graphical leap from each game to the next, all the way up to like Tekken 5. Then they made a concerted effort to refine graphics for each console release. That didn’t happen with SFEX. Arika basically stamped their games on a disk and shipped ’em out.

    I mean, why did so many people buy Tekken games back in PS1 days and build a lasting tournament scene while the SFEX series went nowhere? A lot of it is because SFEX games were not only the worst-looking 3D fighters on the market, but also the worst-looking Street Fighter games on the market.

    Strictly speaking, you probably could consider one of the SFEX2 versions a classic. It held up against whatever pressure players applied. But realistically, it never gathered enough momentum to have a dedicated following to really put the game to the test.

  7. ShadowXSnake
    May 31st, 2010 at 18:21 | #7

    From what I remember, the SFEX2 machine was sitting right next to the Tekken 2 machine, maybe the arcade I played at wasn’t up to date, but the things really weren’t all that different to me. Also, I really was pretty young back then, I mostly just picked Skullomania or Vega because they were cool looking and button mashed until someone would come up to the machine who knew what they were doing and I’d get destroyed. The stuff people were able to do always amazed me though.

  8. May 31st, 2010 at 20:04 | #8

    Tekken 2 – August 1995 (arcade)
    Tekken 3 – March 1997 (arcade)
    Street Fighter EX2 – March 1998 (arcade)
    Soul Calibur – July 1998 (arcade)
    Tekken Tag – Summer 1999 (arcade) / March 2000 (PS2)
    Street Fighter EX3 – March 2000 (PS2)
    Tekken 4 – July 2001 (arcade)

    Every SFEX title is the worst-looking game of its generation by far. Two years behind, every step of the way.

  9. ShadowXSnake
    May 31st, 2010 at 23:56 | #9

    lol, that timeline really puts things in perspective, I got my Playstation late, but I’ve always held my copy of Tekken 3 dear, so I can see now that’s actually a really noticeable difference in graphics.

    Speaking of Tekken, I notice that no one ever considers any Tekken game worthy of standing amongst the other fighting game giants. Not all that surprising considering how imbalanced the rosters often are in the series, the Bob fiasco in the Tekken 6 games can attest to that. I was always fond of Tekken 3 though, the make-your-own combo system was always really cool to me, and the characters weren’t all over the place (with the exception of one or two somewhat overpowered characters). I remember I abused Hwoarang’s quick kicks and I could touch of death anyone that didn’t start the round correctly guessing whether to block high or low, and Hwoarang was only like, mid-tier.

    Tekken may never measure up to Street Fighter in balance, but at least in racial sensitivity they’ve got a distinct edge, lol.

  10. June 1st, 2010 at 00:47 | #10

    Nah, that’s not it. There’s no ill will toward the Tekken series. There just isn’t as much crossover between the Capcom and Namco communities as there used to be before Tekken became a featured Evo game. Kind of ironic.

    A lot of the oldschool Street Fighter Alpha players used to play Tekken 2, 3 and Tag, but then Tekken 4 came along and basically killed it. Personally i tried Tekken 5 for a while and liked it, but never got as into it as i get into Street Fighter games.

    I can see why people like the series but i just like Street Fighter better and so does most of SRK, so it simply doesn’t come up that often in discussions. Especially since we’ve finally got some new Capcom games to play.

  11. DiscoC
    November 25th, 2010 at 22:37 | #11

    Hmm…this article makes me think about getting all of the classics in my gaming collection. I already have MvC2 and ST (thank you, Xbox Live :D), and 3S will soon be entering my collection (via the SF Anniversary Collection, so HSF2 comes with it), but I’m just not sure about CvS2 and SFA2/3 (available in SFA Anthology).

    I think it’s mainly because I haven’t seen anything about those games (CvS2, SFA2/3), nor do I know anything about how they work. I played one of the Alpha games back in the day on my PS1, although I forget which one it was (SFA2 Gold, perhaps?), plus I only played it by my lonesome, so that doesn’t help much. Can you recommend some match vids, tutorials, or sage advice on how to approach CvS2 and SFA, Maj? I’d just like to learn more about these mysterious classics that everyone else loves.

    By the way, in HSF2, can you set the Speed to Turbo 1, pick only Hyper Fighting characters, and basically have the game play like HF?

  12. November 26th, 2010 at 09:13 | #12

    If you want to check out some CvS2 or SFA2/3 matches with annotations, head over to ComboVid and type matchvid cvs2 in the search box (or sfa2, or sfa3 or whatever). For some recent online SFA2 replays, try here.

    If you’d rather see combo/glitch/tutorial vids, just browse through the ComboVid Video Archive and look up CvS2, SFA2, SFA3, or whichever other game you’re interested in.

    As far as i know, the SFA Anthology versions of all the Alpha series games are arcade-perfect. That doesn’t happen too often, sadly. In fact we still don’t have an arcade-perfect console port of ST. Classic Mode in HD Remix might be accurate but nobody’s tested it enough.

    The Dreamcast port of CvS2 is arcade-perfect, and the PS2/Xbox versions are close enough for all intents and purposes. But they’re kind of expensive nowadays.

    HSF2 is kind of a fun mash-up, but it has too many “bad” glitches – where you can’t perform certain special moves consistently, like Vega’s wall dives. I’m sure you could find a huge list of valid complaints on SRK. It’s also got some seriously overpowered characters; namely CE-Bison and CE-Guile.

    As for simulating HF in HSF2, i’m pretty sure that HF was actually slightly faster than ST. I doubt you could simulate HF accurately even without all of HSF2’s random control bugs. There’s actually a pretty decent version of HF available on XBL though. The only problem is the netcode sucks, so it’s hard to avoid massive lag in online play.

  13. DiscoC
    November 26th, 2010 at 23:29 | #13

    Thanks for all the info, Maj. Now I have a better idea of what to expect from the Alphas and CvS2. A2 looks pretty fun :D

    Is there anyway to test if Classic Mode in HDR works the same as ST (other than resorting to making a combo/glitch vid or something of that nature)?

  14. November 27th, 2010 at 13:21 | #14

    Not really. Basically the only way to test it is to have all the oldschool people play it for a (long) while, which probably isn’t gonna happen because most of them don’t particularly like HDR.

    Combos and glitches are only part of the issue, but it’s really more of a “feel” thing. Every console version of ST featured at Evo had been tested by two or three people beforehand, but we always got the most random complaints afterwards. I mean, how are you supposed to test for something like “Rog’s standing fierce isn’t trading with Dee Jay’s fireball consistently enough”?

    So yeah, there’s no alternative for experts putting hours into the game, which hasn’t happened so far because nobody plays Classic Mode in HDR.

  1. May 30th, 2010 at 04:46 | #1
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  3. August 13th, 2010 at 15:50 | #3
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