Reviewed by Paul Monopoli
Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition
System: PC Engine
We’re about to review Street Fighter 2 on an 8-bit system. WAIT, don’t go yet, give it a chance. I’m sure a lot of you will have seen the Sega Master System version made by Tectoy in all its ugh… I can’t even joke about that abomination. Even some of the 16-bit systems fared poorly with Street Fighter 2, take a look at the Amiga. The PC Engine is different & that can be attributed to the onboard hardware.
Yes the PC Engine is an 8-bit machine but it uses a 16-bit graphics processor which, while not as powerful as that of the SNES or Megadrive is capable of displaying a potential 512 colours, though not all at once. I won’t make this a boring technical review, we’ll save that for another day. I just wanted to point out some of the technical aspects that help to make this is such a good release.
Street Fighter 2… what can I say? It’s one of the most famous video games of all time. It’s a simple concept: choose a character out of the 8 (later versions would expand this to a maximum of 16), beat the other 7 in a one on one fight & then defeat the 4 bosses. It’s a style of gameplay that has been around since the times of “Way of the Exploding Fist”, but Street Fighter 2 includes special moves & fluid gameplay. I remember reading a review for the arcade version in C+VG before the game became well known & thinking how great it looked. I remember it being the March 1991 issue which featured Chun Li on the cover & it received a 3 page review which covered all the characters. This was my first exposure to the game, with the next being when I played it at the local video store.
I remained ignorant of the PC Engine version until I got the Internet & started researching video game systems I never owned. It would be another 10 years until I actually got a PC Engine, but when I read a review of Street Fighter 2 I was stunned. Yes the world had well & truly moved on from Street Fighter 2 when I discovered this, but the fact that an 8-bit system could pull off this classic fighter is nothing short of outstanding.
The first thing you’ll notice off the bat is that it looks very similar to the SNES version & that’s because this version of the game was rumoured to be modelled on it. The colours are used really well here & watching them side by side you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. Let’s have a look. First the SNES:
(Excuse the squashed image) Then the same (as close as I could get) shot on the PC Engine:
If you were a casual gamer off the street you wouldn’t pick it, it’s that close. For those scrutinising the pictures, yes there are differences but they’re nothing you’re going to lose sleep over. Even the backgrounds & the floor scrolls. I would even rather controversally suggest this is even better than the Megadrive version. No offense to the machine itself, but I always felt they could have done a better job with it.
The game is supposed to be using fewer frames per sprite than the SNES version, but I didn’t notice it all that much. Sure some moves suffer from it slightly, but it doesn’t impact the gameplay. The game basically looks & feels like the SNES version when you’re playing it. The only problem with this game are the controls. Let’s look at the standard PC Engine Core Grafx 2 controller:
As you can see it has a “1” button, a “2” button & not a lot else other than “Run” & “Select”. Here’s how it works: “Run”, “2” & “1” are your light, medium & high attacks, while “Select” changes whether you’re going to kick or punch. Pretty bad setup I have to say. I would have preferred using “1” for punch, “2” for kick & either using the turbo controls to determine which power level you wanted or holding the button down. There was a controller released for the PC Engine to be used with Street Fighter 2 called the Avenue controller:
As you can see it has 6 buttons & has a few more curves than the standard controller. It’s very comfortable to use & gives you a very authentic Street Fighter 2 experience.
As I mentioned you can barely tell the difference between this & the SNES version which was considered to be the penultimate version of the game (with the arcade being the ultimate) back in the day. As such, providing you use an Avenue controller the game feels exactly like the SNES version as well. Every hit you make feels like it’s making contact & special moves are as easy to pull off as the SNES version. All in all it feels like a very satisfying version of the game.
The sound is where the game takes some cuts, but given the option I’d rather they took it from the sound than the graphics. All the characters main themes are present, but they sound very tinny. Added to that, some of the voice samples are missing.
It is unusual that this never came out for the US PC Engine variation the Turbografx16, as this may have really helped the console get more of a foothold in the English speaking market. It came out about 6 months before the Megadrive version which was a real plus & could have easily sold a few more TG16 units. That’s my theory anyway, but we’ll never know if I was right. This is a very nice release that sits somewhere in the middle of the SNES & MD versions. The SNES is still the best home release, but the PC Engine comes close.
A couple of final things I want to point out: First is the thickness of the HuCard (please excuse the blurriness of the pic above). Your typical game is just a flat card, but Street Fighter 2 is quite large to presumably house the 16Mbits of goodness that lies within. The only other game I know of that has a HuCard this thick is Populous. As well as that the case is a double thick PC engine case which is odd as the game is only on 1 Hucard (again, the same for Populous). Even more confusing is that Street Fighter 1 was released on PC Engine CD. Why? Was that really neccessary? If SF2 fits on a HuCard then surely SF1 will as well. Let’s face it, SF1 was a pretty ordinary game, not really worthy of a CD release. Oddly enough, SF1 was called Fighting Street on the PC Engine for what reason I do not know…
Overall I give this 96%. It’s not the best version of SF2 out there, but it’s pretty damned close, & it’s as good as you’re going to get on a PC Engine.