Street Fighter Alpha 2

Much like you can tell that Alpha 1 was a rush job, so too can you see that Alpha 2 is the game that Capcom intended to make all along. The select screen is eerily similar, while the segues and sounds between fights are identical. The same core cast remains, while the few additions to the roster (which is now 18 strong) are careful and deliberate (spunky little Sakura makes her debut here, while classic characters Dhalsim and Zangief make a return). Tweaks and improvements make the combat deeper, faster and less obtuse. Capcom has even gone so far as to declare that the story of Alpha 2 replaces the one in Alpha as official canon in the SF universe.

SFA 2 makes its predecessor just about obsolete, and represents one side of the Alpha coin (the other side being A3 of course). There are many people that still consider Alpha 2 to be the best game in the series. Originally I found this puzzling, considering the Dreamcast version of A3 is overflowing with content compared to A2. How could it not be the undisputed champ of this series?

After seeing both games side by side in the Anthology, the answer seems simple now. Alpha 3 is a classic example of an “everything but the kitchen sink” Capcom fighter, while Alpha 2 is smaller scale, old style Street Fighter gameplay polished to near perfection.

So about that roster. It’s nice. It beefs up the lineup from the original Alpha without getting too large and overwhelming. It also adds some much needed diversity to what is a rather Shotokan heavy cast by adding fighters like Rolento and Gen, who offer more exotic play styles. Alpha 2 is the kind of game where no character feels wasted or forgotten (see Alpha 3) and everyone should find a fighter they enjoy using.

The combat hasn’t been changed up too much, though that’s really a good thing. It would have been very easy to make the Alpha series closer to the Marvel VS games by focusing even more on Supers. Instead the only major addition to the system is the Custom Combo. CC’s are an advanced technique that allow the player to create their own super combo by chaining together any moves they want. The fuller your meter, the longer the CC lasts. Make no mistake; these combos can be incredibly devastating, almost too much so in the hands of a skilled player.

Execution, however, is far from easy. You have to be deadly quick so as not to give an opponent any window for blocking, and you must use the correct attacks, ones that are not too slow or would cause knockback. While I rarely use them, I like the idea of Custom Combos. It rewards a skilled player for their practice and patience, while still allowing everyone to use regular canned Supers when needed.

The only part of the combat that still doesn’t sit well with me is the lack of a block meter, which wouldn’t come about until Alpha 3. On one hand, this prevents players from really abusing the power of CC’s, but at the same time I can see it leading to some very annoying turtling tactics. Maybe this is why they decided to simplify throws. In any case, it is a damn fine combat system that adds more speed and complexity to the classic Street Fighter gameplay without getting too technical (SF3) or too ridiculous (Marvel VS Capcom).

Nothing says Happy Birthday like beating the crap out of someone.

The graphical and audio problems of Alpha 1 have also been solved here. In a drastic turnaround, Alpha 2 ditches the horrible backgrounds of its predecessor for one of the best sets I’ve yet seen in a fighter. These stages have a far greater level of color and detail, and they convey a wide variety of different locations. They still aren’t terribly active, but for once I really don’t care. The story of the game has fighters duking it out wherever they come across each other, and I think these BG’s do a fine job of conveying that sense of spontaneity. Some are epic in feel, while others are more practical (Sakura’s backyard, anyone?).

In addition, character voices are no longer garbled, and though it may just be me, it seems that the sprites are smaller and cleaner looking. Alpha 2 is just a clean, sharp looking game, perhaps even better looking than Alpha 3 thanks to the wonderful backgrounds.

And that’s all there really is to say about Alpha 2. I won’t really discuss balance, since I’m not terribly knowledgeable of how the game was played at the competitive level. I remember a lot of people bitching about Rose’s CC abilities a few years back, but otherwise it seems to be one of the least complained about fighters out there, which is a good sign.

Regardless of what the top tier players believe, Alpha 2 is a smart game that manages to find the happy middle ground between accessibility and robust gameplay. Fans who enjoy the quality and craftsmanship once poured into this genre will find themselves spending a lot of time with both versions of Alpha 2.

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