Gimped online play and a horrible control pad ruin an otherwise spot-on port.
Today, this amazing game is a distant memory, held close to the hearts of many a hardcore, preserved through the many home versions, and of course through MAME and other emulators. However, with the death of the arcade industry, it's become hard for die-hard Street Fighters to find good competition to play against.
This is where Capcom and Xbox Live Arcade come in. For a mere 800 points ($10), Capcom promises you a near infinite line of competitors in this amazing game, all from the comfort of your own home. If only it worked that way.
For all two people in the entire world who don't know, Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting is the third of five versions of Street Fitghter II, a one-on-one fighting game in which players assume one of twelve wildly diverse characters, using an arsenal of martial arts moves and three levels of punches and kicks (light, medium, heavy) to beat their opponent, with the single player game culminating in a final battle with the overpowering juggernaut M. Bison.
The one thing Capcom did right was to make sure that the game looked and sounded how it did all those years ago. The sprites are as pleasant to look at now as they were over a decade ago, large and colorful, with vivid backdrops to the fight. Even after all these years, the sound of punches, kicks and fireballs impacting can make a player cringe. It stands as a tribute to the original game that, even after all these years, it really carries the feel of two people fighting for their lives.
Of course, it's the little things that get in the way.
Since the masterful Super NES version of Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting (Called Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting on the system), players have gotten used to pulling off the classic moves that defined the game with a D-pad and easily pressable buttons. Even though the button layout of the SNES (and later, the PlayStation) were different from the two rows of three buttons each, moves could be pulled off on a control pad as long as those buttons were accessable and the D-pad was solid, any Street Fighter could wage war comfortably. This isn't the case with the 360 controller. The D-pad feels incredibly imprecise, making it nearly impossible to any moves, especially charge moves or half-circle rotation moves, with any regularity. The left analog stick works markedly better, but it'll take many, many matches to get used to such a foreign interface. Even then, the bumpers and triggers are just a pain to get to press. Quite frankly, the triggers are useless for this game, so the default button configuration is nearly impossible to play with. Even after meticulous reconfiguring, players will likely have difficulty switching between the face and shoulder buttons, as they undoubtedly will have to do if they want to access the full range of their character's capabilities.
Curiously, the game is much, much harder than its arcade counterpart. Normally, it's totally possible to get five or six matches into the single player game before losing. A skilled player can usually beat the single player game at the default arcade difficulty without breaking a sweat. Not so here. The game's two-star (out of seven) difficulty setting is the equivalent of the previous home versions' six star setting. Even at one star, the game is teeth-grindingly difficult. This'll make the game more difficult than it should be for newcomers or rusty vets.
But there's always the online game, right? Wrong. The online mode is plagued by random disconnections and intermittent lag, sometimes making the game go by at a snail's pace. Even when the game runs well, the lack of penalty for quitting early makes it nearly impossible to play ranked with some people, including the pretender currently at the top of the rankings. This game will get its best mileage from player matches with friends.
It's a shame this game is so flawed. After all, Street Fighter II is a hard thing to mess up. However, with this half-assed port, Capcom has managed to mangle the memories of a time long ago. Don't trade in your SNES version just yet.