Who can say no to some classic Street Fighter? The number of people lathered into a murderous frenzy waiting for Street Fighter II on the Xbox Live Arcade suggests that the answer is “not many”, so logically nobody could resist this – not one, not two, but five classic Street Fighters all for £20. I love this compilation.
It’s not perfect – there’s no moves list in either the game itself or the manual (rumours abound that it’s a cynical ploy to sell more guides, but all it’ll do is increase traffic to GameFAQs) which makes mastering five whole fighting games incredibly difficult, and unless you have another means of control the PS2 D-pad will cause blisters. Seriously, less than an hour with that controller had me going and buying a Hori stick to alleviate the pain I was in. Quarter-circles on a D-pad can be nasty as it is, but when said D-pad is essentially four separate buttons with a gap to bridge between them it goes up there with the iron maiden.
Despite these annoying features, not that a crap controller is Capcom’s fault, they redeem themselves by not only giving the PAL version a 60Hz option (take that, SNK!) but also throwing in 480p. Very nice to have for a game this fast, coupled with an optional anti-aliasing filter to get them looking as good as possible on shiny new displays. There are also tons of secrets, ranging from pretty much every revision of the games through a dipswitch editor and new fighting styles (“-isms”, although disappointingly still no “j-ism”) for SFA3, even as far as a version of SFA3 Upper, the recent PSP port. The conversions seem great, as well.
Some of the games are stronger than others – SFA2 Gold and SFA3 are two of the best fighting games ever made, SFA2 is superb, SFA is great but dated, and I didn’t think much of Pocket Fighter which was nothing but an obstacle to getting all the unlockables. Still, this is the first time since Mario All-Stars that I’ve been moved to buy a retro compilation and it really is outstanding value. I heartily recommend it.
Here’s a conundrum: You want to buy a movie from twenty years ago so you pop down to HMV or go online and chances are it’s there in perfect DVD quality for less than a tenner, yours to own forever and ever. With music and books it’s even easier, with titles published hundreds of years ago readily available. So what happens when you want to play a game released ten or fifteen years ago?
As far as I can see you only really have a handful of options, none of which are ideal. You can hope that it’s available in a retro compilation or an updated port on a newer system, but even then you’re likely to be paying as much as or a little under the price of a new release for it. If I want to buy the original Castlevania (1986) in its GBA port form, for example, I’m looking at paying as much as it costs for a PS2 Platinum release from a year ago.
I could jump on eBay and buy the necessary kit to play the original, and a quick browse turned up a working boxed NES/Mario Bros 3 bundle for £20 and an unboxed copy of the game set to end in a couple of days for 99p. Very reasonable, but it’s hardly an immediate fix and requires another box to sit under the TV. The morally nebulous route would be to fire up an emulator and just download it. It works and it’s convenient, but it’s of course illegal and hardly as tactile as the real thing. The collector in me frowns on the idea.
It’s a sad state of affairs. Some of the greatest and most seminal games of all time are essentially lost, either forgotten or held hostage in cellophane prisons by dealers with their inflated prices. I really think we need some way to play the history of our hobby and while things like the virtual console for the Revolution (I’m not using the silly name) and Microsoft’s Live Arcade are a good start (when was the last time Joust, Smash TV, and Street Fighter II were anticipated releases?), we need to find a way to make them accessible to the mainstream.
Increasing backwards compatibility with new consoles is a start, but it doesn’t help when most big stores like GAME make finding anything older than six months and not from EA a chore. Maybe digital distribution is the only way, or are those who forget the past doomed never to experience it?
I’ve got a nagging suspicion that in all the furore over who’s going to come out on top between Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo could be the ones who are going to steal the show at E3. GDC has brought plenty of good news like the story that the PS3 will be region free for games, but even that has been overshadowed by the fact that the Revolution will play Mega Drive games.
While Microsoft and Sony are fighting each other to get through the front door Nintendo are silently slipping themselves in through the back with fantastic news after fantastic news. The DS has shown that the unique inputs can power the games, Twilight Princess will be on it, and it’ll launch with a library of thousands from at least five great systems. I remember when I first saw the controller and thought Nintendo had finally lost it, but I’m starting to turn around very quickly. With this and PS3 launching around the same time I may end up having to choose which one to get first, and at the moment it’s not going to be much of a choice.
It’s slightly ironic of course that Sega’s best chance at attaining major console success is to have all their games on a Nintendo machine. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have believed that Sonic would be on a Nintendo console, let alone that all their Mega Drive games would be on one.
After a lot of dredging used game shops and eventually eBay, I managed to find myself a copy of the oddly hard to come by GBA version of Yoshi’s Island and have recently been playing the hell of of it since it’s one of the all-time classics. In fact I was so inspired by the greatness that I decided to try out something which might turn into an occasional feature – a retrospective. We’ll see how this one goes.
Yoshi’s Island may carry the subtitle “Super Mario World 2” and feature Yoshi and Mario, but that’s really where the similarities end. One of the last great SNES games was originally going to be Nintendo’s reply to Rare’s Donkey Kong Country, featuring the same kind of realistic (for the time, at least) CG sprites that had blown everyone away in 1994.
Instead they took a wholly different path, going for hand drawn storybook visuals and some heavy use of the Super FX2 chip for advanced sprite scaling and rotation, giving the graphics unbelievable amounts of life and personality. In screenshots it might look colourful but basic, but in play it looks about as good as 2D platformers get. It’s a fantastic demo for the screens on the GB Micro and SP+, as well.
Technical coolness aside, Yoshi’s Island is quite simply my favourite platform game ever made. There’s so much imagination and variety to the gameplay that almost every single one of the 48 levels has its own gimmick, whether it’s enemies on stilts to stop you easily swallowing them or, amusingly, floating spores that make Yoshi trip out when he touches them. The fundamentals are always the same – swallow enemies to turn them into eggs which can be thrown, and try not to lose Baby Mario along the way – but they’re so simple and intuitive yet versatile that they’re essential in even the weirdest levels.
As with the best Nintendo games Yoshi’s Island is absolutely full of secrets and unlockables for the completist. The levels get pretty labyrinthine and each one hides a set number of collectibles that are needed for the maximum score, and by getting a high enough score on each world, extra bonus levels are unlocked. The game is a decent length as it is, but for the real completists it can take a very long time to truly finish it.
In short this is the best 2D platformer ever, without a shadow of a doubt. Now that I’ve finally played it at decent length it would probably even make my top five games full stop.