Late to the Party: Street Fighter Alpha

Street Fighter Alpha is a landmark game in my life as a fighting game player. This was the first fighting game that I completely missed in its prime during my 14 year run without fighting games. I didn’t plan on missing out on this game; I actively purchased video game magazines to read Street Fighter Alpha coverage. However, it came out during a time when I wasn’t going to the arcade and I didn’t own a system that could run Alpha at home, so I never played more than 20 minutes of it at someones house years after the fact.

This was the first game I picked up on Playstation Network after buying my Playstation 3. Even though I have other fighting games to attend to, I really wanted to go back and give this one a fair shake to see what I’ve missed out on after all these years.

My expectations going into this game recently were in a very weird place. I remember fondly reading about how Street Fighter Alpha was going to be the refresh of the Street Fighter II series. It was supposed to take the series to a new level by changing the art style and adding a number of new gameplay systems, such as air blocking, alpha counters, different level supers, rolls and more. I was very intimidated at the thought of learning this game and it only got worse as fighting games got way too complex.

For better or worse, Alpha still feels a lot like Super Street Fighter II Turbo, at least it does to me now. When I put my mindset into playing this like Street Fighter II, I seem to get the gist of it. Granted, you can play Street Fighter IV like Street Fighter II as well, but from my time with Alpha thus far it doesn’t feel like it separates itself from its predecessor too much. Not to say that this is a bad thing per se, cause at its core, this game is still good. It’s just that this game doesn’t feel like the jump that I had envisioned it to be so many years ago. Had I continued following the scene, I probably would have enjoyed this as much as the other Street Fighter games.

The major drawback to this game has, and always will be, its thin roster. The game only has 10 characters available without codes, which is a huge drop from the 16 available in Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Akuma, M. Bison and Dan are unlockable, but that doesn’t really help fill things out. There isn’t really enough variety in play styles with the set available in Alpha, which was definitely a step backwards.

Because I’m playing the Playstation One port and not the arcade version, it’s worth noting a few differences. The Playstation version does have a remixed soundtrack that is the default soundtrack to the game. The drawback however are the loading times. They are not the worst by Playstation One standards, but you will spend a lot of time watching loading screens. For a game that’s as faced paced as this, it does bog down the experience.

Street Fighter Alpha is still a good game on its own, and worth owning for those who are hardcore Street Fighter fans, but its hard to recommend to most people in today’s marketplace. For the same price, you can download Street Fighter Alpha 2, which is an all-around superior game, and Street Fighter Alpha 3 is supposedly on its way to Playstation Network in the future. For me, it was worth dropping the $6 to see what I’ve been missing out on after all this time.

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