Within 8 pico-seconds of release Street Fighter 2 hit number one! Can it back up the hype
with good gaming? The only way to find out was to take it on in a gameplay scrap. So we fed
Trenton, CF's office thug, some red meat, bunged him a joystick and phoned for an ambulance.
Would you swap two of your boring old beat-'em-ups for one new exciting Street Fighter 2?
No way! Few people dared to dream that the C64 conversion of 'the ultimate combat game' could
capture the feel of Capcom's arcade classic, that it would offer the same depth of gameplay, that
it could possible deliver as much face-punching, groinkickking fun as the coin-op'. But it does...
SF 2 is no pixel-perfect clone, let's get that straight. The sprites aren't big enough and with
only one fire button - the original machine had six! - some of the fighting moves just had to go.
But that's all you're missing. The rest - and don't ask me how - has been squeezed, shrunk, shoe-
horned and otherwise crammed on to the C64.
SF2 is a battle between 12 warriors - not all at the same tine, though, but in a series of
one-to-one bouts - who all think they're pretty hard and fancy finding out who's the most insanely
hostile person on the planet. As a player you can choose from any one of eight characters while
the computer controls four 'villains'. The result is a globe-trotting eleven-match big brawl.
You take 'yer man' (or woman if you choose Chun Li) around the world and figt each of the other
pretenders to the Street Fighter throne on their home turf. It's gloves-off stuff for three rounds
in which you have to pummel, pound and generally pulverise them into unconsciousness. Each round
is a brutal battle.
Both fighters have an energy bar which decreases as they get hit, and the
first person to zero falls over. There's also a timer which ticks steadily towards zero, and if it
gets there before knockout then the healthiest warrior wins. That's the mechanics, now let's
talk about the fighting. (About time too! - CF!)
SF2's edge comes from the fact that you can do more than kick, punch and butt folk. Each foghter
has different skills, which are derived from their character. There are quick, lightweight battlers
and slow-but-strong big boys. Each has a wide range of attacks which are initiated by specific
joystick commands. You have to sit, wait and then set the move in action at the right moment to
make the best use of each fighter's special skills.
Many moves a take a second or two to complete, so you have to be aware of what you're starting
and where you'll end up. (Particularly pokey blows can leave you breathless when you're thrown
them, so you don't want to leave yourself vulnerable). This is not so much a thinking man's beat-
'em-up as a fighting man's think-'em-up.
The stars of this fisticuffs show, though, are the specials. (You mean the early 80s ska band - Ollie)?
Uh, no. Each fighter has two or three special moves, effectively a super power: Chun Li spins her
legs like a helicopter: the Indian rubber man breathes yogi fire: and the Sumo wrestler leaps
across the screen like an unstoppable blobvernaut.
To start such an attack you need to move the
joystick through the correct combination of moves, which means forethought and planning - a factor
so unusual in beat-'em-ups that now it's finally featured, you feel cheated by the slug-fests
you've played before.
Curiously there's an incidental bonus with C64 SF2 - the manual's wrong. Nope I haven't gone
barmy - this isn't as stupid as it sounds. Y'see, for most of the special moves the manual tells
you the wrong way of getting them started. Normally this would bad news, but here it encourages
you to sit down and play through all of the characters, testing combinations and watching the
results. This means that you get a real feel for the guys you control and really get to know how
to milk their talents.
Becoming familiar with each character's skills and strengths is the key to SF2. You need to have
had practice to make the most of your chances and you need to wait until your opponent is in a position
in which he can't defend himself before you strike. The majority of play isn't the bashing but the
waiting to bash, in gunfight style.
Beat-'em-ups are also notoriously low on options. Not Street Fighter 2. Here you can choose
between one-player tournaments and two-player head-to-head matches. You can set the difficulty level
of each bout, and the strength of human players can be altered (effectively a handicap system to
even up the duff characters with the dead good ones).
On reflection, the two-player slug-ouy is the one feature that absolutely had to be included
because the one-player game, while exciting and tense, is far too easy, even on the top difficulty
setting. I finished it first time out on setting three, without losing a single round. Two-player
battles, though, give you the chance to clout the seven bells out of a friend. An added bonus is
that they can serve as a practice arena 'cos your opponent won't fight back.
Going head-to-head causes a strange reaction. You'll notice that you're paying as much attention
to the other guy's joystick movements as you are to the screen, because if you know which move
they're about to launch then you stand a chance of avoiding it.
There are problems with SF2. It's not graphically stunning, the maching chugs on occasions, the
manual's pretty hopeless and the one-player mode is too easy. But played against a mate this
series of knock-about comic book bouts is excellent entertainment. I'd say it's less like a beat-
'em-up and more like chess - although it would be chess with brass knuckles, baseball bats and