It would be tantamount to sacrilege if on this, the 15 anniversary of Street Fighter 2, Capcom did not reconvene the church of Street Fighter for another rousing service. We all know the hymns and have our favourite saints and sinner, but can Capcom make this the celebration of Street Fighter that the devout worshippers covet?
Religious analogies aside, there's very little to say about Street Fighter 2 that hasn't already been said. The good news is that Hyper SF2 is a solid conversion from top to bottom, that looks and sounds every bit the part of the classic games you are likely to remember. The Playstation controller feels a little awkward at first; however on balance, loading times are basically non-existent as the PS2 carries off a flawless arcade-perfect rendition of one of Capcom's most iterated games without breaking a sweat.
More importantly, the game is every bit the furiously addictive fighter it always was - while time can be unfair to some, Street Fighter's gameplay remains staunchly enjoyable and transcends the ravages of time. The perfect mix of simplicity, careful balancing of the characters, delightful animation and classic theme music remains to this day an engrossing gaming experience. Standard modes of play are present and correct, including a rather punishing arcade mode which will give even stalwart SF2 fans a good run for their money, versus mode and a fully customisable training mode where you can pummel a chosen enemy to your hearts content. Multiplayer is, as you would expect, extremely satisfying, not least because the game affords you the ability to pare off any variant of character from the SF2 lineage against another.
Although somewhat of a novelty, it is a neat touch to be able to re-enact inter-version fights that could only previously exist in your head - pitting the various versions of characters against each other to prove which was the best once and for all, for example, is an appealing prospect. It is also enjoyable to see different versions of characters as they appeared in Street Fighter 2 games throughout the ages from a nostalgic point of view. Indeed, there are a full gamut of nostalgic options and features on offer, including the ability to change between remixed, CPS I and CPS II versions of the famous background themes, and a Gallery menu in which you can view the intros from the old arcade games, listen to those background themes and watch the full feature length Street Fighter 2 Animated Movie. Not bad value at all given the budget price point of the game, however it is notable that the movie is cut in certain areas and the quality is not quite what you would expect of a stand-alone DVD release.
It is clear that visually, the game is dated - it remains that while it no longer even approaches the level of finesse other games have achieved in the world of 2D, the artistic style is still very pleasing in a retro kind of way and is still a pleasant game to watch.
There are unfortunately a few glaring and somewhat baffling errors that have been made in this compendium edition of everyone's favourite fighter. The first of these is that there is no save feature present at all, which means no permanent high scores - a great shame for those intent on chasing the glory of the number one spot amongst friends. This also leads to another grating problem - option configurations cannot be saved between play sessions (which can irritate given that the default button layout places both heavy punch and kick on the R1 and R2 buttons, instead of the more traditional layout of L1, R1). This is simply unacceptable in this day and age and that such a basic feature was overlooked is much to the detriment of all involved, genuinely spoiling some of the enjoyment of the game.
Furthermore, as was previously mentioned, the Playstation controller is not the most comfortable pad for 2D fighters; fireball and dragon punch movements are sometimes clumsy to articulate and frustrations are compounded by a rock-hard arcade mode and odd default button layout. Anyone wanting to get any more out of the game would be advised to play with an arcade stick.
Thirdly, and while this is not an awful indictment, it must be noted that while this celebratory edition of the game is accompanied by numerous additional features, they are hardly exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination, lacking even basic fodder such as an artwork gallery. Given Capcom's great favour for un-lockables and secrets, it is odd that there is nothing on offer here to unlock or discover.
Despite these criticisms, there is little to which you can fault the irrepressible Street Fighter 2 with - the overall package isn't the coolest that we might have expected, but playing Hyper SF2 will make you realise how utterly compelling the game remains to this day, especially in the multiplayer arena, providing hours of brilliantly balanced competitive play. It is an extremely competent release that will please fans, and hopefully newcomers will still appreciate the strategy and purity of the game. However the fact remains that not being able to save is a tragic oversight and pitting the various disparate fighters against each other is largely a novelty offering. Arguably there are better versions of the game already in existence, and that's without the presumption that the ever cheeky Capcom won't try their hand at another ultimate release of one of the most timeless games ever created somewhere else down the line.