Review by ben_2100

"Playable, Stylish and Satisfying"

Intro

After the incredible success of Street Fighter 2 in 1991, Capcom followed it up with a string of updates, before bringing out a new 2D fighting game franchise, the Street Fighter Alpha series. Unfortunately, these games failed to make as much of an impact as Street Fighter 2 had, primarily because their graphics were widely considered to be less impressive than those featured in recently-developed 3D fighting games, such as those in the Tekken or Virtua Fighter series'.

Since the gameplay of Capcom's Street Fighter games was still popular, even considered by many to be better than that of it's 3D rivals, it made sense that a 3D Street Fighter game could be a success. So, in December 1996, Capcom made Street Fighter EX, and released it into the arcades. It proved reasonably popular (in other words, people thought it was OK) and so, in March 1997, was updated to include several new characters, in a version entitled Street Fighter EX Plus.

Since the original arcade versions of Street Fighter EX ran on machines based around Playstation hardware, it was a simple matter for Capcom to develop a version of the game for the home console. In the process of doing so, Capcom decided to update it further. Finally, 3 months later, in July 1997, Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha was released for the Playstation.

Story

As in previous Street Fighter games, the story to the single player game is poorly explained. Only by examining the characters' profiles, the ending sequences, and the order in which you face your opponents can you came up with an explanation as to why the fighters decide to get together and fight each other as they do.

The story-line is basically the same as it was in Street Fighter 2. Apparently, an evil tyrant called M. Bison has set up some kind of fighting tournament. The allure of this tournament is presumably that it gives the fighters a chance at fighting Bison himself, because eventually, the most successful fighter gets to fight him. Some fighters have their own personal vendettas against Bison, but it seems that the vast majority just to want to beat him up to prove how tough they are. Why would beating him up prove they're tough? Because he commands some kind of superhuman force known as ‘Psycho Power'. The only obvious way in which this game's story-line differs from that found in Street Fighter 2 is that many of the characters are different. Once again, though, they are an interesting and charismatic bunch of individuals, and portray a wide variety of character types.

There are 23 characters, all of whom are playable. Eight of the fighters are returning, unchanged, from Street Fighter 2. Also returning from a previous Street Fighter game are two relatively new characters to the series, Sakura and Evil Ryu, both of whom debuted in Street Fighter Alpha 2. If you're unfamiliar with the characters from these games, some of the more intriguing include Akuma, a mysterious, evil Karate master, and Guile, who fights to avenge the death of a friend who was killed by M. Bison.

The remaining 13 characters are all newly created for the Street Fighter EX series. There are many interesting new characters among them, some of the most memorable being Garuda, a ghost or demon that has a link to Evil Ryu and Akuma, and Allen Schneider, a Karate champion who is a rival to Ken from Street Fighter 2.

Ultimately, despite the plot appearing to be quite shallow, it is actually surprisingly involving, when the characters are examined in more detail.

Graphics/ Sound

When it was first released, one of the most popular elements of Street Fighter 2 was it's graphics. They were technically impressive (for the time), because, despite the fact that the game moved at quite a fast pace, it also featured large, detailed, well animated sprites that enabled the artists to create some very charismatic-looking characters. The backgrounds, too, were highly detailed and nicely drawn. Subsequently, with the switch to 3D, it was highly important that Capcom managed to keep the graphics fast and detailed enough so that they would impress gamers in the same way Street Fighter 2 had.

Fortunately, they did, to an extent. While the fighters don't move anywhere near as quickly as they did in previous 2D versions, they're fast enough so as not to ruin the gameplay. And while the graphics in Street Fighter EX are not as impressive relative to other similar games (such as Tekken 2, which was also released in 1996) as Street Fighter 2's once were, they're stylish in their own unique way. The characters generally look quite impressive, although from the side-on view that is used whenever you're controlling your character, they don't look quite as good as the sprites from Street Fighter 2 or Street Fighter Alpha. This might sound like a critical flaw, but when the camera does move around, such as when a throw takes place or when the winner is posing, the effect is very, very cool. The animation on the characters is also now a lot smoother.

Ultimately, the 3D graphics are an interesting alternative to the 2D originals.
Something else that has an effect on the way the game looks is the design quality of the characters, which varies greatly. Garuda, in particular, looks truly magnificent (strangely enough, he actually looks better in this version of Street Fighter EX than he does in Street Fighter EX 3, which was later released for the Playstation 2!), although other characters, such as Hokuto or Sakura, are not so well modelled. Subsequently, how good the game looks depends greatly upon which characters are fighting.

The quality of the backgrounds is generally good. Admittedly, some, such as Blair's, which is set in a deserted European town, are rather unimaginative, with little of interest in the background. Most of them, however, are well done. In particular, Doctrine Dark's, which is set in a sewer, and has your fighters splashing about in ankle-deep water, is awesome. Ryu's, Ken's, Guile's and Garuda's stages are all also excellent. It's frustrating, however, that you can't choose which background you play before in multiplayer games.

Other graphical details worth mentioning include the special effects that accompany the winning of a round with a special move or a Super move. The background will momentarily change to either an exploding sunset, asteroids flying toward the screen, or a series of asteroids flying towards a planet, depending on the way in which victory is achieved. While these effects may sound bizarre, they actually work well, and make victories more exhilarating. Also, the 2D artwork, while only a minor part of the game, is very stylish, and expresses the personalities of the characters beautifully. The 3D rendered ending sequences are also quite entertaining.

Compared to those featured in previous Street Fighter games, the sound effects expressing the connection of an attack are disappointingly weak. While in Street Fighter 2, hitting your opponent hard made a meaty, satisfying thud that was not unlike the sound of a car door being slammed shut, here it often sounds more like some hands being clapped, with a bit more bass. Fortunately, though, most of the other sound effects, such as those portraying the execution of a Super move, are actually much more pleasing on the ear.

The voices are good, with lots of entertaining “Ha-wauargh!” type shouts and screams accompanying the special moves. It would have been nice, though, if all the characters' voices were in the appropriate language for the character speaking, instead of them all just being in Japanese. Obviously, for special moves, the Japanese often sounds better (“Hadoken!” sounds better than “Fireball!”), but when characters are giving their sometimes-lengthy victory speeches, for example, a translation would have often been appropriate. Unfortunately, there isn't even the option to have subtitles.

The music is an assortment of rock, blues, and funk, with a different track for each stage. On average, the quality is good. A few are dull, but most are either good, very good, or very, very good. It's just a shame the music used on each ending sequence is the same, because the cheesy game-show style track used is disappointingly dull.

Gameplay

The gameplay to Street Fighter EX is very similar to that which made Street Fighter 2 famous. As noted in the graphics/ sound section, part of this relates to the game's presentation; it looks and sounds satisfying as you pummel your opponent. To explain the more complicated reasons for this game's entertaining nature, it will be necessary to outline the gameplay in more detail, so I will do so with the words that follow.

The game consists of a series of one on one fights. Each participating fighter has an energy bar that represents how much vitality they have left, and every time they receive an attack, they lose some health from it.

As in previous Street Fighter games, the fighting takes place on a 2D plane. (this may sound somewhat restrictive, but it matters surprisingly little, once you start playing). Both fighters have six different types of attack at their disposal, all of which are triggered by a single button's press. They all also have the ability to block, duck, and jump. On top of this, they also have a number of special moves, which vary in terms of their effectiveness and in terms of how hard they are to execute.

These various factors combine together in ways that make for some surprisingly deep, complex, gameplay. For example, if some attacks are performed after certain others, there can be such a small delay between them that it is impossible for the opposing player to block the latter attack (this is the principle behind a ‘combo'). Such complexities (there are many others) really make the game satisfying, because they make it challenging, but also rewarding (with the reward obviously being that the player becomes more successful).

It's also worth noting that playing the game with an arcade style joystick will make it much easier to pull off special moves and Super combos (after some practise). So if you want to get the most out of this game, one is pretty much essential (all the best players use them).

If you have played Street Fighter games before, you might be interested to know that this game plays more like Street Fighter 2 than Street Fighter Alpha. This means that the new fighting techniques (air-blocking and auto-guard) are now gone, and also that each fighter only has one fighting style.
Some all new gameplay elements have been added, with it now being impossible to ‘dizzy' your opponent, unless you hit them with a new technique called a ‘guard break'. As you've probably guessed, these moves allow you to hurt an opponent, even if they are blocking. Unfortunately, they're so slow that they are too easy to avoid, and subsequently, add little to the gameplay. A more worthwhile addition is ‘Super Cancelling' which basically means that you can now perform a Super move mid-way through most special moves or other Super moves. Consequently, it is possible to pull off some very powerful combos by doing so.

Ultimately, the gameplay in Street Fighter EX is quite simple compared to the Street Fighter Alpha games, but is still complex enough for it to be extremely challenging to master.

While my comments on this game's gameplay have been mostly positive so far, one thing worth noting is that the game is really meant to be played in multi-player, and subsequently, is much less enjoyable against a computer opponent. Part of the reason for this is that the computer opponents' behaviour is somewhat erratic. For example, they can be incredibly stupid in certain situations, and then show amazing, superhuman reflexes in others. The fact that they can't learn also makes the game somewhat repetitive. This often means that the only way to beat the single player games is to keep on playing them until you get lucky (it is very hard to consistently be very successful at them)!

However, if you can find someone else to play against, the gameplay is, like in the other Street Fighter games since Street Fighter 2, simply brilliant.

Replay Value

Despite the problems with the single player gameplay that I outlined previously, Arika have made quite an effort towards providing a substantial single player experience for gamers buying this game. This is evident in a number of ways. Firstly, the original arcade mode is made more rewarding by the inclusion of a 3D rendered ending sequence for each character, all of which can be stored in a collection on a memory card. Second, there is now an impressive variety of other single player modes available. There are Time Attack and Survival modes, as well as a new mode, Expert mode. Essentially, Expert mode involves the player attempting to complete a number of special moves and combos for each character, which range from easy to practically impossible. Hidden options, characters and play modes can all be unlocked if enough combos are completed. It's an entertaining way to learn to pull off special moves and combos, and really adds depth to the single-player game.

As I mentioned in the gameplay section, this game has, like all recent Street Fighter games, highly complex gameplay. Despite it not being quite as complex as the Street Fighter Alpha games, it is, nonetheless, very difficult to master. Subsequently, it will give players enjoyment for a very long time, especially in multiplayer.

Another new mode is the practise mode. This allows players to fight each other with unlimited health, and with no time limit. A single player gamer can also choose to practise against a computer-controlled opponent of their choice in this mode. It is highly useful as a way of practising moves, combos, and anything else you want to try out.

Also relevant to the longevity of both the single player and multiplayer modes is the fact that there are twenty-three playable characters to choose from, each of whom varies from the others in a number of ways. Speed, power, and the ability to take punishment all differ between the different fighters, and each has their own distinct punches, kicks, and special moves. Consequently, the large number of fighters improves the game's longevity substantially.

Conclusion

Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha may not be quite as complete as other 3D fighting games on the Playstation, such as Tekken 2, but it has many things going for it, including stylish presentation and excellent gameplay. It's a worthwhile game, both for casual gamers who are looking for something fun and graphically impressive, and for long-time Street Fighter fans alike. However, how much a gamer will get from it really does depend greatly upon whether or not they have friends who are interested in playing it. If they do, it is a terrific, satisfying game. Unfortunately, however, many players don't, and subsequently, may find it to be slightly less rewarding.

However, it's clear that Arika did make a big effort to improve the single player game over that seen in previous versions of Street Fighter, and for this they deserve credit. Hopefully, we will see further innovative improvements to it in the future.

Ultimately, this game is most worth playing for the charismatic fighters, engrossing backgrounds and uniquely brilliant music. To this day, nearly nine years after I bought the game, I still find many of them memorable.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/13/05


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