16 August 2007
It is a little known fact that the first console version of the Street Fighter II where you could play as the bosses (like M. Bison) was released in Japan for the PC-Engine (aka TurboGrafx-16). Weighing in at a monstrous 2.5 Megabytes, it the largest HuCard ever produced, somehow exceeding the maximum game-size limit for the TurboGrafx-16. Amazingly, this port of the genre-defining fighting game actually featured sound and graphics comparable to the versions that later appeared on supposedly superior consoles, namely Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.
The familiar player select screen is indistinguishable from the arcade version with the exception of text that encourages you to push run instead of insert coins. The graphics are as good as the Sega Genesis version, and they even look pretty close to those of the Super Nintendo version.
As soon as a fights begin, you see the true capabilities of the TG-16. The characters are detailed, from Guile's bulging muscles and the tattoo on his shoulder to Ken's wrist guards and the folds on his karate suit. The background is equally complex and includes numerous animated spectators. Only when you scrutinize the top of the screen do you see where some simplifications were necessary, like the black bar that contains your score and the black spaces next to the life bars.
Just as in the arcade, the real excitement comes from matching wits against a human opponent. Not only can you customize your characters and fight at the location of your choice, you can set handicaps so that less experienced players have a chance against the pros—something the arcade version obviously didn't feature.
When the best-of-three battle comes to a close, you'll still find that classic shot of the loser and winner. In the Vs. mode, you'll even get statistics summarizing how much damage the characters have been dishing out, another nice bonus not seen in the arcade.
Successful consoles usually go through about three generations of games, each successive one better taking advantage of a system's capabilities. On the TG-16, this is in a league of its own: fourth generation. You have to see it to believe it. This stunning port of the classic fighter should silence the TG-16 naysayers.
As with graphics, this game pushes the TG-16 sound system to the limit. Not only does every stage feature its own score from the original arcade version, but just about every original sound effect, from Hurrican Kicks to thuds when players hit the ground, is intact. I've even read from some audiophiles that the bass on this version of Street Fighter II is better than on the other 16-bit systems. The digitized voices are especially impressive.
Even using a joypad rather than an arcade stick, you'll find that the engine running this game is sensitive and precise. You can summon flash kicks and head stomps with minimal difficulty, and a well-timed low fierce punch from Blanka still allows you to trade hits with Ken and Ryu when they throw fireballs at close range.
The game is a work of art, easily one of the best fighters ever produced, so good that it literally spawned the genre. Given this background, it is fitting that the arrival of such a great game to the TG-16 demonstrates how this system can do things that you never thought possible. Without a doubt, this is one of the best TG-16 games ever produced.