I’ll Tiger Uppercut any company who plans to obsolete my hardware

Street Fighter Alpha 2 (1996)

Well, one of my worst fears may be on the verge of being realised – I think I’ll have to go out and buy another laptop. You know I already hate spending money, but this thriftiness brings its own enormous benefits, including one of my greatest skills – I’m a dab hand at getting the maximum use out of knackered old hardware. This laptop I’m typing on is nine years old now, which is old-age pension territory for a little notebook like this.

Even when everyone else was upgrading their tools at the beginning of pandemic lockdown, ready for months, years, even eternities of working from home, I stuck it out with my trusty little laptop. And technology rewards you for your loyalty, you know, and it’ll look after you so long as you look after it – with the obvious exception of the most spiteful hardware of all, the printer.

Turn your back on your old appliances and doodads at your peril because they’ll only end up plotting against you, like a malevolent sequel to the Brave Little Toaster. I took cues from Basil Fawlty about how not to treat your car, and lo and behold, thanks to a bit of care and attention, my old Polo was still motoring over 15 years after rolling out of das faktory. Mind you, the last call I received from the garage pertaining to its health informed me, verbatim, that the gearbox was “a grenade waiting to go off” and that it was “pissing oil.” But there’s only so many parts of the chassis I can kiss for good luck, you know?

And obviously I never throw out a games console. I treated all of them well, except for our first Nintendo 64 which, thanks to having 4 controller cables connected pretty much all the time, would trip me and my pals up all the time. This usually brought the console crashing down on its head, and eventually it began to get memory problems, resetting the game at random every so often.

Well, what do you expect? There’s only so many times you can drop a baby before its head turns to mush. And anyway, Nintendo consoles are well known for their build quality – you’ll have seen the Gulf War Game Boy, and my own GBA took a few bangs and all, off the concrete road outside on the street while all the normal kids were playing football and kiss-chasing.

It’s why a game like Street Fighter 2 Alpha for SNES is very interesting, because this is an advanced, mid nineties arcade port brought onto a console which is essentially 1990, maybe even 1989 technology. It’s like Concorde, vinyl record players or Etch-a-Sketch – magical pieces of technology, way ahead of their time.

Sometimes you can get in over your head though, because Alpha 2 for SNES is not a pretty sight. I know it’s not very fair of me to pick on what is by far the most limited port of a cutting edge arcade game like this, but let’s face it, there’s not much fun in looking at the original versions.

And anyway, what do you really need to know about Street Fighter Alpha 2? It comes after Alpha 1, before Alpha 3, it’ll have nice graphics, but not all the characters you remember, and it’s long past the point where casuals have been shunned in favour of whizkids who can play an arcade board like maestros play a grand piano.

My fear before going in is that the SNES version would resemble those movies and Sonic X episodes you could get on your GBA, or the YouTube application on the 3DS. Those all looked and sounded like my laptop whenever I give it its yearly magnet bath.

Well, like my decrepit old Polo, that’s only half right – the graphics in Street Fighter Alpha 2 look quite good, loads of the big sprites looking good on the SNES. But the music seems to have been made from the same instrument being played at about 4 different pitches – methinks someone took one year too many out of their synthesiser.

I also believe the sound – and I’m talking about the many voice samples here – contributes to what’s rarely seen in the Super Nintendo, or any old cartridges for that matter, and that’s loading times. Loading times are usually quick as lightning on the Super Nintendo, but they’re not non-existent. They are necessary, to load up new palettes and rooms. Think about switching between worlds in Link to the Past, going through a door in Super Metroid, or the particularly bad loading times that plagued Sim City 2000.

I can live with loading times actually, it’s not like we’re talking scratched PS1 disc glacial epoch proportions here, but Alpha 2 actually chugs along before every single match. And the one that really kills it is the pregnant pause that happens just after the excitable Japanese commentator screams “Round One, Fight!”

You’re not sure when to begin inputting your Hadouken (the only move you’ll know, thanks to the clearing out of many characters from the regular Street Fighter 2), so you’ll just have to try and predict the start, similar to how a sprinter or racing driver might try to anticipate the starting signal.

The game itself does play fine once you’re over the false start, but that’s all it is, fine. It’s maybe even a bit stiff, nothing that would draw you away from the many, many other Street Fighter 2s that adorned the SNES. Proper fighting game fanatics are going to track me down and give me a c-c-c-combo breaker fatality, but let’s be really honest here, you played one Street Fighter 2, you’ve played them all. 

I reckon the Street Fighter series was well and truly out of the casual’s grasp by the time this came out. I’ve seen childhood friendships won and lost over a game of Street Fighter 2. I’ve seen the game advertised on hoardings at the football. I’ve seen Street Fighter 2 arcade cabinets in places where there really shouldn’t be arcade cabinets.

But it didn’t mean we needed a bloody “Street Fighter 2” every year, plus derivatives. You don’t think I’m one of those tech wizards who gets a new phone every year, do you? I only swap out phones when I get “dangerously low” on space. I do love the terminology they use to get you to upgrade. Dangerously low, if you don’t mind, as if the thing is about to explode. I sometimes fear that the SNES is about to explode as well, considering how hot it can get when Street Fighter Alpha 2 is in there for a long time.

I don’t really see that happening though, because this game hasn’t got any kind of lasting appeal, and if you ask me nor has any Street Fighter game released past about 1993. Give Alpha 2 a look for its historical value, as an interest piece, but then switch it off before your Super Nintendo melts. Don’t discard your hardware just like that though, take a lesson from me and recycle the cartridge into something else. Perhaps it could make a nice doorstep? Or a paperweight?

18 April 2023

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