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Fighting Masters Round 4 - Street Fighter Alpha

I figured Iíd just make my way through the games I picked up with my Saturn which if you didnít read about that, you can read up here in my blog. The next game letís talk about is Street Fighter Alpha, or as my copy says, Street Fighter Zero.

I remember when this game came out in the Arcades. It was in 1995, I had just graduated high school, and I was spending a majority of my summer in an arcade with my best friends who were all fighting game fanatics. Imagine to our surprise as we walked in one day and there in the corner was this new shiny game. We walked up to it in awe and watched the (at the time) epic attract screen of Ryu and Ken throwing fireballs at each other. What kind of game was awaiting us? I played my very first match of Street Fighter Alpha against my best friend, and as is customary on every new SF game, the first fight was Ryu vs Ken.

In the time line, Alpha happens before Street Fighter II. Everyone here is younger, as seen in the art for the game.

The rundown of the cast is:

Street Fighter Ė Adon, Birdie
Street Fighter II Ė Ryu, Ken, Chun Li, Sagat
Final Fight Ė Guy and Sodom
New Characters Ė Charlie (I prefer Nash) and Rose
Hidden Characters Ė Akuma, Bison, and Dan

The cast certainly caught me off guard. We had 4 returning characters. Charlie in terms of storyline is Guileís friend and the reason Guile is after Bison in SF II, but plays like Guile. I was a huge fan of Final Fight, so there was indeed a really cool moment seeing Guy in a fighting game. Adon and Birdie were brought in, with Birdie getting an overhaul in terms of looks.

While some characters looked younger, others had some massive changes as well. Sagat for example is BUFF. Not the lean version that we see in SF II, heís built like a truck. Bison got the same treatment, as his design makes him look very huge.

Now before I move on, Iíve got to discuss Dan. For anyone whoís not in on the joke, SNK has a fighting series named Art of Fighting and the main character is Ryo Sakazaki, who happens to look like a combination of Ryu and Ken. He also fights in a similar style with a dragon punch and a one handed fireball. Capcom of course decided to respond, and thus Dan was born. Dan throws one handed fireballs and looks like a cross between Ryo and Robert, the two main characters of the Art of Fighting Series. Heís typically more comedic in nature than the rest of the cast. His taunts are the stuff of legend (including a Super Taunt in later games!).

But back to Alpha. We had just been introduced to the idea of super meters and super moves in Capcom fighting games a year earlier with the introduction of Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Alpha took this new idea and dramatically changed it. First, characters had more than just the one super seen in Turbo. Charlie actually has 3. Secondly, you could build up to 3 levels of super meter and choose to unleash specific levels of power. This was controlled by the number of buttons pressed. For example Ryuís Shinkū Hadōken power was controlled by pressing one, two, or all three punches together during the motion. Each level did more damage and added more hits in the combo.

Another new feature was the Alpha counter. By making a joystick motion of B,DB,D + a button, a player could block an incoming hit and immediately do a canned counter attack. This takes 1 level of super meter, but really added strategy to the game and allowed players being pressured to create an opening to get a breather or go on offense themselves.

Alpha was also the first time air blocking was allowed. Again, adding a new dynamic to the fighting game genre, players could jump and air block a fireball rather than land on it and take damage.

One of the best known strategies in SF II was corner trapping an opponent. Alpha gave us a new mechanism to get out of the corner with rolls. Doing the alpha counter command as you hit the ground caused you player to roll forward. For example, a player being corner trapped could roll and even end up behind the opponent, reversing the corner trap.

Finally we have tech hits, which is escaping from a throw. You still take damage, but definitely not as much as if the throw had been completed.

The player goes through 7 stages, with the final stage being a boss specific to the character. Ryu faced off with Sagat for example. Over half the cast faced Bison however.

Now, the three hidden characters were not the only surprises, oh no. One of the biggest and coolest surprises ever was a hidden 2 player mode. To get to it, both players had to input specific commands on the character select screen. What happened next is a recreation of the final fight from the Street Fighter animated movie. Yes, it is Ryu and Ken vs Bison. Now keep in mind Dramatic Battle became a full fleged mode in Alpha 3, but at the time this was just awesome.

So how will it be remembered? Well in truth is itís overshadowed by Alpha 2 and Alpha 3. However this game, much like the Darkstalkers series brought about change in other Capcom Fighting games. Playing this now, it feels very barebones compared to a lot of the games that came after it. But in reality, those games owe quite a lot to Alpha as it started a lot of the gameplay changes that became common in the genre.

Of course, those of you who want to play this now, you can get it off PSN for $5.99 or can find the Alpha Anthology for PS2 for less than $30.
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About CronosBladeone of us since 6:13 PM on 07.08.2007

Just a guy who loves to talk video games a lot. I try to be funny and fail a lot, but I swear I'm worth having around.

I'm an older gamer (read:30) and I like to look back on all the good (and bad) that I played through in the before time.

I don't game as much thanks to my 2yr old daughter, but I do keep up on the latest things. As far as she's concerned, well she likes to hit the buttons a lot, which means she could win a few rounds of DOA.