Everywhere you turn, you cannot miss it. Street Fighter 2 has become a phenomenon unto itself: not quite as big as Mario, but twice as exploited. The Street Fighter 2 coin-op has already become a classic of the Nineties, with more than a little help from Nintendo's spurious advertising campaign. It all seems a far cry from the days of the original coin-op, made famous by its gigantic, pressure-sensitive fire buttons that you literally had to pummel if you were going to make any indentation on your opponent's energy level
But that was years ago, and now Street Fighter 2 rules the arcades in a way that no other game has. Nintendo are not complaining, as their SNES version has become the flagship title for their machine. There are even stories circulating of people being mugged as they take their newly-bought carts home. Has a game ever caused such 'enthusiasm' - I think not. Now, after nine months of solid coding, the Amiga version is unveiled for all to see, and sat in a backroom of US Gold's plush Birmingham offices. I must admit to being pleasantly surprised. Street Fighter 2: Amiga is as close to the arcade version as a 68000 with a single fire button is going to get.
In case you did not already know, SF2 places you in the middle of the hottest street competition ever. The best fighters from around the globe have been gathered to battle it out in a series of man-to-man style rucks against the clock to find out who exactly is the 'ardest geezer on the face of the planet. Eight persons (six mail, one female and one thing) from locations as diverse Japan and Brazil come together to fight it out, and all of them make the WWF wrestlers looks like a bunch of ballet enthusiasts. Single player, you have to work your way through them all to take the title. Not that you can just walk in and take the title, of course. Once you have defeated the seven basic opponents, you have to fight the four big bosses. That is where things get really hard. If they were not hard enough already. Alternatively, you could just stand to one side and let them all give you a kicking. Defeat the four bosses, and you have beaten the game, or have you?
Two player, the action really heats up. Needless to say, this is a very violent game. And there can be little as entertaining as knocking seven bells out of your friend/brother/sister/whoever. If you think that selecting different characters creates a disadvantage, then you will be happy to know that the Character vs Character mode from the Championship Edition has been added (but accessed via a cheat mode) so you can both be Blanka and spend many an hour rolling at each other.
Don't worry, though. It is not all mindless fighting. There are a few bonus stages to fight your way through, too! These occur quite late on in the game (after the 7th fight, after the first boss and just before the last boss) and are based on the arcade version rather than the SNES. Your first challenge is to wreck a car in the shortest time possible. You are up against a time limit, and if you manage to turn a once-fine family saloon into a pile of melting slag, you will get yourself a handy bonus! To demolish it, you simply have to punch and kick the various parts (headlamps, bonnet, engine, windscreen, doors, etc.) until it collapses in on itself and the police drag you away for vandalism.
Next comes the bouncing barrels. You stand at the bottom of the screen while someone throws beer barrels from somewhere above the screen. The barrels fall onto a small platform above you. After that, they could fall in any direction - you cannot tell. All you need to do is smash as many of them into pieces as quickly as possible. The problem here is that the barrels are actually filled with Mexican Jumping Beans, so every time the barrels bounce, they could bounce either way, just like the balls in IK+ could change height. Should you be hit by a barrel, that is the end of this particular bonus stage.
Finally, you are confronted with three piles of oil barrels which, yes you guessed it, you have to smash to smithereens. However, every time you hit a barrel it sends out a lick of flame, which incinerates you on the spot, so you have to move fast. Well, I did not say it was not all mindless violence, did I?
To be honest, I kept away from the arcade machine for quite a while. I do not like hypes, so I thought the only way to judge it fairly would be to play it once the hype had died down. Sticking in my coins, I assumed It was just going to be 'just another beat 'em up'. How wrong I was. If you have not played it, and let us be honest, who has not played it at least once, then you will not know that this game has more to it than the 'repeatedly stab at the fire button while trashing the joystick about and hope you get a hit on them first' variety, where your only advantage is the speed of your index finger. SF2 involves the careful planning of moves, as well as the reactions to use them at the right moment. Going in headlong is not going to win any battles, so save that for the pub.
SIX FINGERED FIGHTERS
Unfortunately, the original arcade version has six fire buttons. Three for punches and three for kicks. That, plus the fact that secret combination of these, along with timed movements of the joystick, brought up special moves such as fireballs or an electric field made the Amiga version a tad different. Programmer Tony Bickley had to give some serious thought as to how to translate the controls to a single button joystick, or even twin button joypads, such as a SEGA controller. At one point, Tony even considered bundling a special six-button joystick with the game, but found the costs involved too prohibitive. What he came up with instead is a game with standard beat 'em up controls, but which still gives the tactical feel of the original game. By thinking logically, USG have managed to come up with a way of using all 32 moves from a standard eight-way joystick and this is how it works:
While standing, without the fire button pressed, you have eight moves open to you, such as walking, jumping and crouching. Pressing fire then allows you to select from the first set of attacking moves (four kicks, four punches). If you crouch, you can select another eight attacking moves, as you can while in the air. 8 plus 8, plus 8, plus 8 makes 32!
On a two-button joypad, things get even easier. The eight way controller moves your character around in much the same way, only now one fire button controls the kicks and the other controls the punches. The big difference here is that now there are two versions of eight kick and punch. Pushing the way the character is facing makes them attack with their leading limb, whereas pushing in the opposite direction makes them use their trailing limb. Easy, innit?
Of course, you cannot take a game as memory-hungry game as SF2 and fit it into an Amiga without some chopping, and the first thing to go were some of the special moves. In the arcade, each character had up to five secret moves. On the Amiga, each has only two. Thankfully, they are all documented in the manual, so you need not spend half your life trying every combination you can think of.
As far as presentation goes, the game is almost flawless. Perhaps lacking some of the speed of the original in places, all in all, the game is as close as you could come. The sprites are massive, it must be said, and the pleasing thing about this game is, unlike other titles with similar size sprites (Sword of Sodan, for example), the animation is as fluid as you could want. Each character has an unbelievable 255 frames of animation! The sprites alone take up around 5Mb of memory! And that on top of the glorious 32-colour backdrops makes for a fairly stunning looking game. It does not look exactly like the arcade machine, though, but that is just because the Amiga cannot generate the same sort of screen luminescence that arcade cabinets and consoles can.
A great deal of attention has been paid to the sound too. Not surprising, really, if you think of the difference between hitting someone and hearing a slight pop and hitting someone and hearing a car door slammed. Just look at the Rocky films to see what I mean. Creative Materials obviously think that the arcade versions had just the right effects, as they have sampled all the sounds for the Amiga.
The game is fast. Perhaps not as speedy as the SNES, but then again your basic Amiga is not built with the same graphic chipset as a SNES. It does, however, run a lot faster than the rolling demo on the cover of last month's issue, so do not be too put off.
But, after all this, the proof of the pudding is in the playing Street Fighter 2 is immensely enjoyable, right from the word go. I have to admit, I was surprised, especially when you consider that Creative Materials were the team responsible for Final Fight which received a paltry 60%. The thought that has gone into the control really pays off when you pick the joystick up for the first time you can lay a pretty formidable offensive line, if not exactly the most tactical or defensive. Street Fighter 2 is very playable, and genuinely does stand head and shoulders above any of its rivals. Naturally it will take some time before you will be able to use all the moves to their fullest advantage, but that is part of the fun.
If your SNES-owning friends have been driving you insane with jealousy, now is the time to strike back. OK, it is not arcade perfect and the SNES version is. On the bottom line, though, it is a perfect example of what an Amiga beat 'em up should be, and an excellent conversion at that. Without a doubt the best beat 'em up to ever grave the Amiga, even better than the fabled IK+. Whether it will hold that position for long is uncertain, as rumours currently floating claim that an IK+ 2 is on the way, although the same rumour states that Archer Maclean may not be involved. For now though, Street Fighter 2 is the thumper to have. Plus the fact that it is half the cost of the console version, you cannot really go wrong. Well done, US Gold.