I will admit right here and now that I did not grow up with these games. I never had the home ports growing up and none of the arcades near me carried the machines, choosing to keep games like Mortal Kombat or the Vs. games. Around the time I was 12 or 13, I grew more accustomed to the idea of game emulation, and the one I used the most was WinKawaks. WinKawaks was an emulator that primarily focused on emulating NeoGeo and CPS1-2 games such as the 58 King of Fighters games and Marvel vs Capcom and allow them to be played online. It was much easier to use than something like MAME and I poured countless hours into it and tried out so many different kinds of arcade games, including Street Fighter Alpha…..3.
Yeah for some reason I chose to play Street Fighter Alpha 3 over the previous two simply because. I dunno. I just did. Do I need a reason for everything? Now that I have the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection and access to these games I really gotta say I am KICKING myself for not trying these games out sooner because they are fantastic.
Street Fighter Alpha (Zero in Japan) is a 1v1 fighting game released by Capcom in 1995 and is a follow-up to Street Fighter II in all but name. The series itself is a prequel as it takes place BEFORE Street Fighter II but AFTER Street Fighter 1, hence the name Alpha. I never got why it was called “Zero” in Japan since 1 still happened but what do I know? Do I look like a “Title Guy” to you? Coming off the tails of Capcom’s excellent Darkstalkers and X-Men: Children of the Atom games, Street Fighter Alpha adopts a flashier, more “anime-like” artstyle and faster gameplay even adopting chain combos to…middling success in my opinion. What are chain combos? Stay tuned.
SFA1’s gameplay is merely an evolution of the framework Super Street Fighter II Turbo started keeping the same combo flow and super meter mechanics but making them faster and more devastating. Outside of that though Alpha 1 brings two new things to the table, Chain Combos and Alpha Counters. Chain Combos are performed by pressing a Light, Medium, and Heavy attack in succession and it just does NOT feel right for Street Fighter. While I know Target Combos would become a standard for the series I think this type of mechanic works for Street Fighter since it’s a slower-paced game. I know I just said SFA is fast but it’s not Darkstalkers and X-Men fast, people. It feels awkward. ALPHA COUNTERS on the other hand are amazing and a fantastic addition to the formula.
How you perform an Alpha Counter depends on the character you play as, but what it does is act as an extra defensive maneuver for those being pressured. Generally, you perform a quarter-circle forward motion while blocking and pressing either punch or kick depending on your character and it will act as an attack and send your opponent flying, giving you more room to breath. Not only is this an effective defensive tactic but depending on your positioning you can connect it into another attack for extra damage. Whether or not this was INTENTIONAL I don’t know, but it’s still fun to perform. Street Fighter Alpha is a great follow-up to Street Fighter II in almost every way for me but you know what? It’s almost not worth going back to. Why?
Because Street Fighter Alpha 2 exists, baby.
Street Fighter Alpha 2 is my favorite Street Fighter game to play now. Full stop. EVERYTHING that Street Fighter Alpha 1 introduced got improved upon with this sequel and it is unbelievable. Alpha 2 came out roughly a year after the first game and not only amps up the speed and damage but added a ton of new characters with completely unique gimmicks and playstyles which OH MY GOD I didn’t even mention the newcomers Alpha brought to the table. The Street Fighter Alpha series straight up has the best list of new characters out of any Street Fighter game. Not only were classic characters like Dan, Sakura, and Rose introduced in these games but they even managed to bring Final Fight into the mix with Guy, Rolento, and Sodom as a great tribute to how Final Fight was originally going to be a Street Fighter sequel. ANYWAYS.
Alpha 2 makes a few changes from Alpha 1 that I think helped the game a lot. For starters, Chain Combos are gone. Guy and Gen can still perform them but they were adjusted to where it actually feels satisfying and viable to use them, which I think makes sense for those characters. Alpha Counters also cost meter to perform so you can’t just perform them whenever you want just because you’re getting bullied. You have you use strategy and forward-thinking if you want to get the most out of your super gauge, especially with Alpha 2’s debut mechanic, the Custom Combo. Custom Combo’s cost about two super bars to perform and it just lets you go hog fucking wild. It’s performed by pressing 2 punches and 1 kick at the same time and allows you to chain together as many hits as you want in a short amount of time. It forces your character to move forward but since pretty much every frame of animation can be canceled into, you can throw as many Hadoukens or Heavy Punches as you like. It even removes the hold timing for charge characters so as long as you’re mashing back and forth on the control stick you can throw out Sonic Booms like a bad habit. Custom Combos are so much fun to experiment with and it adds another layer to an already great game.
Street Fighter Alpha 1 and 2 are fantastic fighting games and brought so much to Street Fighter as a whole. I would argue that the Alpha series as a whole left more of a lasting legacy on the franchise than Street Fighter III did in terms of mechanics, art style, and ESPECIALLY character. Alpha was the first time you really got to see the Street Fighter characters emote and show personality with their unique voices and intro/outro animations. Of course, I know that Street Fighter Alpha 3 is considered to be the pinnacle of the series, I think Alpha 2 carries the classic Street Fighter spirit far more. Alpha 1 is still good too but goddamn dude I can’t recommend Alpha 2 enough this game is fantastic. If you’re in the mood for good old classic fun, the first two Alpha games will do you well.
I need to stop using 30th Anniversary for these reviews, by the way. I have to use a tiny ass fightstick to play them and it sucks.