In Depth Review: Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting [X360]
Well, the Buddhists ask, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Let's ask Capcom a similar question: What is the sound of a hundred hands slapping? The answer: a million voices crying out in unison, then suddenly silenced by internet lag.
Out of all the flaws that Hyper Fighting for the Xbox 360 displays, the mileage-varying online experience is the one that beats the old classic into the ground. Network lag inhibits the fun of many online games, but with this game it often destroys it entirely. To explain for those unfamiliar with the franchise, playing Street Fighter II and all of its iterations at advanced levels relies, at the core, on split-second timing linked to specific frames of animation. It relies on knowing the priorities certain attacks have over others, and understanding their precise timing.
To understand this, one must go back to the basics of Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting. Each of the 12 selectable pugilists has a repertoire of normal attacks that are linked to six attack buttons: three each for punches and kicks, with each button representing an attack. These attacks vary in power, speed, range, hit-detection and appearance depending on your proximity to your enemy and your physical position (standing, advancing, retreating, crouching or jumping).
Thrown into the mix are special moves, such as fireballs or body-launching attacks that are performed by combining specific directional input with certain button presses. Ken, for instance, throws a fireball if you roll the control-pad down, down-towards, towards, and then hit a punch button. While no basic attacks chain into each other as they do in modern fighting games (except for certain quick, weak attacks), it's certainly possible to combine a basic move with a special move by executing the latter at a precise moment in the former's animation. Frame specific, indeed. Now imagine attempting this with even slight internet lag. Continue to imagine for as long as you wish, so long as the end result is confusion, anger, and hatred.
The evils of "teh intarnets" don't stop there. Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting for the Xbox 360 adds online player rankings to the mix, which is natural for any Xbox Live-enabled title. Consequently, the natural course of action for the more conniving Street Fighter players on Xbox Live would be to - oops! - disconnect from an online match when they see their ranking in jeopardy. But hey, we shouldn't worry about that "broken ethernet cord" - after all, we don't mind when a connection is dropped on us. Nor do we mind slapping the lamer with a hearty "BAD REVIEW". Suffice it to say, you'll know how the highest ranking players with one star on their gamercard reputations got where they are.
Accompanying connection droppers are those who take advantage of the latency in internet connection to a fault. Adjusting your play style to accommodate the lag is one thing. Jamming on the punch button to execute E. Honda's hundred-hand slap move - a feat that requires less than no skill, but becomes far overpowered when internet latency is introduced - is quite another. Oh sure, it's legal, but it also amounts to online matches that aren't fun to play and, ultimately, bring back hoarse cries of "CHEESING!" throughout the Xbox Superhighway. Such tactics are surmountable by players who actually have enough "real" skill, but it's nevertheless sad to see Hyper Fighting turned into Sumo-Diaper Fighting due to unoptimized network code.
With all the connection droppers, cheap play and internet lag, it's good to know that the single-player game remains untarnished. Well, almost. Visually, Diaper Fighting is faithful to the original - for better or worse - and remains as colorful as it did more than a decade ago. Character sprites are relatively large and detailed when considering the era - toes, fingers, and some strands of hair are visible. The camo on Guile's pants stands out and draws attention (ironic, yes?), and you can still see good ol' fatty E. Honda's four massive abdominal "muscles". Zangief still has forests of shin hair creeping out from under his boots. The key here is understanding that the title is over a decade old. Those who have grown to appreciate and accept nothing less than Street Fighter III's silky-smooth animation and rich colors will wonder how "the old farts" can ever get nostalgic over the fuzzy, interpolated presentation of the old-school look on Xbox Live.
Yet, as faithful as the visuals are, audio nitpickers are sure to throw their Xbox 360 hard drives at their little brothers when they hear what Diaper Fighting has to offer. For starters, anybody who's familiar with the beefy, popular "Fierce Punch" sound effect will notice that it's lower than the original by a pitch or two. Then, you hear that the voice that announces where each contender hails from is also a pitch or two lower. It graduates to "annoying" when you hear the elephants on Dhalsim's stage trumpeting, once again, at a pitch or two lower. Such simple missteps, especially given the fact that the musical score remains one-hundred percent intact, can only lead one to question just what was going on during the coding process. Alcohol consumption? Thin air? Tone-deaf sound engineers?
At least the porting team can't be held accountable for the slipshod controls. Offline, the game still controls very well. The button response time is still rock-solid. Special moves are just as easy or difficult to pull off as they always were. Combos can be executed just as if you were standing at the arcade machine. However, all of this comes under the condition that you have mastered the stiff-as-a-board (and not light-as-a-feather) Xbox 360 controller d-pad. While its appearance hearkens back to the glorious, disc-shaped Sega Saturn pad, the unruly rigidity of its diagonal areas will in fact remind you of the PSP or Dual Shock controller.
Now, try pulling off a Dragon Punch (conveniently executed with towards, down, down-towards, punch) against an incoming, airborne enemy sticking out a high-priority, weak kick... with seventy six flavors of internet lag dancing around your pretty little fist. Oh, what joy!
It's not only that you'll have trouble pulling off complicated controller motions with online opponents, either. For anyone who remembers, the arcade original had often brutal artificial intelligence. Those who have mastered it can still understand that the game isn't exactly easy for everyone to pick up and conquer. Computer opponents will often pull out exactly the right kick or punch to counter your initial attack. They will jump in at you but just beyond the range of your anti-air counterattack, leaving you vulnerable. They will peg you with projectiles right before you land from a jump, a position from which you are unable to block attacks. They will even instantaneously pull off special moves that require players to hold down a certain direction on the d-pad for 2 seconds. It simply adds insult to injury, especially for novice players, to pile the original and difficult AI onto internet lag and stiff controls. Thankfully, the same AI exploits that existed in the old arcade machines still exist here. (If you're a pro, please help a newbie out by showing them the ropes of baiting Guile into trying to Flash Kick almost every Dragon Punch that he sees... even the ones that miss!)
The odds and ends that round out the package provide at least somewhat of a saving grace here. The achievements are still active if you set the game to the lowest difficulty level but will still challenge you to get better at the game. Beating the entire game without losing a single round, even at the easiest setting, isn't an easy feat for everyone. Nor is completing the game at all on the very highest difficulty level. Certainly, these are nice badges to sew onto your gamertag. The "Quarter Matches", too, are amusing, if only because they attempt to emulate the old pastime of grouping around an arcade machine and sticking your quarter on the edge to indicate where you are in the queue. Up to four players can engage in a single quarter match, with the two non-participants watching lag-free action.
These little touches are neat, and having the original classic in a small downloadable file on your hard drive is novel. Unfortunately, the flowing beauty of the fighting engine is stopped up by the dam that is network lag and the unfriendly d-pad. The nostalgia of crisp, pure fighting and competition is scattered by the twerp who, uh, "can't stop his dog from knocking the power cord" out of his router. (Please don't train your pets to preserve your online ranking.) Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting for the Xbox 360 turns the once proud gold boullion coin of fighting games into a meek, flaccid single dollar bill. But hey, there's plenty of CHEESE to go around. Simply select E. Honda and slap your way to the top rank. Just remember that finding an old arcade machine will serve you infinitely better.