Super Duper Street Fighter II Turbo

Yes, there were many iterations of Street Fighter 2. Yes, their titles started to become ridiculous. Yes, there have been a million jokes about them. But 1994’s Super Turbo is the greatest version of the series. This here is the epitome of 90s arcade culture. It’s the fastest, toughest, most intense fighting game ever made. And it became obsolete only a few months after it was released.

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Be Still, My Heart

As mentioned in my Street Fighter 2 review, Capcom was concerned that the game would become stale, or potentially obsolete in the face of the hacked pirate copies of the game. In attempt to simultaneously keep the brand fresh and add ever stricter copy protection, they began to release regular updates to the game that expanded the character roster, fixed bugs, and quickened the gameplay. In retrospect, the naming system could have been helped:

  1. Street Fighter II’
  2. Street Fighter II’: The Champion Edition
  3. Street Fighter II: The New Challengers
  4. Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  5. Super Street Fighter II Turbo

The Champion Edition introduced “combos,” or a string of moves that, if you landed the first hit, could not be blocked, giving you more lethal options. In the Turbo versions, the game could run at 3x speed—so fast that it became difficult for people to keep up, creating a large gap between normal players and professionals.

Super Turbo was the last and most bewildering, but also the most majestic. It added another gameplay feature, the “super,” which was a character’s most devastating move that you built toward during the match. In addition, the original, “non-super” versions of the characters were kept in, but given faster and more damaging normal moves to compete with their updated versions. This was the first Turbo version to run on the newer Capcom arcade hardware, which allowed for even more detailed graphics with better colours, but required a complete code overhaul.

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“Your move, creep.”

It was the code overhaul that made Super Turbo so unique: because so many new features and character variations were added at once, many, many minor bugs and inconsistencies were introduced to the game, but fortunately none of them were game-breaking. Some characters could move extremely fast in certain circumstances, or had moves that would beat some moves but not others, or could temporarily phase through fireballs—it sounds messy, and it was, but it led to some of the most deep, sophisticated, and complex gameplay I’ve ever seen in a game. It was like rock-paper-scissors, only with 50 more objects, and performed while sprinting against your opponent down a track. In fact, the gameplay has been so deep and cryptic, that even 22 years after the game’s release players are discovering new strategies and tricks. In 2010, a new strategy was discovered for T-Hawk, a character that everybody believed was terrible, that made him one of the best in the game:

As with all silver linings, there was a cloud with Super Turbo. As the priority was to make the player-on-player gameplay as exciting as possible, the designer’s neglected the AI programming, making playing against the computer close to impossible. As the average player frequently practiced against the computer, this became a big turnoff, and many ignored this version in favour of older ones. The other factor was burnout: players had been playing Street Fighter 2 for more than 3 years, and wanted something fresh.

In 1995, the Street Fighter Alpha series began. The focus expanded once again to a more general audience, and more casual players. It featured streamlined controls, flashier graphics, less punishing gameplay, and an anime art style that was a considerable departure from previous games. Most players moved on to this new series, and Street Fighter 2 and its iterations became bygone games for old fogeys.

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