Posts from August 2017

Video game review: Ultra Street Fighter II

August 31st, 2017

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, the latest in a long line of revisions to the all-time classic fighting game, was released for the Nintendo Switch earlier this year. Like 2008’s Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix, Ultra SF2 is based on Super Street Fighter II Turbo, the fifth and final version of Street Fighter II released in 1994 before Capcom finally moved on to Street Fighter III three years later.

Each version of Street Fighter II introduced various gameplay tweaks compared to their predecessors. In additional to general balance adjustments, Super SF2 Turbo specifically added Super Combos, especially powerful special attacks that could be performed only after filling a gauge by performing attacks and receiving damage. Super combos would go on to become a crucial part of subsequent Street Fighter games. It also introduced the secret final boss Akuma, who would become an important recurring character in the franchise.

Capcom brought Street Fighter II into the modern age by hiring Backbone Entertainment to program an updated version of Super SF2 Turbo for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and UDON Entertainment to completely redraw all the game’s graphics in high definition. The game included the option to play in the original 4:3 aspect ratio, or in 16:9 widescreen mode, mainly by cropping the screen vertically but in such a way that the original gameplay is preserved. It included the options to play with the original character sprites instead of UDON’s new artwork, although the backgrounds, HUD, and other graphical assets remain in their updated versions. It includes both the original soundtrack and a remixed version provided by a variety of artists through Overclocked Remix. And of course it includes online play, via the GGPO netcode.

It also included two different versions of the game. The first is completely faithful to the original arcade release of Super SF2 Turbo in terms of gameplay, although it includes certain interface improvements, such as allowing the player to select the alternate version of a character (as they appeared in Super Street Fighter II, the version which immediately preceded Super SF2 Turbo) via a straightforward menu option rather than having to enter a code. The second has been completely rebalanced, with tons of gameplay changes, some minor, some relatively significant. Lead HD Remix designer David Sirlin even wrote a series of articles thoroughly describing the changes and explaining the reasoning behind them.

Ultra Street Fighter II screenshot

I am not a competitive Street Fighter player, and I understand that the fighting game community has largely forgotten about HD Remix, but for my money, the gameplay tweaks it introduced were almost uniformly an improvement. In particular, I was a huge fan of the easier inputs for most of the difficult-to-perform special attacks. Street Fighter is kind of know for its complicated button inputs, but as Sirlin explained:

Inside Street Fighter, there is a wonderful battle of wits, but many potential players are locked out of experiencing it because they can’t dragon punch or do Fei Long’s flying kicks, or whatever other joystick gymnastics. I’m reversing the trend. There’s only so far I can go with this and still call it SF2, but wherever I could, I turned the knob towards easy execution of moves. Let’s emphasize good decision making—the true core of competitive games—and get rid of artificially difficult commands.

That brings us to Ultra SF2. Again, like HD Remix, it is based on Super SF2 Turbo specifically. But notably, while it repurposes UDON’s HD graphics, it otherwise goes back to the drawing board, and retains none of the other HD Remix updates or changes. Since I mostly liked those changes, I consider Ultra SF2 a downgrade in many respects. Whereas HD Remix segregated its changes in a separate mode, with the original gameplay version selectable from the main menu, Ultra SF2 includes only one main gameplay mode, and while it is mostly faithful to the original incarnation of Super SF2 Turbo, it still includes at least one tweak: the addition of the ability to “tech” throws and avoid the attack. In Super SF2 Turbo, you could “soften” a throw, receiving less damage from the attack and recovering more quickly, but in Ultra SF2 it’s possible to avoid the throw altogether. In practice, I’m finding that this change actually makes throws, traditionally a very powerful attack in Street Fighter II, harder to deal with, not easier, because the window to perform the tech is very small and not as forgiving as Super SF2 Turbo’s softening window.

One major addition is the introduction of two new characters to the roster: Evil Ryu and Violent Ken. These are alternate incarnations of the existing Ryu and Ken characters, borrowed from later Street Fighter games. In Ultra SF2, they are basically palette-swaps of Ken and Ryu, with a few additional moves borrowed from Akuma. Interestingly, Ryu and Ken were palette-swaps of one another in early Street Fighter games, becoming increasingly distinct from one another over time, particularly with each new updated version of Street Fighter II. By Super SF2 Turbo, they were appreciably different. Ultra SF2 also adds Akuma, a hidden character Super SF2 Turbo, to the character select screen as a freely-selectable player character. Strangely, the character select screen is one place that does not use UDON’s redrawn art from HD Remix, instead reverting to the original character profile images from Super SF2 Turbo.

Like HD Remix, Ultra SF2 allows you to toggle between the original graphics and the redrawn HD art. Unlike HD Remix, this includes not only the character sprites but the backgrounds as well. However, it still does not include the HUD or other interface elements like the character select screen. Additionally, the aspect ratio changes with the graphic setting but is not independently selectable: the aspect ratio is 4:3 when playing with the original graphics, and 16:9 when playing with the HD art. In practice I don’t find this particularly bothersome, as players who select the original graphics presumably want a more faithful experience, while those using the HD graphics are probably okay with the more modern widescreen ratio, and the aspect ratio change has no perceptible affect on gameplay. Nevertheless, there doesn’t seem to be any good reason Capcom couldn’t have simply given us the option, and the inability to play with the HD graphics in 4:3 mode means that some of the HD background art goes unseen, cropped from the top of the screen. More bothersome, 4:3 mode is framed on the side by borders which say “Ultra Street Fighter II,” and they cannot be removed. While graphical borders are pretty common in modern releases of older games, they are almost always optional, and I generally disable them, preferring to play with plain black borders.

Also like HD Remix, Ultra SF2 includes both the original and a remixed version of the soundtrack, but it includes a completely new set of remixed tracks instead of the OC Remix ones. I prefer the OC Remix tracks, which sound more “intense” and seem more fitting for a fast-paced fighting game. Still, the new soundtrack is serviceable, and of course the original version is still available as an option. Another change from HD Remix is that Ultra SF2 also includes updated character voices borrowed from more recent Street Fighter games. As with the graphic style and aspect ratio, the music and voices are not independently selectable. You can have remixed music and new voices, or original music and original voices, but you can’t mix-and-match the two.

There are several new features and modes of play. “Buddy battle” allows you and a friend to take on a computer-controlled opponent in two-on-one match. There’s also a gallery containing over a thousand images from a Japanese Street Fighter art book. The gallery’s interface is decent and you can listen to any song from the game while browsing the illustrations.

Ultra Street Fighter II cover art

One welcome new options is a character color editor. Early versions of Street Fighter II included only two different color palettes for each character (to distinguish between them when both players selected the same character), but Super SF2 introduced many color options per character. Ultra SF2 retains all of the existing palettes, but also allows you to completely customize them. It’s a lot of fun to play with. The color editor allows you to assign virtually any color to each of three or four major areas per character. For example, when customizing Ken’s color scheme, you can independently recolor his hair, skin, and gi. The custom colors work with both the classic and HD graphics, although I’ve noticed a small amount of miscolorization on the edges of characters and between differently-colored areas when using the HD graphics. The classic sprites look just fine with custom colors. The character profile images on the character select screen and pre-fight “vs.” screen reflect the chosen colors only for game’s built-in color schemes, and use a psychedelic-looking rainbow-colored version for all custom palettes.

One completely new feature is “Way of the Hado,” a first-person 3D mini-game in which you control Ryu, using the Switch’s motion controls to perform special attacks and fight through waves of enemies. I think this was intended to be a pretty big selling point for Ultra SF2, but I didn’t find it to be anything more than an interesting diversion. The motion controls don’t seem to work particularly well, making it difficult to perform the intended attack (to be fair, you could say the same about Street Fighter II’s complex button inputs). It comes across as a kind of half-baked proof-of-concept for a more fully-featured 3D Street Fighter game, though “Way of the Hado” does nothing to make me particular anticipate such a game. It’s neat that Ultra SF2 includes an additional bonus game, but I wouldn’t consider it a major selling point.

There are a couple of other missteps. The game has a lot of modes, features, and options, which is good in itself, but its menu system is not well organized. The main menu alone has eleven items to choose from. And while of course the game allows you to customize the button configuration, it does so “the wrong way.” Here’s Sirlin again, talking about the button configuration screen in Street Fighter IV:

The right way is for the screen to list functions, then you press the buttons you want to assign. The wrong way is to list buttons, then you scroll through lists of functions to assign. The reason that one way is right and the other way is wrong is pretty clear when you watch people try to configure buttons. I’ve had to watch what must be thousands of people do this over the years in all the tournaments I’ve helped run (not to mention local gatherings). When the config screen says “Jab” and requires you to press the button you want, you just press the upper left button on your stick (or whatever button on your gamepad). This is a one-step process. But if the screen lists “X” and then requires you to scroll through functions until you find jab, it requires a two step process. You have to know which button on your controller is labeled “X.” When this screen is the right way, no one has to know if the upper left button happens to be X or A or B or whatever else.

If you think this is negligible, you have never seen people set buttons. The wrong way turns what should be a 3 second task into a fairly confusing affair.

It’s one of those things that doesn’t really affect gameplay once you’ve got everything set up the way you like, but it suggests a lack of thoughtfulness on the part of the developer. There’s also an option to use “lite” controls, which allows special movies to be assigned to buttons, so they can be performed with a single button press rather than the complex input normally required. When using the standard dual-Joy-con setup, or the Pro Controller, the Switch has eight action buttons (four face buttons and two shoulder buttons). Street Fighter II uses a six-button control scheme, so you can assign up to two special moves without having to give up one of the standard attack buttons.

Ultra Street Fighter II buddy battle screenshot

The Switch’s Joy-con controllers are novel, and they help make the switch a hybrid portable/console system, but they are small, and I find them less than ideal for most games. I don’t like having four separate directional buttons instead of a single pad, and while the analog stick is serviceable, I don’t like using it to play games that lack analog controls, like Street Fighter II. So the Pro Controller, which is more traditional, is a far superior choice for playing Ultra SF2. Of course, the ideal way to play a Street Fighter game is with a full-sized arcade stick, and to that end, Hori has released a Switch version of their Real Arcade Pro V Hayabusa stick. I imported the Japanese version as soon as it was released, and it immediately made Ultra SF2 easier and more fun to play. In fact, I refused to play “ranked” matches online before I was able to do so with the Hayabusa, sticking “casual” matches only. At $150, it’s a bit pricey, especially for a platform that doesn’t seem likely to be a popular choice for competitive fighting games (though it is also compatible with PCs). 8Bitdo is soon releasing their own N30 arcade stick for the Switch, and at $80, it’s only a little more than half the price of the Hayabusa. I have not tried the N30 myself, but it seems like a good option at a more affordable price.

Speaking of price, Ultra SF2’s $40 price tag has been the target of ire in most of the reviews I’ve seen. And perhaps that’s fair; while it’s been dolled up with plenty of bells and whistles, it’s still basically a 23-year-old game (even older if you count its earlier iterations), and games of this vintage are usually sold much more cheaply, or as part of a collection. For me, I like Street Fighter II enough that I’m willing to pay a premium for it, and I was always going to splurge on the arcade stick to go along with it, anyway. Additionally, Ultra SF2 got a physical release, which is by no means a given these days, especially for what could probably be considered a niche title. So while I understand the concerns about its price, I still thought Ultra SF2 was worth it in the end.

Despite some flaws, Ultra SF2 is still the same Street Fighter II we’ve been playing since the early ’90s. It’s an important, seminal game, and it’s as fun and exciting to play as it ever was, especially with online play against opponents around the world. It’s a little expensive for what you get, and the most enthusiastic players will have to invest in an even more expensive arcade stick to get the most out of it. Those caveats notwithstanding, I recommend it.

Prayer is the religious equivalent of alternative medicine

August 30th, 2017

Among all the news about Hurricane Harvey, I came across this story about a Texas Pastor who opted not to evacuate because “we’re just praying and believing that it’ll slow down or something miraculous will take place.” In reading the criticism of his decision to rely on prayer in lieu of action, I was struck by how similar the argument is to that against alternative medicine.

Pastor Freddy Naranjo

Like alternative medicine, we know that prayer doesn’t actually work. (By which I mean it has no measurable, external effect; it can certainly be psychologically beneficial for the person praying, and can have placebo effects.) Like alternative medicine, it’s usually harmless in itself. (Though a lack of regulations means that you don’t always know what you’re getting with alternative treatments such as dietary supplements, so they certainly have the potential to be dangerous—that is different from prayer, at least.) But also like alternative medicine, using it to justify inaction can cause real harm: this year alone, there were at least two high-profile cases of children dying when their parents opted for faith healing instead of medical treatment.

This is why the “what’s the harm?” defense fails for both prayer and alternative medicine, as well as for pretty much every pseudoscientific, supernatural, or paranormal claim out there. Leaving aside that believing false things is bad unto itself, these things do in fact cause harm sometimes. And even when they don’t, they’re still promoting the same kind of dangerous thinking, and for no real benefit.

As we know, Hurricane Harvey has turned out to be every bit as devastating as predicted to Texas’ gulf coast. I have been unable to find information about Pastor Naranjo, his congregation, or his church since Harvey’s landfall last week. I hope (but do not pray) that they are safe.

Video game review: Sonic Mania

August 17th, 2017

This week saw the release of Sonic Mania, the latest entry in the long-running Sonic the Hedgehog series of video games, and a throwback to the franchise’s earliest entries on the Sega Genesis. It’s built on the Retro Engine, a platform which brings modern console features like 16×9 widescreen support, 60-frames-per-second animation, and online functionality to retro-style games. Sonic Mania lead developer Christian Whitehead originally developed the engine for a Sonic fan game, then worked with Sega to produce a port of 1993’s Sonic CD to modern consoles using the engine in 2011. Similar ports of the original Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic 2 followed.

I picked up the Nintendo Switch version of Sonic Mania, and I was immediately hooked. Its controls and gameplay feel just like those of a classic Sonic game. That’s a good thing, because Sonic’s simple control scheme, using only the directional pad (or the analog stick, in this case) and a single action button, has always been one of the series’ strengths. Of course Sonic Mania includes the spin-dash technique introduced in Sonic 2, and it features Sonic 3’s elemental shields. It also adds a new “drop dash,” which allows you to perform a spin-dash immediately after landing from a jump. As in Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, you can choose to play as Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles, each of whom has different abilities. Tails can fly briefly, while Knuckles can climb walls and glide through the air. You can also play as Sonic and Tails together; you control Sonic directly while Tails is controlled by the computer, but a second player can join in and take control of Tails instead. This effectively gives Sonic Mania a two-player cooperative mode, which is welcome, although not having tried it extensively, I suspect it will be of limited fun for the second player, since the game is very fast-paced and the camera always follows player 1, meaning player 2 will inevitably be lost off-screen fairly often.

Its graphics are also reminiscent of the style of its predecessors, but upgraded to take advantage of modern hardware. Sonic Mania runs in 16×9 widescreen at 60 frames per second. And of course it includes the requisite CRT-scanline filters (a much more subtle pixel-smoothing filter is enabled by default, but the graphical filters can be disabled altogether). The game features a lot of smooth, detailed animation (not to mention the fully-animated intro, clearly inspired by the one from Sonic CD). It also includes a vibrant color palette which invokes the look of the Genesis games, but which I’m pretty sure could not actually have been pulled off on the 16-bit hardware. There are a handful of instances which use more advanced graphical techniques, such as polygonal models. These are chiefly employed to add subtle perspective effects to stage backgrounds and the like, so they don’t usually stand out as anachronistic next to the pixel graphics. If you haven’t played a Genesis-era Sonic game in years, Sonic Mania looks like you probably remember those older games looking. It’s the perfect combination of old and new.

Sonic & Tails in Sonic Mania

Again borrowing from earlier titles in the series, Sonic Mania includes twelve themed “zones,” which include two “acts” each. Most zones are repurposed from previous Sonic games, while a handful are new to Sonic Mania. However, even the repurposed ones have been rebuilt and “remixed” from the ground up. They usually include recognizable segments integrated into a new layout and with new stage elements. Green Hill Zone returns from the original Sonic the Hedgehog, but can now be traversed via zip line. Chemical Plant Zone is back from Sonic 2, but features pools of chemicals that Sonic can bounce on to reach higher areas. And Sonic CD’s Stardust Speedway Zone now includes giant man-eating (hedgehog-eating?) plants for Sonic to climb. Within a single zone, the two acts are often visibly distinct from one another. For example, the new Press Garden Zone is covered in snow and ice for its second act, while Stardust Speedway Zone uses the “past” and “present” graphical themes from its Sonic CD incarnation for acts 1 and 2, respectively.

The level design itself is outstanding, and is easily on par with the best of the Genesis-era games. The Sonic games have always emphasized speed (of course), but at times that emphasis has clashed with gameplay—while it can be exhilarating, it’s not very exciting to “play” through an area of the game that doesn’t require you to do anything more than hold right on the directional pad. But Sonic Mania deftly avoids this trap, and throws lots of interesting puzzles and obstacles in for players to traverse along the way. Each stage also includes multiple paths, some of which are accessible only by certain characters due to their unique abilities.

Every act ends with a boss fight, which means there are a lot of bosses in Sonic Mania. Fortunately, the bosses are creative, unique, cleverly-designed, and fun to fight. One early boss in particular is a nod to an oddball Sonic spin-off game that made me giggle uncontrollably when I saw it—I’m grateful not to have had it spoiled before encountering it myself. Some of the bosses fairly tricky, but the “you’re safe as long as you have at least one ring” mechanic combined with the ability to retrieve up lost rings after taking damage means you always has a fair shot at winning.

Sonic Mania cover art

Sprinkled throughout the game are two different styles of special stages. Passing a mid-level checkpoint lamp post with at least 25 rings gives you access to the “Blue Sphere” mini-game first seen in Sonic 3, a pseudo-3D affair in which your character runs forward automatically, and you must turn left and right to collect blue spheres and avoid red ones, with the gameplay gradually becoming faster as the stage progresses. This special stage plays exactly like its Sonic 3 incarnation as far as I can remember, but I’ve apparently become terrible at it in the intervening years; though there are many lamp posts in Sonic Mania, and therefore many opportunities to play Blue Sphere, I’ve only managed to succesfully beat it a handful of times. Your reward is a medallion of some kind which has no discernible affect on gameplay. A tally of the medallians you’ve earned appears on the game’s “extras” menu; I presume that some extra features are unlocked after collecting certain amounts.

Slightly less common are giant rings, jumping through which sends you to a special stage reminiscent of the one from Sonic CD. In these 3D stages, the camera follows behind your character who must chase a UFO around a track in a limited amount of time. Initially, you runs too slowly to catch it, but collecting blue spheres increases your speed, while collecting rings gives you more time. Catch up to the UFO, and you’re rewarded with a Chaos Emerald. I have not collected all of the Chaos Emeralds, but in previous Sonic games, doing so would allow you to transform into “Super Sonic,” granting invulnerability and increased speed, and change the ending of the game upon completion. I presume that collecting all of them in Sonic Mania produces similar effects, though I have not yet had the gumption to find out.

The Sonic series has long been known for its great music (and that’s even before Michael Jackson’s involvment in the Sonic 3 soundtrack was known). I’m happy to report that Sonic Mania lives up to the series’ reputation on this front. A lot of classic Sonic songs appear, particularly from the returning stages. But there’s plenty of new music, too, and all of it fits right in, invoking the FM synthesis of the Sega Genesis’ distinctive Yamaha sound chip. Since the first time I heard it, I’ve been unable to get the theme from the first act of Press Garden Zone out of my head, which is pretty much my measure of how effective a game’s soundtrack is. The soundtrack is even available on vinyl.

Knuckles in Sonic Mania

The story plays out mostly through brief in-engine cut scenes between stages, with a more detailed plot summary in the accompanying electronic manual. But it hardly matters. As always, Sonic and his friends are going after Dr. Robotnik/Eggman and his robot minions, and have to save a bunch of cute animals along the way.

Sonic Mania is reasonably long for a side-scrolling platformer, certainly longer than most players will want to tackle in a single sitting, so it includes save system very similar to that of Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, with a whole bunch of save slots. It also includes some additional modes, such as a time trial mode and a two-player head-to-head mode, plus a variety of extra features and secrets, most of which I still have yet to unlock (there’s both an “extras” menu and a “secrets” one, both of which are mostly filled with question marks so far).

I absolutely love this game, and I was ecstatic the entire time playing through it. It perfectly captures everything that was great about the 16-bit Sonic games, builds upon them with great new content, and serves it all up in a gorgeous package that will make you feel like a kid again. I even got goosebumps at certain moments that were especially nostalgic. This is what 2010’s Sonic 4 tried to do, with some success, but Sonic Mania blows it out of the water. I don’t have a single complaint about this amazing game, except the lack of a physical release. There is a “collector’s edition” that includes a Sonic statue and a replica Sega Genesis cartridge with a gold ring inside, but even that release includes only a download code for the game rather than an actual physical copy.

Sonic Mania is available now for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, with a PC version coming next week. At $20, it’s a steal and I cannot recommend it more highly.

Street Fighter II animated film released on Blu-ray disc

August 14th, 2017

I don’t know how I missed this least year, but I recently learned that the Japanese animated Street Fighter II movie was released on Blu-ray disc in October. This film has a long and complex history of Western releases, varying greatly in content and quality.

Following its 1994 theatrical release in Japan, SMV Enterprises released two versions (As Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie) on videotape in the US in 1995: a PG-13 version, and an urated version. Both versions were English-dubbed, and completely replaced the soundtrack with songs by Western artists like KMFDM and Alice in Chains. The PG-13 version included milder language for some scenes that included harsh dialogue in the unrated version, and it edited out the more graphic violence. But, even aside from the dubbing and soundtrack, neither version was faithful to the Japanese original—even the unrated version trimmed a number of shots, presumably for pacing rather than content in most cases, though the infamous Chun-Li shower scene was also truncated. The unrated version was also released on laserdisc, and eventually on DVD.

Chun Li vs. Vega

In 2006, Street Fighter II was re-released on DVD by Anchor Bay, in an edition that was labeled “Uncut, Uncensored, Unleashed.” This was a double-sided DVD containing the original Japanese version of the film (with optional English subtitles) on one side, and the English-dubbed version on the other. However, while this DVD’s English-dubbed version was not identical to the previously-released unrated version, neither was it completely uncensored. Instead, it was the version of the English dub originally released in the UK, which contained even harsher language than the US unrated version, and left all of the violence intact, but still trimmed incidental scenes for pacing. The shower scene was also more explicit than that of the US unrated version, but still edited compared to the Japanese original.

Then last October, Discotek Media released the film on DVD and Blu-ray, its high-definition debut in the US. Finally, this release consolidates just about every previous release, both English and Japanese, into one comprehensive package. The flim itself is uncensored, including all of the violence, nudity, and incidental shots that were omitted from previous English releases, and it includes no fewer than five different audio tracks:

  • the original Japanese audio
  • the US PG-13 English dub
  • the US unrated English dub
  • the UK unrated English dub
  • the English dub with the Japanese soundtrack

The Blu-ray’s producers went to great lengths to make this release so comprehensive. The three previously-released English dubs were all re-edited and re-synced to match up with the fully uncut version of the film, since all had previously been paired with censored versions. And the English dub with the Japanese soundtrack is a brand-new track, created from scratch especially for this release. Interestingly, this track’s English dialog isn’t a perfect match for any of the three existing English dubs. Instead of, say, using the UK version as the basis for this track just because it’s the most explicit, the producers decided to pick-and-choose the individual takes that were most faithful the original Japanese dialogue.

The Blu-ray's slipcover and case

The disc similarly includes an array of different subtitle tracks. For those watching the English versions, there’s one track that only translates signs and other on-screen text, and another that translates signs and text as well as the Japanese soundtrack’s song lyrics. For viewers of the Japanese version, a brand-new English subtitle translation was commissioned, which is presented here in two versions, reflecting both the Japanese and US versions of character names (the US version of the Street Fighter II video game upon which the film is based confusingly has three characters’ names switched around compared to the Japanese original).

The Blu-ray also includes a number of supplemental features, many of them focused on the film’s myriad versions. There are five trailers, three in Japanese and two in English, both of the latter from the UK. Also included are text-based notes covering the film’s original production and English translation, as well as biographies of the Street Fighter characters. Several production art galleries are also provided, including one especially interesting one dedicated to the film’s depiction of the game’s cartoonish, over-the-top special moves. The opening and closing credits from the original English home video releases are included as well. Since the main feature is sourced from an original Japanese print, these credits present the version English-speaking viewers remember from their old videotape or DVD. There’s also a version of the film’s ending without credits—in the film proper, the end titles play over this bit of animation. The US PG-13 version of the film is also included in its entirety. Unlike the main feature presentation, which includes the PG-13 audio track but pairs it with an uncensored version of the video, this is a faithful reproduction of the edited-down version from the old videotape release. It’s actually been recreated from scratch from the same HD master as the main film, rather than sourced from the old VHS master. So while this is the same version of the film fans will remember from their old videotape, it looks better than ever.

There’s also a collection of cut-scenes from the “Interactive Movie Game,” a Japan-exclusive video game based on the film, which included a lot of animation from the movie, but also had some new and unique scenes that weren’t actually used in the film itself. All that unique footage is compiled here. There’s a compilation of “alternate takes.” While the three different English-language versions of the film use a number of different takes between them for certain scenes, especially those involving profanity, there are just as many alternate takes that went unused. Some of them are interesting, and have nothing to do with profanity, like characters shouting the name of the attack they’re performing in English vs. Japanese. Finally, there’s a featurette titled “The Different Cuts,” which explores the many different releases of the film, particularly the numerous English-language versions, and exlpains how they were leveraged to create the disc’s verious audio tracks.

This release is virtually definitive, with almost nothing additional I can think of that could have been included. It would have been nice to have the original US & UK unrated versions included in their original forms, in addition to the US PG-13 version. But that’s a minor oversight in light of all the other great content on the disc and the lengths to which the producers went to present so many different versions of the English dub with the full-length, uncut version of the film.

I have no illusions about the quality of the film, but Street Fighter II has always been one of my favorite video games, and I was exactly the right age when this movie was originally released, so I have a soft spot for it. I’m ecstatic to finally have a definitive, high-quality version accessible to English-speaking audiences.

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