RETRO REBOOT | Street Fighter Alpha: Warrior's Dreams (Sega Saturn)

Every journey has to begin somewhere...but I don't intend to review the very first Street Fighter quite yet. That would require playing it again, and I currently have more urgent tasks ahead of that, like individually plucking my nose hairs with a pair of rusty pliers. Instead, I'll be taking a look at what I had greatly anticipated; a brand NEW Street Fighter game.

By 1994, I had studied, practiced, and nailed down every incarnation of Street Fighter II I was able to get my hands on (excluding Super Turbo, as we did not have a home computer). Then the images for Street Fighter Alpha appeared in an issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, and my jaw hit the floor. "Is THIS Street Fighter III finally??!!". I would later be a little disappointed that Alpha was a prequel to the World Warrior games, something that would be a recurring problem with the Street Fighter series until SF6; a failure to advance the plot. But I digress, the visuals alone shattered my expectations into atoms, and I couldn't wait to play it.

Built on Capcom's CP-System II Engine (which powered everything from Darkstalkers to Marvel Super Heroes), Street Fighter Alpha was released in arcades in 1995, with near perfect home ports hitting the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn consoles. As we had a Saturn, and our household liked to throw down in the tournament fighters, this was an obvious grab. The new hand drawn sprites sporting amazing detail and bright colors, this was one of the fighters that cemented the golden age years of the genre. 

As mentioned, Alpha (titled Zero in Japan) is a prelude to Street Fighter II and takes place after the first game. Younger faced versions of Ryu, Ken, Chun Li, and Sagat, along with Final Fight characters Guy, an ally to Cody and Mike Haggar, and Sodom, a member of the Mad Gear Gang who may be video games' first weeabo. Rose, a mystic from Italy who's seeking out M. Bison's Psycho Power in order to destroy it. Adon and Birdie return from SF1 with some redesigns. Adon, a former pupil of Sagat who feels disgraced by his former mentor's loss and aims to become the king of Muay Thai kickboxing. Birdie, now a Black British punk rock thug.

We're also introduced to Charlie Nash, Guile's friend who was later killed by M. Bison. Speaking of, the Shadaloo boss appears as one of three boss characters in the game, alongside Akuma, a common adversary/rival for Ryu, and Dan, a parody of Kyokugen Karate masters Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia from SNK's Art of Fighting. He has a history with Sagat, who slayed his father, Go, the man responsible for the loss of Sagat's eye. For me, this was the first time the Street Fighter universe began to feel truly expansive.

Street Fighter Alpha saw some changes to the core mechanics. The newly revamped Super Combos now could allow up to three stocks. The power of your Super Combo is determined by many of the respective punch or kick buttons you press. Also new to the series is a universal defensive counterattack called "Alpha Counter", and air blocking.

The original directors behind Street Fighter II had accidentally created Chain Combos, but by this point, they began doubling down on them. Combos in SF Alpha wouldn't become as insane as future entries, but the depth could be felt. Special moves are responsive, each character sports a unique play style, and I feel a great deal of its gameplay holds up to this day.

While Street Fighter III was just a little bit away from the Alpha line of games, the deepening of the lore and the experimenting with the gameplay elements in this trip to history. The character sprites would be used for a universe of games within themselves, the music is catchy and a lot of the sound effects were evocative and synonymous with the time period. 

As a game, the first Street Fighter Alpha's mechanics hasn't aged as well as its sequel, it's limited in its combo variety by comparison, but it's quite accessible; retaining the feel of the World Warrior series with a blend of the future, while reaching into the past. 

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