Final Round. – Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams

In our Final Round series, we take an in-depth look at as many fighting games as we possibly can!
In part 26, Shaun Eddleston takes a look at 1995’s Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams

Year of Release – 1995
Developer – CAPCOM
Publisher – CAPCOM
Platforms – Arcade, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Game Boy Colour

The early 90s was something of a boom period for fighting games. 2D fighters were coming out at a steady pace and the advent of 3D graphics was slowly starting to integrate itself into the genre with games such as Virtua Fighter and Tekken.

Everything was going swimmingly well, but there was one question that dwelled at the back of the gaming community’s minds though, and it was a big question at that; how the hell was Capcom going to follow Street Fighter II?

How was the company going to change its focus from adding updates to the absolutely monstrous industry changer and come up with something that would not only improve upon is predecessor, but bring something undeniably fresh to the massively popular Street Fighter franchise at the same time?

Anticipation was unbelievably high for Capcom’s next Street Fighter game, and in June of 1995, fans were introduced to Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams.

Was this worth the wait? Well, sort of…

Known in Japan as Street Fighter Zero, Street Fighter Alpha was not the fully fledged sequel that players may have been expecting, but an “inter-sequel” instead, taking place in between the events of Street Fighter and Street Fighter II. Originally in development for the Super Famicom as “Street Fighter Classic“, everything here in Alpha was completely redone from scratch, from the characters and game engine, to the music and sound. A new anime-inspired artstyle for each fighter was introduced, partly inspired by the 1994 animated movie for Street Fighter II (which we’ll be covering in a brand new series soon!).

In addition to the new look, a whole bunch of new gameplay features were implemented into the game. The “Super Combo” system that was introduced in Street Fighter II Turbo was now more refined, with the gauges at the bottom of the screen now having been split into thirds, allowing for super combos of varying strengths. An early version of parrying was now available in the form of “Alpha Counters” (a simple counter attack after blocking an opponents move), and “Alpha Combos” (which are pretty much early chain combos) allowed players to interrupt one of their moves with another move immediately, just to switch things up in combat.

Air blocking was now included, where players can guard against strikes in mid-air, and fall breaking was now a feature, allowing fighters to recover more effectively after being knocked to the ground.

According to the game’s director Hideaki Itsuno (who is known for his work on Devil May Cry, Dragon’s Dogma, Darkstalkers, Rival Schools: United By Fate and loads of other brilliant Capcom titles), SNK already had lots of fighting games out by this point, and most gamers thought that the only fighting game that Capcom had was Street Fighter II. With Street Fighter III already in development (but still a long way away from being completed), a separate team worked on Street Fighter Alpha very quickly, and the game saw an initial release on the company’s older CP board (an upgrade to the CPII board arrived soon after, due to the game’s popularity).


Promotional Material & Box Art

The arcade flyers for the game are based around a couple of main pieces of artwork. The first is the obligatory “Ryu and Ken” shot, which, as we’ll get into shortly, is a smart move considering the game’s slightly unexpected roster of fighters. For the Japanese release, we get Chun-Li and Rose, a great mix of the one of the most well known women in fighting games at the time and a brand new fighter.

Finally we get an ad for a bunch of Street Fighter-related products, including the game’s music on CD, and information about the anime series Street Fighter II V (which we plan to cover on an episode-by-episode basis in a new article series later this year!).

As is customary with many arcade releases of fighting games at the time, Street Fighter Alpha‘s roster was focused on in a line-up shot flyer. Each equipped with a screenshot to show the fighters off in action, we effectively get a little bit more insight as to who’s who in the game.

The last bit of arcade promotional material we’ll be looking at is a nice mix of concept artwork, in-game screenshots and teases of characters that Capcom fans will be more than familiar with (those characters being from Street Fighter II and Final Fight).

For Street Fighter Alpha‘s PlayStation port, a TV commercial was commissioned, and it’s definitely a strange one. Featuring an overly excitable gentleman, a trashed apartment, food flying around everywhere and two cockroaches engaged in some intense one-on-one crappy CGI combat, this wacky slice of 90s television is absolute insanity.

The home releases of the game understandably show off Ryu as the main fighter (it’s a Street Fighter game, of course they do). While the Japanese releases focus on Ryu & Ken’s longtime friendly rivalry, the western versions sprinkle in the new characters alongside the more well known world warriors and includes glimpses of M. Bison and Akuma in the artwork, prompting players to look into the games a little bit deeper.


Roster

Street Fighter Alpha‘s story takes place in between the events of the first Street Fighter and Street Fighter II.

The game’s playable roster was something of a surprise to fans of Street Fighter II, as only four characters from the game make an appearance here. The rest of the lineup is comprised of returning characters from the first Street Fighter, a couple of Final Fight characters and a handful of brand new faces to the franchise.

Ryu

After becoming the victor of the first world fighter tournament in the original Street Fighter, Ryu returns home to find that his master, Gouken, has been murdered. He learns that Akuma is responsible for Gouken’s death, so he sets out on a mission to track the demonic entity down and put an end to him.

As is to be expected, Ryu’s moveset remains largely unchanged from Street Fighter II, and his super combos have remained the same throughout the series. The shoto style that he carries ensures his spot as a perfect all-rounder for any player to use.

Ken Masters

Similarly to Ryu’s story, Ken returns from winning a USA martial arts championship to inform his master, Gouken, of his victory. He witnesses Gouken being killed by Akuma, and tries to attack him, only to be knocked down to the floor and defeated in a single blow.

Ken begins to wander the world in search of Akuma.

In the early versions of Street Fighter II, there was not much difference between Ken and Ryu’s moves, apart from maybe one of his throws looking slightly unique. In Street Fighter Alpha, Ken’s much more focused on style and speed, with some fiery kicks in his arsenal, making him a perfect choice for players that thrive on rushdown styles of playing

Sagat

Humiliated after his defeat (and left with a massive scar across his chest)by Ryu in the original Street Fighter tournament, Sagat enters the new tournament in order to exact revenge on him.

Sagat’s design here doesn’t differ tremendously from his Street Fighter II appearance, and his devastating Tiger attacks are on top form throughout Street Fighter Alpha. His sheer strength and long reach with his kicks make him one of the most dangerous offense fighters in the whole game.

Adon

A returning character from the first Street Fighter, Adon seeks to challenge (and defeat) Sagat for his title of “God of Muay Thai”.

While he technically shares a fighting style with Sagat, Adon’s moves feel a lot more flashy and acrobatic than his former master’s power-focused moves. Adon’s speed can be used to overwhelm opponents with a barrage of strike attacks and his Jaguar Kick is a brilliant anti-air maneuver.

Birdie

Another returning face from the original Street Fighter tournament is Birdie.This street thug from England is keen to join the ranks of Shadoloo, so he sets out to prove his strength to M. Bison, and hopefully gain full membership to the evil organisation.

Birdie’s a slow, lumbering bruiser that not only likes to use wrestling-inspired moves and vicious headbutts, but he can also stop his opponents dead in their tracks by capturing them with the chain that he constantly wields, slamming them into the ground over and over again. Ouch.

Charlie Nash

Charlie is a former captain of the United States Air Force, and best friend of Street Fighter II‘s Guile. He is ordered to track down and ultimately arrest the evil M. Bison for his past crimes.

Charlie (known simply as “Nash” in Japan) shares the majority of his moveset with Guile from Street Fighter II. His animations while pulling these moves off are somewhat different to the hunched up grimace of the man whose music goes with everything (that one-handed “Sonic Boom” is slick!), but otherwise, he’s pretty much a Guile clone for the most part.

Chun-Li

Working as an investigator for INTERPOL, Chun-Li looks into the circumstances that surround her father’s death. Upon learning that it is M. Bison (and the Shadoloo organisation in general) who is responsible for his death, she enters the tournament to seek revenge.

Besides a costume change, what’s new for Chun-Li in Street Fighter Alpha? Not much really, besides a new move called “Kikosho” where she gathers a ball of kinetic enrgy in her hands and releases it in a blast, dealing heaps of damage to anyone unfortunate enough to be close to her.

Sodom

A crossover character from the first Final Fight game (where he appeared as a boss character). Sodom is a Japanophile who is looking to recruit more members to Metro City’s Mad Gear Gang.

Check out the poster for Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie in the store’s window.

While he is now armed with a pair of deadly jitte instead of dual kitanas, Sodom is far easier to defeat in the Street Fighter series than when he appears as a boss in the original Final Fight game. However, as goofy and strange as his character seems at first glance, he’s still a formidable fighter when placed in the right player’s hands. Slashes from his weapons and a number of dash/throw combinations will whittle down a foe’s life gauge in no time whatsoever.

Guy

The second of Street Fighter Alpha‘s crossover characters is Guy from Final Fight. A modern-day ninja and the newest heir to the ancient martial art of Bishinryu Ninjutsu. After the events of the first Final Fight game, Guy pledges to defeat all the rising evil in the world, starting with Shadoloo’s M. Bison.

Guy’s moveset is directly inspired by his fighting style in the first Final Fight, and lacks any sort of projectile attacks. He does, however, have a number of off-the-wall kicks and lightning fast dash attacks at his disposal, making him one of the quicker, more unpredictable fighters in the game.

Rose

A brand new character in the Street Fighter series, Rose is an Italian fortune teller who senses a great evil in the world. She decides to track it down, ultimately finding her way towards M. Bison.

Rose’s fighting techniques are infused with “Soul Power”, a direct antithesis to the terrifying “Psycho Power” that M. Bison wields. Many of these attacks are pulled off through the scarf that she carries, and the fact that this power can be used as projectiles (and the ability to absorb and reflect enemy projectiles) makes her an excellent ranged character.

Hidden Characters

Dan Hibiki

Prior to the events of Street Fighter Alpha, Dan’s father, Go Hibiki, gouged out one of Sagat’s eyes (hence the now-iconic eyepatch). This resulted in Sagat murdering Go horribly.

Eager to get revenge for his father’s death, Dan trains to become a fighter (initially training at Gouken’s dojo, only to be expelled when they learn of his vengeance-fueled motivations). Dan develops his own style of fighting, mixing elements of the style used by Ryu and Ken with Muay Thai, naming it “Saikyō-ryū”.

The development of Dan’s as a character is one of the most interesting aspects of Street Fighter Alpha. Originally created as a parody of the two main characters in SNK’s Art Of Fighting, Ryo Sakazaki & Robert Garcia, with everything from his look to his ability to taunt infinitely (as opposed to the “once per round” rule that every other fighter is bound to) being lifted from the rival series at the time.

Dan is also purposely crappy as a character. His moveset is a noticeably downgraded version of Ken & Ryu’s, but with a super close-range version of a hadouken and many other moves replaced with taunts. The thought behind him was that if your opponent used Dan and beat you in a fight with him, then shame on you!

Encountering Dan to fight him requires players to perform the same winning speech in five consecutive battles (with no continues), and unlocking him requires a cheat combo code.

M. Bison

The big baddie of Street Fighter II also serves as a major villain in Street Fighter Alpha. The head of the nefarious Shadoloo organisation, under the effects of “Psycho Power” travels the globe, seeking out the strongest martial artists in the world in order to defeat them and absorb their power.

Those who are familiar with Bison’s moves in Street Fighter II will feel right at home with his Alpha version. The major difference here is his look, as he’s noticeably more hench than his previous appearances in the franchise so far.

In order to unlock M. Bison as a playable fighter in the arcade version of the game, players must quickly input a secret code at character select.

Akuma

After murdering his older brother (Ryu & Ken’s master, Gouken) and slowly becoming more consumed by the evil of the Satsui no Hado, Akuma travels across the world to search for (and defeat) opponents who he deems as being powerful.

Street Fighter‘s resident demonic presence plays much more of a pivotal role in the Alpha series’ storylines, but, like many of the other fighters in the game, doesn;t add much to his moveset outside of a couple of impressive super combos. He’s still hard as nails though, especially when encountering him in arcade mode (RIP health bar).

Encountering Akuma is achievable by reaching the final boss with 10 super finishes under your belt and no continues, while unlocking him as a playable character requires specific button combinations to be pressed while at the character select menu.


Levels

The stages that you’ll be fighting in throughout Street Fighter Alpha are a mixed bag in terms of quality. While some levels do offer a little bit of variety, including a day/night version, and an instance where the characters in the background actually interact with fighters at the end of a round (make it rain!), the stages here are a bit dull and uninteresting.

If there was any part of Street Fighter Alpha that looks like a victim of the game being rushed to release, it’s definitely this aspect.


Victory!

As Street Fighter Alpha is set prior to the events of Street Fighter II, many of the endings here give us an interesting insight into why Sagat joins up with M. Bison, what Chun-Li’s motivations are and the continuing road to learning the true way of the warrior with Ryu.

As for everyone else, the results vary between Adon becoming the “God of Muay Thai” (and turning down an offer from M. Bison), Dan’s overconfidence getting him into trouble, Sodom’s lame attempts at rebranding the Mad Gear Gang, and Birdie becoming Shadoloo’s most feared bouncer.

Canonically, many (if not all) of the endings presented here don’t matter too much, as they’re effectively retconned in the sequel, Street Fighter Alpha 2, just a year later.


Overall Verdict

AVERAGE

Visually, Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams is a breath of fresh air, effectively setting the tone for the majority of the rest of the Alpha series and the next main chapter in the Street Fighter franchise. The anime-inspired sprites are bursting with colour and charm, and, as a result, are some of my favourites in the series (many of them ended up in the first VS title, X-Men Vs. Street Fighter). The inter-sequel stories, Final Fight characters and new gameplay features that the game brings to the table are also pretty interesting, and offer a somewhat satisfying glimpse into the future of the series.

However, the game definitely feels like it was prematurely rushed as a release, meaning that it noticeably lacks the constantly polished “oomph” that the several iterations of the legendary Street Fighter II provided just a couple of years earlier and a number of the backgrounds that the fights take place in are a little bit boring and lifeless at times.

It’s a good start, and fantastic to look at, so it’s a bit of a shame that Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams doesn’t do quite enough to distinguish itself from its older sibling.


Have you played Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams?
Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!

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