Super Fighter Special Edition ReviewFebruary 18, 2014
I’m sure a few readers out there were lucky enough to have grown up during the time of the arcade fighting game boom that began in the late 1980s. It was a time when a single quarter still meant something – back when you could jump from machine to machine without having wasted five dollars in a single go and dying in less than a minute. The fighting game revolution was a time of legend, but it wasn’t without history, and it certainly didn’t begin with Street Fighter II. There are many precursors — some that a lot of people don’t even know about — such as the legendary Yie Ar Kung Fu, which you can check out briefly in the video below.
In fact, some of the earliest arcade games can easily be considered precursors to the genre, looking back to some of the one-on-one stand-ups of the early days. Fighting with fists in the arcade was never too far removed from some of the two-player combat games of old. It’s simple – nothing was better than facing off against another human opponent, especially during a time when AI wasn’t very advanced. When Street Fighter II eventually hit the arcades, it caused a revolution. Countless clones appeared, as well as titles which were more than capable of standing on their own and added new concepts to the genre.
Eventually, of course, games like Mortal Kombat and Time Killers began to further develop violence, whereas others focused on showy combo maneuvers and effects, such as the Marvel Vs. Capcom series. Of course, there were those who wanted to make a quick buck, “borrowing” the look, the style, and even most of the basic moves of the more successful titles. If you were around then, you probably remember the obvious bootlegging done by Data East when they released Fighter’s History, which was so clearly a clone it might as well have been a lost twin and actually led to a lawsuit.
It wasn’t the only clone of its type, however — even Neo Geo had a few fighters that were suspiciously similar to others, and in Asia, the land of piracy galore, the Taiwanese eventually got their hands on the concept and released a little-known title called Super Fighter. Released in 1993 by Taiwan company C&E Inc., it was available for play via PC DOS and was ported in English as “Fatal Encounter”, but it pretty much fell under the radar due to low production numbers. Taiwan and Hong Kong were known for their history of bootlegging and piracy, copying everything under the sun, and generally the purpose was to make money off of something well-known and leave it at that. In this case, however, a fan fell in love with the game, and dreamed of sharing it with a wider audience. That fan, Brandon Cobb, created Super Fighter Team – a company named after this forgotten title. Check out the original game here:
Super Fighter Team has released a number of impressive homebrews over the past few years for systems like the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, but their first project was this one we’re looking at today, Super Fighter Special Edition. It all started when Brandon Cobb, after making a Super Fighter fan site and translating it into Chinese, was contacted by C&E. The company thanked Cobb for supporting their game, rewarding him with the legal rights to the title and the original source code. This included tons of animation frames that were absent from the original release due to system limitations. They had never been seen outside of development, until the Special Edition was born. God bless the internet.
Having not played the original, even though I have access to lots of older PC games, I had to rely on videos of gameplay for comparison. It’s obvious from even the usage of a DOS Box that the original version had its problems. It’s clearly a Street Fighter II clone in every sense of the word, but that’s something we can ignore because, hey, any true gamer likes those oddball bootleggers and pirates out there and all the bizarre good they do. You’ve got your Chun Li, you’ve got your Ryu, you’ve got them all in different forms, but what you don’t have is the gameplay. It’s glaringly obvious that Super Fighter was stripped of certain elements in order to save disc space, because the majority of player movements are constricted to only a few frames, making the game appear choppy or unfinished. The sound effects and music face the same problem, and overall the game is basically incomplete. It feels like that Power Rangers bootleg your grandmother got you from Dollar General – it’s just not the same thing.
Super Fighter Special Edition, however, is impressive and reveals essentially what the original programmers were hoping to accomplish. Just check out that video above, which shows a full playthrough with one of the characters. First off, the music and sound are much better. Though quirky in that bootleg kind-of way, it’s nice to see it in a more complete form, with completely fresh audio. The programmers did an excellent job of retaining the feel of the the time period and matching sound to visuals, because you’d swear it was an original title from the 90s without prior knowledge otherwise. Second, the graphics are awesome. Just by comparing the videos we provided here, you can easily see how much work was put into making a more impressive title. The sprites are smoother and the extra animations add a lot to the play experience. Third, the gameplay. Now, let’s not be fools here, this is a straight Street Fighter II clone, so straight it’s crooked. Basically every character has been shamelessly lifted from the classics, we can’t avoid that fact. However, this time around you’re treated to additional moves, including super attacks, and the ability to select bosses during the character select screen. So in its foundations, it’s a much better approach.
Gameplay-wise, it’s something any fighting fan can pick up and play, because the button combinations are largely what you expect. It’s recommended you get a joystick or control pad for it, however, because playing with the keyboard for any kind of game like this is largely a futile effort. More complex combos and moves are sometimes impossible to pull off, so do yourself a favor if you try it out and go for a controller of some sort.
Overall, this is a wonderful project. What makes Super Fighter Special Edition so wonderful is that someone took the time to care about something that had long been forgotten, contributing a piece of history for when this sort of thing is studied by scholars of the future (we firmly believe that around here). When a labor of love comes to fruition and turns out this good, with so much of an effort to keep it true to its roots, it deserves credit. Perhaps we can hope for a Super Fighter Special Incredibly Insane EX Plus Alpha Edition in the future? More characters? More detailed graphics? On-disk DLC costume colors? I’m game buddy, let’s see it!