Capcom Fighting Collection
Keep Rockin', Baby
Capcom and anthology collections have been as expected since the 90s, when video game preservation meant everything. As the arcade scene slowly shifted to the home console markets, the quest for "arcade perfect" versions of titles in the comfort of one's home continued. Thanks primarily to the advancements made in technology, these collections became more creative, standing out as a labor of love than a "collection" of games. Despite its name, Capcom Fighting Collection prides itself on a celebration of Capcom's 30-plus years in fighting games. How does it do this? By giving us a glimpse into the future.
Reading the title, you're probably wondering "Nay, what do you mean by CFC being a 'prequel' to Street Fighter 6?" When you boot the game, you're treated to splashes of graffiti ink, cartoon-inspired character art that is cute and super-deformed, and a hip-hop-based soundtrack. Since Street Fighter 6 was announced, it bore a similar aesthetic with splashes of graffiti atop an asphalt background, upbeat music, and a vibrant style altogether. The menu for Capcom Fighting Collection screams "Modern Street Fighter" and it very well may be the blueprint for what we'll see in 2023.
There are also "easy inputs" for each of the games, where a simple "shoryuken" is now "forward + special button," making tricky links as simple as pressing a button, literally. Considering the uproar the community recently had over "modern controls," this may be a vision of what Capcom expects the modern controls to play like in Street Fighter 6. But what do I know? It's all speculation and the main attraction is the fighting games.
Capcom Fighting Collection Grabs Your Attention From The Start
Fighter Awards, one of the first options players will be greeted with in the Main Menu, is the Collection's way of keeping records. Everything is documented, from your favorite character in a specific game to the achievement tracker. Thankfully, Capcom Fighting Collection's achievements are reasonable in that the player doesn't require Online Play to get them all. Unlocking the achievements doesn't unlock anything extra but it's a good way to entice players to try things. A perfect example is the bonus "shoot-em-up" minigame in the credits for Red Earth.
Getting over 50% accuracy unlocks the achievement but for players unfamiliar with Red Earth, it shows them something new that they wouldn't have seen before otherwise. Another neat addition is the inclusion of an "Easy Select." Each game has several hidden characters that require nothing short of solving a puzzle to unlock them. Easy Select gets rid of all the busywork, making characters like Akuma in Hyper Street Fighter 2 as easy as pressing "up" above Ryu. No more "Orange Ryu," if you know you know.
The Ultimate Capcom Fighting Collection?
Offline Play is where the player can choose from 10 different fighting games. Capcom Fighting Collection isn't the best Capcom collection just because of its aesthetic and bonus content. It also has one of the rarest assortment of games ever featured. Games like Hyper Street Fighter 2 had appeared in other collections in the past, most recently the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection. This is the first time that the entire Darkstalkers/Vampire series was released outside of Japan. During the PS2 era, there was a Vampire collection that was only released in Japan. The infamous Darkstalkers Ressurection released almost a decade ago featured Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge and Vampire Savior.
Not only is the original Darkstalkers included, but so are its "sequels." More on that later. Other fan favorites include Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix and Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo. The final two games, Cyberbots, and Red Earth, for the first time ever, have been released outside of Japan. In the latter's case, it's the first documented release on a platform other than the arcade version. With the exception of the "two Darkstalkers sequels," every game has a Japanese and English version, effectively doubling the total to 18 games. There's a lot to cover, so I'll focus on the games I felt had a lasting impression on other games in the series, beginning with...
Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo Remains Capcom's Flagship Puzzler
Originally released in the arcades in 1996 during the midst of Capcom's glory days, Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo featured characters from Darkstalkers and Street Fighter. Rather than zoning with hadoukens and anti-airing with shoryukens, the fighting took place on a grid with blocks flying at breakneck speeds. Puzzle Fighter borrowed elements from other arcade titles including Puyo Puyo and provided its own spin. This would also be the first time that the roster took on a chibi appearance, as is shown through the promo material in Capcom Fighting Collection.
Being the outlier of the list of games, knowledge of puzzle games is needed to survive to the end. The CPU is relentless even in its "easiest" difficulty and serves as a testament to the Capcom arcade experience. Knowledge of stacking blocks of the same color to create larger blocks, setting up chains, and knowing your opponent's attacks are keys to victory. Every character has a specific "attack pattern" that range from comically bad (Like Dan's "all red block attack") to insanely complex. The two hidden characters, Akuma and Devilot, have the most unique patterns, sweeping in a diagonal motion.
I mentioned that the roster is based on Darkstalkers and Street Fighter, but Devilot is an interesting case as her origin is from Cyberbots. Capcom knew that the game was rather niche compared to the other two fighters and her win quotes reflect this. Despite sharing the same stats as Akuma, winning fights in the later half of Arcade mode proved to be too much. Akuma is a cheater in Hyper Street Fighter 2 and he's definitely one in this game as well. So, what about Devilot? What role does she play in Cyberbots?
Cyberbots Full Metal Madness Should Have Been A Full Series
A year before Puzzle Fighter, Cyberbots was a mecha fighting game released in 1995. While it was released on the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, it was only released in Japan and it saw a limited release in America. Therefore, it should be a lot of people's first time playing Cyberbots, right? Well, if you played a little well-known game called Marvel vs Capcom, you know of Jin Saotome and his Blodia mech. Arguably the most eccentric character in the game, it pains me to say that you don't get to play as Jin outside of his mech. The Blodia mech, known as VAs in this game, joins a roster packed with various archetypes unique and familiar to fighters.
Perhaps the selling point for Cyberbots is its authenticity in mecha combat. These were before the days of Gundam fighting games and the like, so there wasn't an exact blueprint as to how such a game should play. Rather than a grounded fighting game, the mechs feel slow, clunky, and can fly around at any given time. They also deal insane damage, with a regular combo taking well over half health. This encourages using the mechs as the weapons they were intended for rather than individual fighting game characters.
This is also the only game where the character you select doesn't have any effect on the VAs themselves. The pilots only influence the winning quotes and the stories for each pilot. So, where does Devilot play in Cyberbots? She's the game's mid-boss in the story, being the leader of a band of space pirates whose intent is to steal everyone's VAs. She's largely unsuccessful and is used for comic relief, but her VA is a cool octopus. The final boss is cheap and the definition of "Capcom Boss Syndrome," however. I suppose if your VA is literally the RX-178 from Mobile Suit Gundam Zeta, you can afford to be a cheap son of a gun. This was kind of ridiculous, however.
Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix Does Not Roll Off The Tongue Like "Pocket Fighter"
When I first played Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix, like most games at the time, I had rented it from Blockbuster which came in clutch on several occasions. I distinctly remember this game titled Pocket Fighter but it was marketed everywhere else as the other title. It turns out, this isn't a "Bernstain/Bernstein Bears" moment. The console versions in North America had the same title as the Japanese arcade release. I'd assume this was done for consistencies sake but I end this ramble to say that I've had a childhood experience with this game.
Anyways, Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix in some ways can be a sequel to Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo. Both games feature characters from various Capcom fighting games as chibi. The personalities of the characters are exaggerated tenfold because it's a fighting game this time around. Chun-Li for example references several women from other Capcom games including June from Star Gladiator and Jill from Resident Evil. While not every character returns from Puzzle Fighter (Sorry Donovan fans), others make their grand appearance including Ibuki from Street Fighter 3 and Zangief.
The gameplay is unlike anything from a traditional Street Fighter or Capcom game for that matter. Instead of six buttons, Gem Fighter uses three buttons---punch, kick, and special. There are no "light medium and heavy" attacks as that's where the gem mechanic comes into play. There are three meters labeled red, yellow, and blue, each representing a special attack. As each fighter pummels the other, various colored gems will fall. Occasionally, an NPC will fly across the screen dropping gems, health, and items. Collect enough gems and you will "level up," increasing the power of your special moves. Ken's special attacks will gain the fire attribute, deal more damage, and even knock down the opponent.
Because there's only a single "punch" and "kick" button, Gem Fighter features a "dial-a-combo" system which is simple "mashing" on paper. There are enough mix-ups and gimmicks however to warrant a surprising competitive environment. Pocket Fighter is arguably one of the easiest games to learn that's rewarding to master. But what about Tessa? There's representation from Street Fighter and Darkstalkers again, but who is this woman? Another Cyberbots representative? Nope, we have one from Red Earth which, after playing Pocket Fighter, there are a lot of similarities between the two. That's because the latter took many elements from Red Earth and simplified them. Perhaps it's time to talk about the star of the compilation...
Red Earth---The Game No One Played
The last game I'll take a look at through a microscope is the rarest one in the collection. It was so rare that it saw a very limited release outside of Japan. It was also never released on consoles, making the 1996 Capcom fighter one of the most obscure arcade titles in history. Red Earth or Warzard in Japan was the first game to be released on the CPS-3 board. The very same board that housed the legendary Street Fighter 3 series as well as the two Jojo's Bizarre Adventure fighting games, making it one of six titles on the arcade board.
Red Earth brought out the potential that the CPS-3 board had compared to its older siblings as the graphics blew almost everything else out the water in terms of 2D. at the time. The character details, especially towards the game's bosses, were of the highest quality. Red Earth sought to go for a mature "realistic" appearance, similar to that of the Dungeons & Dragons beat-em-up released a few years prior. Perhaps what's most unique about the title is that there are only four characters to choose from.
Each character represents a certain "archetype," including Leo the Barbarian, Kenji the Ninja, Mai-Ling the Monk, and finally Tessa the Witch. As Red Earth predated Pocket Fighter by two years, many of its mechanics would eventually find their way into Pocket Fighter. Red Earth was a fighting game in which the characters can gain experience and level up. The maximum level was in the 30s and at certain levels, the characters "learn" new moves. Leo, for example is a simple melee swordsman with mix-up potential in early levels. In the later levels, he turns into Zangief with access to an SPD, effectively turning him into a grappler melee hybrid. Kenji goes from a simple ninja to a ninja...with firearms and explosives.
The real draw for Red Earth is the single player adventure mode, with each character having a fleshed out story much like Cyberbots. The difference here is that rather than fighting each other, the characters fight against larger than life bosses. Players will fight a dinosaur, a harpy, an annoying octopus squid thing, and an evil sorcerer with annoying twin dragons. Players can even earn different endings depending on how well they've played throughout the adventure. Red Earth has a password system to boost players to the maximum level as well as skip directly to the credits for the "ultimate speedrun." Overall, while we would see some of these characters in Capcom Fighting Jam, it goes without saying that it's best to play the original for the best experience.
Capcom Fighting Collection Is Worth The Money
What's that? I didn't cover Vampire Hunter 2 and Vampire Savior 2? Ah, well I'll make it brief.
Perhaps the other two rare games featured in the collection, Vampire Hunter 2 and Vampire Savior 2 are confusing on paper considering they both appear as reskins of Vampire Savior. You wouldn't be wrong to guess that, as both titles were released around the same time following the release of Vampire Savior running on the same engine. Vampire Hunter 2 uses the same music and roster from the second game in the series. Vampire Savior 2 swaps three of the characters from Vampire Savior with some of the characters from Vampire Hunter.
It's hard to keep up, but think of both versions as "What If?" upgrades to a game that had existed months ago as the tournament standard. It's good for novelty purposes, but to this day people still play Vampire Savior above all, so there's that.
With so many Capcom collections out right now, including a voucher for a free game from its recent Arcade collection, picking this one up is a simple conclusion for fans of fighting games. Players who are interested in Capcom's heyday and would like to see some of their obscure titles should pick up Capcom Fighting Collection. Its bonuses aren't groundbreaking, but the easy access to bonus characters plus versions of other games are worth the price.
Capcom Fighting Collection is available on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC.