Listen, I like Street Fighter a lot. It’s the only fighting game I have patience for. Something about its colorful cast, incomparable historical value, and reaction-based gameplay systems are the perfect storm of how I think a fighting game should feel. It doesn’t matter which one, I can find something to enjoy about each iteration. (Well, save for maybe the EX series.) I’ve played several renditions of Street Fighter II, up to and including the HD version from a few years ago with UDON-supplied art and several new music remixes. It had its issues, but it was a cool package, which brings me to Ultra Street Fighter II.
There’s an issue with the upcoming Switch game, which comes out this May. It doesn’t particularly look like a bad game. As it stands, it seems to be a refreshed version of the HD game that can also be played in its original form. On top of that are new balance adjustments and new Street Fighter II versions of Evil Ryu and Violent Ken. They’re bizarre re-skins, but new characters by Street Fighter logic and, frankly, execution to a degree. It even has a goofy first-person mode nobody knows much about yet, sure to be a hilarious gimmick to mess around with on the new hardware.
What has people in a tizzy is the price point, as Ultra Street Fighter II is having the red carpet rolled out for it in a way Street Fighter II hasn’t in a long time. Not only is it being released physically (with sick new box art, by the way), it also has a substantial, $40 price tag. It’s not full retail at $60 and falls short of the $50 Super Bomberman R, but that’s still way more than anyone has had to pay for a new release of Street Fighter II in a long time. $40, to many people, is just way too much for what seems like a game that was released for significantly less back in 2008.
But is it? Is $40 way too much to ask for a new release of a game from the 90’s, regardless of how it’s presented? Super Bomberman R, a reboot of an even older formula, costs even more, but the argument there is at least it’s a sequel, rather than a re-release or update. Do we, then, assign value on games based on some kind of content-based algorithm? Game release must have X percent brand new content to apply to the next pricing bracket? That doesn’t sit right with me, not all the way through this train of thought, anyway.
I’m all for cheaper, more affordable games. Sales and digital releases have made cool and interesting games available for lower prices and with less inherent risk on the part of publishers and developers. But what happens then, when a publisher wants to drop a little extra coin to do something cool with a game? In this case, would a full retail release of a classic game, with new adjustments and content on new hardward, not cost way more money to produce upfront than dropping it on the PlayStation Network? Makes sense to me.
The problem here is how we apply value to older games. I can jump on eBay right now and struggle to find a copy of Super Mario All-Stars on the SNES for less than $30, but when Nintendo drops it on the Virtual Console, it suddenly isn’t worth more than $5 or so. This is why preserving gaming history is so difficult, and the reason why projects like The Video Game History Foundation struggle to get off the ground and do good work. People see an old game and immediately assign it to the bargain bin or banish it to the digital marketplaces, which are minefields of rights issues and end of service dates.
Why is it so hard for Capcom justify doing a cool boutique release of one of history’s most important games? There are plenty of chances to just play Street Fighter II on the cheap, but this package is a Street Fighter nut’s dream. There’s new box art, new modes, high resolution and playable on the go. My judgment may be clouded a bit, due to my inherent Street Fighter fandom, but I feel like that’s who this is for. It’s not for the casual fan; that’s what Street Fighter V is for. Heck, I’m sure The World Warrior and the like will show up on the Virtual Console eventually.
The Nintendo Switch is leaping into 2017 with physical, retail copies of games I would not have predicted even several months ago. Bomberman, Street Fighter II, The Binding of Isaac and even Puyo Puyo Tetris are coming. These games would have been dropped onto a digital store and forgotten about before. Now, this new platform is giving older or non-AAA properties a chance to have a real spotlight shined on them, as well as offering a chance for the classics to recapture some of their lost value. That seems pretty cool to me.
Image Credit: BartekDanielak