The Street Fighter Alpha series may have been the foundation on which the Basement Kumite was built upon. In a time before gaming websites could keep us up to date with upcoming releases, Street Fighter Alpha dropped and quickly eclipsed its forebear Super Street Fighter II Turbo in quality and complexity. It combined a graphical upgrade embracing a more anime look with new mechanics such as alpha counters and a 3 level super gauge making this version of Street Fighter feel more adept. It continued to improve all the way up to the final release in the series, the fighting game G.O.A.T. Street Fighter Alpha 3.
It was in a daylong session of Street Fighter Alpha 3 that I learned how to properly use Zangief. The Siberian Express required a level of spacing and execution that I could never get accustomed to. And while I could handily defeat Dana on any given day, his dexterity with the Russian Cyclone was to be admired. I just couldn’t understand how he could pull off those stupid SPDs without jumping, for the love of GOD how can you do a 360 degree motion from a neutral position without jumping?!
In a session fueled by good ol’ DNA (drugs n’ alcohol) Dana was able to show me the way; you don’t have to roll the entire control pad in a full 360 degree motion to execute the SPD. A thumb motion from forward, down-forward, down, down-back, back and then a nudge to up forward was the key to pulling it off! EUREKA! This knowledge would lead me on a path to more advanced techniques, such as buffering inputs for SPD frame traps, and plinking buttons to make difficult combos easier to achieve. This was beneficial to my Zangief play and allowed me to thrive with other characters in Street Fighter Alpha’s eclectic roster.
Capcom had a unique opportunity to take advantage of Street Fighter Alpha’s skewed timeline by bringing back lesser known characters from the original Street Fighter. They also decided to expand the Street Fighter universe by adding fighters from another one of Capcom’s popular series, Final Fight. Suddenly, Cody and Guy from the Final Fight series were viable World Warriors, while Birdie and Adon were making their first appearances since the original Street Fighter. And let’s not forget the awesomeness of Sodom! Street Fighter Alpha carried the tradition of adding new and exciting characters with diverse move-sets, while looking prettier than ever.
Inspired by the popular Street Fighter V anime series, Street Fighter Alpha’s animation style was undeniably an upgrade over previous entries. Ken and Ryu were given a much younger look, while Sagat and M. Bison appeared more beefy and menacing. Perhaps this is where they got the awesome Dramatic Battle idea from? Akin to Ken and Ryu’s final clash with M. Bison in the anime, you could team up with a friend to battle it out 2 on 1 style! What great couch co-op! Street Fighter Alpha 3 turned this feature up a notch by presenting a full arcade mode where you could battle to the end along with a friend against computer opponents!
And let’s not forget the beautiful stages and background music that layered each match with an incredible setting. From the beautiful Roman Coliseum, to an endless line of bicyclists crossing the Beijing stage, Capcom went all out to make these games look like an action-anime at our fingertips. I still long to hear ‘Kakugo’ (Sodom’s theme) from time to time!
The superb action of the Street Fighter Alpha series is one of the primary reasons I champion the fighting game genre. If only we could stream our matches online back then! I can recall sitting in a dank basement filled with smoke the first time I saw my friend pull off Akuma’s mythical Raging Demon. I had originally scoffed at the idea that someone could catch me with such a complicated button combination mid-match.
But, once the ‘Master of the Fist’ slid across the screen on one foot like some otherworldly demon, grabbing my favorite character, Ken Masters by the lapels of his red Karate gi we were frozen in awe. The look on Ken’s pixelated face showed that even he knew he was in for some pain as the screen went black and random bursts of hit detection flashed across the screen. The eerie whistling sound as Akuma stood over Ken’s lifeless body has become iconic.
Man, I tensed up just writing that! Let’s make the Basement Kumite great again! If you have fond memories of Street Fighter Alpha, get it off your chest in the comments below!