In the console wars of the 16-bit generation, the most contentious battles were fought over Street Fighter II, easily the biggest game of the era. Nintendo won the first skirmish, with their home port of SFII coming a few months after the release of Champion Edition in the arcade. Those of us who wore the black badges of Sega were out in the cold, as the rumored home port of Champion Edition on the Genesis was delayed multiple times. The pictures in the game magazines of the era told a sad story of that port—the graphics were shabby, and the top of the screen with player data cut off the background art in favor of a plain black bar. The heartache was compounded when the Genesis port was compared to the PC Engine port of Champion Edition, which was arcade perfect and had a six-button controller to boot.
Capcom released the next iteration of SFII (Hyper Fighting/Turbo) in December of 1992, and the Super Nintendo port followed soon after. It seemed that the battle had been won, handily, in favor of the greys over the blacks. Yet that port was not perfect. The character portraits weren’t the sharp images of the arcade, and the defeated portraits were static and bland. The stages were animated, but not as crisp. The Genesis wasn’t down and out, and still had a chance to fight back. In October, Capcom released the oddly named Special Champion Edition, a hybrid of both Champion and Hyper Fighting styles. The game used the better color palette from Champion Edition, and had the turbo speed unlocked from the start (as opposed to the SNES requiring a secret code). Really, the only flaw in the Genesis version was the sound effects, which had the quality of being broadcast through empty soup cans.
Oh, and the controller. The Genesis, you may remember, had a three-button pad as its default, and that made for awkward play in a game noted for using all six buttons. Yes, you could hit the start button to switch between punches and kicks, but in practice, you were never going to be able to do a ducking forward kick into a hadouken and manage to hit Start in between the two button presses. Sega fans were saved from having to play the old jumping roundhouse, ducking roundhouse game by the release of the six-button Genesis gamepad, which was designed specifically with SFII in mind. The button layout was far more conducive to playing fighting games than the SNES—no awkward shoulder buttons to banish fierce and roundhouse to.
Street Fighter II’ Special Champion Edition was exactly what Sega fans were hoping for: A game as good as any other version, and even better in some regards. And once Mortal Kombat came out, Sega made its mark as the best system for fighting games, a reputation that lasted all the way through the Dreamcast.
Article by Shivam Bhatt
GameSpite Journal 12: Street Fighter II’