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There's something about Street Fighter games that keeps me coming back for more, regardless of how many of the endless stream of titles I've played. I think I own about 20 games in the series, and this one was picked up when I was in the strongest phase of my Fighter fever.
A lot is said about the similarity between each title, and I suppose that from the point of view of a casual fan, this is true. The games do look and play very similarly, with only changes in animation, move sets and battle modes seperating them. You know, the kind of stuff only a nerd notices or cares about. I guess what keeps on bringing me (and a billion other 2D beat 'em up fans) back are those small differences - not necessarily the improvements, but the differences.
Take Fighting Jam, for instance. The only thing that really separates this from any of the other dozen or so similar games available is the fact that it throws together a mix of fighters from a mix of games. Essentially, the only point of this game is to grab your favourite character and pit them against a host of opponents they're not used to. Not exactly a thrilling prospect, even for the most hardcore fan, but a decent enough gimmick to trick me into paying out for it.
The game is simplistic, following the traditional Street Fighter formula very strictly. There are no new modes of play, and in fact there are very few modes full stop. There's no story to speak of, just a bunch of characters having a bit of a ruck (I imagine there is some sort of tournament going on).
Your chosen characters (of which there are two) will go up against the others in a string of one-on-one battles until you prove your worth and take on the boss. Special moves such as the traditional Hadouken fireball allow you to unleash powerful attacks on your enemies. Mixed in with these supernatural powers are regular kick and punch attacks, as well as jumps, blocks and throws. Mastery of your chosen characters is the real challenge here, not the quest for victory in the tournament. Anyone can pick up this style of game and just button bash until they win, but the dedicated player can learn their fighter inside out and become a truly versatile, impressive warrior.
The characters have been drafted from varios Capcom 2D beat 'em up games - Street Fighter II, Street Fighter III, Street Fighter Alpha, Darkstalkers and Red Earth. Here's a complete lowdown on who's available:
Street Fighter II - Guile, M Bison, Ryu, Zangief.
Street Fighter III - Alex, Chun-Li, Urien, Yun.
Street Fighter Alpha - Guy, Karin, Rose, Sakura.
Darkstalkers - Anakaris, Demitri, Felicia, Jedah.
Red Earth - Leo, Hauzer, Hydron, Kenji.
New character exclusive to Fighting Jam - Ingrid.
These combatants seem to have literally been copied and pasted from their source games. Combat systems remain the same as they were in each source game. For example, the Street Fighter II guys have a Super Combo system, the Darkstalkers use their 'Special Stock' gauge. This makes the way their special moves and combos are accessed and used slightly different.
Sprites have not been updated. This is a bit of a downfall because some of them really look like they've been ripped straight out of the SNES, which not only looks bad on its own, but when placed alongside the better looking characters (mostly the Street Fighter III guys), it looks ridiculous.
The game plays well enough. There is nothing wrong with the engine, or the playability. It's a basic Street Fighter style game. The only difference is that you have to fight in teams of two, and they alternate from round to round. Personally, I hate having this forced upon me, and while games like Capcom Vs. SNK 2 provided the choice to use or avoid this, this game provides it as the only option. I would rather pick one fighter and stick with him, but that's not possible here. There is one way around it - by pressing and holding two punch or kick buttons after winning a round, but this cheat code is hardly a remedy to the problem.
The limited range of characters makes Versus (two-player) gaming a bit of a drag. I had very little interest in many of the characters anyway. It's probably because I came into the game as a hardcore Street Fighter fan, and have remained vaguely aware or ignorant at worst of the characters from the other games. I think I found only a couple of the characters from Darkstalkers and Red Earth to be reasonably interesting to play as, but this is a personal preference - if you love Red Earth, I'm sure you'll really appreciate seeing your favourites on the PlayStation 2! The game wouldn't have suffered if the roster had been boasted up. More of the popular faces from the games should have made it in. I'm sure the game could handle it - God knows the system isn't being pushed by the game engine on its own. It's better to have too many characters than too few, after all. I may be expressing my ignorance here, but who plays as Zangief anyway? A bad choice, Capcom.
There's a fair bit to unlock if you persevere with the single player mode. This includes two boss characters (Pyron and Shin Akuma) who can become playable if you beat them down. There are also soundtracks from all the games available to unlock. Do you like listening to songs from the Red Earth soundtrack? I bet you do. I bet you can't wait.
This may seem like a pretty negative review, but it just seems to have been a wasted opportunity. As I've previously said, it's not a bad game. It's just average Capcom 2D fightin' fun. If you like your Street Fighter, you'll probably enjoy the chance to play about with a selection of characters you may never have experienced before. If you're looking for your first Street Fighter title, stay well away from this one - it's good, but not that good. Pick yourself up Capcom Vs. SNK 2, or the new Alpha collection. This one's only for hardcore fans, I'm afraid.