Street Fighter II

Pirelli's long-running advertising tagline states 'Power is nothing without control'. It's illustrated this in various different ways over the years, most recently during the World Cup with an ad featuring a goalkeeper whose glove grips a speeding football that has mysteriously caught fire.

We've a more effective way of getting the point across though – our suggestion is that Pirelli's next ad simply shows a video of Street Fighter II. Because whilst virtually all video games ask the player to master a control system, few make the demands of this combative classic.

The eight 'world warriors' on offer in Street Fighter II are the epitome of power, combining excellence in their chosen martial art with extraordinary special moves, including hurling fireballs and attacking in a blur of limbs, Matrix-style. Yet this power is rendered absolutely useless in the hands of those who cannot get to grips with the original's control setup, which demands the use of six separate buttons along with dextrous joystick manoeuvres in order to pull off its myriad kicks, punches, blocks, throws and special moves.

Watching players proficient in the art can be a genuinely inspiring experience both on screen and off, as the clash of animated fist on flesh and the feverish play of fingers on game pads achieves a near balletic state.

Which begs the question, how on earth can this possibly be replicated on a mobile phone? It's a bloody good question to be honest, and Capcom has come up with a pretty good answer. The game maps the six buttons of the arcade original onto two context sensitive buttons on the phone, selecting the appropriate kick, punch or throw for the situation.

Although it obviously restricts tactics and dumbs down the strategy, it nevertheless seems to work well for the most part, making the experience instantly approachable. Special attacks can be pulled off using combinations of joypad movement and a kick or punch for those in the know, but the moves can also be triggered by one of three other buttons on the keypad, enabling everyone to unleash Spinning Bird Kicks and Dragon Punches.

Although these extra buttons are undoubtedly a little fiddly to begin with (you'll often forget which button does which), spend ten minutes in its company and newcomers and hardened hyper fighters alike will begin to relax into it. Indeed, the chances are you'll feel more than relaxed – you'll feel downright excited by the graceful movements and devastating specials you're able to pull off (or relive, depending on your history).

The presentation undoubtedly heightens the excitement, being as close as you could expect to a perfect recreation of the SNES/Arcade original, with each miniature fighter managing to pack in the same subtle animation, as well as the detailed (albeit static) backdrops and taunts that veterans would expect. Even the sound is occasionally impressive (well, when it works), with cries of 'Hadoken!' and 'Shoryuken!' accompanying attacks and a suitably arcadey background music on offer.

All of which means that you'll be even more devastated when the fundamental flaw in the game reveals itself, usually when you lose after about your fourth or fifth fight, then try again and lose at the same place. Then again, and again and again until you realise that the game's difficulty curve is steeper than the price of front row tickets at a Madonna concert.

Admittedly a shift to Easy mode does at least delay the inevitable and give the more battle-weary a fighting chance, but it's still going to prove too tough for the majority. And where's the honour in only winning on Easy?

Whilst this, like much else from the game, is doubtless a literal translation of the original code, the simplified and occasionally awkward controls mean that the player can no longer call upon the subtleties of attack that were previously available. There's no choice to try a soft but fast tap kick rather than a big roundhouse or unleash a slower fireball, for instance.

Without the draw of a two-player mode in which you could at least share these limitations (and in which the majority of hours and coins were consumed), this rather unfortunately serves to bring your gaming (and our score) to a halt faster than a tyre under heavy breaking. Yes, even a Pirelli.

Street Fighter II

A good effort that makes a big impression, but it's ultimately too unforgiving and lacking in subtlety. Zangief rather than Ryu, in Street Fighter terms…
Chris James
Chris James
A footy game fanatic and experienced editor of numerous computing and game titles, bossman Chris is up for anything – including running Steel Media (the madman).