Street Fighter II: Champion Edition is one of the numerous versions of Street Fighter II, perhaps the greatest 2D fighting game ever made (it’s at least in the conversation). Street Fighter II was modified, adjusted and renamed constantly, with the original version featuring an 8-fighter roster eventually growing all the way to 16 with the “New Challengers” version of the game. Champion Edition saw the boss characters of Balrog, Vega, Sagat and M. Bison getting turned into playable fighters, with the game enjoying a popular and critically well-received port to the SEGA Mega Drive. However, Champion Edition also saw a Japanese-exclusive release to the PC Engine console, and all things considered, it wasn’t a bad attempt.
Known as the TurboGrafx-16 in the West, the PC Engine was a fourth gen console that used HuCard cartridges for its games and was ostensibly a rival of the 16-bit Super Nintendo and SEGA Mega Drive, even though it actually used 8-bit technology. Hearing the combination of “8bit” and “Street Fighter” might have caused your collective sphincters to clench in trepidation, but I’m happy to say that Champion Edition both looks and sounds on par with its SEGA and Nintendo siblings. Indeed, graphically the game doesn’t look bad at all. The colours are a little bit faded, but aside from that, Champion Edition on the PC Engine looks just fine and does a good job translating the visuals from the arcade into the home.
I’d actually say that Champion Edition on the PC Engine nestles firmly between the arcade and SNES when it comes to visuals and between the SNES and Mega Drive when it comes to sound. Again, considering it’s playing on what is essentially 8-bit hardware, and the game itself has been crammed onto a HuCard, it’s impressive that the sound and visuals have come across so well. I know some latent tinnitus sufferers seem to enjoy the Mega Drive soundtrack of Champion Edition, but I personally think the PC Engine is much better when it comes to sound quality. You get the voices, the stage themes sound mostly clear (if a bit chiptune), and the general sound effects that accompany the fighting action on-screen are suitably satisfying. Ultimately, Champion Edition looks and sounds like a solid ever-so-slightly less polished version of the arcade, which for a home release on weaker hardware, is about as good as you could expect.
One thing that is essential if you are going to play Champion Edition on the PC Engine though is a six-button controller. The PC Engine only came with a two-button pad as standard, which makes playing Champion Edition a bit of a slog as you have to keep swapping between punches and kicks. Thankfully, the six-button pad setup works well though, and if you happen to emulate the game as I did (sorry, I know it’s bad, but increases in interest rates and energy bills means I’m probably going to be working till I die as it is, so I don’t really have enough stashed away to buy a PC Engine console right about now), then it’s quite easy to switch to a six-button setup and use a USB controller to play the game with.
Once you get playing, Champion Edition provides the solid gameplay that made the Street Fighter series from II onwards into the fighting juggernaut it is today. If you’ve ever played Street Fighter II and enjoyed it, then there is no reason that you shouldn’t enjoy playing Champion Edition on the PC Engine. It provides a smooth gameplay experience, all of the special moves are present, there’s the option for multiplayer, and there are a total of 8 difficulty levels to choose from, ensuring that you can eventually find one that fits you. The game’s endings play regardless of what difficulty level you pick as well, so if you aren’t the strongest player, you can pick a lower difficulty and still fight your way to the closing credits, which is an improvement on other versions of the game that demand you play on the higher levels in order to see the endings.
Street Fighter II: Champion Edition on the PC Engine is a solid port of an often-ported series, and in some ways, it’s one of the more impressive examples when you consider the hardware limitations it was working against. The SNES and Mega Drive have versions of SFII that are easier to come by, whilst the 3DO has the home console version from this timeframe that was closest to the arcade, but the PC Engine port does not disgrace itself, and it’s certainly better than some of the versions you’d find on home computers, like the AMIGA. Obviously, the fact it was exclusive to Japan means you’re unlikely to see it in a local retro games shop, and it’s financially prohibitive for most (including myself) to pick it up online, but if you get a chance to give it a whirl, I’m willing to bet that you’ll have fun with it!