So the year is 2016, and 2010 has been and gone, but how was it? Well it certainly wasn’t what the mind of someone in the 80s could conjure up, and certainly nothing like Street Fighter 2010. But is that a good thing? Well to be honest I still can’t quite work it out. Whilst the game has some solid foundations, a lot seems to go amiss during the course of the game. Nothing more so than the story.
Let’s begin with the elephant in the room, that Street Fighter title. This shoehorning of the Street Fighter name is the game’s biggest flaw. The game stars Ken, who in 2010 has become a gifted scientist after winning the Street Fighter circuit 25 years earlier. Not only that but after a break-in at his laboratory, whereby his new superhuman substance is stolen and his partner is killed, Ken is implanted with bionics before heading off to get revenge.
If you’re thinking what has this got to do with Street Fighter, then you’re right to be asking the question. As bar a shameless use of Ken’s character, there really isn’t anything else. In fact the decision to use Ken was a decision taken by the localisation team, and Ken isn’t even Ken in Japan. Originally in the Japanese version Ken is named Kevin Straker, and rather than being a scientist, he is a cyborg police officer investigating a parasite outbreak. Meaning that the Japanese version had even less to do with Street Fighter. This aspect is nonsense and does put a black mark on the Western version from the start.
Aside from this, whilst the story is bonkers and could do with more cutscenes in the middle to flesh it out, it is the standard 80s planet hopping futuristic sci-fi view of what 2010 could have been. This isn’t a bad thing, and the game even has some very interesting twists in its closing moments, featuring quite a sombre ending. Although it should be mentioned that the Japanese version ends quite differently, featuring a much more thought-provoking ending. No it’s not as strong as some other stories and could do with more cutscenes in the middle, but if you can ignore the Street Fighter connection, the story isn’t too bad. I just wish this game was simply called “2010”.
Anyway enough of the story, what’s the gameplay like? Well for one it’s not a fighter but rather a side-scrolling action game akin to Ninja Gaiden. Whilst understandably not on the same level as Tecmo’s excellent game, it does share one thing in common, the difficulty. However, it’s not difficult in the same way. Whereas Ninja Gaiden gave you a challenge, but equally gave you the means to possibly defeat it. Here the difficulty sometimes comes from sluggish controls and unbalanced gameplay.
The gameplay sees Ken/Kevin move around whilst shooting enemies in all directions with your futuristic gun, all in the aim if finding the portal to the next area. There’s a lot of jumping, backflipping, and you can even attach to walls and climb up them. The levels are highly diverse with various challenges such as defeating a certain number of enemies or a boss, side-scrolling, upwards-scrolling, and even levels that take place solely on one screen. The game has all of the foundations for a fantastic adventure.
However, the gameplay is a sluggish and you’ll find yourself getting hit repeatedly. You’ll also find yourself accidentally getting trapped on every wall. Once you get used to the way Ken/Kevin moves though, you’ll find the character quite agile and the gameplay satisfying. Level one doesn’t ease you in though, immediately treating you to one hell of a boss, alongside standard enemies that are near impossible to hit. This straight away causes frustration, and I lost around 20 lives before I could even complete level one. Even more frustrating is once you have activated the warp gate, you are only given 10 seconds to traverse the level and find it, or it’s back to the start.
The trick to completing the game is finding as many hidden power-ups as possible. These allow you to hit enemies from a distance, rather than having to get up close and personal. Power-ups carry through levels, and as the game gets harder this added power becomes invaluable. However, whenever you die you lose all of these power ups. In fact every time you are hit you not only lose a portion of your life, but also a portion of your power-ups. This all means you are going to have to be flawless in order to get through the game, as one false move and you’ll be so weak you may as well quit.
Nevertheless, the job does a good job of keeping you engaged. The worlds are well constructed, using a dark colour range, and a lot of neon style colours. This suits the game and its space theme. You’ll travel from futuristic ruined urban areas, to a planet covered in plant life, to even what appears to be a space port. This world hopping is one of the strengths of the game, and you’ll be left wondering what’s next. The enemies are equally diverse and well made, featuring flying worms, giant eyeballs, and a massive parasite.
Additionally, the soundtrack is fantastic, with the tunes again really fitting the futuristic story, and setting the scene. Especially in regard to some of the one-on-one fights. I didn’t think I’d say this, but I’ve been left listening to some of the tunes long after I’ve finished playing the game.
As far as longevity is concerned, it’ll take forever to both get used to the game, and to finish it. But whether you’ll want to really will depend. In particular, the last boss and the insane time limit you are given to complete all of its stages will frustrate many to the point of disappointment. Again, like Ninja Gaiden, there are no passwords or any ability to save. Meaning that once you turn the game off, you’ll have to start again. This may be enough for most to never try again. Yet despite all this I still find myself wanting to play it.
This one has been a hard review for me. But here’s my recommendation. Ignore Street Fighter and Ken, treat this game as the original Japanese creation. Stage one my not be representative of the entire game, but if you can grow used to the controls and defeat the opening level you may want to keep playing. Some may like it and some may hate it, but in the spirit of seeing the good I think it’s worth a go. I certainly haven’t played a game in a long time that I have had so much of a split decision about.