It’s hard to find a publisher more synonymous with fighting games than Capcom. From dominating arcades to taking over our home consoles with Street Fighter II, Capcom has been a mainstay of the genre from the beginning. Enter the Capcom Fighting Collection: a polished package of 10 games that range from the familiar Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition and Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo, all the way to obscurities like the alternate roster versions of Darkstalkers 3, the confusingly titled Vampire Hunter 2, and Vampire Savior 2.
With its bevy of modern features including rollback netcode for online play, training modes, and a museum with tons of art and music, the Capcom Fighting Collection does great justice to this publisher’s storied legacy, with only a couple notable omissions in both its game library and extra features to hold it back.
The Capcom Fighting Collection makes a great first impression – the menus are snappy and responsive, there’s excellent custom art, and a goofy, yet endearing theme song greets you upon booting it up. It’s conveniently laid out, too: rather than keeping individual menus locked inside each game, you’re able to get right to where you want to go from the game selection screen, whether that’s training, arcade mode, or whatever else. Both English and Japanese versions of each game are included, and it’s fun to see how games and series try to maintain continuity between countries. I’m currently staring at a list of the Darkstalkers games right now, and I still have trouble keeping all of them straight – I just know that Vampire is probably somewhere in the title.
Swapping between games is incredibly quick and easy with minimal loading, at least on PC. You can move between training modes of different games in under 20 seconds, and I mean that as in going from actually playing one game to actually playing the other. You can even choose whether or not you want to skip the boot screen of each game so you can get into them faster. Those may seem like small things, but collections like this can sometimes be held together with duct tape and a poor UI, so it’s comforting to see that there are some thoughtful choices here that make the Capcom Fighting Collection a smooth experience to navigate. The training modes themselves don’t include tutorials, just methods for setting up different opponent behaviors and interactions, but I genuinely had a lot of fun diving deep into the decades of forum posts and guides out there built by dedicated communities. There's also a quick save slot, so if you need to hop out of a particular game you can come right back to where you left off.
Breaking Down the Collection
Of course, there’s no point in having great wrapping paper if all you’re getting is a lump of coal, so let’s take a look at what’s included.
The 1991 classic Street Fighter II is a known quantity to most at this point, and the version in this collection is a small collection of its own in the form of the Anniversary Edition of Hyper Fighting previously released in 2004. From the character select menu you can choose the game speed and which version of Street Fighter II’s roster you want to use, from the base game all the way up to Super Turbo. But that doesn’t limit which roster you can play against in multiplayer, so your dream of pitting your vanilla Street Fighter II Zangief against your friend’s Super Turbo Sagat can finally be realized.
If you prefer your Street Fighter characters to be both smaller and cuter, 1997’s Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix (known as Pocket Fighter in Japan) is a strange spin on a 2D fighter, with characters from Darkstalkers and even Red Earth making appearances. It’s not the deepest competitive experience, but there’s still a lot of silly fun to be had, including auto-combos that transform your character, and collectible gems and items that can be used during combat.
An anomaly on this list, as it’s not an actual fighter, 1996’s Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo is still one of the best competitive puzzle games out there, and the art, animation, and gameplay remain top-notch in this collection. True to the original, getting a boatload of gems dropped on your face is just as frustrating as ever.
Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness is a mech-battling 2D fighter from 1995, and Red Earth is a fantasy-based boss rush RPG lite with a roster of only four playable characters that first came out in 1996. Since they never got much play outside of Japan I have little to no experience with these games, with my sole exposure to Cyberbots being the inclusion of Jin in the Marvel vs. Capcom series, but both games seem to be fully intact, including an arcade mode, local and online multiplayer, and a training mode.
Cyberbots, a spin-off of arcade beat-em-up Armored Warriors, is a 3-button fighter with two attacks, a projectile weapon button, and a dash button allowing you to move in all eight directions mid-air. It has a lot of cool ideas, including a separate meter tied to your projectile cooldown and the ability to knock off your opponent’s arm, drastically reducing their moveset. But while it’s easy to control and I mostly enjoyed my time with it, the chunky design of the mechs combined with the high speed of movement sometimes made the action hard to follow, especially in the corner. This led to some frustrating situations as I couldn’t tell where my hitbox ended and my enemy’s began. I plan to put more time into it going forward since it’s so weird and I’m definitely intrigued, but as of right now it’s at the bottom of my list when it comes to the collection.
I enjoyed my time with Red Earth more than Cyberbots as it’s just so different than most fighting games released today. Despite the small roster, the novelty of facing off against mostly custom bosses rather than other playable characters while leveling up and gaining new moves in the quest mode lent it a novelty not seen in the other 2D fighting games, and it’s awesome that this previously obscure piece of fighting game history is now much more easily played.
The rest of the list is all Darkstalkers games, with both the English and Japanese releases of 1, 2, and 3 included, as well as the aforementioned alternate roster versions of 3. I’d imagine that this is going to be where many classic fighting games fans are going to spend their time, as the Darkstalkers community has been singing the franchise’s praises and asking for Capcom to give it more attention ever since the release of Darkstalkers Resurrection in 2013 on Xbox 360 and PS3. Being relatively ignorant of Darkstalkers in the past, I enjoyed searching through old forums and guides to learn tricks for optimal movement, blockstrings, and combos, and why Sasquatch should have been the Darkstalkers mascot over Morrigan. Sasquatch for life.
In an appreciated act of transparency, Capcom has listed the ROM version of each game in both the main menu and on their website. Every game in the Capcom Fighting Game Collection feels great to play, allowing you to further simplify controls in any of them by assigning entire moves, specials, or even supers to the press of one button. It may be heresy for competitive players, but for those just looking to jump into a classic and have their character immediately do some cool stuff on screen, it’s a welcome inclusion. I’d go so far as to say it’s one that all collections of old games like this should have, especially considering that you can turn that option off in lobbies and matchmaking if you don’t want your opponents taking advantage of it, and it’s also toggled off by default when queuing for ranked matches.
The biggest miss from this collection is that there’s not a single version of Street Fighter 3. Despite launching as somewhat of a disappointment due to having almost no recognizable characters and the fact that it was just plain weird, Street Fighter 3: New Generation eventually gave way to Street Fighter 3: Third Strike, often heralded as one of the best fighting games of all time. SF3 was last released in 2018’s Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, so it’s not like it’s hard to come by, but it would have been great to have an updated version with this modern netcode. It seems like a glaring omission for a package that gets so many of the little things right. And speaking of the little things…
The Art of Fighting
Baked into the pause menu of each game are seven different filter options, ranging from simulated scanlines to smoothed-out pixels. I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of simulating a CRT on a modern screen because the clarity just can’t keep up on most current displays, but I did find myself liking how some of them looked here, especially while playing Vampire Savior. There are also multiple options for custom frames to fill out the sides of your screen, and several different aspect ratios to choose from.
You’ll also find the Fighting Challenges menu, which has in-game achievements you can unlock. Some of these are rote and simple, like “finish game X’s Arcade Mode.” But others are more fun and specific, such as KO’ing opponents with particular moves or collecting certain items while playing Gem Fighter. It’s a fun extra that can squeeze some more life out of every game you might not have played otherwise.
And finally we have the Museum. Capcom promised over 500 pieces of art in its announcement trailer, and it has delivered on that promise. Some games have a thinner offering than others, like Street Fighter 2 only having three entries, but many have a ton of concept art, developer notes, and old pieces of fighting game history to go through. It was a true joy to thumb through all of these and live in a simpler time where you’d hang out in an arcade with friends while secondhand smoke slowly choked the life out of you.
There are also full soundtracks for each of the games included, but you can’t keep them playing over the menu; they cut off as soon as you leave the track screen. It’s a bit pie-in-the-sky, but it would have been nice to keep your music of choice going while you perused the awesome museum pieces. You can stay in the top-level music menu and shuffle music from every game at once, however, so that’s a nice inclusion.
Taking the Fight Online
Many fighting game fans rejoiced when Capcom announced that this collection includes rollback netcode, and I’m happy to say it plays great online. I’ve played matches of every game with friends and randoms across the country on both a wired gigabit connection on PC, and the PS4 version on PS5 over WiFi, and they all felt close to offline play. You can even set a small input delay in the offline modes of each game to better simulate the online experience for when you switch between the two, and getting in and out of custom lobby matches is a breeze.
One early positive about the matchmaking is that you can select any game you want to queue for at the same time. This collection is already splitting the player base up to a dozen or so times; not being able to find a random match in the specific game you want to play is a very real possibility after launch, so it’s great to have that option. You can also either browse the Museum, or jump into the offline modes of any game while you’re still actively searching for an opponent. If these systems work as intended, they could do a lot to alleviate the annoyance of long queue times.
And they probably will be long, unfortunately, because the Capcom Fighting Collection doesn’t include crossplay between platforms. A well-populated player base for matchmaking was already going to be difficult, so splitting that again among the various consoles and PC doesn’t bode well for the long-term pool of players. This is hopefully something that Capcom can add in later down the road, but for now it’s a huge downside for the health of the game’s player base.
Thankfully, the custom lobbies are easy to use and functional. Up to nine players can join a lobby, and you can spectate matches. You must select whichever game you’re creating a lobby for, however, so you can’t hop between games after the lobby is formed – you’ll have to back out and come back in to change which game you’re playing. But at least the invite process is incredibly easy. In the Arc System Works age of getting too cute with custom lobby functions, the Capcom Fighting Collection lobbies just seem to work as intended so far.