It’s fair to say that the SF 30th lobbies turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments when I first tried Capcom’s most recent collection of fightjng games. You can talk about how the product is just a lazy collection of roms with a few token extras, how the museum could have had more content, how the display filters seem limited, and so on… but online play has the potential to inject new life into those old classics. That potential, however, was not shown in the initial release – attempting to set up SF 30th lobbies on launch day only resulted in a bizarre situation where the game would never register your opponent readying up at the lobby – and when your opponent had the same issue on their end, it led to some amusing exchanges. Happily, a patch was released this week that addressed the SF 30th lobbies (as well as fixing sound issues in the SFIII games, adding a connection-based matchmaking filter and banning Akuma from ranked Super Turbo games), and I was able to play a few games of Street Fighter II recently.
(Note: as I was joining a friend’s lobby I didn’t check to see if the previous issues with filtering by game were resolved, but the next day I tested some filtered searches myself and they still seem as bizarre as before, with search results ignoring the deselections you make – once again, if you only tick Super Turbo in the filter, you’ll see lobbies that only host Super Turbo, lobbies that host ST and Hyper Fighting, lobbies with all four games available, etc. So this is still a curious oversight.)
SF 30th lobbies – the stutter
Embarrassingly, the biggest issue I faced during my matches was probably a result of my own connection – I noticed a few momentary split-second pauses in a few matches as the netcode and my own connection tried their best to keep up with the action. These micro-pauses weren’t really an issue with a game as slow as Street Fighter II, but I think they may have had a worse impact if we were playing Street Fighter Alpha 3 or Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. Like I said, I’m willing to take part of the blame here as I don’t know how much other network activity might have been going on at the time, but in casual friendly games where I don’t care about frame-perfect actions I think that these momentary stutters can be overlooked a little.
SF 30th lobbies – the spectators
When not in the middle of a match, waiting players can pass time in one of two ways. If they hit the Spectate button before the next match is underway, they can spectate the next match in the way we’ve become used to in SFIV, SFV and SFIII 3rd Strike Online Edition. If they don’t push the button, the lobby’s player list updates to show not only the active combatants, but also a crude graphical representation of their lifebars, a basic indication of round wins and the characters selected by the players. It’s a cute way to keep the spectating player engaged in the lobby activity even if they missed the button prompt, but it probably would have been better to assume players would want to spectate, and instead offer a button press if players want those basic lifebar and round win indicators. (As an aside, I didn’t look into voice chat that much, but I would assume it’s perfectly fine to use something like PSN’s Party feature – making sure that you have a headset that slots into your fighting game controller or a USB port, of course!)
SF 30th lobbies – getting there
Like a lot of aspects of the collection, online play doesn’t feel revelatory but at the same time you can still play it without wishing you were in the middle of another Fighter with seemingly solid netcode. Online play in this game is neither flawless nor a disaster, but it is “good enough” and perhaps makes up for the lack of substance elsewhere in the collection. I still have to give the other online-enabled games more lobby time, but if you’re keen on killing a few hours with online friends, SF 30th lobbies might tick that box for you.
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is available now for PS4, Switch, Xbox One and PC.