Most computer game fans of a certain age will remember a time when the mighty Street Fighter 2 ruled the beat-em-up roost. It was a game that set the standard, it was a game that invented the beat-em-up as we know it today, and it was a game that made the transition to anime. Oddly it often seems to be fighting games that become anime, despite the fact that they have a huge cast plus very similar, and usually weak, plots.
Street Fighter Alpha Generations is the latest anime adaptation of the legendary game, and has the advantage of focusing on only a small part of the colossal cast. Set before the anime film Street Fighter Alpha, this new incarnation is a 40 minute OVA which focuses on the rivalry between Ryu and Akuma (known as Gouki in Japan). Starting far in the past you see how the young martial artist Gouki disobeys his master by practicing the forbidden Dark Hadou martial art, and how the evil power consumes him, causing him to kill his master and begin a chain of events that will eventually bring the young warrior Ryu to battle him...
Street Fighter Alpha Generations has a lot of great potential. Normally films based on computer games get bogged down with trying to show all the characters but Generations avoids this by trying to explain the back story to the game's most popular pair. The plot has plenty of scope and some good action but it, somewhat ironically, falls down on the characters.
The problem is that, apart from Ryu, the other known characters sit on the sidelines for the most part. Popular Japanese schoolgirl character Sakura turns up for a quick scrap but spends the rest of the time doing nothing and Ken spends most of the time being sat on - literally - whilst the new characters try to carry the story. The thing is they're not up to it. The new characters that are introduced are a bit flat and hackneyed - how many old-monks-that-are-secretly-powerful-martial-artists do we need? Didn't Ninja Scroll cover that ten years ago? The story also doesn't take into account new viewers and can get very confusing if you are not familiar with the franchise.
Action-wise it isn't bad though, as well as the aforementioned fight with Sakura we also get to see plenty of Akuma action and of course the big Akuma vs. Ryu match which, really, is what you are waiting for anyway. The fights are suitably kinetic and well choreographed, and all of the characters get to show off their trademark moves, but there is a whiff of style over substance.
Whilst the animation and action is good Street Fighter Alpha Generations really seems like a missed opportunity. The scope was there to really flesh out the skeleton of a back story from the game but it has only been half taken, with some characters right out of the big book of anime stereotypes not really doing much to help. Similar ground was covered plot-wise in the old Street Fighter Alpha film, and for those who haven't played the games things will no doubt be very confusing. However, Manga have been clever enough to give it a low price and for fans of the games there is enough here to make this worth a look, for others it must be said that there are better action anime out there.
Manga deliver great value for money once again with a bumper haul of extras. Alongside the usual trailers there is a behind the scenes look into the recording of the characters voices and an interview with the producer about the OVA's creation. What tops it all though is that the soundtrack is actually included as an extra on the DVD, allowing you to play all of the background music from the extras menu. It is a similar idea to the Sound Test option from the game's option menu, which is a nice touch, and rounds off an impressive set of extras.