And now, Scary-Crayon reviews...
The Street Fighter II Crossovers That Time Forgot

I am vindicated! You've seen our review of Street Fighter Jenn (if not, read it ;P), a PC game that I remembered playing in my youth but had been so spectacularly unable to find any information about on the web in recent years that I had almost convinced myself that my battles against the World Warriors with Kitana and Mileena had taken place in some ultra-realistic dream that had somehow worked its way into my admittedly spotty memory of actual events. That review attracted the attention of none other than the game's creator, Jenn Dolari, who went on to confirm that my memories of playing other homebrew Street Fighter hacks and crossovers were also -- gasp! -- real. My recollections weren't perfect, mind you. If you recall, I wrote in the review of SFJenn that Ryu, Ken, and the gang took on such Mortal Kombatants as Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Reptile. Things didn't actually go down like that, but Ryu and Chun-Li did get to fight Ermac, Rain, and a handful of other palette-swapped ninjas, many of whom were original creations. And to prove it, in addition to the wacky SFIBM hacks reviewed in this article, Jenn sent me a copy of SFNinja: Champion Edition. So I fired up DOSBox... and I remembered.

But Jenn did more than that. She put me in touch with Maximoff, the creator of that homebrew crossover, who assured me that I had not dreamed the battles between Ranma and crew and the World Warriors either. On the contrary, he had been the author of that game as well -- and he supplied proof of its existence by furnishing me with a copy of SFRanma, which, unlike my memory, had been shielded from the eroding effects of time in its cozy zip file. Once again DOSBox served as my metaphorical TARDIS, and I found myself transported back to those days of pitting Ryoga against Guile in a corner of the family room in between guarded sessions of seeking out pornographic Sailor Moon drawings and official Darkstalkers artwork in university anime club FTP folders.

And now, with these two homebrew relics in our possession, it's time once again for another old school game review -- and as an added bonus, Maximoff will be on hand to contribute his own insider trivia and comments to the mix! So join us as we venture over a decade into the past to that oft-forgotten age when Windows 3.1 and DOS held dominion over the PC world and XP was something you earned in RPGs coded by people who were too lazy to write the "E" in front. Join us as we return to the days when PC games didn't require multiple gigs of hard drive space and 3D graphics cards with names that invoke military hardware or clandestine zombie-making religious practices on the island of Haiti. Join us as we review... the Street Fighter II crossovers that time forgot.

SFNinja: Champion Edition!Ryu! Chun-Li! A bunch of palette-swapped ninjas!

First up, we'll be reviewing SFNinja -- which, the familiar Mortal Kombat dragon logo notwithstanding, starts off a lot like the later SFIBM and SFLiu hacks. You get the zooming title graphic and the traditional menu screen with 1P, 2P, Option (which is all but useless now because the game's original programming in Korean Hangul renders the text indecipherable in DOSBox), and Demo View choices. Then you enter a game mode to find a world map and character select screen straight out of Super Street Fighter II. But the difference is markedly clear at this point: with the exceptions of Ryu and Chun-Li, the entire roster consists of palette-swapped ninja warriors! So if you'd hoped to see how Blanka would fare against Reptile, you're out of luck, as everyone's favorite spiky-haired airplane crash survivor (and McDonald's spokesperson) is not in the game. But wait -- neither is Reptile! Heck, neither are a lot of the classic MK ninjas. Instead of the spear-throwing spectre known as Scorpion, you get the frowny face-tossing Suni-Skiz. The cold as ice ninja called Sub-Zero has been replaced by a slightly less-solid blue-clad fighter called Hydro/H20. Instead of the elusive Reptile, SFNinja features a warrior named... Vomit.

Meet Vomit. He hurls vomit.No swimming without a lifeguard!

See, Vomit. That said, Sektor and Cyrax do appear in the game, but they've apparently been released from their robot forms for the tournament -- which is just another way of saying that they've become palette-swapped ninjas as well. Rain, Ermac, and Noob Saibot make the cut, but I suspect that has something to do with their status as secret characters and/or rumors at the time (although the story states that they are initiating this hostile takeover of the SF tournament in order to prove their worth and secure their inclusion in future MK games). At any rate, it's a little disappointing to see so many fan-favorites replaced and drastically altered, and the fact that Ryu and Chun-Li are the only remaining Street Fighters means that, for the most part, you'll be playing with characters you've never heard of and may not care all that much about. If Scorpion went up against M. Bison, you can imagine the undead fighter somehow taking offense at the villain's cruel murders of Charlie and Chun-Li's father -- and, at least for the duration of the battle, directing his hatred of Sub-Zero towards the mad crime boss. Bison, curious to learn how Scorpion has returned from death and wishing to steal this power for himself, might in turn plan to defeat Scorpion and have the spectre studied at length in the Shadowlaw laboratories. But when Vomit goes up against Inferno, there's no real backstory you can draw upon to make that fight more interesting.

Fight bubbles with water.It's electric! Boogie-woogie-woogie.

Once you get past that limitation of the game and pick a character, you get to the in-game graphics -- which, as you see, aren't all that great. SFNinja's colors have a washed-out look to them on the whole, with ninjas' sprites appearing particularly bland-looking. The problems are compounded by the size differences in the sprites, which you can best see here and here. It's not that big of a deal since the fights against Ryu and Chun-Li only take up two of the twelve fights in the single-player mode (of course, the problem continues throughout the game if you pick either of them), but the World Warriors' considerable size advantage just makes their fights against the ninjas look awkward. Chun's got some pretty thick legs, but they shouldn't be as wide as Iralod's entire body.

Not that looks matter all that much when you're getting the crap beaten out of you. Now, I don't consider myself to be an expert Street Fighter player, but I'm okay. Even though I might lose, I can generally put up a fight that isn't utterly embarrassing. In this game, however, I routinely get my ass handed to me in seconds flat -- and it's even more infuriating because the CPU-controlled characters aren't even reacting to my attacks! For instance, with standard fighting game AI, you can kind of tell that the CPU opponent is reacting to your moves. Granted, Ken would go nuts with the Shoryukens when he was near death no matter where you were on the screen, but it's not like he'd spend the entire round doing roundhouses and hurricane kicks even if you kept pummelling him from a distance with fireballs. But sometimes if you jump over a CPU character (or vice versa), the enemy fighter will keep on attacking in the wrong direction until you hit him/her again... and the CPU keeps doing the exact same thing that it did when it was facing the right way. Now, you might think that this would make the game easy, but it doesn't -- at least not if you want to participate in anything remotely resembling a fair or fun fight.


Riddle me this: how do you beat an opponent that is programmed to attack with only devastating triple-fierce combos? Yeah, you can keep doing uppercuts or otherwise knocking the enemy out of the air, but then you're basically using a single move and strategy to beat the game, which makes you just as cheap. That's pretty much the only way to win in SFNinja, though -- it feels less like fighting an actual opponent than just doing the same thing over and over again and hoping against hope that you'll live to fight another day. And unless you've picked one of the characters with the cheap moves, you'll likely find that the only path to victory involves repeatedly sweeping the enemy in the corner, much like the cheapness that we witnessed in the original builds of the first MK game. It becomes even more necessary considering the glitchiness of the game. What else can you do when the CPU regularly whips out unstoppable flurries of moves and turns into a blinking patch of flame that passes through projectiles, travels the entire length of the screen, and is all but unblockable? It's murder, I tell you!

Are secret characters' special moves secret too?It's so much funnier with text! :)

And yet, despite these considerable shorcomings, there are undoubtedly a couple of good reasons to play the game. There are (I think) six secret characters that you can uncover using the kombat kodes that you earn from beating the game with different characters. The endings are quite humorous -- definitely more entertaining than any of the endings I've seen in any of the legitimate MK titles. And when you slog through twelve of the cheapest battles EVAR, you really feel like you've earned them. So if you think you're badass, are anxious to see Chun-Li take on a drunken ninja that hurls balls of puke at his opponents, or just want to check out a slice of retro homebrew gaming, download SFNinja and see how you fare against the knockoff versions of MK's finest. After all, even if you can't beat Ermac, sometimes the game will take pity on you and show you an ending anyway. :)

''I might get fired, but I'll have more time to play BLOODSTORM!''Maximoff says...

I'm not going to deny anything Wes said here. This game fucking sucked! Basically, I thought it was funny at the time, but it does not hold up well today. That said, here's an explanation of why this game is horrible crap.

I didn't program the engine, but edited the graphics like an old Wolfenstien hack. This was pretty much my first attempt working with this stuff. Graphics were captured and resized (very badly) from Mortal Kombat 2 for the PC. (This was long before emulation was as common as it is today, so it was pretty difficult to get sprites.) I totally fucked up on the palette-swapping, using one color instead of a group. I was also working around the engine, meaning that there was a lot of stuff I couldn't put in. That's why Sub Zero and Scorpion weren't in -- there were no spears or freezing. Hydro literally replaced Sub Zero since he was an aborted Sub attempt. I never really thought of the lacking "dream match" perspective until later games.

Looking at some of the screenshots, I note that there were some glitches: the slanted fire graphic, characters doing moves in the air, and wrong letter graphics for the names were not in there when I originally finished the program. This was okay when I finished the original. As mentioned before, DOSBox messes with some of the engine programming. I think that there's another DOSBox problem with the computer keeping certain moves in its memory cache, explaining why Chun Li's sounds keep coming up. In addition, an earlier character could have used the number 62 as a special attack, but another character could have used the same 62 as the literal fireball graphic. This explains why the the fireball becomes the character's pose in the Wind vs Ryu video.

As for who I did add. Well, when I first started on the game, Rain and Noob were for the then upcoming Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Inferno was a ninja based on the old rumor that you could fight the guy on the other side of the Poor Inferno.MK2 Pit (which eventually became Blaze in the new MK games). Hydro was from the short lived MK Comic "Blood and Thunder". Suni Skiz was actually a suggestion from Jenn Dolari. Wind was an excuse to make a Ryu/Ken style character. Vomit was based on a old text file on a MK humor site that shut down a long time ago.

The "hostile takeover" is a lame wrestling reference.

The jumping fierce-fierce-special and other enemy attack patterns are actually defined as special moves, so that's why the computer does a bunch of attacks at times when the enemy is on the opposite side -- it can't stop midway through it. I was pretty much replacing moves and not concentrating on the actual gameplay, although with the engine there was little I could do. It is a "Champion Edition" because I messed with the gameplay reactions from my original release (which I can't find in my backups).

The endings are among the few things that I think still hold up. (By the way, the engine automatically goes to the ending after the 12th match.) I liked the backgrounds too. I'm especially proud of the Outworld arcade.

Error Macro brings the pain.Funny thing, though. When I read the SFJenn review and saw that someone actually played my crappy game and was interested in seeing it again, I got inspired to go back. So with what I know and can use now, I wanted to see what I could do with the same idea... and thus Ninja Syndrome was born. Scorpion, Sub Zero, and Reptile are there. Graphics are edited Capcom style. Gameplay actually exists! So far, I've made a beta version as well as a neat-o YouTube preview.

And although there are no fake, rumor, or parody ninjas in the game yet, I do have the temptation to put them in eventually. Hey, no one ever found Erinmac in MK3 like it says in that one FAQ, and people seem to wonder why Khameleon is missing from MK Armageddon...

Horrible crap, or amusing retro gaming experience?
Check out these SFNinja gameplay videos and see for yourself!

[ A Noob Saibot mirror match! (1.15 MB) ] [ Cyrax and Chun-Li battle to the death. (2.19 MB) ]
[ Cyrax versus Ermac! (1.31 MB) ] [ Sektor shows Ryu the power of the glitch side. (1.38 MB) ]
[ Confusion results when Ryu faces Wind and his cowardly glitches. (3.47 MB) ]

Still interested, eh? You know what to do!
(Remember, you'll also need DOSBox to play.)

But wait! Before you delve into the past like a time-traveling ninja, we've still got another review to go. In addition to SFNinja, Maximoff made another game back in the day -- this one pitting several fighters from the SF2 cast against a handful of characters from Rumiko Takahashi's "Ranma ½". Given that many of us American fanboys cut our anime teeth on this martial arts comedy back in the day (aside from "Sailor Moon" and standard fare like "Speed Racer", Ranma was the first anime that I ever watched), this crossover was likely particularly appealing to, well, the kind of person who'd be likely to be sitting at the PC downloading homebrew SF2 and anime-related games... or to the kind of person who's still sitting at the PC downloading homebrew SF2 and anime-related games. Maybe even to the kind of person who'd be reading this review! We'll not keep you waiting, then.

I would like a Jusenkyo curse.And hailing from China...

Aside from the different logo and endearing Ranma theme music, SFRanma unsurprisingly starts off a lot like SFNinja. When you get to the character selection screen, however, the game immediately distinguishes itself by having several more Street Fighters available: a total of five World Warriors to the anime's seven. (From SF2, you get Evil Ryu, Chun-Li, Guile, Fei Long, and Bison, with Ranma, Shampoo, Akane, Mousse, Genma, Ryoga, and Ukyo from "Ranma ½" rounding out the roster. I believe the sprites come from SSF2 and Ranma ½ Super Battle, respectively speaking.) In-game, SFRanma's graphics are also much better than those of its MK-inspired sister. The fighters boast colorful sprites and match up well in terms of size, although the SF2 characters don't look nearly as good as the Ranma combatants. The same goes for the SF2 backgrounds, which look slightly washed-out and bland in comparison to the bright and detailed locales from the Ranma titles. Still, even with these minor flaws (and the hideous green tint applied to the second player in mirror matches), SFRanma looks almost as good as the SNES games from which it borrows its graphical elements. There are even cute little visual touches like the stars in Ukyo's dizzy animation being replaced by floating okonomiyaki!

Ryoga is about to get pwned.Fei moves in silence. :(

Alas, being based on the same fighting engine as SFNinja, the gameplay suffers from the same general flaws. The AI is just as nasty as before -- only this time around, there are super moves for the CPU to incorporate into its murderous and nigh unstoppable attack patterns. Now, I'm not saying that the inclusion of the supers is a bad thing -- it's very cool, as is the fact that the characters here have far more special moves than the ninjas -- but seeing as how they can easily knock off 45% of your life in a single go and can be pulled off at will (that is, they require no charged bars for execution), they make an incredibly tough game even more difficult. Seriously, one of the only ways I can get anywhere in the game is to pick Bison and be just as cheap as the CPU, as Bison is the only character in the game who can't be knocked out of his super. Not that that always helps, mind you, as SFRanma can be pretty glitchy as well. Ukyo routinely floats up above the screen and remains there for the majority of a given round, whereas Genma is fond of turning into a square of static and hovering several feet in the air while continuing to beat the snot out of the poor earthbound human players who remain unable to master the art of flying through ki control. It's one thing to lose because the CPU is cheap, but it's another to get utterly destroyed because the CPU is cheap and has access to the engine's virtual God code.

From hammerspace to your face!Rumik World Order, baby!

In addition to the gameplay, there's another issue that bears mentioning -- the sound. It was easier to gloss over in SFNinja because the Mortal Kombatants don't generally yell out the names of their special moves as they perform them, but the Street Fighter and Ranma cast members do so regularly in all of their fighting game incarnations (even if their voices have been dubbed for some inexplicable reason). In SFRanma, however, Ryu, Chun-Li, and Guile call out their attacks... and that's it. Ranma doesn't shout "Amaguriken" or "Hiryu Shoten Ha" when doing the respective specials: he (or she) just does the moves in silence. Ryoga says nothing about hot steak (Bakusai Tenketsu) when doing his rock blast move. Fei Long's stolen Bruce Lee cries don't accompany his Rekka Ken and Shi En Kyaku techniques. Heck, characters don't even scream when they die. Instead, some of the characters call out Ryu's attack names or yip like Chun-Li at times, which can be even more jarring than them not saying anything. It doesn't affect the gameplay (unless these incorrect sounds have something to do with the occasionally attendant glitches), but it still tarnishes the overall presentation a bit. The music is great, though, with midi renditions of SF2 tunes and Ranma songs. The fighting is frenetic enough that you probably won't have time to admire the music, but I definitely recognized some DoCo among the background selections!

If I were Chun, I'd stop kicking and move.Akuma is not much of a conversationalist.

Music aside, there are certainly other reasons to give SFRanma a whirl. There are five hidden characters in the game -- and whereas the secret fighters in SFNinja were mostly within the ninja syndrome confines of the game and generally weren't that interesting as a result, there are some truly hilarious and out-of-place additions to SFRanma. I'm not sure that they're all that useful to get -- playing as the hidden characters doesn't make the game any easier, and one of them is pretty much impossible to beat when the CPU has him -- but these are still neat and humorous additions. The endings are likewise incredibly amusing, easily ranking among the most enjoyable sequences I've seen in any fighting game. And considering that several of them continue into other characters' endings, there's added incentive to see them all! It's a shame that they're so hard to earn, but you definitely won't feel cheated when you see how Maximoff has integrated the backstories of the Street Fighters with those of the Ranma ½ crew in these closing segments. SFRanma takes pity on losers too, though, so you can easily play with Bison up through Ukyo, lose, and continue with the character whose ending you want to see!

Maximoff says...''Oh, pig-tailed girl!''

Interesting how Wes starts this article with a mention of an anime club, because making SFRanma was pretty much based on me getting into the whole anime thing back in the mid 90s. I started with Akira, Project Ako, Robotech, and all the other standards I could rent at the local video store. Didn't join any clubs, but I traded some tapes with friends. Loved the Fatal Fury animes.

Anyway, emulation was better at the time, and I could use the Super Battle SNES rom and the PC version of Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo. Sprites were easy, but I had a bit more trouble with sounds. I can't remember the Methinks this battle will contain some of the program I tried to use, but I ended up only ripping Ranma's sounds and stopping there. Another factor in my decision was that this was during the days of 2400 and 9600 modems, and stuff that takes only five to six minutes to download today took a lot longer back then. Sounds took up a lot of space and would have made the download a lot more inconvienent.

The supers didn't come off as well as I'd hoped, and in retrospect I should have added an option to take them out (just a simple batch file and some replacement files). The midi music came from Ranma fan sites.

I did make some sequels to SFRanma, and it is possible for me to make another SFRanma game with a new engine (see below). I may make another one with the UFGE engine if time allows and I feel like it, but I would rather edit graphics to make them "Capcom style" instead of straight ripping them. I always wanted to make a huge anime crossover with any character I can think of.

Sadly, I don't have any current plans to make any pornographic Sailor Moon games.

So where did I go from these games? After that, some fellow fans created an update to the SFIBM engine called SFR, with several improvements (however, it is very incompatible and unplayble on most newer computers, even When main characters collide...with DOSBox). I created several slightly better games with that engine. Two were sequels to SFranma, one had pretty much every anime character I could think of, and one was more organized and had Capcom vs Ranma vs SNK. Others were based on Marvel and DC comics. Eventually, an engine called UFGE was programmed by TruFenix, allowing me to create games on par with SF2 in terms of gameplay. I recently released a beta for a sequel to the DC Fighter (see the video preview here).

A quick note on UFGE -- there is some incompatibility. Fenix has redone the graphical engine, and I am in the process of re-releasing Ninja Syndrome and D Fighter Revolution on the new engines. The updated versions should be much more compatible.

Can Ranma route Ryu? Can Shampoo smash Chun-Li? The SFRanma
videos below contain the answers to these questions and more!

[ Ranma-chan takes on Evil Ryu! (1.16 MB) ] [ Fei Long faces Ukyo. (1.65 MB) ]
[ Chun-Li and Shampoo are fairly evenly matched... (2.53 MB) ] [ ...but Chun owns Guile. (990 KB) ]

Anxious to join in the crossover combat? Click below and prepare yourself!
(Don't forget DOSBox!)

Happy days are here again.Ranko wins!

Well, that about does it for this excursion to the yesteryear of homebrew gaming -- we hope that you've enjoyed reading about these pre-MUGEN matchups! And special thanks for Maximoff not only for giving us an inside look at the development process and personal motivations that brought SFNinja and SFRanma to fruition, but for creating them in the first place. With any luck (and the help of DOSBox and the featured downloads!), the SF2 crossovers that time forgot will live on in our memories... even if those memories do include raised eyebrows at freaky glitches and are laden with expletives and death threats directed at Ermac and M. Bison. ;)

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