Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Collection Is Complete


Pictured is the near-mint copy of Street Fighter EX2 Plus that I just received in the mail. The game was released more than fourteen years ago. At last it is mine, bringing to a close not only the hunt for Street Fighter EX2 Plus, but to hunting for games in general.

Street Fighter EX2 Plus was never, truthfully, that rare or that valuable a game. Certainly, if you want a copy that is complete (including case, manual, inserts) and in “like new” condition (scratch-free disc, crease-free manual), then you should expect to pay above the original retail price. But there are enough copies floating around on the secondhand market still (as of 2014) that, if you’re vigilant in watching the listings, you should be able to snag a pretty good one for less than the cost of a brand new current-generation game.

It took me this long to add it to my collection because, back when it originally came out, I was still a teenager with a very limited budget. I could only afford a few games a year, and this non-canonical Street Fighter side story was never near enough to the top of the list of titles I wanted. Even as I later got a job and a steady income, the number of new releases constantly being added to the list, along with the rapidly advancing oldness of Street Fighter EX2 Plus diminishing its appeal, never mind all the non-gaming expenses I now had to consider, only made hunting it down less and less a priority with each passing year.

Then came a day I would never have anticipated back in 2000: the day when there were no more new releases being added to my list of games to get. Make no mistake, I still purchase and play new video games, albeit at a slower rate than I did in my twenties. But I no longer buy them with a collector’s mindset, and I no longer worry about games becoming hard to find if I don’t snatch them up within the first two years of their release. I no longer have to.

The industry is transitioning to an all-digital model—a move I welcome with open arms (and subscription-based cloud gaming can’t come quickly enough). I’ll still buy a physical copy of a game if there’s an especially good deal, but I can also rest easy knowing that, even if I postpone picking it up for years, the digital version will still be available for me to purchase at my convenience whenever I actually feel like playing it. These days, I’ll usually just wait until a game is offered for free with my PS Plus subscription, as many of the big titles eventually are. Even many games of previous generations that were on my list have now been checked off, not because I acquired them, but because they have been re-released and preserved digitally. If the physical library is not now altogether obsolete, then, let’s say, its canon is closed. Or, at least, mine is, now that I have finally added Street Fighter EX2 Plus to my collection.

The Street Fighter EX games have yet to receive the “PlayStation Classics” treatment. Capcom has announced no plans to bring them out of the vault, even as it has consistently proven itself one of the publishers most eager to capitalize on its back catalog. (I mean, they even put the Genesis and TurboGrafx(!) versions of Street Fighter II on the Wii’s Virtual Console.) It’s likely that there are rights complications (the Street Fighter EX games are partly owned by developer Arika), in which case the odds would be against Capcom going to the trouble to bring these games back. I could be wrong; Capcom could release them all tomorrow, and I’d feel quite the fool.

But I wasn’t counting on ever seeing these games re-released digitally, and so I just decided one day that it was finally time to hunt down the last one missing from my library. Thus, at last, almost surreally, Street Fighter EX2 Plus was on its way through the post and then in my hand to place on my shelf.

With this one checked off the list, what else could possibly be left?

Well, the PS1 versions of X-Men vs. Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom are odd and original takes on those games, and the licensing issues would probably rule out any re-releases. But their secondhand prices are simply outrageous for what are now mere curiosities. Street Fighter Collection for the PS1 includes a unique, not-likely-to-ever-be-seen-again version of Super Street Fighter II Turbo, though not one that would have any value except to a real-life completionist. The original Guilty Gear for PS1 has maybe some historical significance, and again there may be some rights complications standing in the way of a North American digital release. But I’m okay living without it. And if really nobody feels like bringing it out here, I can always just get it off the European PSN store. Silent Hill 4: The Room is a PS2 game that I never played and still want to, but I remain optimistic that we will see that one again someday.

No, Street Fighter EX2 Plus will very likely be the last previous-generation game I ever buy in physical form, the last video game I ever have to hunt down.

Until now, I'm not sure it ever even occurred to me that there could ever be such a moment, when I could declare with anything approaching finality that I am done collecting. Yet here we've arrived. It's all rather like a dream. And I expect I will dream better tonight.

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