VIDEO GAMES / Urbane warriors: Popular favourites are being recycled into unoriginal but enjoyable spin-offs. Rupert Goodwins takes to the street

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The Independent Culture
Super Street Fighter II

(Sega Megadrive)

Eastern martial art philosophy teaches economy of effort as a tactical axiom. The marketing men at Capcom are clearly 8th-level masters of this concept, as they attack the thump 'n' slump market for the umpteenth time with yet another outing for the Street Fighter gang.

For those who've been contemplating the path of non-violence in some far ashram for the past three years, the basic mechanisms of this (and every other) fighting game can be simply recapped. Two or more large animated characters, each with a distinctive appearance and unique set of skills, attempt to knock their opponents out. These cavortings are controlled by various combinations of buttons; if you've got the three-button controllers supplied with the Megadrive as standard, this can be quite difficult. So, most people bite the bullet and buy the special six-button versions - of course, with games like this, most of the fun comes from playing against a friend rather the computer. So you'll need two new controllers . . .

is not half bad. The characters are well-animated and as pleasant to watch as most children's cartoons; the moves to learn are varied and satisfyingly spectacular, with fireballs, sonic booms and electrical storms augmenting the more staid karate kicks, headblows and plain old fisticuffs. This all happens to a cacophony of grunts, yells and winceworthy bone-cracking, topped off with jaunty electronic music.

The backdrops are pretty, the 16 choices of character display just about every ethnic variation short of Australian Esquimau and the whole caboodle has about as much menace as televised wrestling.

However, we've seen just about all of this before; for 60 quid it's really not worth it. This is especially true if you've got SF II, the Special Champion Edition, where all the 'new' characters have already appeared. The only excuse for parting with your hard-earned for is if you've only just got a Megadrive and want a punch 'n' kick extravaganza. You might as well get this one, it's got all of the moves and none of the gore - but all those characters should really be wearing old hats.

Jazz Jackrabbit (Epic Megagames)

It takes the perceptive powers of a small rock to spot the major influence on Jazz Jackrabbit's games designers - Jazz might be a green rabbit instead of a blue hedgehog, but in the running, leaping and point-collecting stakes the two could be twin brothers separated at birth. The PC might not have all the special hardware in the Sega Megadrive, yet Jazz is just as slick as his spikier soulmate; smoothly scrolling graphics, frantically-flying fur and wave after wave of implacably hostile animals make this game as all- consuming as any sane man could want. Unlike Sonic, though, this rabbit's got a gun and he's gonna use it.

The plot is silly; Devan Shell, evil turtle, has kidnapped Eva Earlong, darling bunny, and unless Jazz rescues her then Planet Carrotus is doomed. The one rule of the game is if you can't collect something, shoot it. The collectables give bigger weapons, more energy, bonus levels and other delights, the enemies fly, swoop, trot and swarm, the music drives on and on . . . we've seen all this before, but this has a panache and playability that make it worthwhile, one more time.

It's very good value for money, too - by one of those ineluctable rules of initial expenditure, a PC costs more than a Sega console but the games are cheaper. Jazz Jackrabbit follows a by now standard marketing ploy; make the first episode absolutely free and encourage people to give it to their mates. That first episode is more than good enough to persuade most people to part with their 30 quid for the full set of six, and by itself proves that anything a 16-bit games console can do, a PC can do as well or better.

(Photograph omitted)