Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (Madman) Review
I’ve completely exhausted myself with this film and its DVD releases. For those interested in reading my retrospective feature please go here, and for my previous coverage of the recent Manga release please go over there. For this review I’m getting straight down to the nitty gritty.
The thing that immediately hits you about Madman’s release is the brilliant menu design that acts as a perfect homage to the original arcade game. Upon inserting the disc we’re treated to the classic theme tune, which then prompts us to hit enter to start. From there the main menu replicates the arcade screen and shows a moving energy bar as Ryu and Sagat square off during the film’s opening scene. Moving on to the sub-menus things continue to impress. As you can see from the screen shots I’ve provided it maintains a quality retro appeal, and even when you select certain options we get sound-bytes from the game.
Madman presents Street Fighter II in a newly remastered state. So lets see what they’ve done to it.
Below are shots taken from the U.S.A. edit (top) and the original Japanese cut (bottom), both culled from the new Manga release. The third is taken from Madman’s latest. I’ve decided to ultimately pit this against the Manga release because essentially both its transfers are identical to the Japanese and U.S. DVDs respectively:
It’s easy for Madman’s release to trick the eye. At first glance it might seem the better looking transfer: shadow detail is considerably better and the colours generally appear to be quite good (although the Japanese transfer shows a more natural colour scheme), while brightness is much higher. In fact it’s the brightness here which proves to be its biggest selling factor and makes it look the better release on initial playback. The transfer also exhibits less in the way of rainbows and cross-colouring (though they are still here). Furthermore there is an increase in vertical resolution, which is of course thanks to the benefit of anamorphic presentation.
However, the truth is that this is quite a troublesome release. When it came to sitting down and watching it properly and then taking screen captures for this comparison, I wasn’t expecting quite so much hassle. I couldn’t ascertain by myself just what was going on with this transfer and so I sent some shots to a few of my fellow contributors (Michael, David and Matt). Here are two sets of shots to give an example of what was bothering me. The first is from the Japanese version of the Manga release, while the second is the current Madman one:
If you look closely you’ll see that the Madman release has an unusual smudged/chalky look, next to the cleaner lines of the Manga release. In addition to this the line art fluctuates between sharp and soft every other frame. I can assure you that the other releases show no such patterns regarding the line art, which is otherwise very consistent throughout. The best that my colleagues could suggest was both temporal noise reduction and DVNR.
Now take a look at the following. Again the top is Manga, followed by Madman:
Here we have two very different looking colour schemes. It’s evident both here and in the shot higher up of Chun Li that the company has altered the colour balance, resulting in a yellow/green tint. It is difficult to know for sure how the film is supposed to look, but having seen every major release now I’m not convinced that Madman’s is definitive or truly representative of the final product.
Matt Shingleton offers his thoughts as follows:
Well, it seems pretty obvious given the tonne of composite artefacts in the r2j, r1us and r2uk releases, that everyone was using the same non-anamorphic tape masters to knock out their transfers. So what it seems Madman have basically done is take the tape master, run it through a comb filter and then apply a tonne of DVNR (or vice-versa). This explains the big reduction in composite artefacts and lack of grain, and also the "fuzzy" lines (because the DVNR filter randomly mixes artist pen lines with video noise and therefore tries to clean them), which to you look like the lines are going from thick(sharp) to thin(soft). Then I guess they've gone to town adjusting the colour balance to get those skin tones more neutral and giving the image a generally yellowy/greeny feel.
I've attached a jpg I cranked out in Photoshop where I took your r2 bmp image of guile and tinkered with the colour balance to get the colours looking closer to the r4 grab. This is a very crude example were I basically increased the yellow colour info and then tweaked the green up just a little.
Not far off is it?
Matt goes on to address why he suspects that Madman is using the same source as everyone else:
There are a few reasons behind my assuming they used the same old tape masters of SFII: First is that, while Madman have cleared up the dot crawl and rainbows present in the Manga transfer, if you look carefully you can still see remnants of the same composite artefacts in the same locations as the Manga release. The same can be said about the Edge Enhancements: the Madman release is generally softer, but it has the same EE in the same places as the Manga. Also, it appears there is still some ghosting in the Madman transfer. In the Chun Li close-up grabs below, you can make out some ghosting of the window frame to the right of her face in both the Manga and the Madman release, which suggests an interlaced source was used:
Another convincing argument for me is that - if Madman had gone back to the original negatives to strike a better master, then in my opinion they would surely produce a much better transfer than the rather poor image on the current release. At the very least I seriously doubt there would be the same levels of cross colouration, dot crawl and DVNR as is clearly evident in this release. That's just my hunch though.
And of course this is all speculative, but the odds are good that Madman has decided to play around a bit. It’s distracting to watch from start to finish and it’s not easy to explain to someone without them having to see it for themselves. Personally I don’t like it and I’m not going to say it’s any better than what we’ve had before, aside from the fact that this time we do get a progressive, anamorphic transfer. That’s just not enough in my book.
Sound options consist only of Japanese 5.1 Surround and English 5.1 Surround. A first though for Street Fighter II on DVD, the film features both audio tracks on a single presentation of the transfer, which immediately debunks Manga’s original nonsensical statement that it would be too hard to do because of the way in which both cuts don’t match up properly. At the end of the day we were only ever looking at a non-dialogue scene involving Chun Li’s arse anyway. So that’s certainly a plus. Otherwise to my ears it’s the exact same track as we’ve already heard on previous releases, so I’ll stick with my statement from before:
The emphasis on the surround placements lies squarely with upping the voltage on the soundtrack, so be prepared for a lot of noise when the action kicks in. In terms of separation there is very little to define this release from any previous one - that goes for both versions incidentally: surround effects are generally pumped up in line with the film score, so punches and kicks don’t come across as distinctly as they perhaps should. Dialogue is generally fine, although the Japanese version offers better clarity throughout in comparison to the slight muffled sound at times from the U.S. edit.
A 2.0 option for each would have been nice.
First up is a collection of character profiles, laid out in the same style as the arcade game selection screen. When you select a character you get a little arcade noise and then you’re taken to the profile. These offer small breakdowns of each character and supply personal info, such as country, D.O.B, blood type etc. It also shows their main special attacks and how to perform them in the game, as well as offering a gallery of shots from the film.
Next is the History of Street Fighter. This basically covers its origins, from the first game, up to its groundbreaking sequel and subsequent spin-offs. Prelude to the Movie is interesting in that it’s a comic representation by Udon of the events leading up to the animated film. The artwork is excellent and we have English translations, but it’s a very brief issue. A good taster though for those interested in seeking out the comics (that is if they’re still readily available).
Finally we get two original U.K Manga trailers, with the second being a TV spot featuring an appearance by footballer Ian Wright!?! Madman Propaganda is a collection of trailers for other Street Fighter series on DVD.
There are also supposed to be some easter eggs lying around somewhere, but I can’t find the bloody things.
So, the pros and cons then.
Manga Pros: Untampered transfer with natural colours and an un-filtered appearance.
Manga Cons: Way too dark, non-anamorphic, interlaced, lots of composite artefacts (cross-colouration, rainbows).
Madman Pros: Progressive, higher vertical resolution, reduced composite artefacts and much better brightness.
Madman Cons: Manipulated colours and heavily filtered, resulting in some terrible inconsistencies in image clarity. Although reduced, composite artefacts are still present.
It looks like we’re going to be waiting for quite a while longer until a decent release of this film surfaces. Maybe they’ll get it right with HD, if ever it’s deemed worthy enough one day.
I’d like to express my gratitude to Michael Mackenzie, David Mackenzie and especially Matthew Shingleton for really going to town, for their invaluable insight in helping me put together this review. It should be noted that these reveals may not be 100% correct, but are based upon well informed assumptions. I’d also like to thank Jeff Wills, who originally contacted me and offered to loan me his disc for the purpose of this review. I’m just sorry that the wait hasn’t exactly been worth it.