After Holiday drought, back to big name releases:
Killzone 2, REsident Evil 5, Street Fighter IV. Loco Roco and F.E.A.R 2.
It took Capcom, the developers of Street Fighter, 22 whole years to count to 4.
Since the original Street Fighter in 1987, its taken the japanese game company two decades to reach number 4, with Street Fighter 4 due to be launched on February 20. Along the way, of course, they were marginally distracted by having to manage of the most seminal one-on-one fighting games of all time - so dubious mathematics for Capcom is probably more business strategy than arithmetic fail.
It’s a series that has inspired numerous fighting games (Midway’s Mortal Kombat was developed as a direct response to Street Fighter II), defined the many characteristics of fighting games today, spawned innumerable copycats and a 1994 movie fans have been unsuccessfully trying to repress from their memory.
So, with Street Fighter 4 lurking around the corner, and in acknowledgment of Capcom’s brave realization that the world of numbers does indeed extend beyond 2 and 3 - we take a look back at 22 years of dragon punches, hadokens and furious button mashing.
Street Fighter 1 (1987)
The arcade game that started it all laid many of the foundations for the series - attack buttons, special combos, and series stalwarts Ken and Ryu. In the original, players controlled Ryu as he made his way up the ladder of a fighting championship, with a second player, if present, controlling his rival Ken.
Unfortunately, the series’ trademark for hammy dialogue and exclamation-mark happy words of wisdom finds its roots here as well. ”Fists of destruction, eh...?’ begins Ryu promisingly before a fight. ”Nevertheless, I’ll overcome you!!”
Street Fighter 2, and...2. and 2. Followed by 2. (1991-08)
After some unsuccesful branding efforts and a disastrous spin-off, the first ’true’ sequel to Street Fighter arrived on arcades in 1991.
Street Fighter introduced a new, more complex six button configuration, and 8 characters, each with his/her unique fighting style - creating a level of depth and replayability that would catapult it to instant arcade fame. Other series regulars, including sumo wrestler E-Honda, spunky martial artist Chun Li, and the static energy spewing Hulk knock-off Blanka, make their debuts here.
Street Fighter 2 is, to date, Capcom’s most successful title -which might explain, to some extent, the next two paragraphs.
Now, this might a little difficult to keep up with, and not all of it is strictly necessary - but this is the story of what happened when Capcom decided that 2 was enough, and numbers above that were frankly over-rated anyway. There were 3 variants of the original Street Fighter II: ’Champion’, ’Hyper Fighting’ and ’World Warrior’, each of which added cosmetic changes and tweaks to special moves. Then came Super STreet Fighter in 1993, with improved animation, audio and a new game mode.
Here, things (and suffixes) began to spiral out of control. Super Street Fighter II Turbo arrived a year later in 1994, adding a new class of moves called ’SUper Combos’ (Kick-Kick-Kick-Grab-Throw-Hit with fireball, for example). Hyper Street Fighter II came next, combining all the previous improvements into a new, ’definitive; title. Two collections, Street Fighter Collection 1 and 2, were released for the Sony Playstation. Hyper Street Fighter II arrived on the Playstation 2 one generation later, this time prefixing all the game modes with ’Super’ and ’Hyper’ tags. (Super Vs. Mode! Super Tournament!). And finally, a remarkable 18 years later: the impossibly titled Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix was released for the xBox 360 and Playstation 3. Consider it ’Super Super Hyper Street Fighter II’, in Capcom parlance.
Street Fighter Alpha (1995-2002)
After milking the Street Fighter II cow for a while, Capcom decided to go ahead and completely demolish all concepts of mathematics by releasing a title called ’Street Fighter Zero’, which is...wait for it, set between the plots (yes, there are plots) of Street Fighters I and II. In western markets, this was called ’Street Fighter Alpha’ (better, but still unhelpful). For the Alpha series, Capcom changed the art style to be more in line with their other fighting game franchises, including X-Men and and the Marvel license. This would pave the way for future bizzareness, like the Marvel Vs. Capcom fighting games (Imagine Spiderman Vs. Chun-Li).
Street Fighter 3! (1997-99)
Capcom pulled off a bloodless coup in 1997 with the release of Street Fighter 3: The New Generation. Gone were all the familiar characters and movesets, replaced by an entirely new list of fighters. Only Ken and Ryu remained (they were rpesumably needed for branding purposes). Main antagonist and crime lord M.Bison was replaced by ’benevolant monarch’ Gill, while Ken and Ryu take backseat to new lead character Alex - who is rather excitingly described as a ’warrior from Manhattan.’
Two sequels, 2nd Strike and 3rd Strike, were released in 1998 and 1999.
Street Fighter Ex (1996-01)
The soul of Street Fighter has always been its retro 2d graphics, and hand drawn art - so its not entirely unsurprising that Capcom went very reluctantly down the 3d path. This happened first in 1996, with Street Fighter EX, followed by two sequels in 1999 and 2001. The third was also released for the Playstation, where it competed unsuccesfully against the console’s reigning fighting titles Tekken and Virtua Fighter.
Street Fighter 4 (2009)
Street Fighter’s return to form is a visually stunning Street Fighter 4. Featuring pseudo-3d cel-shaded, hand drawn visuals inspired by sumi-e brush paintings. The familiar cast from Street Fighter II is back along with some new additions for a total roster of 19 characters.
Suprisingly, little has changed in the series’ gameplay - counter-attacks are now much more prominent, but the core fighting system has remained largely intact for the last two decades.
Where fighting games have spread and multiplied to encompass several different play styles, Street Fighter’s stubborn insistence on arcade fun and simple complexity is almost quaint.
But its never-ending popularity is creating a new generation of furious button mashers. Strategy? Who needs strategy?