Street Fighter at 30

Street Fighter at 30
29 Jan 17

As you may be well aware in my estimation the best game of all time is Street Fighter II and its many incarnations. It played a significant part of my early teenage years and my attitudes to gaming as a whole. Well now I feel old because the franchise is celebrating 30 years in 2017 so I thought that I would do a rundown on this phenomenal title which still have generations hooked to this day.

You’ll have to cast your mind all the way back to 1987 where our story begins. The first Street Fighter debuted in this year when the concept designed by Takashi Nishiyama and Hiroshi Matsumot hit the world’s arcades.

The game and storyline centred around 2 main protagonists, Ryu and Ken. In single player mode you guided Ryu through this path to ultimate enlightenment and chose the destiny of Ken as player 2.

Control-wise the characters had 3 types of punch and 3 types of kick and certain combinations resulted in special moves designed to wreck your foes. The game was OK. It was on my radar for a little while but soon faded from memory.

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But, then in 1991 the gaming landscape was about to be torn apart with Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, the second installment of the adventure. But this game didn’t just act as a follow up to its predecessor it changed gaming completely.

So what was different? Well for a start you could play as a multitude of characters each with their own unique story but the thing that made is so successful was the way that you controlled your fighter. Once again you had 3 options to punch and kick but with the aid of your joystick a combination of moves produced a series of devastating attacks such as Ryu and Ken’s dragon punch and fireball which were launched against their enemy with the shuddering “Hodoken” and “Sho-Ryu-Ken” shrieks. This was the instant success of the game as all of the challengers had unique moves and traits. No longer could you just jump around like a ninny hoping to land a punch, you had to be wholly strategic in the manner that you attacked. Ultimate and relentless devastation had to be reaked to be successful and sweaty, spotty teenagers had to master their craft to stay in the game. It really was the first game that you had to train for to become a master or you’d be toast.

For the start of the 90’s the graphics looked amazing, obviously tame by today’s standard but it was so engrossing. I hit the arcades every night after school to take on challengers from far and wide, sometimes successfully but sometimes losing embarrassingly but this just pushed me to try harder and harder. Never before has there been and I don’t think ever will be a game that has encouraged me to hone my craft like Street Fighter II.

And you’d think that this was the end, but you’d be wrong. The game evolved in ways that we never saw coming. Less than a year later in 1992 Street Fighter II: The Champion Edition hit the slots. This gave us the gameplay that we loved but it allowed us to play as the end of game bosses Balrog, Vega, Sagat and the ultimate bastard M-Bison. This release also allowed those in 2 player mode to play as the same character so if you had your fave you didn’t have to opt for a lesser fighter if your opponent had chosen them first. This just fueled the hype which was now at fever pitch.

Then things got mental. The advent of Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting. The was really screwed up but I loved it. Hyper Fighting basically ignored the rules of the version that came before it and even the laws of physics. You also had the choice of selecting how fast you wanted to play the game with the ability to play in Turbo mode which at max was an insane experience.

Then things got out of hand which I have no complaint about. Modders got hold of the SF2 roms and we started to see them in our arcades such as being to perform killer moves in mid-air and to introduce multi-hit combos which was the secret to success.

But unfortunately things seemed to slow down. Obviously Capcom knew that they had a monster success on their hands and were going to milk it it for all it was worth. This was no more evident with Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers which really did not change the original emphasis of the game but did introduce new characters with a range of new abilities. The was also a graphics tweak that I was never that fond of but must have brought a raft of new players to the platform, but it did at least keep the evolution of the game alive.

Not happy with their previous effort I believe that developers of Capcom has a degree of OCD as Super Street Fighter II: The Grand Master Challenge X hit the coin-ops. There were some interesting updates but not enough for me to put my coins in the slot.

Then if that wasn’t enough for you we got slammed with Hyper Street Fighter 2: The Anniversary Edition. You can see where this is going.

But that’s right, they must have had ants in the pants because soon we were introduced to the first installment of Street Fighter Zero. A complete graphics overhaul ensued but with the gameplay we all knew and loved as well as a selection of even more characters to learn and dominate as well as some killer combos and knockouts.

Now at this point you must be wondering what was going on in the Capcom offices, maybe they had no TV or heating but in quick succession Street Fighter Zero 2 was already attacking our senses. At this point I wondered if I had enough 10p’s for the rest of my life. Now if you were worried about the sanity of SF2 developers there were 5 versions of this game.

So maybe now the devs were not talking to their significant others or family as in quick succession Street Fighter Zero 3 hit. Man these guys must have really been under the cosh because this title was updated twice. Time for a rest right?

No, not one bit. In 1997 Street Fighter III: New Generation hit to less than a rapturous applause as it didn’t bring much more to the party other than new characters and a number of new moves as well as new graphical implementation. As much as SF2 was my life this was like a dodgy sequel that no one ever asked for.

So with that you’d think they stopped there but maybe in an effort to rectify their mistakes they ploughed more effort into the title. And so Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact was born but nothing really helped what looked to be a dying franchise.

So what do you do? Well of course you update it again. This time you get to pump your silver into Street Fighter III: Third Strike. There were some minor gameplay and performance improvements but you’ll be forgiven if you never noticed it. There were even more updates to this title. Even I’m having issues at this point in keeping up.

As technology progressed so did the game. 3D technology was all the rage and games like Tekken seemed to be eating SF’s lunch so they adapted once again. The result being Street Fight EX a 3D take on the 2D classic. And it did look amazing, But you can improve right? Of course you can. Take EX Plus the next installment. I would really hate to be in the Capcom dev team at this point, especially when you’re asked to then release Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha and then Street Fighter EX2 and for good measure Street Fighter EX3. Surely you’re seeing the pattern here.

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Then things start to get interesting. The world of eSports was in the ascendance and Street Fighter was at the head of the queue. This opened the door for Street Fighter IV the best of all that came before it. Great gameplay, 3D graphics and awesome immersion. In its time it has made champions in their field and a hefty financial purse to boot.

And although multiple versions came after IV and the follow up V it proves that games with the most simple premise have the best staying power. 30 years later the Street Fighter legacy continues but I am more interested in the retro element of Street Fighter as I’m sure a lot of us are.

This year we have also heard that for the 30th anniversary there are some big surprises coming so the legend may well continue for a few more decades.

Was it one of your fave? Who was your best character? What was your best move? And what would you like to see from future releases? We would love to hear from you.

Author

Paul Wright

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