Thirty years of Street Fighter

It’s not hard to see why Street Fighter matters to Capcom. While the first game was a bust all things considered, a mere curiosity that would set things into stone and where better entries in the franchise could be launched from, Street Fighter II was without a doubt their most widespread hit. A hit that didn’t just change what a V.S. fighting game was, but also the culture around it at a global scale. The original Super NES release of the game was Capcom’s best-selling title until Resident Evil 5 to boot. Without a doubt one of the cornerstone’s in Capcom’s arsenal of games.

You may scoff at my notion of Street Fighter II being a global phenomena, but that what it was. People in their thirties or older who spent any time in the arcades or had a Super NES probably spent some time with the game with their friends. Anecdote be damned, but I can testify knowing people from the US, Singapore, Japan, Australia, Germany, Scotland, Britain, France, Portugal, Hong Kong and Russia who played Street Fighter II in the mid-1990’s and to this day were able to throw a fireball or two without much reminder how to play the game. Or in the case of the guy from Britain, pick up Dhalsim and beat the crap out of anyone who challenged him.

Street Fighter’s characters and their nationalities used to be relatable and for those who didn’t care, there were characters that were interesting, colourful and full of wonder. They weren’t fantastic per se, but that was part of the charm. These characters that were able to dish out projectiles made of life energy or spinning sound waves ultimately had rather mundane design and look to them, but something that would stand the test of time. The original cast of Street Fighter II do not age, as their design is very much rooted to reality with enough push of that fantastic element to give them a slight edge. Some later Street Fighter characters would meet a lesser fate when it came to their design, and for good reasons. However, this isn’t really a post about the design philosophy of Street Fighter, though there would be enough material for this for sure.

A big hit, said to have re-written rules of a whole genre to the point of the franchise being considered de-facto title and large cultural impact across the world. No wonder Capcom wants to celebrate all the major Street Fighter anniversary with the second game.

And there lies to rub. Five years ago, when Street Fighter was celebrating its 25th anniversary, and even before that, when the 20th hit the corner, I’ve argued that Capcom should go back beyond and remake the original Street Fighter game. Instead, Capcom decided to release a celebratory 30th Anniversary Edition of the original Street Fighter II for the SNES. Nobody should be surprised that it has already sold out, because collectors are crazy like that. I’d rather pick up boxed copy for less, if I needed another copy of the game on my shelf. Furthermore, it’s a sort of middle finger to European players, as the game only runs in NTSC region machines. Let’s not forget the warning towards the bottom of the screen warns you that the cartridge may damage your system, cause it to overheat and catch fire. That’s not exactly what I’d look for in a game.

But I digress. Street Fighter would use a remake and serve as a very soft retelling of the origin of the franchise as well as put the emphasize back to Ryu’s and Sagat’s rivalry, and have a legit moment where Murderous Intent Ryu appears for a moment in the canon. None of that really matters. What matters that Street Fighter is really a terrible game to play. None of its home computer or console ports ever improved on it.

The joke is that the franchise began with its second title, and as much a joke that is, it’s pretty applicable. We could ignore the original Street Fighter and lost absolutely nothing. Yet something always nags behind me skull, reminding me that all the sequels in the franchise had few iterations to them in the arcades or otherwise. Even with Street Fighter V, the updates and added characters have made it a different game from what it was originally. The mode of updating just changed from separate releases to updating the game itself.

Return to the original Street Fighter could also allow the developers to flex themselves otherwise, if they choose to take notion of the progression the series has seen in its thirty years run. They could choose to treat it yet another new entry and do whatever they wished, like usual, or they could take into notice the lack of super moves and advanced functions and design the game with more to-the-core approach. Not necessarily simplifying the game design to the point of gimping it, but looking at what made Street Fighter  successful enough and then improve on that with the experience gained thus far. Granted, that game already exists and is called Street Fighter II, but the point still stands. With all the hubbub of fighting games being too hard to get into, and the furiously fanatic hobbyists being afraid anything with simpler mechanics that don’t require half a year of training ends up being terrible, there is a place for professional house like Capcom to create a game that stands between two extremes.

Maybe it’ll take another ten years before Capcom gives this a thought. Hopeful wishing at its best, as Capcom is infamous of just letting franchises and games fall into obscurity and be forgotten. Just like how Street Fighter as a franchise was put into ice for better part of a decade after Third Strike and EX 3. Nobody sheds a tear for the original Street Fighter, and it’ll stay as a minor curiosity with little interest towards it. Then again, perhaps that alone would create enough impact.

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