Franchise Festival #12: Street Fighter

Background

In 1979, the I.R.M. Corporation was founded. It would later change its name to Capcom. Throughout the 80s Capcom published games for arcades and home console systems with hits like Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Mega Man 2, and 1942. In 1987 it released Street Fighter, a one-on-one fighting game pitting players against a series of CPU opponents. While it wasn’t the first game of its type, Street Fighter laid the groundwork for the series. It would be its sequel that would cause the series and fighting game genre to explode in popularity.
Street Fighter (1987)
New fighters (playable): Ryu, Ken
New fighters (non-playable): Retsu, Geki, Joe, Mike, Lee, Gen, Birdie, Eagle, Adon, Sagat
The original Street Fighter arrived in arcades without much fanfare. Only Ryu and Ken were playable. However there were no differences between their fighting styles, so effectively there was only one playable character. Still, it featured the six-button layout, one-on-one fighting and special move inputs that are at the core of the series. One version of the arcade cabinet used two pressure sensitive buttons instead of the usual six. The Turbo-Grafx 16 CD received a port of the game in 1988 under the name Fighting Street.
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (1991)
New fighters (playable): Chun-Li, Blanka, E. Honda, Guile, Dhalsim, Zangief
New SFII: Ken, Ryu, Sagat (non-playable)
New fighters (non-playable): Vega, M. Bison, Balrog
Following the success of Final Fight, Capcom developed Street Fighter II to expand their fighting game audience. SFII introduced nine new characters, each with their own moveset, stage, and fighting style. Players could throw their opponent, preventing them from simply blocking (turtling) the whole match. In addition to the motion inputs, SFII added “charge” special moves, requiring players to hold back or down for two seconds then press the opposite direction plus an attack button. Each fighter had their own backstory and ending.
SFII proved to be an enormous success, becoming one of most successful arcade games of all time. Critics praised its vibrant graphics, variety of playable characters, and excellent sound design. Arcade goers spent many hours perfecting the special moves and exploring the nuances of each fighter. Many players were introduced SFII via its port to the Super Nintendo, which was mostly faithful to the arcade version despite some visual and audio downgrades.
Street Fighter II’: Championship Edition (1992)
SFII: CE added the ability to select the Grand Masters, Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison. Players could also select the same character, a feature missing from the original.
Street Fighter II’ Turbo: Hyper Fighting (1992)
Released due to an abundance of modded CE cabinets, SFII Turbo increased the game speed and gave most of the original eight fighters new moves, such as Blanka’s vertical roll, Chun Li’s fireball, and Dhalsim’s teleport. Interestingly, none of the new moves required additional animations. SFII Turbo quickly became the preferred version of the ‘early’ editions of SFII.
Super Street Fighter II (1993)
New fighters: Cammy, T. Hawk, Fei Long, Dee Jay

Running on the new CPS-2 hardware, Super Street Fighter II reworked the game’s presentation from the ground up. New sprites and backgrounds were created for all existing fighters and stages. Returning fighters were given new moves, such as Ryu’s red fireball, Balrog’s headbutt and new ‘normals’ for the Grand Masters. A new scoring system awarded points for landing the first hit, performing combos, and reversals.

But the game’s biggest change was the addition of four new fighters to the roster including MI6 operative Cammy, kickboxer Dee-Jay, movie star and Bruce Lee ripoff Fei Long, and grappler T. Hawk. Fans loved exploring the new characters, but lamented the game’s slow speed compared to SFII Turbo.

Super Street Fighter II Turbo (1994)

Super Street Fighter II Turbo added throw escapes and the ability to juggle your opponent to the game’s mechanics.  But the biggest change was the Super Combos. Super Combos were high-priority, multi-hitting moves that can be performed once the player had filled a meter at the bottom of the screen. Super combos were flashy and added another layer of complexity to the game, becoming a staple of the series. Players could also set the speed of the game at the character select screen.

Also new was the series’ first hidden character: Akuma. Skilled players could fight Akuma instead of M. Bison if they met certain requirements in Arcade mode. Akuma’s fighting style resembled Ken and Ryu’s, except he had an air fireball and multi-hitting ground projectiles. A nerfed version of the character was playable via a code. SSFIIT is one of the most balanced and beloved entries in the series. Tournaments for the game are still held over 20 years after its release.

Street Fighter: The Movie (1995)

Returning characters: Akuma, Balrog, Blade, Cammy, Chun-Li, E. Honda, Guile, Ken, M. Bison, Ryu, Sagat, Vega, Zangief

Returning characters (home version only): Dee-Jay, Blanka

New character: Sawada

Based off the abysmal live-action film, SF:TM came and went quickly. The digitized live action poses looked stiff compared to the fluid movements in previous entries. While appearing similar, the home and arcade versions were developed by different teams and have big differences in their fighting engine.

The arcade game was released to middling reviews and players went back to Super SFII Turbo. The home versions suffered from input lag and long loading times, and are largely considered an embarrassment. On the other hand, what other game would let you play as Ming Na-Wen, Kylie Minogue, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Raul Julia?

Street Fighter Alpha: Warrior’s Dreams (1995)

Returning characters: Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Birdie, Adon, Sagat, M. Bison, Akuma

New characters: Charlie, Rose, Guy, Sodom, Dan

Taking place between the first entry and Street Fighter II, the Alpha series borrows its storyline from the Street Fighter anime movie. The primary plot revolves around M. Bison’s mission to capture Ryu and harness his fighting potential.

SFA brought back Super Combos with a few enhancements. Now players could charge up their Super meter up to 3 levels and use one or all of them when executing super moves. Alternatively, they could use one level to perform Alpha Counters, attacks that instantly respond to opponent’s attacks when executed while blocking. Air blocking was also possible.

Five new challengers joined the fray. Charlie played very similar to Guile, fitting considering he was Guile’s partner in the Air Force. Rose could reflect fireballs and channels energy through her scarf. Guy, who like Sodom comes from Final Fight, had an array of moves to rush towards his opponent from the ground and air. Sodom was a grappler who fought with jitte.

Returning fighters also received a boost. Adon, not seen since SF1, had an array of kick attacks that arced at unique angles. Fellow SF1 alum Birdie was a grappler who brutally slammed opponents with his chains.

But perhaps the most memorable newcomer was the hidden character Dan. Dan was a parody of Robert Garcia and Ryo Sazaki, two fighters from SNK’s Art of Fighting that resembled Ryu and Ken in appearance and backstory. Dan’s special moves were pale imitations of Ken and Ryu’s moveset with laughable range and effectiveness. Despite this he’s astonishingly overconfident, constantly taunting his opponent during matches. Although players were initially disappointed by a seemingly ‘wasted’ character, Dan has since become a fan favorite.

Street Fighter Alpha 2 (1996)

New to Alpha series: Dhalsim, Zangief, Gen, Cammy (Gold version only)
New characters: Rolento, Sakura, Evil Ryu

SFA2  only had one major addition to the fighting engine: custom combos. Using the Super Meter, Custom combos allowed fighters to string special moves together and juggle their opponents for a few seconds. They proved to be extremely powerful in the right hands, with some characters able to perform 100% “touch of death” combos (see the video below).

The new fighters brought more variety to the roster. Sakura, a teenage Ryu superfan, gave a new take on the “Shoto” archetype. Rolento appealed to Vega players with his unorthodox jumping arcs and movements. Gen, returning from SF1, has two separate stances with normals, specials, and super combos specific to each. Finally there was Evil Ryu, who fought similar to Akuma. Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold, a rebalanced update, added Cammy.

Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1998)

New to Alpha series: E. Honda, Blanka, Vega, Balrog
New characters: Karin, R. Mika, Cody, Juni, Juli

Added to the home versions: Guile, Fei Long, T. Hawk, Dee Jay, Yun, Eagle, Maki, Ingrid

Sporting an overcaffeinated announcer, a drum-and-bass soundtrack and a new, hyperactive UI, SFA3 feels like a culmination of the games that preceded it. Now players could select different fighting styles, or ISMs, for each character. X-ism was reminiscent of Super SF II Turbo, with higher damage output and one large Super meter. A-ism played similarly to previous Alpha games, with a Super meter that could build up to 3 bars. V-ism featured a new Custom Combo system.

Karin was the standout new fighter of the game, featuring complex series of commands that can chain together. Cody, another Final Fight alum, made his Street Fighter debut in a ridiculous Hamburglar prison outfit. R. Mika provided a unique take on the grappler archetype. Juni and Juli were less interesting, being essentially Cammy clones.

The home version of SFA3 featured World Tour mode, an RPG-like experience where players fought through special battles that featured unique scenarios like multiple opponents or increased damage. Fighters could earn stat bonuses and special abilities to equip and take into Versus mode. It also included a large selection of other modes such as a robust Survival, Dramatic Battle, Team Battle and Final Battle modes. The sheer variety was unusual for Capcom leading some to hope that the days of the bare-bones arcade port was over. Sadly that was not the case.

Not content with that, Capcom added classic characters Guile, Fei Long, T. Hawk, and Dee Jay to the Playstation release. The PSP version added SFIII’s Yun, SF’s Eagle, Final Fight 2’s Maki and Capcom Fighting Evolution‘s Ingrid to the mix.

Unfortunately, the custom combos of SFA3 dominated all other fighting styles, limiting its appeal for tournament players. Worse, players discovered infinite combos, making fights repetitive. Many hardcore fans prefer Alpha 2 to this day. Still, for a casual fan looking for a Street Fighter fix, it’s a tough game to pass up. It was released on the Playstation, Saturn (Japan only), Dreamcast, Game Boy Advance, PSP, and PS2 (via a compilation disc).

Street Fighter EX series (1996, 1998, 2000)
Developed by Arika, a developer with several former Capcom employees, the SF EX games brought the franchise into 3D. The games don’t mess with the Alpha formula too much, the biggest innovations in the original SF EX was the ability to cancel one super combo into another one. SF EX2 added Excel combos, which functioned similarly to the Custom combos of the Alpha games. SF EX3 was a launch game for the PS2 (and looks like one) and added a tag battle mode. Arika retained the rights to original characters created for the series and many of them will be returning in the upcoming fighting game Fighting EX Layer. The SF EX games are considered non-canonical, but still hold a unique place in the history of the series.
Street Fighter III: The New Generation (1997)
New characters: Alex, Oro, Elena, Sean, Yun, Yang, Necro, Dudley, Ibuki, Gill (unplayable)
New to SF III series: Ryu, Ken
Ending a long running joke that it couldn’t count to 3, Capcom finally released SF III six years after Street Fighter II. Initially the game featured only new fighters, but Ryu and Ken were added after early arcade testers complained. Running on the new CPS-3 hardware, it boasted significantly improved sprite animation, moving with a level of fluidity rarely seen before or since.
There were some shakeups to the fighting engine as well. No longer would players have access to two to four super combos at any time during the match. Instead they would select from 3 possible “Super Arts” at the character select screen.
But the biggest innovation was the parry system. By tapping forward (or down for low strikes) just before an opponent hit, players could deflect their attacks and counter with their own. Matches became mind games of guessing your opponent’s next move while trying to remain unpredictable.
The new fighters were a mixed bag of conventional, humorous, and just plain weird. Necro mixed the stretchy limbs of Dhalsim with the electric attacks of Blanka. Dudley and Alex were new takes on the boxer and grappler archetypes, respectively. Ibuki could toss knives from the air and had good mobility. Oro was a hundred year old man who fought with one arm tied behind his back and appears to be wearing a burlap sack. Gill, the final boss, was infuriatingly difficult with a Super Art that would restore him to full health upon being knocked out.
(If you’ve been paying attention to the dates you might notice that the Alpha, EX, and III series all overlap. This isn’t a mistake, Capcom really had three different takes on Street Fighter running simultaneously in the late 90s. Never underestimate their ability to milk something)
Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact (1998)
New characters: Hugo, Urien
New to SF III series: Akuma
2nd Impact added EX special moves, enhanced special moves that could be used at the expense of a portion of the super meter. The EX specials enjoyed new properties, such as additional hits, increased speed, or causing wall bounces. Taunts, or “personal actions”, were also added. Taunting comes with bonuses, such as increased offense or defense. So if someone taunts you in SFIII, don’t assume they’re being a dick, it makes a difference!
Only two new characters were added to the roster. Hugo was designed similar to the brawler Andore in Final Fight (who was clearly inspired by Andre the Giant). Urien was essentially a toned down Gill and could summon mirrors that reflect projectiles. Also Yang, who previously played identical to his brother Yun, was given a new, unique moveset. And finally, Akuma returns as a hidden character.
Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike (1999)
3rd Strike made only minor changes to its predecessor’s mechanics, but added five new characters to the roster. Fan favorite Chun-Li finally joined the action. Tomboyish badass Makoto brought excitement to every match with her aggressive playstyle. The androgynous Remy showed echoes of Guile and Charlie in his moveset. Shape-shifting Twelve could turn invisible and even transform into his opponent. Finally there was Q, an enigmatic, lumbering cyborg who clobbers anyone foolish enough to get in his way.
Although the SFIII had a lukewarm reception on initial release, 3rd Strike came to be one of the most beloved entries in the series. It wasn’t terribly balanced (Yun, Chun-Li, and Ken dominated tournaments), but the flexibility of the parry system allowed for unpredictable, exhilarating matches. This resulted in the most infamous moment in fighting game history, humorously dubbed “Evo Moment #37”
Street Fighter IV (2008)
New fighters: Rufus, C. Viper, El Fuerto, Abel
New to SFIV: Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, E. Honda, Blanka, Zangief, Guile, Dhalsim, Balrog, Vega, Sagat, M. Bison, Akuma
New to SFIV (home version): Cammy, Rose, Sakura, Gen, Fei Long, Dan
After over six months in the arcade, SFIV came to home systems in 2009. The arcade mode featured animated intros and endings for each character, a first for the series. English and Japanese voice actors were also used for the first time. The story revolved around Seth, the final boss, and his efforts to seize power after the fall of Shadaloo, M. Bison’s criminal empire.
The parry system from SFIII was dropped, instead SFIV introduced Focus Attacks, which allowed characters to charge up an unblockable attack while absorbing hits. Focus attacks could cancel special moves, at the cost of a half the Super Meter. In addition to Super Combos, fighters could also perform Ultra Combos, which only became available after they’d taken enough damage.
The new fighters expanded the Street Fighter universe in interesting ways. Rufus’ rotund shape and goofy haircut didn’t prevent him from striking with speed and tenacity. C. Viper was an execution-heavy fighter who could hit from across the screen. She played so differently some veterans remarked that she felt like she “came from a different fighting game”. El Fuerto used his high speed jumps to slam his opponent with wrestling moves. Abel was a new grappler who could roll through fireballs to close in.
SFIV was an enormous success, outperforming Capcom’s sales expectations. It’s frequently credited for reviving the fighting game genre. Now in the days of YouTube and livestreaming, players were able to share tips and tutorials all over the world. Weekly tournaments were broadcast from across the US and Europe.
Still the game had its share of detractors. Some didn’t like how Ultra Combos allowed the losing player to make a comeback. Others felt the game didn’t “feel” right. Online players complained of laggy matches and dropped connections. Some of the ethnic stereotyping and fanservice didn’t sit well with critics either.
Super Street Fighter IV (2010)
New fighters: Hakan, Juri
New to SFIV: Adon, Cody, Dee Jay, Dudley, Guy, Ibuki, Makoto, T. Hawk
Added to Arcade Edition: Yun, Yang, Evil Ryu, Oni
Super SFIV gave all the characters an additional Ultra Combo, requiring players to choose at the character select screen. Otherwise, it largely left the mechanics of the original untouched. Team Battle and Replay modes were added to the game.
Turkish oil wrestler Hakan brought some levity as he slipped and slid around the arena. Sadistic henchman Juri could fake opponents and store projectiles. A number of favorites from SFA and SFIII also came back. In 2011 Capcom released Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, which added Yun, Yang, Evil Ryu, and Oni. Arcade Edition was available both as a standalone game and DLC for Super SFIV, a first.
Ultra Street Fighter IV (2014)
New fighters: Decapre, Poison
New to SFIV: Elena, Hugo, Rolento
USFIV added several new stages and fighters, most of them pulled from the poorly-received Street Fighter X Tekken. Decapre was pulled from Street Fighter comics and offered a different take on Cammy. Poison (from Final Fight) had a solid keepaway game and is the series’ first trans character. Elena and Hugo returned from SFIII and Rolento from SFA.
USFIV included a new “Omega” version of each character. This version included new, powerful specials, many pulled from the series’ history. Not intended for competitive play, this was a fun addition for casual matches.
Street Fighter V (2016)
New fighters: Necalli, Laura, Rashid, F.A.N.G.
New to SFV: Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, M. Bison, Vega, Cammy, Birdie, Karin, R. Mika, Zangief, Dhalsim, Nash (formerly Charlie)
Season 1 characters (2016): Alex, Guile, Ibuki, Balrog, Juri
Season 2 characters (2017): Akuma, Kolin, Ed, Abigail, Menat, Zeku
Season 3 characters (2018): Sakura, Blanka, Falke -coming later Sagat, G, Cody
Taking place between SFIV and SFIII, SFV returns M. Bison to the role of antagonist, bent on world domination. Each fighter has a V-skill and V-trigger. Both give fighters unique abilities, usually related to movement and offense.
The first Street Fighter game to be released on home consoles first, Capcom switched to a “games as a service” model for SFV. Instead of big DLC updates, the game would be continually updated with new characters, costumes, stages, and balance patches. Players could buy annual Season Passes that gave them all of the years’ new fighters. Alternatively, they could earn “fight money” by winning matches online and purchase characters, costumes, and stages through the in-game store.
Reception to the cast was mixed. Rashid hailed from the Middle East, where Street Fighter enjoys a vibrant competitive scene. SFA3 fans were thrilled at the return of R.Mika and Karin. Season 2’s Menat was the best received new fighter, boasting a sexy, fun design and unique fighting style.
Other fighters didn’t fare as well. Abigail’s enormous size and overly muscular body looked like something out of Looney Tunes. Returning fighters Vega and Nash were changed drastically from previous iterations. Newcomer Laura, while fun to play, was the most blatant example of an objectified female character yet in the series.
While SFV received good reviews upon release, a backlash brewed once it became clear how lacking its features were. On launch day the game only had 16 fighters, didn’t support online lobbies, or even have an Arcade Mode. The existing single-player modes were sorely lacking and players complained that they paid $60 for a beta. In the midst of all these complaints Capcom continually released costume packs, which some saw as in an indication they were more interested selling DLC than putting out a quality product.
In July 2016 Capcom released a free Story Mode, a first for the series. The story was mostly nonsensical, (at one point Cammy hops on a motorcycle in Brazil and later gets off the motorcycle in London) but watching the SF cast interact with each other had a certain novelty. A proper arcade mode was released after nearly two years. Despite the controversy, Capcom continues to support Street Fighter V with updates, tournaments, and new characters.
Other games
  • In 2003 Hyper Street Fighter II was released on the Xbox and Playsation 2. It allowed players to select any version of the fighters from the SFII series and face them off against each other.
  • In 2006 Capcom hid Hyper Street Fighter Alpha as a bonus game in its compilation Street Fighter Alpha Anthology. It bore many similar features to Hyper Street Fighter II, allowing players to select any version of fighters from the Alpha series.
  • In 2008 Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix was released on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. It recreated the original game in high definition and included a remixed soundtrack. This was rereleased on the Nintendo Switch as Ultra Street Fighter II in 2017, adding Evil Ryu and Violent Ken to the roster.
Spin Offs
Street Fighter has had many spinoffs. One of the most acclaimed spinoffs was the competitive puzzler Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, in which Street Fighter and Darkstalkers characters faced off in gem matching battles. The chibi sprites would be reused in the cutesy fighter Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix.
Street Fighter characters also fought against and alongside characters from other franchises, most famously in the Marvel vs Capcom series. Rival companies SNK and Namco got in on the action in Capcom vs SNK and Street Fighter X Tekken, respectively. Street Fighter characters even faced off against popular anime characters like Tekkaman in Tatsunoko vs Capcom.
They’ve made numerous ‘guest’ appearances as well. Sakura appears in the beloved Rival Schools: United By Fate. Akuma is a hidden character in X-Men: Children of the Atom and actually plays a role in the story in Tekken 7. Asura’s Wrath lets the titular hero face off against Ryu and Akuma. Ryu is also playable in Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS. Recently several Street Fighter characters were announced for the Power Rangers: Legacy Wars mobile game.
So that about wraps it up. What are your best Street Fighter memories? Who are your favorite fighters? Does Guile’s theme really go with everything? And if you made it this far…