The Story of Street Fighter II

by Nick Petty

Video games began with an idea by Ralph Baer in 1949. He was assigned to build a new televison that could something no other television could do. He was going to build a television that could play games. Unfortunately, was impossible at the time (Herman 1). However, almost twenty years later, Baerís idea finally came to life when the first video games developed across the United States and Japan. Arcades began alongside the new home entertainment electronics, a new industry was born. Like any industry, companies competed for the consumer dollar, advancements in technology were made, popularity waxed and waned, and revolutions occurred. One such revolution took place in the staggering arcade scene of 1991. In March of that year (Horowitz 1), a company named Capcom introduced a game that stood out from the fare of the day and set new standards for years to come. That game was Street Fighter II and it took the world by storm.

In the early nineties, arcades were full of walk-and-punch "twitch" games, where players would walk from left to right across the screen and beat up hoards of weaker enemies before fighting the harder boss. These games used two or three buttons, a joystick and required little skill or practice to win. They were called twitch for this reason, one only had to hit the buttons fast enough for success. The most popular of which was Capcomís Final Fight, featuring the latest graphics and sound. These were not the only games in the arcade, of course. The simulator game was also popular with titles like Segaís Afterburner, Hang-On, and Outrun. Shooters, also twitch games, where players control characters that blow away screens full of enemies with big guns, were popularized by games like R-type and Mercs. Pinball was still an arcade staple as well (Horowitz 1). It was among these games that seeds of Street Fighter II were sown.

The original Street Fighter was released in 1987 to a small niche market. It featured two young karate students, Ken and Ryu, who would travel the world in a tournament to be the strongest fighter. Players could select either Ken or Ryu and control them to fight the computer or another player using an array of punches, kicks, blocks, and secret "special" attacks. The goal was to use these attacks and defenses to either hit the enemy until their life bar is depleted (KO) or have the fullest life bar when time runs out. This was a round, and a battle would consist of the best two out of three rounds. Other games of this type were around, but none were particularly popular. There were several hybrids that played one-on-one as well as standard walk-and-punch. When Street Fighter II was released, it appealed to many as the first game of its type. As Horowitz says, "Street Fighter II did not create a genre. It defined and popularized one that had its origins in Karate Champ, Yie Ar Kung Fu, and Street Fighter itself" (4). Developed by a team led by Yoshiki Okamoto, Street Fighter II was going to be something new and different (3). It was using Capcomís CPS board, the latest technology. Where other fighting games had relatively bland graphics, Street Fighter II had vivid colors, sharp resolution, detailed backgrounds, large characters, and more animation than ever before. The CPS board brought better sound as well. Voices were digitized from real people and used much more than previous games. Games music was crisper and more real. Control was tighter with the new technology. Predecessors could not accurately process the input needed for such a game, which led to many moves executed by luck without any consistency. With Street Fighter II, the CPS board checked the joystick constantly, inputs were recorded and executed properly, this time with consistency. The control scheme itself was also new. The average game at this time used two buttons and a joystick, Street Fighter II used six buttons and a joystick. And its final, true innovation - the ability to select from a cast of individual, original characters. All these advanced features gave the player a new sense of realism and involvement with the game (Kunkel 47). Players no longer could get by with random button smashing. Success arose from skill and practice, not luck. This is what brought Street Fighter II to the front, and why people had never seen a game like it before.

Street Fighter II: The World Warrior March 1991 (dates from Horowitz)

The original has the honor of being the only fighting game after 1991 not to be called a "Street Fighter clone". Featuring the return of Ken and Ryu, and introducing the oft-copied characters Chun-Li, Guile, Blanka, E. Honda, Dhalsim, and Zangief. A player would select one of the eight world warriors and enter the tournament held my the mysterious organization known as Shadoloo, or sometimes referred to as Shadowlaw, depending on the source. The tournament consisted of fighting the other seven competitors and then the four "bosses". These bosses were Balrog, Vega, Sagat, who was the final opponent in the first Street Fighter, and M. Bison (Hoek 1). The bosses were not selectable, which led to many rumors of codes that would access them. In between smashing opponents, players were given a break with "bonus" stages that harken back to the walk-and-punch fighters. After defeating all the opponents, the game ends with a few animations and text telling the characterís story and a roll of the credits.

With better controls and technology than ever before, old features got reworked into a new game. The special move was perfected in Street Fighter II. A special move is an attack or sometimes a defense that requires a special button and joystick combination to execute (Street Fighter Dictionary Q-S). Special moves had been present in the first game, but were too difficult to do and did too much damage. Special moves in Street Fighter II were something that a player could do better with practice and complement their arsenal of standard moves. Blocking attacks was also an idea that finally worked in Street Fighter II. To block is be hit by an attack but not be damaged, or at least not take full damage (Street Fighter Dictionary A-B). Few other games used any find of blocking feature and for those that did, it rarely worked properly. As previously mentioned, bonus rounds returned as well. Bonus rounds or bonus stages were mini-games that tested speed or precision. In Street Fighter II, there were three bonus stages - smashing a car, breaking falling barrels, and clearing flaming barrels.

The game was played so much that glitches began to surface. Some of these glitches were removed, while others were left in because they actually improved game play. The most important glitch was not so much a bug, but rather a programming oversight. This error allowed players to interrupt the animations of one move with another different, usually special move. The two to three moves would string together and could not be blocked after the first hit. These techniques became known as combos and were entirely new to gamers (Street Fighter Dictionary C-D). The goal now was to find and master the hundreds of combos possible. Combos would become a necessity of the fighting game genre, and a staple of the Street Fighter II series.

Street Fighter II: Champion Edition April 1991

With the runaway success of Street Fighter II, Capcom was flooded with requests to improve various aspects of the game. In one of the first times a game company has responded so fully to player requests, Champion Edition is released. The game is not so much a new chapter in the series, but rather an upgrade, using the same tournament premise as before with the once unselectable bosses fighting as combatants. Topping the list of new features is the ability to play a character against him or herself. In Street Fighter II, players could not choose the same character, which leads to uneven matches. Champion Edition introduced new costumes for characters, to allow same person fights and prevent confusion of which player controls which character. With this feature, the fight would be based more on player skill, not who could select the better character first. Also new was the introduction of boss characters as playable. They were toned down in power from their previous incarnations, to even fights, but still maintained somewhat of an edge. Game play was sped up slightly, and background settings were altered to reflect a different time of day. Returning characters were given slight upgrades as well. Ryu and Ken, who had previously been the exact same as far as ability were given slightly different speeds, ranges, and damages for their special moves. The rest of the cast was altered in the same manner to balance strengths and weaknesses, but there still remained particular dominant characters. A few new animations were added, character endings were altered slightly, and bosses were given the same ending animations with varying text.

Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition late 1991-early 1992?

The Rainbow Edition of Street Fighter II represents not one single game, but a host of games that popped up in arcades after the release of Champion Edition. These games came about because of features players felt were overlooked in Champion Edition. Not endorsed or produced by Capcom, the Rainbow Edition was created by various programmers who hacked the ROMs of Champion Edition and edited the game as they saw fit. What resulted was a game that took Street Fighter II to a level of game play so furious, it was nearly unplayable (Horowitz 1). New features included special moves which were excessively fast or traveled too far and the ability to preform any special move while jumping, something never before seen in the Street Fighter series. Certain characters have special moves that are categorized as "fireballs", which are projectile attacks (Street Fighter Dictionary E-F). Fireballs are thrown by Ken, Ryu, Guile, Dhalsim, and Sagat and are followed by the character delaying, which allows only one shot at a time. In Rainbow Edition, every character was given the ability to toss a fireball and the after-fire delay was removed, allowing multiple fireballs at once. Another popular feature was the ability to change characters mid-fight. Previously, players would select their character prior to the fight and keep that character until the contest was over. With Rainbow Edition, pressing the start button at any point in the game would cycle to another character. Despite these very interesting features, games of this type were not particularly popular because of the wild nature of the game. Special moves were too fast and because the game was made by hackers instead of actual Capcom programmers, it would glitch and crash frequently.

Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting (Turbo) November 1992

Not particularly happy with people hacking their games, Capcom gathered the best features of Rainbow Edition and released a new upgrade, Turbo: Hyper Fighting. Many fans consider this game to be the apex of Street Fighter II game play (100 Best Games of All Time 155). There is no change in the story line from Champion Edition, it is still the same tournament. This versionís most immediate upgrade was the large increase in game speed. Some special moves were altered so that they could be preformed while jumping, like in Rainbow Edition. Other features pulled from the hackerís game included special moves that went faster and farther, but not to such an extent, and Chun-Liís new ability to throw a fireball. Many other characters were given completely new moves as well, such as E. Honda and Blanka who could now perform diagonal versions of their older special moves. Despite the introduction of new attacks, no new character animations were added, programmers just altered the existing ones. Character strengths were again altered to even fights and new costumes replaced the ones used in Champion Edition. The bosses were also given real ending animations instead of the hastily added scrolling text of the previous version. With this game, Capcom felt that it had finally properly addressed player requests.

Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers August 1994

When Turboís popularity was waning and rumors were circulating of Street Fighter III, Capcom released a new upgrade to the series. This installment introduced the new CPS2 board, a large step up from the now several years old CPS board of the previous games. Gamers were now greeted with an entirely new introductory sequence in which a large animated Ryu tosses a fireball at the screen. This anime-styled cinema was a welcome change from the bland animation of one guy knocking out another guy in front of a building. Super also featured four entirely new characters; Cammy, Fei Long, T. Hawk, and Dee Jay (Super Street Fighter II 130-131). The story was updated to include these extra fighters, but remained largely unchanged from the tournament held by Shadoloo. Returning characters were given more new special moves and this time additional animations to go with them. Standard attacks were given new animations as well. These were most prevalent in the bosses, who had a very limited set of frames from the earlier games. Backgrounds were updated to match the standards set by the new challengerís stages. Many more colors were possible because of the CPS2 board, and this was reflected in the bright, vibrant graphics. Where previous games had the option of two costumes per character, Super had eight. This game also introduced Capcomís new Q-sound technology. All the voices and sound effects were sampled again and presented in higher quality. Background music was remixed with better synthesizers, giving a much more realistic sound. Super introduced the combo-counter system, which told players when they did a combo, how many hits it made, and awarded points based on damage. Combos became longer, now averaging four hits as opposed to the previous three. Bonuses were given to award getting the first hit in a round and counter-attacking the opponent (Quan 36). Despite all these new features, Super Street Fighter II failed to draw the crowds of previous games. Many were turned off by the slower game play, on par with Champion Edition speed. And almost all players had become jaded after so many upgrades and the slew of Street Fighter clones saturating arcades. The public wanted Street Fighter III.

Super Street Fighter II: Turbo April 1994

Capcom did not release Street Fighter III, instead they threw another upgraded into the flooded market. Claiming that Super was rushed and did not have all the features they wished to include, the company said Super Turbo is what Super should have been (Horowitz 5). The opening sequence featured Chun-Li, Cammy, and the new boss, Akuma, spliced in with Superís Ryu. Game play was sped up from Super, the bonus rounds were removed entirely, and computer controlled players were much more difficult. This was the first Street Fighter game to use "Super Combos" and the "Super Meter". Super Combos were stronger, flashier versions of special moves. They were executed with more complex motions than other special moves and required the use of the Super Meter. The Super Meter was a gauge at the bottom of the screen that filled a little with each attack. When filled, a player could empty the meter with a Super Combo. These moves were added as a kind of last-ditch desperation attack that could turn the tide of a round or seal a victory. Almost every character received some kind of new attack as well, whether a special move or standard punch or kick. The juggle combo, a combo performed while one or both players is off the ground, was introduced in Super Turbo. Another new feature was the overhead hit, an attack used to hit even when the opponent blocks. With the most balanced characters in the series, these game play tweaks opened new levels of strategy and offered the chance for drastically different techniques. Akuma, the ultimate opponent made his first appearance in Super Turbo. Only by completing the game without losing and using a certain number of Super Combos could a player meet their end in the hands of Akuma. He was selectable through a secret code, but the version players used was much weaker. Special ending animations were added for players who used or could defeat Akuma. All other characterís endings were enhanced with an extra graphic that added to their story. Like Super, Super Turbo was met with lukewarm appreciation. Although it was the end of the Street Fighter II series, Street Fighter III was still several years away.

The Characters and Their Stories

Street Fighter II, as previously mentioned, is the story of a martial arts tournament held by Shadoloo, a Thai underworld criminal organization led by the gameís final boss, M. Bison. Each of the seventeen characters that compete have their own motives and stories that are revealed upon the completion of the game. Lantis presents these stories in her article "Street Fighter Story" and the overall summation is as follows: Ryu, the gameís main character and winner of the original Street Fighter, wishes to prove the strength of his Shotokan karate. Upon victory, Ryu leaves the ceremony to continue his training and search for the next battle. Trained alongside Ryu in Shotokan, Ken enters the tournament to prove his strength as well. With the tournament over, Ken marries his girlfriend, Eliza, and lives happily ever after. Chun-Li uses her Chinese martial arts to bring down Shadoloo, which had killed her father when she was younger. Her goal accomplished, she returns to the life of a carefree young woman, or if the player chooses, continues fighting crime as a detective. Guile, the U.S. military special forces agent, is out to avenge the death of his friend, Charlie, who was killed by Bison while on assignment in Thailand. Before Guile kills Bison, his family rushes out and tells him to come home. Guile reconsiders and leads the peaceful life of a loving family man. Blanka, the green monster from the Amazon, enters to find out about his past. When he wins, he is reunited with his mother who saw him on T.V. E. Honda enters to prove that his sumo wrestling is not just a sport, but an effective martial art. Feeling that his pilgrimage is over with victory in the tournament, the yoga master Dhalsim returns to his wife and newborn son. The Russian wrestler, Zangief, enters to make his country proud. When he wins, Mikhail Gorbachev congratulates him and they do a Russian dance. Balrog, the former world champion boxer, is out to regain the title that stripped from him. With victory comes his return to glory. The conceited Spanish bullfighter, Vega, thinks himself to be the most beautiful person on earth and wishes to destroy all those uglier than him. After winning, he returns to his castle and spends his days admiring himself. Sagat, the former master of the tournament and Muethai kickboxer , seeks revenge against Ryu for defeating him leaving a massive scar on his chest. Sagat finds that his life is empty because he focused so much on his anger towards Ryu. Fei Long, the kung fu master from Hong Kong, enters to prove his strength. After he wins, a director signs him to make movies and Fei Long becomes a celebrity. British special forces agent Cammy fights to find the secrets of her past. She learns that she was once in love with M. Bison and is about to return to him when her friends show up and convince her otherwise. The native American wrestler, T. Hawk, enters to reclaim the land Shadoloo stole from his people. Searching for a way to improve his music, Jamaican kickboxer Dee Jay finds a new beat in the heat of battle. His music becomes immensely popular and Dee Jay lives the reggae lifestyle. The leader of Shadoloo and host of the tournament, M. Bison uses his victory to defeat the worldís best fighters. Uncontested, he leads his army to conquer the earth and rules with an iron fist. The ultimate opponent, Akuma, practiced the forbidden deadly secrets of Shotokan karate. This gave him immense power but turned him into a demon of pure evil and rage. Akuma now seeks to destroy all other Shotokan practitioners and make himself the true master of his dark art. Sheng Long, who was only mentioned in Street Fighter games, is Akumaís virtuous brother and Ryu and Kenís master. He was killed by Akuma, but rumors abound that he is still alive.

Japan Versus America

Street Fighter II, like the vast majority of video games, came from Japan. All the characters, except Dee Jay, were designed by Japanese developers. On the whole, the game came to America relatively untouched, even Japanese names for attacks were left untranslated. The only difference between the game the Japanese play and the game the Americans play is the odd name changes several characters went through. For Americans, the boxer is Balrog, the bullfighter is Vega, and the last boss is M. Bison. In Japan, however, M. Bison is the boxer, Balrog is the bullfighter, and Vega is the final boss. Why the change in names? Capcom of Japan named the drinking and womanizing boxer M. Bison, as a play on the name of American boxer, Mike Tyson. When the game was translated, Capcom of America, fearing a lawsuit, swapped the names around (Horowitz 4). Two other characters had their names changed for unknown reasons. Akuma, the mighty demon from Super Turbo, is known as Gouki in Japan. His brother, Sheng Long to Americans, is Gouken to the Japanese. Otherwise, Street Fighter II was just as popular in Japan as it was in the U.S. Fanzines sprung up to cover the latest news and strategies and large circulation video game magazines began running sections devoted to Street Fighter II and games like it. Hollywood turned it into a film and Japan turned it into an anime. Fighting games, beginning with Street Fighter II, were one of the few genres that American and Japanese games enjoyed equally.

After Street Fighter II

Street Fighter III was released, but not immediately after Super Turbo. Capcom stalled with a new series of games that brought back characters from the original Street Fighter as well as introducing many new ones. Known as Street Fighter Zero in Japan and Alpha in the U.S., this game used entirely new graphics and incorporated many new features. Quite popular, this series went through several installments and upgrades as well (Hodgson 60). During this time, a game based on the Street Fighter movie was made. It used digitized images of the actors from the motion picture and played very similarly to Alpha. However, itís graphics were rather bland and the game did poorly. Yet another twist was added to the formula with Street Fighter EX (Rox 52). This time the game switched from 2D animations to 3D polygons. Again, it played like Alpha but introduced more new characters than previous games. Somewhat popular, an upgrade and a sequel were made (Street Fighter EX2 44). Other games to come out the Street Fighter universe were Puzzle Fighter, a Tetris-type game showcasing super-deformed (big head, small body) versions of popular characters, and Gem/Pocket Fighter a fighting game using the child-like forms from Puzzle Fighter. There were also the cross-over games of X-men Vs. Street Fighter and Marvel Vs. Capcom that featured popular Street Fighter characters. It was 1997, three years after the release of Super Turbo and six years after Street Fighter II, that Capcom finally unveiled the third game. Three: A New Generation featured the new CPS3 board, an almost entirely new cast and slightly deeper game play than before (Horowitz 1). The game has since received two updates. Other fighting games, such as Tekken and Virtua Fighter, compete with Street Fighter in a changing arcade environment (Future Fights 92). Today arcades have fewer of these games and instead offer large simulators and virtual reality games. The market for one-on-one fighters has come home with high-tech consoles like Playstation and Dreamcast. Capcom continues to make new Street Fighter games and updates, but the glory of the series remains with the original.




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