Happy 25th Birthday Street Fighter!
You know that you feel old, when you’re almost the same age as a revered fighting game franchise. Way back in 1987, along came a new title that tried to encapsulate fighting on a world stage, as a lone wolf took on the best of the best across all continents. A moderate success, it wasn’t until Street Fighter 2 arrived in 1991 that the fighting game boom really took off. So sit back, relax and have some pound cake, as we take a look at the last 25 years of the Capcom cashcow franchise.
Street Fighter (1987)
This is where it all began, as Ryu arrived with a fistful of hadouken in arcades, back in the eighties, on this very day. While players could only control Ryu as he battled across five continents and ten opponents, a second player could also join, donning the familiar red gi of a certain rival by the name of Ken Masters, in a game that introduced differing attack strengths and a level of tactics to an otherwise young and simple genre.
Street Fighter II (1991)
Now we’re talking. The Street Fighter that set a benchmark for the industry arrived in 1991, bringing proper one on one fighting to the franchise, new characters, a proper storyline and a popularity that was so massive, that Japan actually had a coin shortage on its hands due to the game guzzling quarters left, right and center.
The game was so successful in fact, that by 1993, sales of it resulted in profits of more than $1.5 billion. Eager to make even more cash, Capcom then farmed the game out to multiple consoles, and proceeded to upgrade the game several times, resulting in Hyper, Turbo and The New Challengers revisions, tweaking the gameplay every time.
The game is still going strong to this day, existing in numerous online versions, collections and classics compilations. Not bad for a game released over 21 years ago, which happens to be the best selling SNES title of all time.
Street Fighter Alpha (1995)
What, you thought the Jason Bourne franchise was the first use of an interquel? Much like a fighting game hipster, Street Fighter was using just such an idea before it became mainstream. Known as Street Fighter Zero in Asia, the game took a leaf out of Darkstalkers, employing anime designs and animations for the characters present, a trademark visual that would influence Street Fighter games for years to come.
Alpha also the addition of even more hectic combo systems, counters and chain attacks, while the plot fleshed out the events that occured between the first two Street Fighter games, using younger versions of established brawlers, with a few new faces thrown in.
The second Alpha title kept things simple, tossing out the Chain combo mechanics, and giving players the option to use custom combos instead. New characters were added to the 13 fighters from the first interquel, including a few hidden and bonus ones that required quite a bit of skill to unlock.
Capcom milked Alpha to release a newly updated version for arcades, Zero 2 Alpha, which was ported to consoles shortly afterwards. The final Alpha game appeared in 1998, expanding the roster to 28 characters on the Playstation One and Sega Saturn, before it saw further release on the Sega Dreamcast, Super Nes, and PC.
Street Fighter EX (1996)
It’s 1996, and Capcom wants to make their next Street Fighter game take advantage of a more three-dimensional space, resulting in the birth of the EX series, thanks to developer Arika. With the original cast back, and joined by several new faces, this was the first game to feature polygon graphics, as it attempted to combine 2D fighting mechanics on a more open field of battle than fans were used to. A commercial success, Street Fighter EX saw two more sequels released, before it faded away a few years later.
Street Fighter Versus Series (1996)
In the years between the final Street Fighter Alpha game, and its rebirth as Street Fighter 4, Capcom churned out plenty of games pitting it’s iconic fighters against other company mascots.
SNK, Marvel comics, Tatsunoko and King of Fighters were just some of the new additions that did battle with Capcom, eventually culminating in the superb Street Fighter X Tekken, setting up a dream match with Namco, that will be continued when they finally release their version of the game.
Because translating a hadouken into 3D space is hella difficult.
Street Fighter III (1997)
By 1997, Capcom wanted to shake things up, which they did with the third core Street Fighter game. Ditching everyone but Ryu and Ken, SF3 saw an all new roster of fighters emerge, from Ibuki to Alex, Gill and more.
Gameplay also received quite a shake up, with the Super Arts system that could the tide of battle with a well-timed application, as well as the parry ability, which opened up all new avenues of strategy for veteran players. Using a new graphical engine as well, Street Fighter III also had far more detailed sprites, which allowed for more dazzling attacks and animations to play out.
Two sequels followed shortly, with 2nd Strike adding new tweaks and bonus stages, while 3rd Strike arrived in 1999, bringing with it a few familiar faces, fine-tuning the experience even further.
Widely considered by veteran fighting game fanatics to be one of the best examples that the genre has to offer, 3rd Strike has seen plenty of ports in recent years, from PSP to Xbox Live, bringing the final entry in SF3 to online audiences all across the world.
Street Fighter 4 (2008)
After years of seeing a genre reduced to a niche category, Street Fighter exploded into the mainstream once again, setting off a fighting game revival. Faster, slicker and more focused, the results were gorgeous, and the fans loved it. New characters mixed with old ones perfectly, the art style was sublime and the gameplay additions were welcomed with open arms, in a game that rewarded players who fought smart and carefully.
Followed on with Super Street Fighter 4, and Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition, Capcom looks set to spin out more titles based on this particular iteration, for may years to come still.
Street Fighter was ripe for the pickings, when Hollywood and various other interested parties came calling. Movies, cartoons, lunchboxes and all kinds of merchandise has put quite a bit of coin in the pockets of Capcom, so here’s a quick look at how the franchise drifted into new forms of media.
An animated film based on the characters from Street Fighter 2 arrived back in 1994, helping to spread awareness of anime in western territories, before none other than the Muscles from Brussells, Jean Claude Van Damme arrived in a live action adaptation. One of the worst movies of all time, but also a great guilty pleasure, that resulted in JCVD showing Kylie Minogue his Thailand. And of course, a video game tie-in.
More animated versions of the Street Fighter Franchise followed in the years after, expanding the story further, before a film that eclipsed the JCVD effort in terms of sheer awfulness, The Legend of Chun Li, set a new low for the franchise in 2009.
But beyond that, there’s more Street Fighter merch than you can shake a Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku at. Card games, comics, music, chess sets and RPGs are just the tip of this iceberg, but thank the gaming gods that Street Fighter never produced a musical road show, the way that Mortal Kombat did, at least.
Here’s to another 25 years of high kicks, hairy Russians, lawsuit-dodging boxers and cheap attacks. Happy Birthday Street Fighter!