Street Fighter, much like the original Star Wars franchise, could be thought of as trilogies.
|Star Wars Titles||Symbolic Comparison to Street Fighter|
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
SF I: The Hadoken Menace
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
SF 2: Attack of the Combos
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
SF III: Revenge of the Parry
This article is part one of a two-part series that will attempt to briefly capture memorable moments within the history and evolution of Street Fighter as it leads up to the highly anticipated - Street Fighter VI. This article will not be focusing on Street Fighter spin-offs such as the Alpha or EX series.
The First Trilogy: Street Fighter 1-3 (1987-1999)
A Brief Introduction
Street Fighter the arcade game was released in 1987 and kids around the world have been yelling “Hadoken!” during fits of rage ever since. The buttons were strange and the inputs were choppy but man has the Street Fighter series evolved since then.
Imagine this. You are the best player in the world in the original Street Fighter arcade game back in 1987. You are undefeated and undeniably the greatest of all time. You then immediately jump into a time machine and arrive at an EVO fighting tournament in the early 2000s. You tell the organizers of the tournament your story; that you travelled a long way and that you are the best Street Fighter player circa 1987. They somehow believe you. You immediately get entered to play in the Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike tournament but you literally just learned the “Hadoken” from the original Street Fighter.
Long story short you get eliminated in the first round of tournament play and your “Hadoken” gets parried a lot. It becomes a viral hilarious Moment in EVO history known as “The Hadoken Menace”.
Street Fighter (1987)
Episode 1: The Hadoken Menace
Street Fighter entered into the gaming world at an opportune time. Arcades in 1987 were full of life and financially booming. This was partially due to the video game crash where the home console game market lost a significant amount of revenue by the mid-80s. At that time, the home console market was viewed more as a fad, or a "flavor of the week", rather than a sustainable business for game developers. I think it’s safe to say the sceptics were wrong.
But can we blame the sceptics for feeling that way? The video game crash was a monumental crash, considering home console games generated revenues at around $3.2 billion in 1983, then fell to around $100 million by 1985. Yikes. This created an opportunity for the arcade scene.
Street Fighter was the first competitive fighting game developed by Capcom and was also Capcom’s first attempt at selling expensive arcade cabinets as well. Selling the cabinets was a lucrative part of the arcade business at that time. Up until this point, Capcom had mainly focused on the game development side of the gaming business rather than selling cabinets to go along with their games.
The option for character selection was not yet available. The default setting was that Player 1 played as RYU and player 2 played as KEN. But who cares right? I don’t think people were asking for a roster of characters back then. What else did they have anyway? Karate Champ?
Most notably Street Fighter introduced command-based special moves like the “Hadoken”, which is pretty much a pop-culture mainstay by this point.
Thanks to a bold gaming vision, clever marketing, and opportune timing, Capcom’s Street Fighter was a success. A Capcom success for 1987’s standards. Unbeknownst to Capcom, this was the start of something really special. If they only knew what was around the corner…
Street Fighter II (1991)
Episode 2: Attack of the Combos
To this present day, Street Fighter II has generated more revenue than any other Street Fighter game in the series. Grossing over 10 billion USD in revenue, Street Fighter II got the executive team over at Capcom extremely excited back in the 90s. Industry experts have often credited Street Fighter II for changing the fighting game genre and have suggested that it was this game that created the biggest “sonic boom” the arcade scene has witnessed since good old Pac-Man. Any gamer who grew up in the 90s will most likely have a story about the hype that surrounded the arcade machines at that time.
By 1994, Capcom had experimented with the idea of re-releasing the same game but with updates to the fighting mechanics, character selection, and game speed among other things. This was very unusual for any gaming company to do at that time. Within three years, there were five, YES, FIVE versions of Street Fighter II:
- Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (1991)
- Street Fighter II: Champion Edition (1992)
- Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting (1992)
- Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers (1993)
- Super Street Fighter II: Turbo (1994)
The Street Fighter fanbase was growing by the minute. They could not get enough and the new versions of Street Fighter II were wildly successful, hence 5 different versions. The release of newer versions would become a trend that Capcom would continue to deploy with the rest of the Street Fighter franchise.
On a side note, there was also a Street Fighter movie starring Jean Claude Van Damme but if you love the game please don’ t take the movie too seriously. It has been a while since I last watched the movie but I just remember thinking “E.Honda is Hawaiian?” and “Why does Guile have a Belgian accent?”.
What made Street Fighter II a Success?
- Memorable Music, Characters, and Visuals
The characters were visually great, with each one having their own unique story. The character development came out in their theme songs and stages. The animations were captivating, which truly brought the gamer into “another world”.
- The 'Perfect' Three Punches, Three Kicks
The light, medium, and heavy punch/kick arcade button-system was already around with the original Street Fighter (1987) but the old button configuration wasn’t very good. In the Street Fighter II series, the button input/output commands were very responsive and felt very refined. Performing “Hadokens” were so much easier now and pulling off a special move, especially in the arcade, felt extremely rewarding. If you could perform consistent “shoryuken” special moves in the arcade, you were basically a local legend in the 90s.
- Attack of the Combos
Did you know the creation of combos in Street Fighter II was a complete accident? In an interview with Polygon, Street Fighter II developers explained how “combos” came to be:
“By making the timing requirements for the special moves looser, an odd gameplay quirk arose…players could skip past certain "recovery frame" animations to unleash a barrage of consecutive strikes. Some of the developers worried this ‘bug’ would ruin the game’s balance…”
In the end, the developers let the programming ‘bug’ stay and combos were born! This would be the beginning of the end for the novice Street Fighter players, as combos would become an essential part for any competitive Street Fighter II players’ toolkit.
Combos paved the way for the introduction of a gauge meter and preprogrammed Super Combos later in the series. Historically speaking, combos may be the best accidental programming ‘bug’ ever.
Street Fighter III (1997)
Episode 3: Revenge of the Parry
After the executives struggled to count the near-infinite amounts of money that was generated from Street Fighter II, Capcom had some bold ambitions for Street Fighter III. Capcom reportedly invested $8 million USD into the project, which was a very large sum for a gaming project, in this genre, in the 90s. Unfortunately, the project was a commercial bust and Capcom struggled to break even with their investment. The series included:
- Street Fighter III: New Generation (1997)
- Street Fighter III: Double Impact (1997)
- Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike (1999)
Many improvements were added in the Street Fighter III series
- A large cast of mostly new characters
- A technical upgrade to the “Progressive Hit Frame System” which improved the areas on a character's 'hurtbox'. This generally improved the balance between characters in comparison to Street Fighter II.
- Each character has a choice between three unique Super Combos before the beginning of the match, giving the player a chance to come up with a strategy on how to use it effectively against their opponent.
- The “Parry” is introduced to Street Fighter for the first time. A Parry is when your character absorbs an enemy’s attack. In Street Fighter III, this can be done by moving your joystick towards the enemy before the attack lands. Parrying successfully not only absorbs an attack and builds gauge meter, but also creates a window of opportunity to counter or “punish” your opponent.
Despite all the technical upgrades to Street Fighter III, the fanbase for Street Fighter was slowly diminishing. There are many theories as to why there was such a big financial drop-off between SF2 and SF3. Some say it was the lack of recognizable characters in the Street Fighter III series that left fans uninterested and others say it was the lack of initial console game releases.
The casual and not so technically gifted fan, like myself, would say it was because of the introduction of parrying. Don’t get me wrong, I think the parry mechanic is genius but I just can’t seem to master it. This mechanic truly separated the elite players from the “Hadoken” playing peasants.
This mechanic also created some incredible viral moments in future fighting game tournaments such as the infamous EVO Moment 37, where Japanese player Daigo did what many believed to be impossible, and parried an entire Super Combo delivered by Justin Wong during live tournament play.
Where Does Street Fighter Go From Here?
Capcom went through a strange roller coaster ride with the first Street Fighter trilogy. The original Street Fighter set the stage for the rise in popularity of one vs one fighting games, introducing special moves into the fighting game mix. The “Hadoken” was born.
Street Fighter II was iconic, improving so much on the original game. Its commercial success was undeniable and is probably the most iconic game in the franchise. Combos were born.
Street Fighter III was ambitious, especially on a technical level. The game introduced the selection of super combos for characters, special moves using gauge, and the parrying mechanic. Unfortunately, Capcom would not reap the benefits of these technical improvements until later on in the series. The “parry” was born.
The commercial failure of the Street Fighter III series forced the “jedi” Street Fighter developers into hiding.
It would be nearly ten years till the fight game community would see another Street Fighter again…