It’s 1991, the arcades are still booming, those fortunes are beginning to reverse, however. Due to the popularity of home consoles and the availability of a multitude of game genres on those systems the arcades are beginning to empty. However, one game starts to initially reverse that tendency, however. Street Fighter II with its incredible line up of characters and diverse move set. Capcom’s game defined the fighting genre and rapidly became one of the most popular arcade games of all time.
One on One brawlers weren’t very popular in 1991, other notable titles in the genre were released in the mid-’80s. Titles such as Karate Champ (1984) and the amazing Yie Air Kung Fu (1985) had become known as trailblazing classics. But the genre was still in its infancy int he arcade.
The first Street Fighter game is now the half-forgotten link between these games and the revolution which occurred when Street Fighter 2 was released. The game features a now-familiar globe-trotting fighting tournament, with locations as varied as the far east to the iconic Mount Rushmore. There’s also a variety of characters – although the only two playable characters are Ryu and Ken (if you play in two-player mode). Admittedly the characters lack the personality of those in Street Fighter II, but it was a huge step forward for the genre.
Early versions of Street Fighter were recognizable for the gimmicky pair of pressure-sensitive buttons that were mounted on the front. The idea was that the harder the player hit them, the more powerful the character on the screen would hit his opponent. In practice, however, it was unpractical and just broke the arcade cabinets. Capcom then re-thought the machine’s design. Capcom then replaced the pressure pads with the now generally accepted six-button arcade fighting controls. This overhaul became a hit with gamers and generally became more successful as a result.
The design and animation are not as fluid as we would expect from a Capcom title. It’s clear that Street Fighter was the product of a team still getting to grips with its own concept. There’s also no evidence of the strategic element of the sequel in the original game. Ryu does look generally like he does in Street Fighter II, his Dragon Punch, for example, is incredibly overpowered and it’s possible to spam this attack to defeat your opponent by reusing this move.
Although this game is not considered a classic. It did well enough for Capcom to agree to several conversions to a number of home systems. The one I personally owned was for the Amstrad CPC 464 but was available for systems such as the PC Engine and eventually branched over to the 16-bit machines like the Amiga. These were handled by US Gold and magazines were littered with fairly attractive adverts.
In the wake of Street Fighter, two of the game’s key personnel were spirited away by rival developer SNK. Producer/director Takashi Nishiyama and planner Hiroshi Matsumoto were among them, and would ultimately end up creating the Fatal Fury and Art Of Fighting games, which were hits in their own right.
Capcom, meanwhile, didn’t exactly rush into making the Street Fighter sequel. Instead, it concentrated its energies on making Final Fight – a scrolling beat-em-up made in the wake of Double Dragon, which also launched in 1987 and proved to be a sizeable hit. Final Fight actually began life under the title Street Fighter ’89, and even appeared at trade shows under that name.
Street Fighter II’s brilliance utterly eclipsed its predecessor, and the original Street Fighter is more an interesting footnote than a game worth returning to in its own right. But beneath its muddy graphics and garbled sound lurked the concepts that would one day be refined into a truly world-conquering arcade classic. Capcom would be propelled into the big-leagues, and fighting games would never be quite the same again.
The Game that started the Street Fighter legend. Play as Ken or Ryu and fight your way across the globe in the prototype for one of the biggest games ever made. A fun, if flawed beat ’em up which was ported to the home microsystems in the wake of its arcade success.
Chris McAuley is a Northern Irish born author, comic book and gaming columnist who has now branched out from talking about comics to helping create them. An acclaimed colourist for 2000 AD and Marvel he has worked on flagship titles such as Judge Dredd, Roy of the Rovers and Hulkverines. Chris also has a commitment to the Indie scene being an inker and colourist for ‘The Lang Way Hame’ a Scottish comic which is tipped for an award later this year. With close ties to heroes of the industry such as the ‘Godfather of British comics’ Pat Mills and Spawn creator Todd McFarlene,