Earlier this year we showcased games that would be turning 30 during 2017. Many of you grew up with the games in question and hold fond memories of them in your hearts and minds. While each title would hold influence in various ways in the arcade industry and popular culture, few titles would generate the impact that a 1v1 fighting game from Capcom would manage, the legendary Street Fighter series. That game turns 30 as of today so happy birthday Street Fighter!
Street Fighter – An Arcade Legacy
Since this is a coin-op arcade blog, let’s take a stroll down memory lane in regards to Capcom’s signature fighting series. The most recent Street Fighter creation, Street Fighter V, unfortunately skipped the sector in an official capacity (not going to count console builds running on timers) but there is plenty to look over starting with the initial SF offering from 1987.
If you take a look at Capcom’s output after they got their start in 1984, many of their titles actually came to arcades in kit form as opposed to dedicated cabinet releases. This was a more economical way to break into the competitive market but if you wanted ‘gravitas’, you needed to make cabinets too. It was a bigger risk to take but it could pay off just as well. That gravitas came in 1987 with the release of Bionic Commando, Capcom’s first dedicated game. While that worked out for them to some degree, they sought for some industry experience in producing the deluxe version of their upcoming Street Fighter game, reaching out to Atari Games to design what would be known as the “Crescent” cabinet.
— Arcade Heroes (@arcadeheroes) August 8, 2017
This was a distinctive design but a headache for operators as the two giant hit buttons were pneumatic. As fun as that might be to punch, they wore out quickly, making the standard six-switch button setup far more appealing.
I remember seeing an original Street Fighter at an FEC back in the 90s; Street Fighter II was already out at that point so it was surprising to see how it limited what fighters you could play as (Ryu for player 1, Ken for player 2):
It is worth noting that Street Fighter was not the first 1v1 fighting game to land on the market – titles like Warrior by Vectorbeam (1978) or Karate Champ by Data East (1984) to lay claim to that sort of thing. But the ideas behind Street Fighter with six button attacks PLUS special hidden moves was innovative at the time and would lead to greater things, such as…
Street Fighter II
It took a few years for a follow-up to find it’s way to arcades, with Capcom remaining busy churning out several new arcade titles a year. But with Street Fighter II, the landscape of arcade gaming and culture would change forever. I don’t need to get into a lot of detail there as many of you experienced it – arcades were packed with players looking to become the ‘World Champion’ and show off their skills; competitors to Capcom had to scramble to tap into market demand with their own takes on the game. This would populate the arcades of the 90s with titles both good and bad although to the operator, seeing crowds vying to play something was always a good thing.
Street Fighter II truly built on its predecessor by letting you select your character from an interesting cast, flying around the world for each challenge. This also allowed it to build on ideas like control combinations to pull off those special attacks. Improvements to the graphics and sound also allowed this to stand above it’s predecessor to become what is perhaps the most iconic video game of the 1990s.
Capcom found such success out of the game that they also ended up releasing several versions of the game to the market, each with improvements and even additional content. Eventually it became a running joke (one I remember us kids discussing during recess at school) that it never seemed like they would reach Street Fighter III, instead just churning out variations of II for the rest of time.
The first release: World Warrior. I can’t remember which version it was exactly but I do remember the first time that I came across the game. I had already heard kids at school talking about it but my family wasn’t one for going to arcades. Due to that, my first SF2 encounter wasn’t in an arcade at all but a popular ice cream parlor in town by the name of Leatherby’s that always had at least two arcade machines sitting around. Fortunately I was able to beg my dad for a quarter to play while he was waiting for our take out order to be finished up and I played a quick round with Blanka before getting destroyed in the 2nd match by the computer. Naturally my play style was ‘pound the buttons to make things happen’, not realizing quite yet how to make the special moves work but I would figure that out later. Good times.
Next up was Street Fighter II Champion Edition, also known as “Street Fighter II’ DASH” in Japan due to the increase in speed. This also opened up more characters for the user to play as and tweaked other things such as how many maximum rounds could be played in a match:
That same year, Capcom updated the game again with Street Fighter II Turbo Hyper Fighting. This might be the best known version of the game to be found in arcades(at least in my area, it seems to be the version most people ask for), with additional tweaks such as game speed and new character moves.
Super Street Fighter II – The New Challengers was next, coming in about two years after the first version of the software had been released. It enjoyed the benefits of a new hardware platform, the CPS2, offering better graphics and sound while adding four new characters, more moves, new locations and so on. Capcom would also produce a unique & rare variation to this one called The Tournament Battle that allowed cabinets to link together for eight player battle mayhem.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo would come along only a few months after that, further enhancing the fights with new Super Combos and more.
The last release of the Street Fighter II series to arcades was Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition but this did not see a release out West; it came around in 2003 which is about a year after Capcom called it quits in the US arcade market. I’m sure if the Capcom of today was to do something like Ultra Street Fighter II: Arcade Edition, it would probably get some decent sales; for a time when I was running both Street Fighter II – Hyper Fighting and Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition next to each other, most weeks SF2 beat SF4 out in earnings. People are still drawn to the game that they remember playing back when it was hot.
Street Fighter – The Movie
With all of the hype and earnings that Street Fighter would generate, that caught the eye of Hollywood who would commission action star Jean Claude Van Damme as Guile for the silver screen adaptation of the game. While this movie would flesh out the characters a bit more from what the games had done, it was a flop, failing to make back what was spent to produce it (grossed $33m but cost $35m to make according to IMDB…I’m sure they made up for the rest in VHS sales though). There was an animated movie launched in Japan to make up for it, at least.
As a part of the promotional blitz that the film would enjoy, this meant that an arcade game would come out of it too so we had Street Fighter – The Movie. This is an oddity amidst SF games as it went with a Super Street Fighter II Turbo game fighting style but with digitized graphics, ala Mortal Kombat. I’ve never heard anyone ask for this one…
Street Fighter Alpha
Moving on from the wonderful world of digitized graphics and cinematic stink bombs, Capcom would develop a ‘bridge-gap’ series between the first and second Street Fighter storylines that was known as the Alpha series out West (Zero series in Japan). This still used the CPS2 hardware, introducing new characters and combo systems along the way. Alpha was releasedin 1995 while Alpha 2 came along the next year and the Alpha series ended with Three in 1998. Let’s go with am arcade-to-console comparison video for this one:
Street Fighter EX
When I’ve heard this series mentioned among fans, it usually seems to be with a groan. I’ve not personally played any of the EX games so I can’t comment on how they played and you can understand why they tried to go into the 3D direction, since the likes of Tekken and Virtua Fighter were doing so well on the market at the time. At the very least, the fighting was kept on a 2D plane so that the game looked different but it wasn’t Tekken. In hindsight, this is essentially what Street Fighter IV would do but EX still seems to generate mixed responses from fans. This was also developed by a 3rd party, Arika while Capcom handled publishing duties. The arcade would receive four releases in this line-up: EX, EX Plus, EX2 and EX2 Plus.
Street Fighter III
Six years after Street Fighter II would change everything did Capcom finally arrive to the 3rd official part of the series in Street Fighter III – New Generation. This boasted new CPS3 hardware (which used a CD-ROM drive) for the best 2D graphics the series had seen yet, introduced several new characters and a more technical fighting system known as parrying. This is something that is more for seasoned players but getting the hang of it gave the game some depth. This enjoyed three iterations, not finding the same level of success that SF2 had. In part, the game was less inviting to new/casual players but the end of the 90s was a time where gamers were all “fightered out”. Apart from New Generation there was 2nd Impact and Third Strike; I have a 2nd Impact board but when I had the game out on the arcade floor, I heard complaints all the time that it wasn’t Third Strike. Of course TS is more expensive to get your hands on but it was was slightly amusing to hear people playing 2I while moaning how it wasn’t TS. You can never please everybody.
Street Fighter IV
I’m not going to cover the crossover games like Marvel Vs. Capcom but apart from those, after SF3, Capcom took a break from the series on the arcade side of things. In part that was also because the company shuttered their US arcade division around 2002 while whittling down what the Japanese arcade guys would be doing. That all would change when Capcom would resurrect Street Fighter with Street Fighter IV in 2008.
Similar to the Street Fighter EX situation, DIMPS would develop the game under Capcom’s supervision. It ran off of Taito’s PC-based Type X2 hardware, featured 3D graphics but played like a traditional 2D Street Fighter game would. It launched to a bit of fanfare in Japanese arcades before landing on consoles; US arcades could import the game if they felt so inclined. That situation would remain the same when Capcom released the Super Street Fighter IV, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition 2012 Edition and Ultra Street Fighter IV updates to arcades. I myself decided to grab the AE kit that Taito brought to America back in 2011, which story I’ve told a few times on the blog before. The kit has been dead for a couple of years now…I probably need to get that taken care of 😛 But it was a bona-fide arcade release, the US version operating in a slightly different way that did not require linking two kits together so you could play on the same cabinet.
That’s a wrap for now – there had been talk about Street Fighter X Tekken and Street Fighter V getting official arcade releases but I am not aware of Capcom following through on that (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong there). I do think that the series is best played in the arcade but that’s my purist side speaking…I get why it is popular on consoles and why fans demand it there for accessibility.
So, what are your fondest memories of Street Fighter in the arcade?