In our Final Round series, we take a look an in-depth look at as many fighting games as we possibly can. This week, Shaun Eddleston takes a look at 1987’s Street Fighter…
Year of Release – 1987
Developer – Capcom
Publisher – Capcom
Platforms – Arcade, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, DOS, PC Engine/TurboGrafx CD
One-on-one fighting games were not a massively popular genre in the 1980’s. While trailblazing titles such as 1984’s Karate Champ and 1984’s Yie Ar Kung-Fu introduced the gaming world to number of elements that are now essential to modern fighters (like energy bars, for example), but as the genre was still in its infancy, it never caught on like it would just a few short years later.
Street Fighter, released in arcades in August 1987, serves as a “missing link” of sorts between early one-on-one martial arts games, and the slick, refined experience that we get in todays fighters. Like the important games mentioned earlier, the first title in this franchise introduced us to a number of things that became the standard for the genre for the next three decades. The standard six-button input became the norm, and the arrival of special attacks were an absolute game-changer, even if the rest of the game was still pretty basic.
As this was originally an arcade game, the artwork was highly stylised for use on the sides of the cabinets. The now iconic look for the Street Fighter logo was there from day one, and this early example of artwork from the game does a pretty good job of establishing the characters that you’ll encounter
From a marketing standpoint, and judging from this promotional poster, the character designs of Ryu and Ken seem to have remained largely unchanged since this game, and seeing Ryu in “super-saiyan mode” is a cool image that would certainly make me want to spend an obscene amount of my money on Street Fighter credits in the arcade. Job well done Capcom!
When it came to home console releases, the game still sticks to the badass paintings to adorn the covers. As the graphics for many games in this era were somewhat basic when it came to actually playing, the box art had to be amazing in order to shift copies.
I mean, If I was a teenager in the mid-to-late 1980s, who wouldn’t want to purchase something with a fiery martial arts expert dropkicking a chain-wielding street thug on the front cover?
Just take my money!
It’s also in this area where things get particularly interesting too. Much like with a number of foreign movie posters of big budget productions in that era, it’s clear that the artist hasn’t really played the game all that much.
While Street Fighter isn’t a million miles away from the side-scrolling beat-em-ups from that era, it is still a bit of a confusing poster for a new type of game, especially one with innovative new features.
Another noteworthy piece of artwork is seen on the game’s TurboGrafx-CD release. The game was released under an alternative title on the platform, due to Nintendo’s strict control over developers who wanted to develop games for the NES system at the time.
Since Capcom was such a big developer for Nintendo at that time, releasing classics such as 1985’s Ghosts ‘n Goblins, they were restricted from developing games with the same title for other gaming companies.
To get around this, Capcom released Street Fighter on this system under an alternate name, Fighting Street, since Nintendo already had a game on that system named Street Fighter 2010 (which I will discuss in an upcoming post, it’s a real doozy!)
Street Fighter features 12 characters, of which only two are playable.
First up we have Ryu. Even if you have only a rudimentary knowledge of video games, chances are that you know who Ryu is. In order to prove his strength, he enters a worldwide street fighting tournament.
What is most notable about this early version of the character is that he has red hair, and wears red shoes, as opposed to the dark brown hair and bare feet in almost all future versions of the character. He is also the main character you are able to play as.
Next up, Ken. Ryu’s former training partner and rival, he is another iconic character who features in pretty much every instalment of Street Fighter. This version of Ken is practically the same as many of his future appearances in the franchise, and has the exact same move-set as Ryu. The differences between the two characters here are merely visual.
In order to play as Ken, a 2 player match needs to be played, which should be won by Ken, then you’ll progress onwards through the AI opponents. It’s a pretty awkward method, but seeing as how his inclusion in the game is purely so it could facilitate an early multiplayer mode, it’s understandable.
Retsu, a Shorinji Kempo instructor who was excommunicated for using forbidden moves, is the first opponent you face in Japan. While he hasn’t appeared in any other Street Fighter game since this one, he still pops up from time to time in several backstories.
He was supposed to make his playable debut in 2004’s Capcom Fighting Evolution, but was cut from the game due to time constraints. He also plays a role in a pair of Street Fighter II drama CDs that were released only in Japan, “Mad Revenger” and “Portrait of the Magician”.
A claw-wielding descendant of a ninja that uses shurikens and teleportation techniques, Geki is the second opponent you face in the Japan area. His claw is very clearly a prototype for what we see in StreetFighterII‘s Vega, and let’s face it, you can’t have a martial arts-themed fighting game without a ninja included somewhere, right?
Like most of the characters in Street Fighter, Geki doesn’t appear in any other entries in the franchise after this one. Very little is known about him, but according to the Street Fighter V website, it is implied that he was killed in Asia, and that a second Geki (aptly named Geki II) has taken his place.
As you hit the USA levels, you meet Joe, an underground full-contact karate champion. He was formerly the unbeaten kickboxing champion of the United States before violent outbursts and financial troubles caused him to become an outlaw on the road. He currently participates in indie wrestling tournaments under the identity “Super Star”.
He is loosely based on the late kickboxing legend Joe Lewis, and this is his only appearance in a Street Fighter game.
The second opponent in the USA section is Mike, a former heavyweight boxer who once killed an opponent in the ring and did time in jail for robbery, where he learnt to box.
Mike is based on Mike Tyson, and while it is thought that Street Fighter II‘s Balrog is an updated version of Mike, Capcom insists that they are two separate characters, despite their similarities.
It was also thought that the two characters fighting in the introduction to Street Fighter II were Joe and Mike, but it has since been confirmed that those are characters named Max and Scott.
China starts off with Lee, an expert in Chinese martial arts. He is the uncle of the twin Bothers Yun and Yang from Street Fighter III (Yun even looks very similar to Lee with his ponytail and blue cap, and his dashing punch move is similar to Lee’s dashing punch), and while he is mentioned by Chun-Li in Super Street Fighter IV not much is known about his past.
Gen, an elderly professional assassin who has developed his own murderous martial art style who entered the tournament to find worthy challengers. When he did not find any, he went back to the streets of China. He is the second fighter you face in China.
He is one of the few original Street Fighter characters who actually appears later on in the franchise, making his playable debut in Street Fighter Alpha 2.
Birdie appears in the England stages, and is a bouncer who uses a combination of wrestling and boxing techniques. He was invited to the tournament but was apparently very ill, so did not go very far.
Another character who appears again later in the series, making his playable debut in Street Fighter Alpha and becomes one of the series’ more quirky and unusual characters
Eagle is the other England-based opponent in the game. He is a club-wielding bodyguard of a wealthy family who is rivals with Sagat, by whom he was previously defeated. He is also a master of the stick fighting martial art, Bōjutsu.
Eagle appears again in Capcom vs. SNK 2 as a playable character, and also joins the roster in Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper, the Game Boy Advance port of the game.
Thailand is the final destination in the game, and you are first greeted by Adon. He is the number one disciple of Sagat, participating in the first World Warrior tournament to prove to the world that he is more than just a lesser version of the “Emperor of Muay Thai”. After Sagat’s defeat, Adon distances himself from his teacher.
He becomes playable later in the series as part of Street Fighter Alpha, and makes several more appearances across the series.
Sagat is the final boss of the game, and calls himself the “Emperor of Muay Thai”. He hosted the first World Warrior tournament to prove that, he is the greatest fighter in the world and great warriors from around the world came to prove their strength. He fires Tiger Shots and also uses the hopping Tiger Knee.
Sagat appears several more times across the series, returning as a boss in Street Fighter II, before becoming playable for the first time in the game’s “Champion” edition.
Street Fighter is broken up into five sections; England, China, Japan, USA and Thailand.
Like many of the arcade fighters from that era, the level design and background artwork were starting to become more detailed and included bits of references to company employees and various other easter eggs.
Japan’s stages vary between fighting in front of temples, and sparring in the Japanese countryside with Mt. Fuji looking on in the background. The USA feature a trashy graffiti-covered trainyard and fighting at the base of Mount Rushmore (because, ya know, AMERICA!). China predictably features a Great Wall stage, and the night time city streets. England continues with the stereoypes by featuring a pub, complete with walls adorned by old punk posters, and the second stage is set in the countryside, with a river in the background and what seems to be a castle in the distance. Thailand finishes the game up with more buddhist temples.
It does an OK job of establishing a Street Fighter series staple of creating stages that act as a sort of extension of the fighters that they represent.
As with many arcade fighting games, there are bonus levels featured in Street Fighter.
The first of these is a “Test Your Strength” style game, where you try and break as many bricks as you can in one hit. This style of bonus round is now more associated with the Mortal Kombat series, but is fun to do with an early version of Ryu nonetheless.
The second of the bonus rounds is a speed-based game where you have to break planks held by dojo apprentices as quickly as you can. As the time on this one is unforgiving, it’s a tricky and at times awkward experience, but a welcome addition to the game.
Early versions of the Street Fighter arcade machine were recognisable for the pair of pressure-sensitive buttons mounted on the front; the idea was that, the harder the player struck them, the more powerful the character on the screen would strike at his opponent. In theory, this was a pretty fun gimmick and helped set it apart from other games in the arcades at the time. In reality, the system was unwieldy and arcade owners began to worry that their customers were damaging their hands and the machines by hitting the cabinet too aggressively.
There were several ports of Street Fighter on a variety of home consoles, each with their own feel due to their respective hardware limitations.
Of all the ports, the original arcade version and the TurboGrafx-CD version are the best experience, while the MS-DOS, ZX Spectrum and Amiga versions in particular are incredibly poor.
One of the best things about the arcade fighting games from this era was the absolutely hilarious win/defeat quotes after you finished a match.
Street Fighter has the exact same quote for every fighter when you defeat them, complete with a beaten, often-bloodied avatar of them, a tradition that continued into many of the future Street Fighter titles.
The quotes that come up after you take a loss are pretty laughable too. The phrase “Try again, kiddo!” has never been intimidating, and comes across as incredibly lame. Not a good thing when it’s supposed to be a establishing a serious threat.
The final win quote of the game declares you as “King of the Hill”, and reminds you that you shouldn’t become complacent with your victory, as there are always challengers waiting to take your spot. Good life advice, maybe, but seeing as how the replayability factor for this game is pretty low, it’s a bit confusing.
Street Fighter was a pioneering entry in the fighting game genre, but was immensely overshadowed by its sequel, Street Fighter II. Many of the elements that are so crucial to modern fighting games were done here for the first time, even though the quality of the game totally depended on which port you were playing.
It isn’t a great fighting game, but it earns extra points for being an interesting starting point for what is now arguably the greatest fighting game franchise in gaming history.
I look forward to giving this a proper go when it arrives in the 30th Anniversary collection when that drops at the end of May!