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 1991’s Street Fighter II…
Year of Release – 1991
Developer – Capcom
Publisher – Capcom
Platforms – Various
The age of the arcades in the 1980s was somewhat of a rollercoaster ride of popularity and profitability. Its highs saw the business. Its highs saw games such as Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Donkey Kong sell hundreds of thousands of their hardware machines to arcades across the globe, overtaking the massively popular pinball machines that were considered to be untouchable at the time. By the tail end of the decade though, the arcade market had become immensely saturated, resulting in sales for machines to slow down exponentially, while more and more players were simply turning to the new home consoles that were being introduced too.
Things changed in 1991, and it was mainly down to a single game; Street Fighter II. Capcom’s first foray into the Street Fighter series (read our Final Round article about the game here!) set the foundations for the waves and waves of fighting games that would follow over the years, even though it wasn’t the first ever fighting game. The game’s launch with an unusual control system contributed to the game not being as successful as Capcom had hoped. With the success of Final Fight, Capcom decided that they had to up the ante and revive Street Fighter with a sequel.
Street Fighter II was released in arcades in March 1991, and was a roaring success. Almost every new idea that was introduced in the first game was implemented nd improved drastically upon. It saw the return of command-based special moves using a six-button configuration, but now had eight selectable fighters to choose from, each with their own unique fighting style. Players could now directly fight against a human opponent, instead of the standard “beat my high score” methods previously available.
The game also introduced the concept of combos, although this came about by accident;
“While I was making a bug check during the car bonus stage… I noticed something strange, curious. I taped the sequence and we saw that during the punch timing, it was possible to add a second hit and so on. I thought this was something impossible to make useful inside a game, as the timing balance was so hard to catch. So we decided to leave the feature as a hidden one. The most interesting thing is that this became the base for future titles. Later we were able to make the timing more comfortable and the combo into a real feature. In Street Fighter II we thought if you got the perfect timing you could place several hits, up to four I think. Then we managed to place eight! A bug? Maybe.”Noritaka Funamizu, Producer of Street Fighter II
The game not only sparked the boom of fighting games in the 1990’s, but it is also credited with revitalising the dying arcade industry, including the introduction of niche fighting game only arcades.
Spawning many spinoffs, sequels and movies, it is fair to say that Street Fighter II is a true cultural phenomenon, and mone of the most important (and influential) video games of all time.
promotional material & Box art
The promotional artwork for the game’s original arcade release heavily featured the artwork of Akira Yasuda, the game’s character designer. Each character was showcased with their backstory, accompanied by some screenshots from the game.
Action figures were released for the game in 1993/94 by Hasbro, and were a confusing crossover with GI Joe. As can be seen in the TV commercial, many of the game’s fighters now had attack vehicles for some reason, complete with some awful acting to help to advertise them.
A manga series, written and drawn by Masaomi Kanzaki, was serialised in the monthly Family Computer Magazine in 1993 and 1994. It was produced prior to the release of Super Street Fighter II, and while it wasn’t the only Street Fighter manga, it was one of the earliest and the first of few that was actually translated into English.
A full length animated movie was released in 1994. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie was a huge success, and spawned an anime series and its own game, Street Fighter II MOVIE.
The game’s original release used the same artwork across the board, showing a fight in a dark alleyway between the characters Ryu, Blanka and Chun-Li.
In the years following its initial release, Street Fighter II saw several new updates arrive, adding new content and changing up certain gameplay elements each time.
re-releases & updates
Street Fighter II: Champion Edition
Released in April 1992, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition added the game’s four boss characters as selectable characters.
A feature was also added that allowed two players to select the same character, with one character being distinguished from the other with an alternate color scheme. Characters using their alternate color scheme now have their names printed in blue below their lifebar.
The number of opponents in the single-player mode increased to twelve due to the addition of clone matches. Some of the artwork was redrawn as well and the stages’ backgrounds were recolored. Much of the gameplay was revised to balance the characters out. From this edition onward, the maximum number of rounds was reduced to four.
Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
Released in December 1992 as a response to the many modified bootlegs of Champion Edition, Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting added some minor updates to the game.
The update increased the game speed and added new special techniques for some of the characters such as Dhalsim’s Yoga Teleport and Chun-Li’s Kikoken.
All of the characters received new color schemes; the new scheme became the default scheme, with the original scheme available as the alternate for all characters except M. Bison, who still used his original scheme as the default and the new scheme as the alternate.
Super Street Fighter II – The New Challengers
Released in October 1993, Super Street Fighter II was the first Capcom game produced for the CPS II hardware, instead of the CPS hardware the previous games were released on. New graphics were drawn for the game, including an all new attract sequence.
Characters received new animation frames for their attacks and win poses, and the four bosses received new animation frames for their basic attacks. All of the audio was remade for the game as well.
In addition to the returning twelve characters from previous versions, Super Street Fighter II also introduced four new selectable characters (T. Hawk, Cammy, Fei-Long and Dee-Jay), increasing the character roster to sixteen. The single-player mode against the CPU however, did not change: like in previous versions, players fight against eight initial random opponents before facing the four bosses, for a total of twelve characters. Each character now had eight selectable color schemes.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo
Released in March 1994, the main new feature in Super Street Fighter II Turbo is the ability to perform a new type of special move called “Super Combos”, with one available for each character. A Super Combo is a special move, usually a more powerful version of a character’s standard special move, that can only be performed by filling out the Super Combo gauge. The Super Combo gauge is filled as the player performs regular and special moves against their opponent, which will be emptied again once a Super Combo is performed. When an opponent is defeated with a Super Combo, the background will flash yellow and red.
Other additional features are added to the gameplay in Super Street Fighter II Turbo such as the ability to “juggle” or perform a combo against an opponent falling in the air. This can be done by connecting an air combo-capable attack with another air combo attack or with a Super Combo (and vice versa). The player can also escape from a throwing or holding attack and make a safe fall, reducing the damage from the attack.
Hyper Street Fighter II – The Anniversary Edition
The final arcade release of Street Fighter II was released on December 2003, almost ten years after Super Street Fighter II Turbo, in Japan and Southeast Asia only. Hyper Street Fighter II was a special version of Street Fighter II produced to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Street Fighter series. The game system is based on Super Street Fighter II Turbo, but with the added feature of being able to select between characters from all five preceding iterations of Street Fighter II.
The arcade version of Hyper Street Fighter II was not released in North America and Europe. Instead, the game was released in those areas on PlayStation 2 and Xbox.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix
Released in November 2008, Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix is a major remake of Super Street Fighter II Turbo featuring the original game and a “remixed” version featuring high-definition graphics drawn by UDON Entertainment, arranged music by OverClocked ReMix, and massively rebalanced gameplay.
Like Hyper Street Fighter II, the player can play classic versions of each character (Akuma included). The classic versions do not have a super bar and can’t reduce throw damage, but are considered stronger overall.
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers was released exclusively for the Nintendo Switch in May 2017, and adds Evil Ryu and Violent Ken to the roster of playable fighters. There are two options for the graphics; classic and Turbo HD Remix graphics.
The game features three new modes and one returning mode. The Way of the Hado mode is a first-person shooting gallery where players take control of Ryu and fight waves of Shadaloo soldiers using the Joy-Con motion controllers. To perform moves, they have to be mimicked with the controllers.
The Arcade Mode has three stages: Beginner, Standard and Extra, Gallery Mode features over 1400 illustrations from the official Street Fighter artbook, Street Fighter Artworks: Supremacy. Color Edit mode allows players to make custom color schemes of a given fighter; up to ten colors can be saved for each custom character, which can be used in all game modes, including online.
Depending on which version of the game you are playing, the game’s roster can contain up to 16 fighters.
The main storyline of the game differs with each respective character, but for the most part, fighters must fight opponents all over the world, culminating in a final battle against the final boss, M. Bison.
Making his return from the first Street Fighter game, Ryu retains his backstory as a a Japanese karateka seeking to hone his skills in battle.
After winning the first tournament, Ryu continues to travel the world in search of new techniques to add to his already impressive repertoire.
A jovial sumo wrestler who is said to be completely unrivalled in his field. Edmond Honda has a flair for the dramatic, and plans to make the world acknowledge the greatness of sumo by using street fighting as a vehicle to show that the style has application outside of the ring.
E. Honda’s fighting style isn’t quite what you’d expect from a sumo wrestler though, as some of his moves see him hurtling through the air at great speeds.
Blanka (or Jimmy, as he was known at birth) was a child that crash landed in the Brazilian jungles as a 10-year-old. As the only survivor of the plane crash (that Shadoloo caused), he raised himself in the wilderness, with his green skin tone and superhuman strength being a result of his surroundings. According to legends, he gained electrical abilities from swimming with electric eels.
His attacks consist of electric shocks, sharp claws, horizontal air rolls and a long reach. He’s not an easy character to use, but is almost unstoppable for those that persevere and practice.
A member of the U.S. Air Force Special Forces, Guile seeks revenge on the man who is thought to have killed his best friend, Charlie Nash, after an investigation into Shadoloo’s alleged connections to U.S. Military corruption.
Guile’s sonic boom and flash kick attacks are said to be able to cut through anyone and anything.
Another returning face from the first Street Fighter game, Ken Masters is now a fully fleshed out selectable character.
Ken is Ryu’s rival (and former training partner)and aches for a real match against him. Even though he is already known as the “King of American Fighters”, his rematch is his main focus in the game, alongside being with his wife Eliza.
The first playable female character in any fighting game, Chun-Li is a former narcotics investigator for INTERPOL, in addition to being a kung-fu teacher.
Her search for her missing father uncovered information that Shadoloo was involved with his disappearance, so she enters the tournament to get to the organisation’s leader, M. Bison.
The Russian wrestler Zangief is Street Fighter II’s powerhouse character. Referred to by many as the Red Cyclone (a name he is fond of), Zangief enters into the tournament to show the world the full might of Russia, and further his belief that muscles are the most beautiful thing in the world.
His training saw him living alone in the mountains, fighting bears (which resulted in the many scars on his body).
An Indian monk who has mastered the ancient arts of yoga. Although Dhalsim is peaceful and a pacifist at heart, necessity has forced him to world of street fighting, as his village succumbed to an epidemic illness.
His attacks utilise his strangely rubbery limbs and fire attacks such as Yoga Fire and Yoga Flame. Dhalsim also has teleportation powers.
Introduced in Super Street Fighter II, Cammy White is a 19-year old member of the special operations division of the British Secret Intelligence Service, called Delta Red. She is a reformed member of M. Bison’s personal guard at the Shadoloo organisation, working under the codename Killer Bee.
Her mysterious past has left her with some incredible fighting abilities, and she is undoubtedly one of the fastest characters to play as in the game.
Another character that was introduced in Super Street Fighter II, Fei Long is a famous action movie star. After hearing about the street fighting tournaments, Fei Long enters himself into the mix in an effort to show off both his acting and fighting skills.
A clear homage to the legendary martial arts actor Bruce Lee, Fei long has a quick (yet powerful) moveset that will put a halt to many opponents offensive maneuvers.
The third of the new characters introduced in Super Street Fighter II, Dee Jay is a kickboxer that also boasts a successful musical career. Once his love for the music started to wane, he ended up in a fight one night, which resparked his love for combat.
His moveset includes the Machine Gun Uppercut, a signature move, and his Double Rolling Solat attack that advances with each step he takes (and has an incredible reach!).
The last of the new characters in Super Street Fighter II, Thunder Hawk is the hero of the Indigenous Thunderfoot Tribe in Mexico. T. Hawk’s involvement in the street fighting tournament began when a number of villagers (and his wife) from his tribe went missing, and he discovers that Shadoloo are behind it.
T. Hawk is an imposing figure with a moveset that deals crushing blows to his opponents, including moves as the Condor Dive, which sees him fly through the air into his opponents, and the Mexican Typhoon, where he swings his foe by the head and smashes them into the ground.
The first of the four bosses in the game, Balrog is a heavy hitting, affable gambler who hospitalises most of his opponents with his boxing style.
Balrog never uses kicks in the game, but is an unstoppable force for those who can master his moveset.
In Japan, he is known as M. Bison (as in Mike Bison). When the game was localised for a worldwide market, his name was changed outside of Japan to avoid a likeness infringement lawsuit from Mike Tyson, the boxer who Balrog is based on.
The second boss that players face is Vega, a narcissist that believes himself to be the epitome of beauty. He is driven to destroy everyone and everything that doesn’t meet his standard of beauty, wearing a razor-sharp claw to ensure that he doesn’t come into direct contact with his opponents, and donning a mask to protect his face from the blood that inevitably comes from his foes as he hacks away at them.
In Japan, he is known as Balrog.
The third boss that players encounter in the game is Sagat, making his return from the first game. In his final match of the first tournament, Sagat was defeated by Ryu’s Shoryuken attack, which left a huge wound across his chest.
After his defeat, Sagat redoubled his training efforts with the singular goal of meeting, and defeating, Ryu in a rematch someday. It was at this time that he took a high-ranking position in Shadoloo, hoping the criminal organisation would improve his chances of meeting Ryu again.
The final boss of Street Fighter II is the evil M. Bison.
The leader of the Shadoloo organisation has the terrifying abilities of hypnosis and Pyscho Power at his disposal, and every time he is believed to be dead, he assumes a new physical body and returns to cause chaos.
In Japan, he is known as Vega.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo saw the introduction of a hidden character; Akuma.
The embodiment of the darkness that lives within the fighting spirit, Akuma is known as the “Master of the Fist” and his strength lies in the Satsui No Hado (“The Killing Intent”), a power that draws from the forces of darkness and emanates from his body like a red steam.
Since Akuma studied the same fighting style as Ryu and Ken (their master, Gouken, is Akuma’s brother), his moves are very similar to theirs, but the Satsui No Hado augments these techniques and makes them far more powerful.
As is now traditional with many fighting games, each character has their own stage, set in their country of of origin;
- Ryu – Set in the grounds of a castle that closely resembles Matsue Castle in Japan’s Shimane Prefecture.
- E. Honda – A Japanese bath house.
- Blanka – A Brazillian favela, with the fishing locals looking on.
- Guile – A US Airfield, along with (presumably) Guile’s colleagues looking on. You probably know the music.
- Ken – A US boat dock, with boat passengers cheering on in the background.
- Chun-Li – A lively market district in China/Hong Kong.
- Zangief – A Russian warehouse, along with some rowdy workers in the background.
- Dhalsim – A vividly decorated Indian temple, with several Indian elephants in the background.
- Cammy – Set in the grounds of an English castle. While the stage is set in England, the design was based on the famous Castle Lichtenstein in Swabian Alb, Germany.
- Dee Jay – A beach party in Jamaica, with a live band and dancers performing in the background.
- Fei Long – An elaborate garden, based on the Tiger Balm Garden in Hong Kong.
- T. Hawk – A Mexican marketplace parade, based on Cabañas Cultural Institute.
- Balrog – In front of a busy Las Vegas casino.
- Vega – An underground cagefighting club in Spain. Vega has the ability to climb the cage mid-fight.
- Sagat – A buddhist temple in Thailand, based on Wat Phra Si Sanphet Temple.
- M. Bison – A Thai temple, based on Wat Phra Kaew Temple.
Street Fighter II has a variety of bonus stages that take place after each handful of fights, and consist of beating up various inanimate objects;
- The first stage sees players try to destroy a car with their attacks within a set time limit.
- The second bonus stage in the arcade release sees players wait underneath a conveyor belt that drops oil barrels to destroy with attacks. Instead of a timer, players must break a set amount of these barrels.
- The third stage consists of a pyramid of burning oil cans that players must destroy within a set time limit. These oil barrels can often burn players, which results in players taking damage, and slowing them down.
The 16-bit versions of the game replaces the pyramid of burning barrels with a pyramid of bricks.
Street Fighter II found its way onto a number of different platforms;
- Arcade – as is the case with most arcade fighting games, the original arcade port is considered to be the best version of the game.
- Amiga – Poor controls, a reduced colour pallette, low quality audio and a lack of background animations.
- Atari ST – While it has the same problem with reduced colours as the Amiga port, the graphics are an improvement. Having to play the game with a keyboard is a nightmare though.
- Amstrad CPC – This version never actually saw a proper release, as the 8-bit versions of the game were considered to be a failure.
- Commodore 64 – Severe compromises were made on this version of the game, with many moves missing from the game, poor graphics and awful AI.
- Game Boy – Removes three characters from the game (Dhalsim, E. Honda and Vega) due to system limitations, as well as may sound effects and moves.
- Sega Master System – Available only in Brazil, where the Master System still sees an impressive level of popularity. The game, developed by TecToy, pushes the limits of the console’s CPU, but is an OK port nonetheless.
- PC (MS-DOS) – One of the worst ports of the game. Massive physics changes, entire control scheme changes, different sprites, almost no music selection, entirely broken bonus stages, the list goes on and on.
- Super Nintendo – This is a near-perfect arcade conversion, and the best version that was available on home consoles.
- ZX Spectrum – The one fire button on the console had to count for everything with the space bar alternating between kicks and punches. Gameplay was obviously slower than its counterparts but to see the game moving on the ZX Spectrum is still remarkable.
The several updates and re-releases were available on pretty much every console, and most recently saw a release as part of the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection earlier this year.
Upon completion on a harder difficulty, each character in Street Fighter II has their own unique ending. Ranging from Blanka being reunited with his mother, Zangief cossack dancing with Russian officials and Ken getting married, to Ryu wandering off moodily, Chun-Li grieving at her father’s grave (then celebrating being a “young, single girl”) and Guile being convinced not to beat M. Bison to a bloody pulp by his wife. They’re all good fun, and a nice little reward for beating the game.
Street Fighter II is one of my all-time favourite games, and is still an absolute blast to play today. It set the bar ridiculously high for the fighting game genre, and saved an entire industry from dying out. The lore behind each of the characters is fascinating, the gameplay still feels very refreshing, and the game’s soundtrack is absolutely incredible.
Without this game, 99% of the fighting games that I’ll be covering in the Final Round series wouldn’t even exist today, so I regard the game as one of the most important titles that I could possibly cover.
Are you a fan of Street Fighter II? Who is your preferred fighter? Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!