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25 Years of Street Fighter: A Fighting Game Introspective

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25 years is a long time for anything to be around. That’s nearly a quarter of a human’s entire life span. During that entire span of time, gamers have been experiencing the multi-decade story of Street Fighter. In 1987, Street Fighter was released to arcades and begun the creation of one of the most beloved genres of gaming; the fighting game.

The first Street Fighter would mold the typical conventions of modern fighting games, the two most important being six button controls for inputting moves and the use of special, command-based special techniques. Both of these would later become strong fighting game features, in and out of the Street Fighter series. The first Street Fighter would introduce the posterboy of the entire series: Ryu.

Four years later, in 1991, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior was released, and it’s release would introduce another feature that would become a fighting game stable: multiple playable characters. The first Street Fighter was limited to Ryu and his rival Ken. Both of them had similar move sets and essentially were the same person (just colored differently!). Street Fighter II changed the game by offering different characters with drastically different play style. The entire game’s combo system was also massively overhauled, but on complete 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


Street Fighter II featured a roster of up to eight playable characters, and later updated versions would follow into arcades and home consoles. In total, up to five different versions of Street Fighter II were created, some simply introducing a more advanced CPU and others included a new form of special move called Super Combos.

Street Fighter II would be the game to create a wave of dedicated players, some who would play frequently at the arcades to hone their skills. Tournaments between players became commonplace, and the arcade could be a gathering place of determined individuals with something to prove. Suddenly, the fighting game became something more than just simple leisure fun. Players began to look at mastering it’s systems, finding the perfect combos to keep opponents powerless and unable to fight back. The game became more than pressing buttons to victory, it became a competitive sport. Spectators and players alike could enjoy the ferocity of matches. If you have never witnessed the intensity of tournament play of Street Fighter, waste not another second. The internet contains vast amounts of new and old footage alike. Players taking on other players in front of crowds of people, both trying to prove who is the more focused, more versatile player.

Street Fighter would later undergo changes, from Street Fighter III’s entirely new roster list, to the Alpha, EX, and Versus series (which would pit Street Fighters against the characters of Marvel, SNK, and Tekken) and after nearly eight years from the last major installment, Capcom would unveil Street Fighter IV. A graceful return to form for the legendary fighting game series. Not only did the game have the biggest roster of playable characters to date, it included tweaks and enhancements to the story and look of the franchise. Street Fighter IV was a move into the modern game world, with a 3D look, but a 2D feel. With super moves and combos that felt wholly in-tune to previous versions of the game. It was truly an achievement in old game/new game synthesis.

There are vast amounts of fighting games out there, all from different series. The most clearly defined difference in fighters is 2D/3D. Fighting game fans tend to prefer one or the either, but each system has their merits. Two-dimensional fighters are very, very technical. With the limited plane of movement, players are often spent trying to hone their combos. Inputting your attacks becomes a very exact process. Long, specific combos can take immense amounts of practice and concentration to perform, because they involve a single string of inputs that must be inputted perfectly for their true effect. One misstep, or one wrong button command will open up the opponent’s opportunity to counterattack. And tournament-level players will NOT forgive such a mistake. Skilled players could spend hours in practice mode, attempting to lock their most powerful combos into easy muscle memory.

Three-dimensional fighters are can be just as technical, but offer an immensely different experience. One that is much more focused on movements that attack inputs. Popular 3D fighters such as Tekken, Soul Calibur, and Virtua Fighter allow for players to sidestep or “8 way run” in any direction while fighting an opponent, and movements can be avoided much more easily than the 2D counterpart. A properly timed sidestep can throw off the flow of an opponents combo, and leave you just the right amount of opening to attack.

The division of two-dimensional and three-dimensional fighters is perhaps the clearest division in the fighting game genre, but even more exciting is just how many other differences can be observed in different fighting game titles and franchises. It can be as simple as unarmed fighting (Street Fighter) to weapon fighting (Soul Calibur). Team or Co-op Battles (Marvel vs. Capcom) to Player-vs-player matchups (Street Fighter).

Differences between fighting games can be clearly felt by their players, and those who excel in Street Fighter most likely won’t excel in Tekken, or Soul Calibur, or Guilty Gear. Another component that makes fighting games so entertaining is their ability to make an impact on the player. One person could become immensely comfortable in one fighting game’s system, while another person could be very uncomfortable and off-balance in the same game. Handling in fighting games is everything.

There are simple, arcade-y, ‘hyperfighters’ such as Marvel vs. Capcom which allow for players to easily combo with characters, no matter who it is you are using. There are technical fighting games with unique characters that all handle and feel entirely different from each other (Guilty Gear/Blazblue). In Blazblue, each character can perform a special ‘Drive’ ability that is completely unique to that character. Some characters ‘Drive’ ability allows them to immediately counter the opponents moves, while other characters’ drive ability grants them a powerful attack. It's entirely different, depending on your character selection, which naturally leads to some players being able to master one character and not any of the others.

Fighting games can be enjoyed by anyone; regardless of what series you may be loyal too, regardless of whether you possess any sort of skill. It simply does not matter how many hours you may put into a game to perfect a character’s combos, because at the end of the day these games are giving the players the same experience: Immediate competition. There is no other objective than to defeat the single character that stands in front of you. That victory could be pulled from the clutches of defeat, or that victory could be overwhelmingly attained in a single fury of strikes. But in each player’s mind, they are thinking the same thought: Defeat them and win.

That core experience is felt by all players, and it resembles something that other games may not be able to grant us, which is the joy and spirit of true competition. Playing a fighting game against a friend or a rival will still bring the same focus. Players will grit their teeth and shout outloud when the match becomes close. When it comes to a head-on-head gaming experience, fighting games cannot be beat. No matter if you are a casual or serious player, they bring forth a certain kind of joy that is hard to replicate in other genres.

To celebrate Street Fighter’s 25th Anniversary, I asked a few admins of different fighting game wikis some questions about their favorite games, their favorite characters, and what they feel fighting games can teach. I asked three admins the following questions.

  • When did you get first into fighting games? What is your favorite series?
  • Who is your favorite fighting game character, or your main/alternate characters?
  • Any memorable matches you've played and remember?
  • What fighting games mean to you?


Night Vision: Blazblue Wiki Admin

When did you first get into fighting games? What is your favorite series?

My first fighting game was Mortal Kombat: Deception on Xbox. My favorite series... Obviously BlazBlue, but for more is difficult to say.

Who is your favorite fighting game character, or your main alternate characters?

On BlazBlue topic my main character is Mu-12, submain/alternate is Noel Vermillion - of course in future this will be changed (new game, new characters, Mu doesn't exist). In Mortal Kombat, my main is Kitana and submain is Mileena.

Any memorable matches you've played and remember?

I don't think so.

What do fighting games mean to you?

Rivalery and good fun!


Ericard: Tekken Wiki Admin

When did you get first into fighting games? What is your favorite series? Street Fighter II since 1989, Street Fighter series.

Who is your favorite fighting game character, or your main/alternate characters?

Guile, Ryu.

Any memorable matches you've played and remember?

I've never played them since I was only a kid, but my brother played them and I can't remember much of the matches.

What fighting games mean to you?

Giving you a self confidence, build you mind in speed, and learn some technique close combat.


Danser-kun: Guilty Gear Wiki Admin

When did you get first into fighting games? What is your favorite series?

I first got into fighting games when I was around 8 years old, I was playing Street Fighter II, Marvel vs. Capcom and X-Men vs Street Fighter. But my favorite series was Guilty Gear when I played GGX when I was around 10.

Who is your favorite fighting game character, or your main/alternate characters?

My favorite fighting game character are Ky Kiske and Dizzy from Guilty Gear. But the character I'm best at is Ling Xiaoyu from Tekken, with Nina Williams as my alternate.

Any memorable matches you've played and remember?

I don't play competitively.

What fighting games mean to you?

They are very artistic all with wonderfully designed characters, each with their own unique movements.


To those reading, whare your answers to those four questions? What is the series that you've come to enjoy?

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