I was tempted to save my Street Fighter V review for this Smash Ultimate countdown, but it just didn’t feel right… When talking about Street Fighter as an overall series, you just have to talk about SFII. Hell, look at most of the Smash references, it’s mostly SFII by design, with a few SFIV moves thrown in. So let’s take a look at one of the most important and influential computer games of all time and its first two follow ups (I’ll save the Super Street Fighter IIs until later…)
One of the most famous character select screens of all time…
Street Fighter II was released in the Arcades in 1991, a follow-up to the original Street Fighter from 1987 that no one really remembers playing. It was a big success, but it was the 1992 port to the SNES that made it a big hit around the world, selling so many copies that it wasn’t until 2013 that Capcom created a bigger seller (in Resident Evil 5…)
It spawned several follow ups and re-releases, but let’s just focus on the first two: Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, which made the four previously CPU-only characters playable, and Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, which upped the game speed and added some new moves.
The roster of fighters is the now iconic “original 8” of Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Guile, Blanka, E. Honda, Dhalsim and Zangief. As you play through the single player mode you eventually fight four CPU-exclusive boss characters Balrog, Vega, Sagat and M. Bison, though as mentioned above, from Champion Edition onwards those four became playable anyway.
That’s a lot of blonde hair in one picture… was it a prerequisite to joining the US airforce?
Like all fighting games that came after it, Street Fighter II has the classic one-on-one 2D fighting game stuff, move forward, backward, jump and crouch, light, medium and heavy kicks and punches, pull back away from your opponent to block, push two buttons together to throw your opponent, and directional and button combination inputs to do special moves. It’s the best of three rounds, or four in there is a draw. This was pre-super meter and flashy finishing moves, but just having a selectable roster of fighters who each had unique movesets was a new thing at the time. Street Fighter II was such an innovative success that most fighting games since have copied something SFII created, or at the very least used something that is now seen as just a normal part of the genre thanks to this game’s influence.
In the single player you go through the classic Arcade “ladder” of beating all the other characters in the game one by one, with a neat little world map showing where you travel to fight your next opponent. In between fights you’d get bonus rounds, like the classic car breaking mini-game or a similar mini-game involving breaking falling barrels. In two player… two players fight each other.
Pre-Turbo the game is very slow, and quite frustratingly hard to beat a lot of people with a lot of characters, in my admittedly not as well-trained opinion. Turbo at least makes it more fluid and easier to dodge and gets moves in, though the game is still rock hard compared to later entries in the franchise. The SNES version does suffer from slower frame rate, worse sound and a few other little bits, but for an early arcade-to-SNES port, it was pretty damn good.
Graphics and Sound:
This fight never happened much growing up… or now, to be fair to myself…
The sprites are nice and chunky, full of colour and personality. The stages all look great, have little animations in the background, and even some breakable bits in the foreground. Match up screens and character select screens look nice and clean too. It’s nothing if not pretty, especially for 1991!
Sound-wise it’s great too, with clear (in the arcade) voice samples for the attacks and general grunts and groans, and some properly classic background music for the different stages. Seriously, Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li and Guile’s stages are some of the most recognisable in gaming, and are still as catchy now as they were then.
These post match screens are about as close as you get to cutscenes in 1991!
Although later sequels and prequels would add several elements of story to the events of this game, as it stands it’s just simply you chose a character and he goes through a street fighting “tournament” and eventually takes out dictator M. Bison. Anything more significant is added later, retroactively.
I COMPLETELY forgot about the brick breaking mini-game…
I really enjoyed playing Street Fighter II Turbo on the SNES with my brother, although I wasn’t very good at the time and he routinely thrashed me (I don’t think I could really do anything beyond the basic hadoken combination and then just jumping heavy kick…) I did eventually own a copy myself, but that was Super Street Fighter II on the Mega Drive, so that’ll come later…
Try and figure this screenshot out…
It’s fun for a quick burst, to remind yourself of how the series began and how it got so many things right, but after the fluidity of even the Street Fighter Alpha series, let alone anything else that came after it, it does feel like playing the game on slow motion, especially the pre-Turbo games. Plus: man do I ever suck at it, beyond using Ryu or Ken. Other games I can complete with most of the roster, this… yikes! Still, can’t deny it’s significance, but this is a “what’s it like to play now” section, and well… it’s not that good any more to play for any significant length of time… IN MY OPINION. Put the pitchforks down, please…