years 1987 street fighter was not the first fighting game – see ao Yie Ar Kung Fu and Karate champion– but it remains the most influential. The game introduced three levels of attack speed and power for punches and kicks mapped to six buttons (replacing an earlier version with pressure-sensitive pads), and offered three special attacks that require a specific combination of button presses and joystick movements used to be. street fighter was much more complex than the trivial title suggested.
Street Fighter II improved on its predecessor to the point of being almost unrecognizable. Eight playable characters. Massively improved graphics. A combo system that – though legend has it that came about by accident rather than by design – resulted in tremendous depth. For ’90s kids who randomly pop up around a coveted cupboard in a local chippy, mini taxi station, arcade or wherever, street fighter was a rite of passage.
Many of those kids, myself included, competed in tournaments. A lucky few became superstars. Others became heroes. Despite its ups and downs, especially when it comes to female contestants, the fighting game community has emerged from street fighter continues to bloom. Arguably the largest fighting game tournament in the world with a prize pool of over $300,000 (£200,000), the 2015 Evo Tournament was watched by just under four million people. The most popular game in the tournament? Ultra Street Fighter IV, which attracted more than 250,000 viewers on Twitch during the memorable finale between Momochi and Gamerbee. Sure, Evo could ostensibly be more than just that street fighter thanks to having games like Super Smash Bros. Melee and Killer Instinct on his grid. But for the average Joe who may not know his high kick from his Hadouken, street fighter is Evo.
This, of course, poses a problem for Capcom. How can replace it Street Fighter IV, a game many have spent most of the decade trying to master? How do you introduce a user-friendly, intuitive and attractive game without alienating existing fans and followers? I had my doubts. After all, I’ve also spent much of my career perfecting the art of playing street fighter. Why would I want to delete all that and start over? People gave Capcom hell for releasing tweaked versions of the same game over the years—Super Street Fighter IV, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, Ultra Street Fighter IV– but as a pro, this was exactly what I wanted: a modified version of the game with better balance and a few new characters. And that’s what I hoped Street Fighter V would deliver. I wanted Ultra SFIV: Enhanced Edition. I wanted Capcom to acknowledge all the hard work I put into the game. I wanted things to be easy.
Of course that didn’t happen. Street Fighter II was dramatically different street fighter thanks to a heavily revised combat system. Street Fighter III‘s parry system – which allowed players to deflect attacks without taking damage with precise timing – changed the way the game was played compared to Street Fighter II. When Street Fighter IV was announced, all I could think about was how Capcom would update the parry system. When I saw that SFIV had no defense system, I was just as disappointed as during Michelangelo’s “gun amnesty” in the 1980s when the famous Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle‘s nunchucks were suddenly replaced by a much less attractive grappling hook. Hero Turtles indeed.
Street Fighter V offers a fresh HUD, music score and new stages. It has a list of new characters. And most importantly, character ranges, normal moves, special moves, and supers are all different from SFIV. This is topped off with an adjusted game speed and the removal of the focus attack in favor of new “V-Trigger” powers. The beloved Focus, Attack, Dash, Cancel routine SFIV players – where you perform a special or normal move and cancel mid-animation by pressing Focus Attack and dashing forward, allowing you to quickly perform another move – has become useless.
It would be easy to be bitter like many in the street fighter community have been. But because the game is so different, SFV has given failed fighters and newcomers a clear direction, a new chance for victory. Many players felt they missed the boat at a high level street fighter play during the long SFIV period, and unless you were a player dedicated to mastering the game, catching up was next to impossible due to the plethora of patches and updates Capcom threw into the game. SFV wipes the slate clean. You have the players who feel like they missed their chance and want to prove their worth. You have the professional players who want to show that their skills are not limited to just one game. You have the current SFIV champions who want to keep their crowns ahead. Everyone has a motive to learn.
In addition to players, there are other parties that invest in the success of SFV. There are content creators, such as those who want to be the next professional shoutcaster (commentator) at high level events – an important role that conveys to an audience and to potential sponsors that street fighter is more than just releasing dopamine on buttons, it’s a game of instinct, creativity, speed and agility. Then there are those who want to host major tournaments (and turn them into annual successes) or those who want to be the next social media giants with street fighter contents. Everything was set in stone with SFIV: the players, the pros, the commentators, the events and the champions. But everyone now has a renewed chance at victory.