Street Fighter is one of the most famous video game brands in the world and has sold millions of units as a series, but ironically the game which began the franchise in 1987 is often totally ignored in favour of its much more successful 1991 sequel.
The original Street Fighter is almost 30 years old yet it is rarely spoken about in glowing terms. Its controls are clunky, you can only play as two near-identical characters (Ryu or Ken), the sampled speech was unintentionally hilarious and compared to what followed after, it feels laughably basic.
However, it still ranks as one of the most significant arcade games of all time. Without it, Street Fighter II obviously wouldn't have happened, and it introduced the concept of having six buttons for different attack strengths. Another variant of the arcade machine had pressure-sensitive pads instead of buttons, a mechanic which drew crowds and made it one of the biggest successes of 1988 - earning even more than Taito's legendary Operation Wolf, according to CoinSlot.
The home ports were also popular at the time of release, with the PC Engine CD version - strangely retitled Fighting Street - being perhaps the best of the bunch. You can play that version on the Wii Virtual Console if you so wish.
Even more striking is the fact that director Takashi Nishiyama and planner/designer Hiroshi Matsumoto would leave Capcom after release on the game to join SNK, where they would work on the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series. That effectively means that the 1987 Street Fighter marks the origin point of Capcom and SNK's epic tussle for control of the one-on-one fighting genre.
While it's certainly not a perfect game, Street Fighter does deserve a little more credit than it gets, and with that in mind Gamasutra has been speaking to developers about their memories of the game and its legacy within the industry. The replies are a mixture of grudging respect and outright dismissal, reactions which mirror what the gaming public tends to think about the game, but the general consensus is that it's an incredibly important release in the history of the genre.
Beardo Games' Chris Harback has some positive things to say:
I liked it a lot, and I still do, despite how clunky and non-responsive the controls felt. At the time, my friends and I had just watched the movie Bloodsport, so the broad (for the time) cast was something I enjoyed a lot. I remember wishing that I could play as the whole cast (especially Geki), not just a pair of palette swaps. I can't really say it felt particularly important at the time, although the big, nicely-animated sprites were a good step up from Yie Ar Kung Fu.
AJ Ryan of ONLYUSEmeFEET also views the game in a good light:
Something I think a lot of people forget when looking back on the original Street Fighter was how revolutionary it really was. 1 on 1 fighting games before it weren't very fun to play because they had little to no complexity. Street Fighter introduced a variety of punches and kicks that made gameplay more interesting and is the basis for every fighting game today. Every game developer interested in creating or playing a fighting game should play through the original Street Fighter to understand the absolute basics of a fighting game.
Special moves, while really difficult to pull off in Street Fighter, gave the game even more complexity and mystery. Whispers between gamers on how to pull off special moves started with Street Fighter. Because Street Fighter is one of the most rigid six button fighters today, people love to hate on the game, but you can't deny its legacy or what it did for fighting games. Personally, while I'd never normally play Street Fighter at home today, if I see it an an arcade, you bet I'm putting a quarter in the machine!
However, Undead Labs' Ian Adams is less kind:
During the height of Street Fighter II, the arcade in my mall got a Street Fighter cabinet. I had heard stories about a version with two buttons that responded to how hard you pressed them, but this one had six buttons, just like Street Fighter II. With both of the SF II cabinets busy and long lines (and not being very good at fighting games, leading to short sessions) I decided to try Street Fighter, mostly because there was no wait. I don't remember everything, but I remember thinking the characters looked small, and that they didn't move correctly. I don't think I was able to pull off fireballs. I know I beat a couple enemies, but when I lost I had no desire to put more money in. I just got in line for SF II again.
Patrick Miller of Riot Games delivers possibly the most damning response:
I remember seeing my dad come back from the store with Street Fighter 2 when I was like, 7 years old, and thinking, 'My life changes today.' Which it did. Wait, you're asking about Street Fighter I? All I know about that game is that it is bad and Ryu has red hair. I played it for like 5 minutes.
Thankfully, Supergiant's Greg Kasavin is on hand to give a more balanced view:
Street Fighter's been a big part of my life since some of my earliest memories. I played the hell out of the first one at the time. Nothing compared to the sequel of course, but still.
I played the six-button arcade version. I played the arcade version with the two giant novelty pressure-sensitive rubber buttons, which was terrible but I did it anyway. Later I played it a bunch more for the Turbo CD. I believe the Japanese Turbo CD version of Fighting Street bears the distinction of being perhaps the world's first CD-ROM game, copyright 1988 -- only a year after the 1987 arcade debut. And that copy I got when I was like 18 or so is still sitting here right in front of me on my desk at work.
Even at the time I knew Street Fighter wasn't a great game. The controls were clunky and unreliable, while the best games of the day were extremely precise. You could fail very suddenly and almost inexplicably. But the good qualities outshone the bad by a lot. Here were these great big characters of all different shapes and colors. I think I'd never even heard of Thailand before playing Street Fighter. I loved that there was a button labeled 'Roundhouse.'
The other thing about Street Fighter that was so alluring was this idea of it having these complex command moves that were very powerful but also very difficult to perform. If you could somehow pull off a fireball, or God forbid a dragon punch, it was practically a game-winning play. The controls were really rough, though, so doing these moves consistently was next to impossible. But for a game to have this kind of learning curve around execution was really fascinating to me, and I got terrible blisters practicing.
The original Street Fighter paved the way for its sequel, one of the greatest games of all time, and one of my personal favorites. It's been rightfully eclipsed by the legend of Street Fighter II. But I love how characters from the original game -- Ryu, Ken, Sagat, even guys like Birdie -- are still making appearances in new games almost 30 years later. I love that I'm still playing those games.
Sure, Street Fighter pales in comparison to what followed, but without it, we wouldn't have the amazing sequels from Capcom, the crossover chaos of the Marvel series, the glorious refinement of King of Fighters and the countless clones and copycats from other companies, many of which added their own little flourishes to the core concept.
Street Fighter might not be a solid gold classic like Street Fighter II, but it's worth a spin even today - download the Wii Virtual Console version and let us know your thoughts below.