Before Street Fighter 2 became all the rage in arcades and one of the most popular fighting games in the world, it began life as an overlooked arcade title called Street Fighter, which saw the light of day way back in 1987. While the title was far from the monster hit its successor would become, it nevertheless ended up being ported to several of the popular personal computers of the time period and also saw a release on the TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine CD-ROM system.
One of the earlier CD-based video game titles, the game was praised for its amazing musical soundtrack but the sluggish play control and the lower-than-expected commercial success of the expensive Turbo CD attachment made sales of the game dismal at best. So how does this two decade old fighting game hold up and is it worth a look given its distinction of being the launching point for one of the greatest fighting game series in history?
In Fighting Street (they changed the title subtly, as you can see), you can choose to use the Wii Remote held sideways, the Classic Controller, or even a Gamecube controller. The control is very similar to that of the many other fighting title available on the Virtual Console, aside from the fact that your characters only have a handful of punch and kick moves with which to choose from.
Using the D-pad and the action buttons you can basically execute a low, medium, and high punch or kick attack. The main problem with this is that not only is there a very noticeable delay between your pressing the punch or kick button and your character actually performing the attack, but your character also has a very limited reach making you have to get in very close in order to land a blow. This is further complicated by your enemy having a much longer reach. Needless to say, this can make for some fairly frustrating battles, especially once the difficulty begins ramping up.
You can choose to play the game in the one-player mode, where you take control of either Ken or Ryu and battle against the ten CPU opponents, or you can take on another player in the two-player mode where one player uses Ken and the other player Ryu. Both fighters feature the exact same move set, with the only difference being the actual look of the characters. The single-player game features ten fighters, each with their own unique fighting style and location. In between locations you'll even visit a Bonus Stage where you can earn free credits if you can correctly time a karate chop to break a stack of boards sitting in front of you.
You'll make your way through the various locations of the game until you ultimately meet up with the game's final boss, Sagat. Ultimately the single-player mode ends up being the most rewarding aspect of the game given its variety and large number of fighters to tackle, while the two-player mode just feels far too repetitive and basic for any seasoned fighting game fans.
The mere fact that we've seen the fighting game engines become so intricate and responsive over the years is one of the main reasons the gameplay in Fighting Street tends to feel so below average in today's gaming world. Not only are the main characters afforded only a handful of basic punch and kick attacks, but their opponents are given a wider range of attacks that are much more powerful and effective. While the game does a nice job of giving each character their own unique fighting style, it tends to make them so difficult to beat that you'll likely not even stick with the game long enough to see all ten of the CPU fighters.
Another glaring problem is the depressing manner in which the game chugs along; while Street Fighter 2 features silky control and movement, Fighting Street feels clunky and jerky. Mid-air attacks are infuriatingly difficult to connect with thanks to the strange leaping pattern each character adheres to. The fluid, flowing and combo-rich gameplay showcased by Street Fighter 2 certainly doesn't have its roots in this prequel, let's put it that way.
Couple all of these gameplay annoyances together and you have what turns out to be a very frustrating and tedious fighting game experience that will ultimately make you wonder how the same people that created this extremely sluggish fighting title could have possible created it's amazing sequel Street Fighter 2.
The visuals in Fighting Street are actually fairly solid, especially by TurboGrafx-16 standards. The backgrounds feature plenty of vibrant colors and detail and even the fighters themselves are well-constructed and animate fairly smoothly considering the time this game was created. Now it's certainly not anything on par with what we'd later see in Street Fighter 2, but it's better than some of the bland graphical fare we see in other fighting titles of this game's time period. Toss in some good variety between the various areas and you have a very solid visual presentation and a near arcade-perfect port of the game.
Any time you have a CD-based game title, you expect a high-quality audio performance. And while Fighting Street delivers a very solid musical soundtrack, the horribly muffled and almost indistinguishable voiced dialog in the game ends up making the overall audio performance laughable at best. It doesn't help that it's basically the same voice re-used over and over with each of the characters in the game making you wonder exactly what the point was of going to the trouble of creating a CD-quality musical soundtrack only to muck it up with such terrible sound chip-produced garble. The sad fact is, the very first version of the TG-16/PC Engine CD-ROM hardware shipped with hardly any RAM, and while this was rectified later thanks to the launch of System Cards, it resulted in the first batch of CD titles being noticeably inferior to their HuCard/TurboChip siblings. Because Fighting Street is one such early game, it's little wonder that corners had to be cut in places.
There's certainly no denying the significance and history that comes along with being the predecessor to the legendary Street Fighter 2 release, but even with all of that going for it, there's still far too many faults in this game to warrant any type of serious consideration for fighting game fans. Unless you just have to experience the first Street Fighter title for yourself, you'd be much better suited to check out one of the many outstanding fighting titles already available on the Virtual Console service and leave this classic fighting game and its historical significance in the annals of video game history where it belongs.