Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Street Fighter II - Part 1

**Because there is so much to say about Street Fighter II, I have had to break this post up into 2 parts.

There were some fighting games before Street Fighter II (like the original Street Fighter) but no game brought the genre to the forefront like it. Street Fighter II was a huge hit at the arcade and later successfully ported to the consoles (the SNES version was exceptionally great). It was the perfect fighting game of its day and it still stands as a solid game that gamers come back to. Many things went into making Street Fighter II so memorable that it became a true piece of art.

Gameplay

I have said this many times but the interactivity of a game is by far the most important aspect to the art form. Street Fighter II easily had the most polished gameplay in the arcade. Characters reacted to the controls naturally, and players found themselves learning the ins and outs of the game thus pulling off some fantastic techniques. It was the first fighting game that had multiple characters each of which had their own control styles and wide range of special moves. Players became attached to a certain character and tied themselves to learning the best way to play with them. The game had 8 fighters which allowed for 7 different play styles that welcomed a variety of players and suited their needs (Ken and Ryu were identical in the original version which accounts for the missing play style).

The special moves is what really caught a lot of player's attention. It gave the game a fun feel to it and a sense of accomplishment when you could pull the move off effectively and consistently. Most of the special attacks where over the top and departed from reality. Some of the fighters could throw fire balls while others could pull off impossible physical techniques. Since no two fighters had similiar attacks (aside from Ryu and Ken) each match required a different defense strategy.

When you add all the gamplay variations together you get a really deep game that is still deeper than many fighting games today. In Street Fighter you could not simply button mash (the act of randomly pressing buttons in hope of hitting your opponent), you had to watch every move and plan your attacks. The game did move fast so you had to think on your feet, but it rewarded players with a strategy.

A match in Street Fighter. You can see how it moves fast and fluid. Fighting games that came out before felt a little stiff and unnatural. Street fighter helped break that barrier.

Characters

One of the things that drew players to the game was the cast of fighters you had to choose from. Not only was their gameplay different but each of them had their own unique design. The visual artistry of Street Fighter was astounding and it created some of the most memorable characters of all time.

Ryu

A somewhat central figure in the game and one of 3 characters returning from Street Fighter 1. He was the typical "Japanese Karate" fighter. In the spectrum of fighters in the game he would range in the middle of character design. However, the designer did add a little to the character to give him more personality. His outfit is a little loose and allows the character to more more freely without looking like the clothes are stiff. His head band and facial expression give Ryu a little more attitude than the other fighters.

Ken

Another returning character from Street Fighter. His design is just a head swap with Ryu, and a different colour outfit. Since his body and animations are identical to Ryu it is only his head that gives him some new personality. His shaggy blond hair, and facial expression gives Ken the same rugged attitude that Ryu has. Ken and Ryu are the center piece of the game as well as the standard fighting game characters.

Guile

For the most part the fighters all come from different countries (some do share nationalities) and some of them are overdone stereotypes. In all these cases the stereotypes are not offensive but somewhat humours. Guile is the typical all-american war millitary man. He has an exagerrated flat top hair cut, blond hair, a tattoo of the American Flag, and wears military fatigues. He has little touches to show that he is the "perfect" American boy as he combs his hair in between rounds and smiles. He was designed in part to appeal to American fans and for the most part it worked. Guile is also one of the few characters who could throw a projectile making him stand out. He could do large bicycle kicks and moved realitivly fast. He is a lot of fun to play and you can see his good natured all-american attitude come out in his gameplay.

Chung Li


The only female character in Street Fighter II. She is one of the more important characters from a game design standpoint. Chung Li is fairly weak yet is the fastest fighter. This blueprint of creating a female fighter as the weakest yet fastest character has been used in almost every single fighting game since. Her main attack is her kicks since she has long strong legs (in later Street Fighter games the designers even made her legs larger and stronger looking). Even her uniform places emphasis on her legs.

E.Honda


Even though he is yet another Japanese fighter in the game he comes from a completely different school of fighting. E. Honda is a sumo wrestler and therefore is slow but very powerful. He does have some quick attacks such as a flying head-butt and a rapid fire of palms. His design is taken straight out of what real sumo wrestlers look like. The only thing that makes E.Honda stand out against real life sumo wrestlers is his face paint. He is one of the few fighters who is a bit more linked to reality in his character design.

Zangeif

Easily the most powerful fighter in the game but also one of the most difficult to use. His special moves are much harder to pull off effectively, thus balancing him against other fighters. He is also much slower than most of the fighters. His character designer is very much influenced by the stereotypical portrayal of Russians during the cold war. Street Fighter II came out at the very end of the cold war and the USSR was still a nation. Zangeif is big, tall and hairy, and has scars on his body from fighting a bear. Out of all the fighters he does look the most menacing, and he wears red, the colour of the USSR. Zangeif is basically a symbol for how frightening a lot of people felt about what went on behind the iron curtain. Now that the cold war is over Zangeif seems a lot more comical to players.

Blanka


One of 2 fighters that are just bizzare. Blanka is a green monster that was created after a plane crash left a young boy, named Jimmy, to be raised in the wild. Blanka's origin and character design is closey tied to comic books. Much like many super heroes and villians, Blanka is created out of a tradegy, and gains some sort of special powers and abilities from it. Blanka also has electric powers linking him even more toward the comic book realm. Blanka plays very low to the ground and has some strange animations in the way he moves. Many players when they first saw Blanka became immediately attached to him since he was so unique and different from everyone else in the game.

Dhalsim


The other character who is a bit more bizzare is Dhalsim. Dhalsim is a yoga master who can stretch his body and teleport around the screen. He also can breathe fire. The way Dhalsim is presented is in a very comical manner. His streched out limbs look odd, and he is one fighter who will have a smile on his face from time to time. In a game full of mostly stern looking characters he stands out and provides a nice break in pace. His design and animation may even be stranger and stand out more than Blanka (when you see him in motion). Dhalsim is not one of the stronger fighters but his reach is far greater than all the others.

Check back on Friday for Part 2.

3 comments:

  1. I love Street Fighter. I feel more of a connection with this game than any of the new gen fighting games. Games like Tekken and DOA just feel so stiff and plastic even though they're more realistic graphics wise.

    Rohit

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