Street Fighter was a fighting game released by Capcom in August of 1987, and would become the first in a long-running franchise. The game featured Japanese martial artist Ryu as he competed in an international tournament to prove his strength. He would travel to five countries (Japan, United States, China, England and Thailand) to face eight opponents before going against Adon, a deadly Muay Thai master, and his mentor, Sagat. A second player could join in the game as Ryu’s training partner and rival Ken, who appeared different but featured all the same moves as Ryu (which would remain constant for the two characters throughout the franchise). It was produced and directed by Takashi Nishiyama (credited as “Piston Takashi”) and planned by Hiroshi Matsumoto (as “Finish Hiroshi”), with character artwork by Keiji Inafune.
The game’s unique feature was the use of pneumatic buttons which took the amount of power used to press them and turned it into power behind the attacks in the game. The game was praised for that innovation, the moves, and the character designs, although it was said to have very little replay value. The game wasn’t a breakout hit at its inception, but it did prove popular enough with fans to warrant its being ported to home consoles as Fighting Street.
|Original promo for Final Fight as Street Fighter '89.|
In 1989, Capcom began work on a sequel called Street Fighter ’89. They decided to switch genres from fighting to side-scrolling beat ‘em up after the success of Technōs Japan’s Double Dragon. The game followed Mike Haggar, a former wrestler that became Mayor of Metro City, as he took on the Mad Gear Gang (taking their name from another Capcom game known as Led Storm outside of Japan) who had kidnapped his daughter, Jessica. Joining him was his daughter’s boyfriend, Cody, a street brawler, and Cody’s best friend, Guy, a martial artist. The game was largely inspired by the film Streets of Fire, whose hero Cody was based on. The game was produced by Yoshiki Okamoto and designed by Akira Nishitani and Akira Yasuda. Because of criticisms over its numerous differences from the prior Street Fighter game, the game was ultimately released as Final Fight that December. It became a hit for Capcom, spawning its own game series.
|Ad for Street Fighter II.|
Capcom eventually turned their focus back to fighting games and set out to revive the Street Fighter brand; feeling that the concept was good but the playability could be better. The Final Fight team was put on it, and in February of 1991 Street Fighter II: The World Warrior was released. While maintaining the gameplay of the original, the game offered a selection of playable characters with unique fighting styles and special movements. Introduced were E. Honda, a sumo wrestler from Japan; Blanka, a green-skinned bestial man with electrical abilities from Brazil; Guile, a USAF Special Forces operative out for revenge for his fallen friend; Chun-Li, a Chinese Interpol officer and martial artist; Zangief, a Soviet pro wrestler; and Dhalsim, a yoga master from India with extremely stretchy limbs and fiery breath. Returning from the first game were Ryu and Ken. After defeating the other playable characters, the player would continue on to face four CPU-controlled “Grand Masters.” Sagat was included from the previous game and was joined by Blarog, an African-American boxer from the United States; Vega, a pretty-boy Spanish cage fighter who wears a mask and uses a claw weapon; and M. Bison, leader of the criminal organization Shadaloo who wields a power known as “Psycho Power.” Originally, Balrog and Bison had each other’s names as Balrog was modeled after professional boxer Mike Tyson, but fearing a likeness infringement lawsuit Capcom made the change when the game was released in America and in future installments.
The game became a hit, and was regarded as redefining the fighting genre due to its accurate controls and highly detailed graphics, as well as being the first to offer a selection of characters. It also introduced a combo mechanic where a series of moves could be strung together that was initially a programming glitch. Street Fighter II is often credited with revitalizing a struggling arcade industry, exhibiting a level of popularity unseen since Pac-Man. It led to the creation of other popular fighting franchises like Mortal Kombat, Tekken and Virtua Fighter. Capcom also introduced the concept of revisions, the precursor to today’s downloadable patches. Rather than releasing direct sequels of the game, they kept expanding and improving the game leading to five different releases that included new moves, game speeds, and the addition of the characters T. Hawk, a Native American warrior from Mexico whose ancestral land was taken by Shadaloo; Fei Long, a Hong Kong movie star who wanted to test his skill against real fighters; Dee Jay, a kickboxing musician from Jamaica looking for inspiration for his next song; Cammy, a 19-year-old British special forces agent with ties to Bison; and Akuma, essentially a dark version of Ryu and Ken.
At the height of Street Fighter’s popularity, Capcom produced and co-financed a film based on the franchise. Written and directed by Seven E. de Souza, the movie centered around several different groups of heroes uniting to take down General M. Bison (Raul Julia) and his plan to extort billions of dollars from the world by taking Allied Nations (a pastiche of the United Nations that denied use of their name) relief workers hostage. Jean-Claude Van Damme, Capcom’s first and only choice, was cast as Col. William Guile, the head of the A.N. military response to Bison who sought his own revenge against him for the capture of his friend, Charlie. Charlie was experimented on to become an inhuman fighting machine (blending the character with that of Blanka, played by Robert Mammone). de Souza had intended to keep the focus of the film small, but Capcom continually wanted characters added until the full roster became involved and the film overloaded. The movie was released on December 23rd, 1994 to overwhelmingly negative reviews but still managed to gross almost $100 million worldwide.
|Guile with Chun-Li, Ken, Blanka, Ryu and Cammy.|
Following the movie was an animated series called simply Street Fighter, also known as Street Fighter: The Animated Series (and sometimes Street Fighter II) to differentiate it from the game. While the characters resembled their video game counterparts, the show was heavily inspired by and infused elements of the film’s story. Col. William Guile (Michael Donovan) was branded as a criminal in order to provide him the cover necessary to run the covert Street Fighters team. Unlike the film, the characters were able to tap into their special projectile abilities from the game; notably Guile’s “sonic boom” attack. Each episode typically featured Guile receiving a mission and setting out to recruit necessary members from his team that he’d need to complete it. Primary members carried over from the film included Blanka (Scott McNeil), Guile’s friend still mutated by Bison (Richard Newman); con artists Ryu Hoshi (Tong Lung) and Ken Masters (McNeil); reporter Chun-Li Xiang (Donna Yamamoto) who wanted revenge against Bison for the death of her father; E. Honda (Paul Dobson), who was the team’s computer whiz rather than Chun-Li’s producer as in the film; Cammy White (Lisa Ann Beley), a member of the British SIS Special Operations unit Delta Red who had a flirtatious relationship with Guile; Dhalsim (Gary Chalk), one of the scientists responsible for Blanka’s creation; Dee Jay (Dobson), who was the team’s helicopter pilot rather than Bison’s lackey as in the film; and T. Hawk (Dobson), who was portrayed as serving deep cover spying on the cyborg criminal known as The Satin Hammer (Lynda Boyd). Balrog (Dobson), who served as Chun-Li’s cameraman in the film, was made into a computer programmer for Bison in an episode of the series.
The primary antagonists were Bison and his legions of Shadaloo, with Sagat (Robert O. Smith) serving as his second in command. Zangief (Donovan) once again served as Bison’s lackey and muscle, despite his moment of redemption at the end of the film. Vega (Dobson) was portrayed as a former Bison henchman who was searching for eternal youth, in keeping with the character’s vain personality from the games. New to the series was Akuma (Dale Wilson & David Kaye), who wanted the Chi energy possessed by certain characters for himself.
|Bison takes control of Cammy.|
Street Fighter debuted on October 21st, 1995 as part of the USA Network’s Cartoon Express programming block before moving to the USA Action Extreme Team alongside episodes of Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm. The opening theme was an arrangement of the title theme of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, with the series’ music composed by Andrew Dimitroff. It was written by Michael Edens, Julia Lewald, Eric Lewald, Richard Stanley, Mark Onspaugh, Bruce Reid Schaefer, Francis Moss, Ted Pedersen, Jeremy Cushner, Matt Edens, Matthew Malach, Doug Booth, Steve Cuden, Len Wein, Will Meugniot, Marv Wolfman, Steve Perry, Steve Englehart, Kat Likkel, George Bloom, and Larry Parr. The Lewalds and Michael Edens served as the story editors for the first season, replaced by David Anthony Kraft for the second. Meugniot was also a character designer for the first season along with Roy Burdine, Kathi Castillo and Mark Lewis. Burdine ended up taking over for the second with Ed LaRoche. Meugniot and the Lewalds were maintained as consultants.
The series ran for two seasons. Production of the show moved from Graz Entertainment to InVision Entertainment for the second season. Animation duties also moved from Madhouse to Hong Kong Japan Sunrise, resulting in a slight change in overall style and the character designs. Over its run, the show incorporated all the characters from Super Street Fighter II: Turbo as well as from the Street Fighter Alpha series and other Capcom games like Saturday Night Slam Masters, Magic Sword and Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness. The episode “Final Fight” served as an adaptation of that game with the additional inclusion of the Street Fighter characters (Final Fight characters were starting to be gradually integrated into the Street Fighter game series). Season 2 saw Guile’s role reduced somewhat as a couple of episodes focused on the other Fighters. Cammy became part of a season-long subplot where she was brainwashed into serving Bison (as she had been in the games). Despite lasting two seasons, the series was largely negatively received by fans due to poor dialogue and overall writing.
|The Warrior King fights with Chun-Li.|
As with the other entries in the Extreme Team—Wing Commander Academy, Savage Dragon, and Mortal Kombat—Street Fighter took part in “The Warrior King” crossover event on November 16 during its second season. Developed by Will Meugniot, the titular barbarian (Michael Dorn) crossed between dimensions to find and acquire the Orb of Power, which could control the weather of any planet. While The Warrior King was seen in all four shows, their respective characters didn’t cross over. It was coordinated so that each episode would air on the same day, resulting in each series being shown outside of their regular timeslots. However, the event received little to no promotion, and outside of the rearranged schedule there was no indication that there was anything special about that day.
|The 2015 re-release DVD.|
ADV Films released the entire series on two sets called Code of Honor and Soul Powers in 2003. Discotek Media would later re-release the complete series in 2015. The series was also released onto Blu-Ray as part of the 25th Anniversary Collector’s Set in 2012. It has been made available to stream on Fubo, The Roku Channel, Plex, Crackle, Pluto TV, Retro Crush, Asian Crush, and Crunchyroll, and available to purchase on Prime.
While the American versions of Street Fighter haven’t done well, Japanese interpretations have been more favorable with several anime movies and series under their belt. Street Fighter has also been consistently published in comics since the 90s; both in American versions and in manga form. Along with action figures and music albums, Street Fighter continues to be a merchandising juggernaut for Capcom and one of their most well-known gaming franchises.
Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2023.