Capcom’s Street Fighter franchise is a series that I hold near and dear to my heart. Ever since I was a toddler the series has stuck with me and has remained a constant source of entertainment throughout my life. Even though I never fully grasped how to play the games until Street Fighter IV (Yes, I’m technically an 08’er) I always had fun just button mashing my way through the games and seeing what kind of wacky character I’ll run into next. The series is so ingrained into me that Ryu, one of the blandest looking characters to ever grace video games, has become one of my absolute favorites and a consistent main of mine in nearly every mainline entry. Street Fighter is one of gaming’s most everlasting and memorable franchises and I think that’s incredibly impressive considering that its first entry was an absolute travesty.
Street Fighter (the game) was originally released in Japanese arcades in 1987 and was dressed to impressed. It came with two different cabinets, a “regular” version with a six-button layout, and a “Deluxe” version with two pressure-sensitive buttons. The buttons had three levels of attack and depending on how hard you pressed the button a light, medium, or heavy attack would come out. Both of these control schemes helped Street Fighter stand out from its competition and were definitely impressive for the time, the deluxe version especially. I don’t know what it was, man, but those big rubber buttons really left an impression on people. I personally can’t imagine playing it with those big buttons because I imagine they would hurt the palms of my hands eventually but hey, for 1987 I’m sure it was a big deal. The only sad thing about those pressure-sensitive buttons is that you couldn’t really replicate something like that on home consoles or PCs at the time so most, if not all home releases of Street Fighter use the six-button version including the port on the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection which is how I first beat the game.
The amount of praise and success this game got absolutely astounds me because, for all of its innovations and hype, Street Fighter is one of the most clunky, unresponsive, ear piercingly AGONIZING fighting games I have ever put myself through. Every. Single. Solitary input has a ridiculous amount of delay and the inputs for special moves barely function. I swear to god you would have an easier time learning how to shoot a Hadouken in REAL LIFE than consciously inputting the motion for it in this game. This translates to standard attacks as well since almost every hard-hitting move in the game that isn’t a special has an absurd amount of windup that if you want to actually beat the game you have to figure out a way to mash out your specials.
Which I did.
By mashing down-right on my thumbstick until my hand felt like it was about to fall off.
The one positive thing I can say about the game is that it looks really damn good for an 80s arcade game. Sprites are big and dynamic and the backgrounds have a gorgeous amount of detail to them. I also have a small affinity for the art direction since a lot of the concept art and promotional material for this game is downright gorgeous and really lays the template for what Street Fighter would eventually become. You know what didn’t though? The music. Good god, the music in this game is dreadful. All of the tracks use these ear-piercing sound fonts which I can only describe as “DOS-Like” and having it combing with the droning “Wubs” just makes it an overall unpleasant experience. Yoko Shimomura can’t come fast enough.
Overall I think the original Street Fighter is an awful experience that has been obliterated by the passage of time. It’s slow, it’s annoying, it’s barely functioning…and yet I have a strange fondness for it. For all of its countless faults, it did lay a pretty good foundation for what would become one of gaming’s most iconic franchises. It still had the varied cast of stereotypes the series is known for, it helped introduce the idea of special moves, its focus on weird and wacky characters would become a staple of the genre. Street Fighter may be a bad game, but it’s an important bad game. A game that I think you should check out if you have a love for fighting games and would like to see where many of its conventions started.
There’s nowhere to go but up.