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Street Fighter (Arcade) artwork

Street Fighter (Arcade) review


"That guy in the first player slot with red hair, jerking about as if frames of animation are missing, is Ryu. You might recognize him; his hair has gotten darker with age and he has since doffed the ruby red slippers he wears in this incarnation. The blonde guy occupying the spot opposite his Japanese counterpart is the barefooted Ken. He seems to have gotten prettier with age, which is a good thing, because he’s ugly as sin in this game. (Perhaps the Masters Corporation was on the cusp of multibillion dollar success, allowing young Ken to later go under the knife.) These are the only two characters you can select from. "



It seems likely that if you’re reading this review, you’re interested in the head-to-head fighting phenomenon that is the Street Fighter series of games. If you’re expecting Ryu and Ken’s fledgling foray onto Capcom’s mean streets to be 'classic' simply because of the greatness of the follow ups that it spawned, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Because Street Fighter was released under the strain of immense technological limitations in 1987. And when you play it, that fact is all too apparent.

That guy in the first player slot with red hair, jerking about as if frames of animation are missing, is Ryu. You might recognize him; his hair has gotten darker with age and he has since doffed the ruby red slippers he wears in this incarnation. The blonde guy occupying the spot opposite his Japanese counterpart is the barefooted Ken. He seems to have gotten prettier with age, which is a good thing, because he’s ugly as sin in this game. (Perhaps the Masters Corporation was on the cusp of multibillion dollar success, allowing young Ken to later go under the knife.) These are the only two characters you can select from.

The world is a big place, and all its seediest corners and angriest avenues beckon to the two wet-behind-the-ears karatekas. They often begin in Japan, where bald-headed karateka Retsu, as well as the claw-bearing, shuriken-tossing Geki reside. Beat them two out of three times times to continue on. Kickboxer Joe awaits you in the U.S.A. in front of a graffiti-covered subway train that is clearly on the wrong side of the tracks. Before leaving the States, a trip to Mount Rushmore is in order, to take on Mike, the boxer character obviously inspired by Mike Tyson, and obviously the inspiration for Street Fighter II’s Balrog. The stout Lee, and the wiry Gen, welcome you to China at the Great Wall and an alley that is not so great, respectively.

England presents considerably tougher opponents than you’ll have faced to this point. The outrageously Mohawked Birdie, of Street Fighter Alpha fame, makes his first appearance here, defending his utterly grimy turf, and in sharp contrast, the snooty Eagle defends the honour of the majestic castle he calls home. If you beat all these guys and are feeling pretty good about yourself, that will change in a hurry. Thailand serves up the final two challenges with a heaping portion of humble pie as the side. You’ll probably die many times before you beat the lightning quick and superbly conditioned Adon, and Sagat, who is Adon on Creatine, steroids, Viagra - you name it. You’ll need special moves to beat these two Muay Thai kickboxers. (Beating Sagat will leave a scar in his chest that he bears in the sequel, along with a grudge that is equally deep.)

Good luck with that.

To be fair, the basic moves are simple enough to perform. You can punch and kick while ducking, standing or jumping at three levels of power (yes, there are six buttons). But as with all games of this type, the special maneuvers are the real selling point. Street Fighter wasn’t a very good salesman, and looks more and more like Willie Loman as time goes by. Again, the programmers did what they could with limited hardware muscle, but for all the appreciation I have for that fact, the results cannot change. The control is horrid. Your hero manages to perform his basic functions while looking as skittish as a drug abuser two months into cold turkey rehabilitation. As awkward as this is to come to grips with, with enough practice and patience (and good humour), it’s acceptable.

It’s the special maneuvers that are not. The half ''U'' motion with the joystick that effects the fireball attack began in Street Fighter as a full ''U''. But even after executing the proper motion, the fireball will often fail to respond. A lot of joystick slamming will likely ensue. The same thing is true of the second special move, the Hurricane Kick, except the dodgy motion must be performed in reverse. But especially difficult to pull off is the Flying Dragon Uppercut. You’ll feel like this move has to be cranked out. That’s a sign of poor control in a fighting game if ever there was.

What’s interesting is that the special moves take an absolutely huge amount of energy from your opponent’s vitality bar when they connect. Three fireballs will do in any foe, and you will need only two uppercuts to fell even the might Sagat. Ironically, this form of unbalanced weight distribution insofar as the game's attacks go, actually helps balance the difficulty of the game out. Simply put: the game rewards you for struggling to mash out a special move by affording it incredible damage. Unfortunately, that sort of half-assed fix only saves the game from complete hellishness and brings to it a modest level of near-respectability.

But that’s it. You’ll have noticed that a brash ''classic'' heading in the vicinity of the game’s name is conspicuous in its absence in this review. Purchase this arcade board (or Turbografx-CD port) only if you’re a compulsive beat-em-up fan who has to conquer it for posterity. The name alone does not deserve so many of your hard-earned dollars. But by all means, do spend a few quarters on it if you can find it tucked away in some obscure arcade somewhere. And take heart in the fact that you can laugh at this game. And you will. Aside from the nervous character movement, the music is so horrible as to elicit laughter, and the voices are worse.

Beat any foe and hear: What strength!! But don't forget there are many guys like you all over the world.

Which really sounds like: What strenf!! But don't fohget there are many guyz like you all ova da wohl.

But should you lose two rounds, your opponent will be singing a different tune: You've got a lot to learn before you can beat me. Try again, kiddo! (ha ha ha!)

Again, what you really hear: Wuuv got a lot to learn before you can bead me. Try again, KEEEED do! (hahw hahw hahw!)

So perhaps Street Fighter is a classic of sorts: a kitsch classic. With many of the ingredients we would come to know and savour in the super successful sequels, the spirit of this game was undeniably the start of something good; sadly that start really begins at the precise point where this game ends.

Rating: 4/10

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Staff review by Marc Golding (December 15, 2003)

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