Certain words have power. Maybe not quite the force to break down a brick wall or smash up a car with your bare hands, but a unique ability, nevertheless. Uttered alone and without context, they can conjure up an entire world or take us back in time. They are the key that unlocks a nostalgia and holds up a mirror to our childhood. Hadouken is one of those words, and through what it represents we have experienced a lot of change over the years.
The Street Fighter franchise is one of the longest lasting and recognizable in all of computer games. Spanning 36 games over nearly as many years – reaching all the way back to 1987 – Capcom’s flagship series has brought generations of people together. That transition through the ages hasn’t always been a smooth process, however. There have been some eyebrow raising decisions made from game to game that – for better or worse – left gamers speechless. These are a few of the more eye-catching ones.
Because of its popularity and longevity, there are some things that have gone from standard trivia to that of gaming lore. Character name switches over different markets involving a certain heavyweight boxer with face tattoo and his Street Fighting counterpart. From his introduction and throughout, M. Bison still ranks as one of the all-time final bosses. It just wouldn’t be the same if we were taking on Vega in front of that huge bell with Blanka’s mom watching over us.
A reason for Street Fighter becoming so embedded into popular culture over the years is of course the rise of console gaming. eSports wouldn’t be where it is today without the continued development and ever-growing reputation of the fighting game genre as a whole and specifically this series. Before that there were arcades. The pinnacle of competition was taking on one of your friends on those monolithic cabinets that could draw crowds as the battle raged on. It’s in this arena that Capcom really tried to change the game completely. Just over a year after the original game was released, a machine was developed in addition to the traditional setup that stripped down the traditional six button setup that we now down to two. Rather than having separate controls for punches and kicks on this machine, it would all come down to how hard you pressed either button in the first instance. Talk about thinking outside of the box. Or in this case thinking inside the box and adding pressure sensitivity to it. NetEnt slot have taken this ethos and applied it to this arcade cornerstone by offering fans of the original the chance to relive their childhood memories by playing the classic version now in slot form.
Part of being so iconic is that you open yourselves to imitation. Pretenders to the throne trying to cash in on your success. This happens in every industry, when something works everyone then jumps on the bandwagon to try and emulate it. It’s rarer though that you can not only stick it to those people but also create something popular in and of itself. Which is why when Capcom made the decision to hit back at what they felt were cheap rip offs of Ryu and Ken in SNK’s Art of Fighting games. Dan Hibiki was unveiled in Street Fighter Alpha; a cocky underpowered representation of all those who had tried to unsuccessfully duplicate their achievements. The ultimate irony here being that due to his backstory and (lack of) ability Dan is one of the more popular members of the canon.
From one of the early features that failed to take off to a very modern one that had fans of the series really up in arms. 2008’s Street Fighter V had all the makings of another classic with favorable reviews across the board. Yet it took one very particular and unignorable aspect to negate that enthusiasm. In game adverts are something we’ve grown accustomed to over the years, but it was the way they were displayed on this occasion that drew the most criticism. Emblazoned somewhat carelessly over the characters signature costumes were reminders of various other things you could purchase for the game. Rather than enhancing the experience however, the idea of Dhalsim having a big sticker on his turban wasn’t exactly what fans were looking for.
Speaking of which, there’s still the most memorable misstep of them all. You didn’t think we weren’t going to mention the movie, did you? Let’s ignore the fact that it takes a rather simple story of combatants coming together from all over the world to see who is the best and turns it into a very different narrative. While we’re at it, we can also just about forgive that virtually every single actor is a different nationality to the fighter they’re portraying, which is a big deal when you’re talking about being “The World Warrior”. The film itself may be deeply flawed, but it’s also endearing. This is in no small part because of the affection we have for the source material. So why then, did they make a game of the movie?
This might sound confusing, so try to follow along. Street Fighter: The Movie (the game) was a bizarre attempt at converting a film about a fighting game into a fighting game. Not only that, it would be visually vastly different to the games we already recognized, utilizing the same kind of motion capture with actors that was used for perennial rival Mortal Kombat. In the end it lacked both the extreme violence that made Midway’s beat-em-up so successful and the warmth of what made the Street Fighter itself so captivating.
Part of creating something that people remember is about taking chances. The franchise as a whole is a risk, in the sense that they basically built a genre of games from the bottom up. The influence this series holds in terms of prototypical characters, signature attacks and continued story still holds weight today. In that regard, it doesn’t matter so much that when Capcom has strayed off the path because we celebrate that they took those chances in the first place.