Genre: 2D Fighting
Platform: SNES (Reviewed), Arcade, Genesis, at least 15 other platforms
When it comes to genre defining games, few are as indisputable as Street Fighter II. Prior to its release, all the fighting game genre really had were clunky games like the first SF and Yie Ar Kung-Fu. Then SFII came along, gave every fighter a unique, well defined move set, and smoothed out the gameplay greatly. I can't really think of a better way to put that. Older fighting games just feel like their characters are locked to a grid or something.
Anyway, like many, many kids of the early 90s, Street Fighter II was the first fighting game I every played and was probably among the first few games I owned on the SNES. My friends and I sunk countless hours into it, trying to figure out every nuance and taking turns trying to beat the game on its hardest difficulty, only to be constantly thwarted by that cheating asshole, M. Bison. It goes without saying, but Street Fighter II had some of the most ridiculously fun multiplayer I've ever experienced. When you have a few friends all about the same skill level, the game is an absolute blast.
Before I start, let me make it clear exactly what version of the game I'm talking about here. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior was the first version of the game released on the SNES. It was the only version that I owned and the one I played the most, by far. I'll talk a bit about its many re-releases too, but lets focus on just the original home release for now. I also realize that the arcade version came out in 1991, but I only played that a handful of times; much less than the home port.
|Screw this attack forever. I swear he's able to do an infinite combo with it. Maybe I just suck.|
Street Fighter II is fairly light on story as far as the overall plot is concerned, but each character has their own back story and I felt like the game's visuals did a good job conveying a bit about what kind of person each character was. Each fighter has a unique look, personality, and fighting style, all of which have held up pretty well over the years. Every character from this game returned in Street Fighter IV with virtually the same designs, so I guess if it ain't broke, don't redesign it. Or something.
As I said in the beginning, SFII's gameplay forever changed the fighting game genre. Its predecessor was already a fairly good evolution of the genre and (I'm really sorry if I'm wrong about this one) introduced the famous fireball and dragon punch move inputs that almost every 2d fighter has included to this day. Street Fighter II refined that formula to a simple but elegant fighting system, adding other mainstays like charge attacks and full circle inputs like Zangief's spinning piledriver.
I could be wrong again (I'm not exactly a video game historian) but I also believe that SFII introduced the idea of combos to fighting games (beat em' ups had simple combos prior to SFII.) It may also be one of the earlier examples of emergent gameplay as the developers didn't even intend to include combos as a game feature. Players just figured out that they could execute certain attacks and cancel certain animations in a quick enough manner that their opponent could not counter. Pretty neat stuff.
To really excel in versus mode, there's a wealth of character strategies to memorize. You can't just get good with one fighter either. You need to be able to anticipate exactly what each character can throw at you in any given moment. Just search for Street Fighter II Evo matches on YouTube and you'll see what I mean.
Almost as good as the stellar gameplay is the game's incredible soundtrack. I swear there isn't a single weak track in the whole game. Each character has their own theme song that plays on their stage and they all match up with both their respective fighter and their level so well. It's also worth mentioning (though I talked about it in one of my earliest articles) that Ken's theme was directly sampled from Cheap Trick's Mighty Wings, though if any of the other songs were sampled, I'm not aware of it. It was kinda funny to me because as far as I remember, I never heard Mighty Wings until years after playing SFII, so it felt kinda like someone added lyrics to Ken's theme from my perspective.
Visually, the first console iteration of SFII isn't too amazing compared to its successors, but it still retains a measure of charm with its varied character and background designs. I especially love Chun-Li's stage, which is a Chinese suburb featuring a number of background characters, most notably a butcher shop worker whose short animation dooms him to an eternity of strangling a chicken to death.
|I believe this is where I'm supposed to say "See! I'm not making it up!" Also since I mention it in every article: Persona 4|
After probably hundreds of hours playing as just the original eight, seeing the four boss characters playable blew my freaking mind. If there was a version of Street Fighter where you could play as the bosses, anything was possible. Maybe there was a version of Super Mario World where you could play as Bowser, but it was only released in Japan. Nah, I didn't go that far but it was still pretty amazing to me.
I never actually owned any of the re-releases as a kid, but when I got older, I realized that the original game was improved quite a bit by its successors. The gameplay was much quicker, the graphics were more detailed, five other characters were eventually added to the roster, and even super attacks and air combos made it into later releases.
|God I love Blanka's damage animation.|
Not being a fighting game expert actually makes it pretty hard to write about Street Fighter II, but I played this game so damn much that every move, song, sound effect and graphical effect is forever engraved into my memory. Though I will never be anywhere near a competitive level of skill at the game, it still managed to bring me countless hours of enjoyment, perhaps even more so than a sizable chunk of the other games I've written about here.
Number 4 in my top 5 games of 1992!
Another amazing licensed beat 'em up from Konami.
I'll leave you with my absolute favorite song from the entire Street Fighter series, Vega's theme. Its energetic, flamenco sound immediately conjures memories of Vega's cheap ass aerial attacks.
Also, since I probably won't have anywhere else to put it, the second video is an original song by YouTube user Hyadain2525, who does some of the funniest video game parody songs I've ever heard. The song is mostly in Japanese but the video below was subtitled in English by another user.
First video is brought to us by YouTube user constantlimit, and the second by YouTube user Hyadain2525 with English subtitles by YouTube user habanerospice.