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Street Fighter
February 19, 2009 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Street Fighter II. It basically created the 2d-beat-em-up, and invented the combo, the special move, a wide roster of diverse, playable characters who people grew to love, and all the other things that gamers have taken for granted for years. It spawned a whole series, none of which ever quite captured the original's charm or had the same influence. This was a game that people obsessed over - bands were named after its special moves, rappers cited it in their lyrics, and even Premier League footballers weren't immune to its charms. Poor Raul Julia's final film was this masterpiece, and a new version's headed straight to DVD very soon. Now, 17 years later, Street Fighter 4 is about to be released in Europe and the nostalgia machine is going into overdrive. The game's producer's been talking about its links to Street Fighter II, reviewers are getting misty-eyed , and even musicians are getting in on the act with Akira the Don making his very own Street Fighter-themed track. Apparently it's pretty good. Hadouken!
posted by muggsy1079 (79 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
*fires up MAME*
posted by PenDevil at 10:01 AM on February 19, 2009


That new version of the film is coming out in theaters very soon.
posted by mkb at 10:03 AM on February 19, 2009


It basically created the 2d-beat-em-up...

The hell it did! I don't remember the combo, special moves or playable characters as well, but I spent a LOT of time on the semi-local library's C64 playing that game. Never knew until just now that it was Street Fighter, though. What an odd thing for the library to stock back then....

(Actually, I'm not even sure it was SF. Definitely a C64, definitely a 2d-beat-em-up and definitely before 1991, though.)
posted by DU at 10:07 AM on February 19, 2009


What, no mention of the Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix? Super Street Fighter II Turbo, with all of the art redrawn in full HD glory, and minor gameplay tweaks to improve various known balance issues and bugs?
posted by evilangela at 10:15 AM on February 19, 2009


Google Chun-Li's thighs
posted by anazgnos at 10:15 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


DU:
possibly "The way of the Exploding Fist" (1985) ?
or Archer MacClean's International Karate" (1986) ?
posted by silence at 10:15 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


anyone who has gametap also has access to a decent portion of the Street Fighter II sequels, as well as the other Capcom SF clones, such as Night Stalkers. you know, if you were wondering where to get in on the old school to prep for the new release.
posted by shmegegge at 10:16 AM on February 19, 2009


Karateka is older.
posted by mkb at 10:16 AM on February 19, 2009


Yeah, just figured out it was International Karate. I remembered it as just "Karate" though.
posted by DU at 10:18 AM on February 19, 2009


Yeah I too was wondering how the second iteration of a game pioneered that game's genre.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:19 AM on February 19, 2009


Street Fighter's apex was "Street Fighter II: Championship Edition". No turbo. No Alpha. No bullshit.
posted by SansPoint at 10:21 AM on February 19, 2009 [7 favorites]


Street Fight IV... I am so unbelievably excited.

The nostaligia is for reals. I'm not even that big on fighters, but my friend and I shall be playing this puppy online CONSTANTLY.

It was really an awesome game for kids and remember playing it for what seemed like years.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 10:24 AM on February 19, 2009


Come on guys, let's not be thick here. There were 2D fighters before Street Fighter II, but the game revolutionized what a 2D fighter was, and essentially influenced every fighter from then forward.

Much how in music, an "early pioneer" doesn't have to be the first to create a sound or style, but is the first to do it distinctively and well, Street Fighter II was an early pioneer of the 2D fighter genre.
posted by explosion at 10:25 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ha - ok, ok, I should have written 'created the 2d-beat-em-up genre AS WE KNOW IT'. Absolutely right that there were 2d fighters beforehand (I loved IK+)
posted by muggsy1079 at 10:27 AM on February 19, 2009


Ask me trivia about Street Fighter or Darkstalkers/Vampire. No tricksy technology questions, please, but character history, in-universe information, anything of that sort. This is a topic about which I can hold forth. If you can stump me or force me to look something up, I will admit my failure, for I am an honest man, but I invite you all to bring it on.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:28 AM on February 19, 2009


Are beat-em-ups fighting games, or games like Bad Dudes or Final Fight or whatever?
posted by box at 10:30 AM on February 19, 2009


I just got the SNK pack for my playstation, and in playing back through these games (and the occasional round of SFII at the bowling alley), I keep being struck by what crappy games they actually were. For each enemy, and for most characters, there's an ideal strategy, and the whole challenge becomes simply performing that routine of moves over and over and over again. The only reason I think anyone ever fell in love with those games was because of the two-player modes…

Of course, I'll also say that even now, I still haven't totally mastered the shoryuken motion (and that I was always better at Tekken).
posted by klangklangston at 10:34 AM on February 19, 2009


Now, Virtua Fighter, that's my fighting-game franchise.
posted by box at 10:35 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the term for those is "brawlers," box.

I got my copy of SF4 yesterday, and it is KILLER. I'm not a fighting game person either, but I'm feeling the obsession like I haven't since the endless matches against friends with the original SF2.
posted by naju at 10:38 AM on February 19, 2009


Now, Virtua Fighter, that's my fighting-game franchise.

Man, I got scooped! Exactly. I even found an original Virtual Fighter (no number!) stand-up cabinet in an arcade at Squaw last week and I still remember some of the combo moves. That was some ground-breaking low-polygon-count 3d-fighting-action.
posted by GuyZero at 10:39 AM on February 19, 2009


The line can be blurry, but here's the general distinction: Beat-'em-ups are games where you fight your way through multiple weak minions, and fighters are games where (generally speaking) you fight one evenly matched opponent. Final Fight, River City Ransom and X-Men are beat-'em-ups, while Yie-Ar Kung Fu, Martial Champion and Ehrgeiz are fighters.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:39 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Soul Calibur's okay too, I guess. But it doesn't have Shun or Jeffry.
posted by box at 10:39 AM on February 19, 2009


But it doesn't have Shun or Jeffry.

I still have a poster-sized picture of Sarah in a bikini from "Next Generation" magazine. Folded up somewhere. Though maybe I threw it out in that last move... pity.
posted by GuyZero at 10:43 AM on February 19, 2009


Though my favorite fighting game ever might be the Saturn semi-classic Fighters Megamix. Mr. Meat! That jumping-bean guy! That girl from Virtua Cop who's totally packing!
posted by box at 10:49 AM on February 19, 2009


What I find most astonishing about SF2's success is we paid $0.25 / game. A game lasts, tops, five minutes. And you played for hours to learn to play competently. A quarter at a time.

I'm the strongest woman in the world!
posted by Nelson at 10:50 AM on February 19, 2009


I used to be a big fan of Karate Champ, myself. But I agree that SF2 was groundbreaking. It was the first game to get me and my junior high friends to hang out at the local gas station spending all our quarters.

I was a Blanka man, myself.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:54 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


The first two-player 1v1 I am aware of is Double Dragon's mode B.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:21 AM on February 19, 2009


What, no mention of the Street Fighter II rock opera!? Ok, admittedly it's unlicensed and the plot is completely nonsensical, but the music is actually pretty good.

Balrog:
Sagat's always kickin-- kickin is for girls
I bet you Chun Li kicks cause Chun Li can't do curls
yea I kick it with her on the Vegas strip
but I dont need a kick when I need to bust a lip

posted by Squid Voltaire at 11:28 AM on February 19, 2009


The first two-player 1v1 I am aware of is Double Dragon's mode B.

Don't forget River City Ransom.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:28 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Screw this! Final Fight forevar! Hagar 4 lyfe, yo! *RAWARARAR* *spins*
posted by stenseng at 11:32 AM on February 19, 2009


HADOOOOOKEN!
posted by wastelands at 11:32 AM on February 19, 2009


I'm still waiting for somebody to make Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006.
posted by jcruelty at 11:33 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Karateka, and Karate Champ, and one or two other games, including (nodding to DU) the original Street Fighter predated Street Fighter II, but none of them were nearly as complex, and the complexity, the array of options available to the player at each idle moment of play, is what lends the games their depth. Without all the moves, Street Fighter II a fairly simple game of positioning and button-pounding. Nearly all fighting games are like this.

That is Street Fighter II's great innovation. It moved the complexity of fighting games away from interacting with the environment (maneuvering through a stage, avoiding obstacles) to solely interacting with the opponent. It removed a lot of the player's movement ability, of navigating a level map, but replaced it, effectively, with navigating a character's move set. The "level" the player must traverse is the time graph of the other player's actions. The process of traversing it is reacting, and taking advantage of, his moves and vulnerabilities. It made the characters much larger, which made the more graphically impressive but also made it much more possible to target a specific parts of his body, and also to protect those parts. Those large characters would be unweildly in other types of games.

Street Fighter II's designers saw all this and implemented them all in a single game. Most companies these days, who view every game released as a risk, would not have the organizational will to release such a thing, such a new thing as SFII was then, so obviously a constructed game built off of the design understanding of the team. Managers and marketers now tend to have too much influence in the design of a game, not knowing the purposes of the different elements of a game, and would probably demand some concessions. SFII was a bold statement; the fact it got released is a testament to Capcom's willingness to experiment as it is the skill of the developers themselves.

All this said.... while I've tried to be as open-minded in my gaming interests as anyone, I really don't like fighting games. I see why people find them interesting, can even speak, a bit, on their design strengths, but other than SoulCalibur (one of the best Dreamcast games) and Smash Bros. (an edge case, which returns some aspects of platforming and level-traversal to the genre) I've never had the urge to play them much.

It might have something to do with a lingering grudge over how they basically destroyed arcades, although it could also be argued that they delayed the arcade's demise for years. They were definitely the first nail in the coffin for Atari Games, however, and I really haven't forgiven them for that.
posted by JHarris at 11:39 AM on February 19, 2009 [14 favorites]


(The first "two-player 1v1" I myself am aware of is Tennis for Two.)
posted by JHarris at 11:40 AM on February 19, 2009


They also pioneered the guy making some kind of masturbation gesture in every background crowd scene.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:42 AM on February 19, 2009 [11 favorites]


SFII was a bold statement; the fact it got released is a testament to Capcom's willingness to experiment as it is the skill of the developers

that and that remixing the fun parts of SF I was a not unobvious direction.

SF I was something of a turd when it came out, but SF II's introduction of challenger mode -- the challenger buying in to interrrupt a player's 1P game -- was the key innovation as far as game flow and operator profits went.

Once they had challenger mode going, they had the raw earnings power to be confident in releasing the game.
posted by troy at 11:49 AM on February 19, 2009


I still remember the first time I played street fighter II. I was doing halfways okay against the computer and then it shot a fireball at me

I had 6 buttons. None of them said "fireball". I was bloody confused.
posted by flaterik at 11:53 AM on February 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Mmmmmmf...mmm-mmm-mmmmf!
posted by spamguy at 11:57 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


They were definitely the first nail in the coffin for Atari Games, however, and I really haven't forgiven them for that.

I interviewed at Atari Games in 1992 . . . they really didn't have a clue; when I was there I saw Ed Logg working on Space Lords and somebody working on the baseball game they were doing.

Capcom's core strength was their art design, which served them well as games moved into 17" and 35" cabinets.

IMO the Atari people were just too old and too stick-in-the-mud to grok the key concepts of the beat 'em up.
posted by troy at 11:58 AM on February 19, 2009


Ahhh, Street Fighter 2. As a little kid, I remember skipping Karate classes so I could go play Street Fighter 2 down the local arcade with the money my mum had given me for karate classes. I got busted eventually but I remember telling my parents that in one respect, I was still learning how to defend myself with the money they gave me by play Street Fighter 2.

They didn't buy that excuse.

I remember you couldn't go anywhere around town without seeing a SF2 arcade cabinet. The bowling alley was packed with them, the video rental stores all had them and so did the cinemas. It was huge.

Later, as a devoted Nintendo fan-boy, I remember how awesome it was that Street Fighter 2 would be an exclusive release for the SNES. The issue of Mean Machines (a UK gaming mag that was pretty much the only source for gaming news in Australia at the time) that profiled Street Fighter 2's SNES release was one of my most heavily read issues amongst my friends and myself.

Years later, I'd buy it again as soon as it came out for the Wii Virtual Console.

Now I'm just waiting for the HD Remix to hit the Playstation Network in Australia (for some reason there's been a delay to its release down here) and I'm thinking of asking for Street Fighter IV as a birthday present.

In short, yeah, I love me some Street Fighter.
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:04 PM on February 19, 2009


God I love it when JHarris shows up in these conversations.

I still love me some Street Fighter II, even if I was never the best kid in the neighborhood at fighting games (I can manage a small amount of ownage as Chun Li, but that's it, and let's face it - Chun Li has always been a spamming character.) I believe I'm-a fire that up on the Wii again as soon as I get home. But to add to what some people have already been saying, I think that SFII was really the first revolutionary social game. While pundits were freaking out imagining that video games were killing the childrens ability tp interact with one another, Capcom came out with a game that basically lost 99% of it's appeal if it wasn't played with a roomful of friends. I'm sure Capcom didn't care about that aspect, mind you (really, if you think about it, that sort of appeal could be bad for sales) but it was there nonetheless. I have so many great memories surrounding that game.

On a similar note, my roommate, after weeks of fruitless attempts, finally managed to find a rental copy of Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe this weekend. I'd only read the A.V. Club's review of it, which was pretty middling, and I generally trust the A.V. Club, so I wasn't expecting much...

Holy living fuck is that game addictive and fun! I don't know the last time either of us spent that much time just glued to a single game, and our girlfriends were glued to it as well, all of us thrilled and laughing our asses off at the absurdity of it the whole time. And here's the thing - we don't even have a second controller for the 360, so we were just trading off playing single-player and having a ball with it. If you like fighting games, which you probably do if you're in this thread, go check it out right now. It's way, way better than it has any right to be.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:07 PM on February 19, 2009


Ahhh, Street Fighter 2. As a little kid, I remember skipping Karate classes so I could go play Street Fighter 2 down the local arcade with the money my mum had given me for karate classes. I got busted eventually but I remember telling my parents that in one respect, I was still learning how to defend myself with the money they gave me by play Street Fighter 2.


Effigy2000, are you sure that was you, and not... Bart Simpson!?!?!

I keed, I keed
posted by Navelgazer at 12:12 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I interviewed at Atari Games in 1992 . . . they really didn't have a clue; when I was there I saw Ed Logg working on Space Lords and somebody working on the baseball game they were doing. [...] IMO the Atari people were just too old and too stick-in-the-mud to grok the key concepts of the beat 'em up.

Bite your tongue. I'll argue against this statement day and night. I've played Space Lords in the arcade (I'd basically have too; last time I checked it's not well emulated), and it is awesome.

Atari was far more bold in their designs as Capcom. At the time, the great majority of their games, each of them, was wildly different from each other.

It's not that Atari didn't understand fighting games, it's that for a long while they refused to follow the trends and continued to make a bunch of tremendously varied games. But they didn't test well against fighting games, which resulted in a lot of abandoned projects, including a sequel to Marble Madness (warning: link contains EXCESSIVE AWESOME).

They focused on breadth above depth. Atari's focus appealed more to a variety of players, but that of the wave of fighting games appealed more towards obsessive types, which coincidentally, a lot of the teenage male players who supported arcades at that time were well-capable of being. And yet, many of Atari's games from the era have a wit and energy about them you'll find lacking in most games today.

I'd go into more detail, but I've already written a 20 page+ article about this for Gamasutra.
posted by JHarris at 12:18 PM on February 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nice pedantry, JHarris. Two points.

But did you forget Go?
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:20 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the "getting misty eyed" link:
A brilliant touch is the option to turn on a feature that allows Live/PSN players to challenge you even when you’re playing the singleplayer modes. In this era of home entertainment, it’s the closest you can get to someone coming up to challenging you in an arcade.
That's awesome. Even more awesome would be a "true" arcade mode: two players, loser bows out to the next player who, of course, signaled his intention to play next by putting a quarter at the corner of the screen.

Anyways, this is a good as any time to rewatch Collegehumor's brilliant Street Fighter: The Later Years series.
posted by mhum at 12:27 PM on February 19, 2009


"Soul Calibur's okay too, I guess. But it doesn't have Shun or Jeffry."

Man, OK, so the local second-hand game shop has some consoles set up, and they had SoulCalibur there, running on an old Dreamcast or some noise. So, I started it up and was whupping through things, that old muscle memory coming back. But then the teens who were there starting challenging me, and they're all boasting about how they're motherfucking tops with Mitsurugi or some shit, and I'm just eating them up. After a bit it dwindles to a couple of kids, and I just started feeling guilty, like, I've been playing Taki since SoulEdge. I had to switch to Voldo before they could get a round in, and I was happy to finally be knocked off by some cheap-ass Cervantes play.

And that is why guys who are coming up on 30 shouldn't be allowed to hang out at video game stores, crushing children with archaic game skills.
posted by klangklangston at 12:28 PM on February 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I brought my super-awesome 4-player 5000-game NES/SNES/Genesis/MAME cabinet to college with me and let anyone who wandered into my dorm room play it. The one game that ended up being played more than half the time? Street Fighter II.

I don't know what it is about that game that makes it hold up as well as it has (it probably wouldn't be in my top 20 list of best old-school games) but there are a lot of people who still love it. Also, I think the main flaw in Championship Edition is that, when two novices are playing, one of them will find out that M. Bison has some really cheap moves and start using them over and over again.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:38 PM on February 19, 2009


Heh, sorry about that smm.

Navelgazer mentioned SFII's social aspects. I think if arcades are ever going to come back, it's got to be in a way that takes advantage of the social nature of arcade play, the ability to perform in public and have strangers join in. It's basically the entirety of Dance Dance Revolution's freakish popularity. (IMO, of course.)

Atari could also do social games (SFII's challenger mechanic built off of Gauntlet's join-in-anytime concept), but SFII was just as much a spectator game, one you could have fun watching as well as performing at, and with observers involved players could show off while playing.

I feel I should add that, right after Atari released Rampart, I sometimes found similar crowds of people around it, which is a bit strange because you wouldn't think it was that kind of game. Rampart was freakishly popular for a short while. It couldn't weather the sea of fighting games of course, but still, to think a clever little game of cannons, ships and Tetris pieces could do well at that time, it gave me a bit of hope. It really was Atari's last hurrah.
posted by JHarris at 12:41 PM on February 19, 2009


Pre-Street Fighter II Fighting Games from HG101
posted by jtron at 12:42 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Street Fighter II is the only arcade game I ever got good enough to beat with a single quarter. I can practically taste a 7-Eleven Slurpee just thinking about it.
posted by diogenes at 12:52 PM on February 19, 2009


diogenes: that was Tekken 3 for me, deep in the bowels of the dorm laundry room at NYU.

(I played with Tiger. Tiger, like Chun Li, is a cheap-ass character to use.)
posted by Navelgazer at 1:36 PM on February 19, 2009


Why did Ryu scream "I'll strike Ted Nugent!" when he did that upside-down helicopter kick?
posted by jeremy b at 1:39 PM on February 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


The first two-player 1v1 I am aware of is Double Dragon's mode B.

Don't forget River City Ransom.


No, no... Karate Champ in the arcades was the first 1v1 fighting game, it was like Street Fighter underwater.

And it was fun.
posted by barc0001 at 2:33 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Street Fighter II is the only arcade game I ever got good enough to beat with a single quarter. I can practically taste a 7-Eleven Slurpee just thinking about it."

For me, my favorite one-quarter games were X-Men vs. SF and Marvel vs. SF. I loved the tag-in-tag-out aspect (since I also dug King of Fighters at the local Putt Putt), and I was a much bigger superhero nerd than video game nerd. Also, those games stayed one quarter when much of the rest of the SF universe was up to 50¢.

And the first thing anyone should learn in Tekken is how to beat Eddie/Tiger. He's actually a really hard character to use against any sort of experienced opponent. Law's always the cheapest one.
posted by klangklangston at 3:24 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a place in Beijing beside the food street in WangFuJing that currently has the old school player vs. player social aspect of SFII alive and going. There were regulars, and I even got to beat a guy using Ryu with me using Chun Li as his girlfriend watched -- my best personal SFII moment ever.
posted by sleslie at 3:26 PM on February 19, 2009


"...are you sure that was you, and not... Bart Simpson!?!?!"
posted by Navelgazer at 6:12 AM on February 20

Ha! You know I totally never made that link before now? Weird.

"Pre-Street Fighter II Fighting Games from HG101"
posted by jtron at 6:42 AM on February 20

Why did they leave out the first Street Fighter?
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:29 PM on February 19, 2009


M. Bison has some really cheap moves

I always thought it was Ken/Ryu who were the unbalanced characters.

Also, this.
posted by Chuckles at 3:45 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


And the first thing anyone should learn in Tekken is how to beat Eddie/Tiger. He's actually a really hard character to use against any sort of experienced opponent. Law's always the cheapest one.

klang, your first comment about switching characters to be kind brought forth memories of Mr. Lif's "Jugular Vein", and mentioning Eddie just made me have to hunt down the song again. (the tekken reference starts at 2:14)
posted by Bookhouse at 4:06 PM on February 19, 2009


Most people don't/didn't realize the soundtrack for the '94 Street Fighter movie was actually pretty good! (Uhh, yeah, there were exceptions like any album.)
posted by P.o.B. at 4:44 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember when I was a kid or teen or whatever. Mortal Kombat had just come out and all the kids were talking about how it was better than street fighter. I was excited to try it, and I walked away thinking "my peers are blood thirsty simpletons" I might not have thought it in those words but I had the sentiment in my head. The characters were really really similar to each other except for their special moves which still lack the same sort of variety as street fighter. The flow of the game was stilted like a square dance to street fighter II's ballet. And the graphics while more realistic were sort of lifeless and boring especially the backgrounds. And the big innovation was that if you won you could do one more special move and see a little animation where you kill your opponent. Congratulations. I wasn't completely anti mortal kombat. It was still a fairly fun game. It was just worse than what it was trying to one up, and it being painted up like a whore was enough to win me over.
posted by I Foody at 6:08 PM on February 19, 2009


Good Times w/ Street Fighter:

1) After the original World Warrior version had been out for a few months, I had a pretty good handle on throwing fireballs and doing hurricane kicks with Ryu & Ken. Dragon punches mostly happened by accident. Between that and a strategy of throwing a lot of fierce punches, I could win against other shitty players. Then came a summer day when some kid I'd never seen before showed up at the video store and started whipping my ass with this weird move where he seemed to throw an uppercut and a fireball at the same time. Also, his dragon punches weren't accidental. After he'd drained my quarter supply, he showed me how he managed his strange "combination move."

2) In time, I figured out how to dragon punch, but only to the right. I was the scourge of my Street Fighting friends, so I guarded the shameful secret of my inability to throw leftward shoryukens very closely. If word got out, this weakness would allow my friends to end my reign of terror.

3) Local waterslide park put a very haxored Champion Edition cabinet in their arcade. Characters could fly, throw instant-hit and instant-charge projectiles, flash kick and psycho crusher in the air and hurricane kick off the top of the screen. Besides containing a crazy awesome version of Street Fighter, the cabinet also featured bolts that would zap any wet hands or wrists that brushed across them.

4) The whole year before I moved to Texas, I played a lot of Street Fighter Alpha 3. My first few weeks in the Lone Star State, I played a lot of Alpha 3 with a neighbor. One night, after a long winning streak in which I'd used about every character in the roster, I picked pink gi-wearing, stunted fireball-throwing, ponytail-having Dan just to be an obnoxious, showboating dick.

Street Fighter II is damn near the best game ever made. It's pure, it's primal and it's still a total blast. I love it and most of it's children.
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:32 PM on February 19, 2009


Bite your tongue

Just sayin' that Atari didn't have world-class animators or game designers on staff ca. 1992.

Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters, XYbots, and Vindicators was their style, and it kinda sucked. Atari was at their best slinging RGB vector art on a 13" Wells Gardner.

Japan has an entire subculture of 2-year senmongaku colleges churning out wanna-be game designers and anime artists -- the US only has a handful of institutions now, and none back in the late 80s / early 90s AFAIK.

Atari could get away with this when it produced its sparse but awesomely playable games like Gauntlet, Hard Drivin', and Cyberball, but simply was unable to come up with the playably light games like Daytona USA, nor the hard-core nerd designs of Namco.
posted by troy at 7:52 PM on February 19, 2009


IMO the Atari people were just too old and too stick-in-the-mud to grok the key concepts of the beat 'em up.

Atari's Pit Fighter came out a year before Street Fighter II, and the same technique was used to make Mortal Combat.
posted by furtive at 8:14 PM on February 19, 2009


Atari ... simply was unable to come up with the playably light games like Daytona USA, nor the hard-core nerd designs of Namco.

It is the nineties and there is time for Klax.
posted by furtive at 8:18 PM on February 19, 2009


Atari's Pit Fighter came out a year before Street Fighter II

and was a pile of fail. The art design slash green-screening sucked, the play mechanics sucked, the character story design sucked, it was one of the worst games that we tested in our arcade, right alongside Guardians of the 'Hood.

It is a case in point; whoever made that game had no business making arcade video games. Street Fighter II took it & Atari Games to school.
posted by troy at 8:43 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, SF2 was great.

Yeah.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:52 PM on February 19, 2009


When I spent a year in Texas one summer, my ritual was to go out to an arcade at midnight and play plain old SFII start to finish with Chun Li, on one token. I always played alone; the kewl kids were playing SF Championship Turbo over near the front door. The volume was up so loud the thoughtful "Yoga flame" and orgasmic "OHHhhhHH---NOUGAT!" drowned out the rest of the games in the arcade.

Still I never really liked or respected SF2. I guess I was more of a Samsho 2 kind of guy. Capcom's fighters just kept getting bigger and sillier and cartoonier, and along came Quake to redefine 1-1 and multiplayer gaming, and the SF series started to look irrelevant.
posted by fleacircus at 11:33 PM on February 19, 2009


Just sayin' that Atari didn't have world-class animators or game designers on staff ca. 1992.

Animators? You may have a point, although I do not think it can pass obviously. Atari made fewer games that relied on the side-view character art that most Japanese games of the time feature, because they were less likely to make a side-view platformer. Their graphics were adequate for the variety of games they made, which at that time greatly exceeded that of any other company, Japanese or American. Even now, the only company to come close to matching it is Nintendo.

Designers? You are WRONG.

Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters, XYbots, and Vindicators was their style, and it kinda sucked. Atari was at their best slinging RGB vector art on a 13" Wells Gardner.

Xybots is an excellent game, and so is Vindicators. I say this as someone who has played through both, and who has finished good portions of both games on one credit. EFtPotRM is a weaker game, but not terrible.

If you want examples of bad Atari games, you can find them. Thunderjaws and Batman are two. I will not defend Pit Fighter either, but the game did well enough to warrant a Lynx port, and even a sequel, Guardians of the Hood. And I'll tell you this: Capcom has made bad games too. Street Fighter II's predecessor was one.

Japan has an entire subculture of 2-year senmongaku colleges churning out wanna-be game designers and anime artists -- the US only has a handful of institutions now, and none back in the late 80s / early 90s AFAIK.

I will leave the art question alone; I don't know why you brought it up. But this kind of culture of which you speak is not one that is conducive to producing world-class game designers. In fact, as is more visible now, it tends to produce a bunch of people who think the best way to design games is to just iterate over what they've seen before. There is a strong IMHO flavor to this statement, of course, but it is an extremely considered Humble Opinion.

I did not argue that JAPAN didn't have some great game designers. Unquestionably they do. Capcom has some as well. One of my favorite arcade games is Capcom's own Magic Sword, which could be described as a kind of Barbarian Bubble Bobble.

But the Japanese have no monopoly on originality. They may seem otherwise to us because, as a nation with a differing culture from ours, they utilize different ideas and assumptions that make their output seem more out-of-left-field. But that does not necessarily mean better.

Atari could get away with this when it produced its sparse but awesomely playable games like Gauntlet, Hard Drivin', and Cyberball, but simply was unable to come up with the playably light games like Daytona USA, nor the hard-core nerd designs of Namco.

But Atari DID come up with Gauntlet, Hard Drivin', and Cyberball. Capcom made flops too, but some of those never made it to the States so they aren't as visible. And of the games named: Gauntlet was a tremendous influence over ALL arcade games, American and Japanese, and Hard Drivin' was only possible because of Atari's tremendous efforts in R&D, which many other companies have built upon.

You also leave out many other excellent games. Marble Madness, 720 Degrees, Toobin', S.T.U.N. Runner, Rampart... but I've already pointed you to my article. Most of the games there are the ones I would list here.

And I think a lot of of their quality, when they were at the top of their form, is precisely because they weren't hard-core nerds. Shigeru Miyamoto who it is rumored may be Japanese himself isn't a nerd, he's actually got a well-balanced view of design, and that's his strongest asset, he can mine his outside interests for ideas. This is a common feature of all the world's very best game designers.

As video game design has become more insular, the field has produced designers who know little other than video games, and that's the greatest danger to the field today. The Wii's surprising success is in large part the result of a revolt against that tendency.
posted by JHarris at 2:12 AM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


This thread is awesome.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:47 AM on February 20, 2009


Seeing as how this fighting-game thread seems to have shifted to a discussion of Atari, I can't believe nobody's mentioned Primal Rage.

On that note, it's always been my habit to pick the least human-looking or most monstrous character in any given fighting game-- Blanka, Baraka, King (Tekken) and so forth. The first time I played Primal Rage, I didn't know what to do when faced with a select screen full of dinosaurs, so I figured I may as well pick the most humanoid character and went with Blizzard.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:04 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


No Samurai Shodown love?
posted by Rhomboid at 4:36 AM on February 20, 2009


Designers? You are WRONG.

I'm talking 1992. Something bad had happened to Atari by then. Maybe it was the Tengen/Nintendo sucking capital from the company, dunno.

Xybots is an excellent game, and so is Vindicators

Both were weak sauce. Vindicators came out the same year as Assault, comparing the graphics and game design of the two should be instructive. Also, Vindicators is basically Kelly Turner's main contribution to Atari, his last game didn't make it out of testing in 1992.

Xybots suffered from the similarly terminal crappy art design, it looked like Ed Logg created the graphics for that game.

But Atari DID come up with Gauntlet, Hard Drivin', and Cyberball

(1) The incomparable Ed Logg (but based on an APX design by Jack Palevich), (2) Rick Moncrief & Jed Margolin's last hurrah apparently, and (3) the also incomparable John Salwitz, whose next & last game for Atari was Rampart in 1990.

Gauntlet was a tremendous influence over ALL arcade games, American and Japanese, and Hard Drivin' was only possible because of Atari's tremendous efforts in R&D, which many other companies have built upon.

Agreed on the above. Hard Drivin' was arcade game creation tour-de-force. Of all the games we got in the arcade, this was the only one we played all night after closing, for hours & hours.

You also leave out many other excellent games. Marble Madness, 720 Degrees, Toobin', S.T.U.N. Runner, Rampart.

Marble Madness was a standout (but it was, alas, Cerny's last game for Atari), as were the John Salwitz games (Paperboy, 720, and Rampart). Toobin and STUN Runner were really meh IMO, certainly Atari-esque designs of the time but not killer, must-play games. Looking them up I see these two had the same designers, not surprising.

Atari Games' output (via via arcade-history.com)

1992
Guardians of the 'Hood (Stark, who previously did Pit Fighter and would next to T-MEK)
Moto Frenzy (meh remix of Sega's work from the mid-80s; Harper, who would later do Primal Rage)
Relief Pitcher
Space Lords (Ed Logg's last game)

1993
Hard Drivin's Airborne (unreleased)
Street Drivin' (unreleased)
Cyberstorm was an attempt at learning from the Namco/Sega school of art design at least)

1993 was not a good year for Atari.

1994
COPS -- Never saw this game -- interactive video, Mad Dog McCree-like?
Primal Rage -- (ugh)
Road Riot's Revenge Rally -- retread of 1991's Road Riot 4WD
T-MEK - The Warlords -- Ford's first and last design for the company.
posted by troy at 4:39 AM on February 20, 2009


One of my childhood fantasies was to own this game, but I was lucky to have a NES and that was all I was gettin'. When I first played the SNES version at Target after many months of plugging quarters into the arcade version, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven, but had to stay in purgatory first.

In GamePro I read of a regular NES port that featured 4 characters -- it was a bootleg and looked crappy.

The closest I came to the real thing (at the age where it mattered most) was a PC port that required a 386 with 2MB of RAM. I played it on my 286/12 with 1MB of RAM and was quite disappointed by the performance and the fact that the characters jumped 2X as high as they did in the Arcade/SNES versions. God, it sucked, but not as bad as the PC port of the original SF.

Later, a Super-SF2-Hyper-Fighting port was released for the PC, and it rocked, but by then I was in my twenties. I'll definitely have to check out the PS3 HD port.
posted by aydeejones at 6:58 AM on February 20, 2009


Google Chun-Li's thighs

Wow...Chun-Li's thighs google me.
posted by aftermarketradio at 7:47 AM on February 20, 2009


In Soviet Russia, Chun-Li's thighs google Zangief!
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:12 AM on February 20, 2009


I'm talking 1992. Something bad had happened to Atari by then. Maybe it was the Tengen/Nintendo sucking capital from the company, dunno.

Again, it's in my article. It's not that the creativity was sucked out of the company at all, it's that very little tested well against fighting games, resulting in many abandoned projects that never left test. This is well-documented in talks with their designers from the time. Their wide-open, try-anything approach didn't survive the massive genrefication that hit arcades at that time, from which those places have never really recovered. There were many abandoned projects at that time that never left test, like Marble Madness II (see my "excessive awesome" link above).

The thing that you most dislike about Atari may well have been caused by fighting games.

Both were weak sauce. Vindicators came out the same year as Assault, comparing the graphics and game design of the two should be instructive. Also, Vindicators is basically Kelly Turner's main contribution to Atari, his last game didn't make it out of testing in 1992.

I respectfully disagree about the weak sauceness, as well as that of Toobin' and STUN Runner. Toobin' has an awesome idea, and its control really makes the game; it isn't the same to play it on console emulation (Midway Arcade Treasures II) alas. STUN Runner has an excellent last level that never ends, and the names of prior players flash by at the points in the level they reached when they ran out of time. (This is my favorite fact about the game, it seems....)

Some are games, however, that one might have to play a bit to find interesting, they aren't as reach-out-and-grab-you as a Japanese title from that time, which may well illustrate part of their problem. Their depths come out in play. Xybots in particular gets rather hectic when the first wide-open level is reached. (I would say, by the way, that Xybot's worst feature is how later on it forces the player to buy some of the mapping benefits he starts the game with.)

I note, however, that most of the '92-and-later games that did get released I agree with you completely about, including and ESPECIALLY Primal Rage.

Note, by the way, that Space Lords was far from Ed Logg's last game. He was with the company at least long enough to work on Gauntlet Legends and San Francisco Rush (home version only, maybe? I'm unsure).

Hard Drivin' was arcade game creation tour-de-force. Of all the games we got in the arcade, this was the only one we played all night after closing, for hours & hours.

And yet, the game really doesn't hold up today. Other than the Phantom Photon mode, there is little the game does that hasn't been easily surpassed by other 3D driving games. The game is basically all tech. It's interesting from a historical standpoint, but it's not as interesting to play now as some of Atari's other games are.

As for the Japanese approach, it is much slicker, but I find that that often that slickness hides a basic sameness in approach. The word I've seen used to describe that slickness, as applied to RPGs but I'm appropriating it here, is "zazz." Hardcore Gaming 101's page on Final Fantasy IV put it best I think, in the section on "fatal zazz saturation." In its context, SFII has a lot of zazz, but doesn't pump it to fatal levels. Atari's games from the time (Marble Madness to Rampart, that I call their "silver age") have fairly little zazz, but I tend to like that. They're not pretentious.
posted by JHarris at 10:39 AM on February 20, 2009


[Hard Drivin'] is basically all tech.

It's dynamics were done by Milliken. The washing machine motor doing the force-feedback steering has yet to equalled. Game-wise, sure, it was something of a one trick pony, but putting a loop in a driving game was a pretty good trick!

As for "zazz", once monitors got bigger than "medium res" in the 90s that was what was needed, and Atari didn't have the art sensibility to bring it. They were a 70s & 80s shop in that department.

In the 90s Japan's geniuses far outclassed Atari -- Namco's stuff like Ridge Racer, Cyber Commando, Tokyo Wars, Sega's Virtua Fighter series, Virtua On, Daytona casual racer, the Raidens & Taito's Ray Storm, Konami's beat game franchises.

Outside of Area 51, which was an outside job, and the last hurrah of SF Rush, Atari/TWi/Midway West didn't have the chops to compete with that onslaught.
posted by troy at 11:58 AM on February 20, 2009


In the 90s Japan's geniuses far outclassed Atari -- Namco's stuff like Ridge Racer, Cyber Commando, Tokyo Wars, Sega's Virtua Fighter series, Virtua On, Daytona casual racer, the Raidens & Taito's Ray Storm, Konami's beat game franchises.

Again, the chasing of trends severely harmed Atari in that period. I agree completely that the company lost its way at that time, with the exception of SF Rush and the Gauntlet sequels. I also note that this is likely more the fault of management than the developers. I hate to bring up the article yet AGAIN, but there's a reason that, other than Gauntlet Legends, it doesn't describe games after Rampart.

And it's undeniable, if you must insist of conflating visual art with game design, that Atari's games of that time aren't entirely up to it. Marble Madness II's title screen is painful to look at, although the game itself looks great.

But most of those games you mention I find vastly less interesting than Atari's output pre-1992. Racers, fighting games and shooters; that's a microcosm of the arcade video industry at the time, and minus shooters but plus DDR it's basically what it is now. The Raidens are particularly excellent examples of the breed, yes, but it's still a shooter. (But then, I consider the pinnacle of top-down scrolling shooters to be Zanac, an NES game.)

These are not works of genius; they're evolutionary, not revolutionary. They're high on craftsmanship, but low on inspiration. Both are important. Atari's focus, in the day, was largely the latter.
posted by JHarris at 12:37 PM on February 20, 2009


COPS -- Never saw this game -- interactive video, Mad Dog McCree-like?

I believe it was an odd driving/light gun/police procedural game. I remember seeing it in the arcade, but I'm not sure if I ever actually played it (I think because it looked stupid and was expensive).

And it's undeniable, if you must insist of conflating visual art with game design, that Atari's games of that time aren't entirely up to it. Marble Madness II's title screen is painful to look at, although the game itself looks great.

I think the main reason why the visual art was so important circa 1992 was that it was one of the few remaining edges that the arcade machines had over the consoles. When the SNES and the Sega Genesis came out, arcade ports got to the point where the core gameplay and anything but state-of-the-art graphics could be replicated. The only reason why you might play a game in an arcade rather than at home would be to see better graphics, play against other people (hence fighting and racing games), or use some weird peripheral (hence light gun games and DDR). Any arcade game that didn't fit one of those categories hasn't done well since.

Meanwhile on the consoles, plenty of creative and different games have sold well. And now that online play is popular and arcade-level hardware doesn't have any edge over the latest consoles, arcades don't serve much of a purpose at all. It's been sad to see the arcade industry wither and die over the years, but I think it has much more to do with the evolution of the technology than with developers' inability to think of creative game ideas.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:53 PM on February 20, 2009


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