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February 3, 2014 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Street Fighter 2 is one of the game industry's biggest success stories, but its history is often told secondhand... In an effort to remedy that, over the past year we tracked down more than 20 former Capcom employees and business partners and asked them to tell it in their own words.
Street Fighter 2: An Oral History
posted by griphus (39 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I really, really want to read this. But I can't. It's like a disjoint twitter feed. The break/cut/story is unmanageable.
posted by k5.user at 10:09 AM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ugggh. Seriously. I got like a few lines in and just gave up. Please stop it with these oral histories. They're exhausting.
posted by seymourScagnetti at 10:18 AM on February 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

No clue why you two are having issues reading the article, that's a little bizarre. I just read through it, enjoyed it immensely, and was coming to post it myself.
posted by flatluigi at 10:26 AM on February 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

I thought this was awesome--precisely the kind of thing that there should be a cultural history about!
posted by johnasdf at 10:40 AM on February 3, 2014

Ha, Guile's theme in the sidebar. It really does go with everything.
posted by Caconym at 11:00 AM on February 3, 2014

The showing up in pajamas for an interview thing flies in the face of what I always imagine Japanese corporate culture to be like, even though I see examples like that every so often.
posted by ignignokt at 11:05 AM on February 3, 2014

These articles about rebalancing of SF2 HD are quite good too. I love reading about the depth that game designers go to to get a good game.
posted by cschneid at 11:06 AM on February 3, 2014

Now there's a very smart, humble guy. He was so talented and he was so quiet. ... He was a planner through and through. And that's the difference. Game designers in America are idea and story guys sometimes. You know, sometimes mechanical guys. There's a wide range of what designer means. But a planner is someone who figures out how the fucking shit's gonna work, and wields all that creative energy and figures out how to make it happen. And Nishitani was the first guy I met that resonated with me as, "Hey this is how you do game design."

I always found it interesting that Japanese credits had "planners" rather than "designers."
posted by ignignokt at 11:10 AM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Great article. A lot of interesting things get brought up in the process, from stereotypes about women (even considering making Chun-Li's lifebar shorter is just so goddamn stupid) to intellectual property issues. (Funny thing about arcades and IP: Ms. Pac-Man was originally a totally unauthorized sequel.)

Also I had no idea that mirror matches were originally impossible in SF2. That seems such a basic part of fighting games now.
posted by kmz at 11:28 AM on February 3, 2014

From the article: So we were always creating box art — whether it was Mega Man or Street Fighter — we were always creating art that would sell the game in the U.S.

Mega Man box art: Japan vs. USA.
posted by glhaynes at 11:32 AM on February 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Street Fighter 2 was a massive game changer in the arcade industry. Even as a loyal rat at an area Electric Castle's Wonderland I could tell that the industry was in a rut leading up to Street Fighter 2. But soon as that game came out, it was a whole new fucking world. Sure, I'd occasionally get crowds of kids surrounding me as I finished Rolling Thunder or Cloak And Dagger. But the crowds surrounding Street Fighter 2 machines were a new animal all together, and every last one of them wanted to drop all their parents money into that machine.

In a way, it makes sense that instead of just moving forward with Street Fighter 3 they did Street Fighter II: Championship Edition, Hyper Fighting, Turbo, Hyper, HD Remix, New Challengers. Then prequelized it with Alpha, and Alpha II before finally coming out with Street Fighter 3. But all the waiting, kinda hyped it up beyond reasonable expectations.
posted by mediocre at 12:25 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of the interesting sidelights is that the designers of the original Street Fighter left Capcom and developed Fatal Fury for SNK at roughly the same time as SF2 was in development. Obviously, Street Fighter 2 won that battle, but it's fun to see the two dev teams starting from a common ancestor and forking off in different directions.

Fatal Fury was simpler in some ways (three playable characters as compared to eight, single Punch / Kick / Throw buttons) but did other things creatively. Its matches had foreground and background planes and the fighters could move between them, an early attempt at 2.5D combat. Special moves were slowly revealed to players as the storyline progressed. Most notably, interrupting a human player's match created something new, a two-on-one cooperative match against the CPU villain before letting the humans fight head-to-head. In some ways it was more of a SF1 / Final Fight hybrid than a SF2 clone.

Regardless, it was successful enough to spawn a line of sequels and descendants, and 'borrowing' from each others' ideas became commonplace. For instance, FF2 was much more of a SF2 clone than the original, but did keep the original's foreground/background system and added taunts and hidden 'super desperation moves' only performable when conditions were right, which Super SF2 Turbo would eventually mimic.
posted by delfin at 12:40 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by JHarris at 12:43 PM on February 3, 2014

The showing up in pajamas for an interview thing flies in the face of what I always imagine Japanese corporate culture to be like

That because it does, the reason the anecdote shows up here is to show how unconventional Okamoto is. I can't help but love the guy, but yeah, he was probably already known to the hirer (he made Time Pilot at Konami, a cool game in its own right), and that let him get away with the gag.
posted by JHarris at 12:47 PM on February 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Capcom/SNK rivalry is one of the things that made 2D fighting games great in the 90s. And there were strange things like when Kizuna Encounter and X-Men vs. Street Fighter were released three months apart in '96 and both featured an nearly-identical tag system.

Corporate espionage or multiple discovery?
posted by griphus at 1:17 PM on February 3, 2014

I loved SF2, but loved Samurai Showdown even more. It was rare to find a cabinet, though. I don't think they gave Western players enough credit when marketing it, like at a certain point we just couldn't handle the Japanese aesthetics or something.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:40 PM on February 3, 2014

I think the form reached its pinnacle in two games: Capcom vs. SNK 2 and Guilty Gear XX. CvS2 because it was sort of the culmination of everything Street Fighter 2/3/Alpha, Darkstalkers, King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, Fatal Fury, and so on, and Guilty Gear because it was a unique property with a lot of bizarre characters and massive special moves that somehow was a very technical, pretty well-balanced fighter. Except for Slayer. F that guy!
posted by sonic meat machine at 3:44 PM on February 3, 2014

The franchise would go on to sell more than 30 million units. It would become a cologne.
I thought this must have been a typo, I thought wrong: "Smell like victory with the Street Fighter® Cologne gift set. Includes cologne, shower gel, key chain, playing cards and wallet. A great gift for any Street Fighter fan who wants to smell like a winner!"
posted by xqwzts at 4:11 PM on February 3, 2014

I'm fine with the oral history style. I can handle the primary column jumping from left to right. But there's some weird stuff going on with extra spacing in front of any game title on that page that is driving me up a wall.
posted by thecjm at 4:14 PM on February 3, 2014

I'm annoyed with the 'oral history' format. It hooks you in with the promise of a juicy primary source--that the author has found real people to talk to rather than recycle stuff that's already on the internet. Then it ruins it all by just regurgitating a bunch of transcribed quotes with little regard for narrative or context.

Yes Samurai Shodown was the best, Brockton. I loved the way it was so unforgiving, and that the gameplay was about forcing mistakes from your opponent and punishing them, rather than chaining the sickest combo like in most fighting games.
posted by fonetik at 5:03 PM on February 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I love that Turbo was inspired by a bootleg machine.
posted by RobotHero at 6:14 PM on February 3, 2014

The Rashomon effect and memories changing and fading with the passage of time and people walking away from conversations 20+ years ago with different interpretations and never really realizing it until now is great. "We did this!" "Wait, what? No no, I remember, it went like this..." "Nooo, here's how it went down."
posted by jason_steakums at 6:36 PM on February 3, 2014

Also, after reading TFA, I have to say that I didn't remember the American box art being that bad. How is Blanka supposed to be jumping? Why does Chun Li look like she's from eastern Europe? Why does Ryu look like he's having an orgasm?
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:43 PM on February 3, 2014

"Because James Goddard was a fan of the character Zangief, some at Capcom Japan were skeptical of his ability to give objective feedback."

To love Zangief is to be shunned. To savor the rush of controlling seven feet of muscle, scar and beard is to know madness, and to lose the faith of your fellow man.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:46 PM on February 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think that just was a nice way then of saying that he only ever played Zangief, and it probably pissed them off, like when my high school buddy only ever played Raiden in MK. All that asshole ever did was zoom back and forth across the screen.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:13 PM on February 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

This was the machine that allowed arcades to exist long enough for me to enjoy them in the US suburban midwest of the early/mid 1990s. Without Street Fighter (and Mortal Kombat), I probably would never had played as much Galaga, Tetris, and Golden Axe as I did.
posted by maus at 12:44 AM on February 4, 2014

Well, it's complicated. It did give arcades their last big boost in popularity by starting the fighting game boom. But before arcades tended to be more egalitarian, still carrying some vestige of the mid-70s-early-80s mainstream wave. Fighting games were what definitively solidified arcades as the domain of the young adult male, and towards obsessive play and beating friends more than casual play and just playing.

The result was, when fighting games declined in popularity, there wasn't anything really to replace them, and it was hard to find anything to convince everyday people to give them another chance.
posted by JHarris at 12:59 AM on February 4, 2014

Lest after that you think I'm too hard on SFII, it's unquestionably a well-designed, interesting and entertaining game, and it deserves its success. And the more I read this article the more I like it, there's some excellent stories from the developers in there.
posted by JHarris at 1:43 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fighting games didn't decline in popularity; arcades did. Soul Caliber was a hugely popular fighting series, but it was developed for consoles. The arcades couldn't compete with the consoles, and it wasn't because people didn't like to play games anymore.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:02 AM on February 4, 2014

Arcades lost their purpose in the 90s. The consoles simply matched and then surpassed them.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:15 AM on February 4, 2014

And I think fighting games are still pretty popular. Smash Bros has been a big seller for Nintendo. Street Fighter II has a lot of good competition, especially for the money of new generations of players who don't have nostalgia yet.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:09 AM on February 4, 2014

Fighting games are popular, but mostly with people who are into competitive/pro playing. They don't have nearly the ubiquity and cultural cachet they did with the general populace back when Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat were household names, and Capcom, SNK and the hangers-on were all constantly pumping out fighters.

At one point in the mid-90s, SNK alone had at least 5 franchises -- Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, Art of Fighting, Samurai Shodown and World Heroes -- that had sequels coming out on a yearly basis. That's 4-5 new fighters a year, every year, for about 5 years. From one company.

Quantity isn't quality, of course, and the differences between, for instance, Real Bout Fatal Fury Special and Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 aren't something anyone but the hardest core fans would recall (and for good reason) but we're definitely not seeing that kind of action anymore.
posted by griphus at 10:19 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't be surprised if the internet played a big factor in that too. If I recall, the first several attempts at online play were pretty crappy. They might still be; the games are not supposed to be forgiving and even a minor connection hiccup can be devastating.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:35 AM on February 4, 2014

Kaillera used to be the hotness for netplay in the emulation scene before the PS3/360 era. It worked but I doubt it was any good for Serious Play if both players didn't have a high-end connection and were relatively close to one another. But I remember there being long queues to play MvsC and KoF $YEAR.

These days, with the relative rarity of a high-profile fighter coming out, if the game isn't shipped with basically flawless netcode, the uproar will be immediate (as, hopefully, will the patching.)
posted by griphus at 11:46 AM on February 4, 2014

Fighting games didn't decline in popularity; arcades did.

1. Not true -- fighting games lost their ubiquity in surviving arcades, pushed out by driving, dancing and novelty games, and that's counter to your statement.
2. Why did arcades decline in popularity? Likely, because of the games that are in them. Some of those are fighting games.

Arcades lost their purpose in the 90s. The consoles simply matched and then surpassed them.

I still think a well-made social arcade game could do well even now, one that takes advantage of being an arcade game in a way a console or mobile title cannot.

And I think fighting games are still pretty popular. Smash Bros has been a big seller for Nintendo.

A lot of Smash Bros' popularity comes now from how it's like most fighting games, but how unlike. It could be argued, easily, that fighting games became too insular, chasing old audiences instead of going after new players, and Smash took advantage of that to build its audience. (One might argue that now Smash has become too insular, but I'm not going there right now.)

Fighting games are popular, but mostly with people who are into competitive/pro playing.

Yeah, but that's not really a huge audience, competitive fighting game players.
posted by JHarris at 1:57 PM on February 4, 2014

I think the "driving, dancing, and novelty games" are, in fact, the ones that take advantage of being arcade games in ways that console or mobile games can't... but they're handicapped by the fact that it costs the operator $lots to buy a new machine, so they sit there until they've made the money back that he spent on the machine originally—which is to say, until the arcade closes. How many people are actually willing to go drop a dollar in a machine that likely has worse graphics than an XBox, and only one game?
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:48 PM on February 4, 2014

I think the "driving, dancing, and novelty games" are, in fact, the ones that take advantage of being arcade games in ways that console or mobile games can't

Then why aren't they so successful any more? Evidently they are not. I know I wouldn't call them that.
posted by JHarris at 10:11 PM on February 4, 2014

I think it's the venue, not the games, with arcades these days. Really nice arcade with good upkeep and a deep catalog of classics? Golden (though the market will probably only support a few in a city and typically, you need to be in a fairly big city). Something like Dave & Busters where they have freaking "bring me a drink" buttons by all the machines and a good mix of video games/boardwalk games/light multiplayer quiz games to cover tons of experience levels and group situations? Doing alright. Fairly classy bar + arcade? Really thrive in a lot of places. Old-school dark and dusty arcade? Ehhhh.

I'm really interested to see what the Oculus + Omni combo does for walk-in establishments, though.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:28 PM on February 4, 2014

Actually, ruggedizing Oculus Rift and Omni treadmill units so they can take the abuse of customers, or selling kits to do so, might be a nice little niche business to be in soon.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:31 PM on February 4, 2014

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