How the Street Fighter Series Remains a Staple Fighting Game
If there is one title that’s the epitome of the fighting game genre, it has to be the Street Fighter series. The first game in the series was released in 1987, but it wasn’t until the sequel that Street Fighter reached its peak form, and changed the world of fighting games forever.
Street Fighter Has Existed For So Long
I remember the first time I went to the sea when I was a kid. Witnessing the majestic beauty of an ocean, the sandy beaches and the freedom you feel when swimming is something sensational. But so was Street Fighter II. I spent the first three days swimming, and the last five days at the local arcades playing Street Fighter with my older brother.
I didn’t know what I was doing to be quite honest – even though I did figure out a couple of moves – but playing Street Fighter on an arcade machine was immediately more enjoyable than getting my skin darker or my feet wet.
I left a small fortune at that shop. They could have probably continued operating just from my expenses for months! I remember the feeling of being hooked. I was playing this green humanoid beast with long orange hair (it took me almost ten years to find out that his name was Blanka), whereas my brother went for Ken.
Street Fighter is the fighting game that most people started off with – myself included. It’s the first game they played, and it’s oozing with unique elements, starting from music, character design all the way through to special moves. You might not have played Street Fighter, but there’s quite a big chance that you’ve heard the words “Hadouken” and “Shoryuken” at some point in your life.
I fell in love with fighting games as a kid and even though I tried out other games as well such as Tekken, Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, Soul Calibur, Virtua Fighter, Killer Instinct, and so on, I always came back to Street Fighter. It’s the most distilled fighting experience, and it’s the most fun I ever had with a fighting game.
It’s Deceptively Simple
The fact that I was able to pick up Blanka and start doing combos back when I was a kid is a testament to how well the game is designed. If a kid can get the hang of things in a matter of minutes, then the game’s accessible to anyone.
You don’t need to know complex button inputs to win or to have fun. Heck, you can even mash buttons, and something will happen – you might even win. Anyone can pick up a controller and start having fun as the control scheme is fairly simple and intuitive – light, medium and heavy punches and kicks. Other fighting games often have a lot more depth, at least on the surface.
With other titles, you have to invest a lot more time before you have any idea what you’re doing in-game. Street Fighter’s simplicity is what makes it so easy to pick up.
The Street Fighter Series Has A High Skill Ceiling
You can play for fun, or you can take things a bit more seriously. You can study each character, every move, you can learn to count frames and practice every match-up. There’s a depth to Street Fighter – as with every other great video game, and you can spend hundreds of hours practicing just a single character.
There is always a reason to come back, as you can always get better at the game. There is an incredible complexity to Street Fighter, but you don’t have to practice countless hours to have fun.
But because the game is so uncomplicated and straightforward, you don’t even notice that you’ve sunken a considerable amount of time. You’re having loads of fun, and yet it’s always just a one-on-one battle.
Street Fighter Popularized the Genre
Back in the day, there weren’t a lot of fighters to choose from, and the Street Fighter series was the only one that was accessible and fun. Tekken was released in 1994, Mortal Kombat in 1992, King of Fighters in 1994 and Super Smash Bros. in 1999.
When the genre-defining Street Fighter II was released in 1987, it changed things – forever. Capcom introduced so many new things with the second installment in the series, but perhaps the biggest change that impacted the genre the most was the introduction of combos – which was actually a bug Capcom decided to leave in the finished product.
It’s a strange thing to comprehend, that if it weren’t for Street Fighter II, fighting games would be completely different nowadays.
Even after almost thirty years, Capcom is still picking the fruits of their labor – as they should.
It’s Fantastic For Spectating
The Street Fighter series is one of the most exciting esports that you can spectate. It’s insanely quick, and a difference between a victory and defeat could be just a single parry! With other esports, there’s always a process – the match is divided into stages (early, mid, late) or points. So you can, at worst, spend ten to twenty minutes just watching strategic rotations and movement – hardly too engaging.
While that can be exciting at times, it’s not for everyone. Fighting games, on the other hand, start off immediately. There are only two players, it’s one-on-one, and both players have all the tools that are necessary to succeed.
What follows is an intense, nail-biting couple of minutes (or less) that more resemble chess than anything else. It’s all about timing and predicting what your opponent will go for.
It doesn’t matter if you’re playing or simply watching someone who’s highly skilled at the game – it’s always exhilarating from start to finish.
Having memorable and highly idiosyncratic characters in a fighting game is of paramount importance. They all need to have unique, distinctive personalities and move sets and you could argue that Street Fighter does this best.
Ryu, Ken, Chun Li, Blanka, Guile, Zangief, Dhalsim – these characters aren’t just a part of a video game; they’re a part of the modern pop culture. Every character has a specific design, country of origin as well as martial art that they practice.
They all move and behave differently (other than Ryu and Ken who do share some similarities), and their move sets are almost comical. They’re exaggerations of well-established martial arts tropes and conventions – and it works perfectly.
While Capcom did add new characters over the decades, the original eight (plus four non-playable characters Sagat, Balrog, Vega, and M. Bison) are a part of gaming folklore.
It Evolved Over The Years… But Retained Its DNA
Over the decades, the Street Fighter series never lost its DNA. The core values and elements of the game remained unchanged, so even if you take a break and come back in ten years to a new installment, you’ll still be able to pick things up immediately and start landing combos.
That’s an important aspect. Capcom always tried to evolve things – sometimes they succeeded, sometimes they didn’t, but the core of what made the Street Fighter series so fantastic remains even to this day.
Conclusion It Popularized The Genre
It’s a genre-defining video game. You have those in other genres as well – Call of Duty/Battlefield for first-person shooters, Starcraft for real-time strategies, Super Mario for platformers and League of Legends/DOTA for multiplayer online battle arenas.
You can also see the same happening with PUBG and Fortnite. Will the Battle Royale genre be as popular in ten years as it is today? Only time will tell, but even though new BR games will come out in the future, it’s almost certain that none will be able to reach the heights of PUBG or Fortnite. Two games that not only defined the genre but also became gaming phenomena.
When you have a video game or series that functions as a synonym for a genre, that’s when it reaches longevity that can span across decades.
The Street Fighter series is iconic, and it’s iconic both as a fighting game as well as an esport being a standard part of the Evo Championship Series. New and better fighting games might come out in the future, but they won’t be able to replace Street Fighter.
They might offer something new, they might become the center of attention for a while, but they’ll never reach the level of popularity that Street Fighter has across the world.
Fighting games come and go, but Street Fighter is here to stay.