We know what you're thinking, "A book review?? In my video game website??" Cool it scooter, it's about a video game, and not just any game, it's about Street Fighter!
While the gaming world is no stranger to rabid fanboys, Street Fighter fanboys are a special breed, hopelessly dedicated to mastering a game that’s arguably unmasterable. For this reason, there’s no shortage of official Street Fighter merchandise, art books, figures, and even an upscale clothing line. Chris Carle's new book,Street Fighter: The Complete History(TCH) attempts to condense the franchise history into one compact volume, in addition to giving readers a taste of the game’s endless concept and fan art.
Above: Rare photo of Chun-Li before the tragic allergic reaction to steroids spread to her thighs.
The book is organized in chronological order, going from the very first Street Fighter game(Fighting Street), to the present. TCH does a nice job illustrating the bond between SF and the arcade, and how the death of the arcade impacted Street Fighter harder than any other game. Brief interviews from American arcade operators at the time give a first-hand account of the game’s massive popularity, reminiscing about lines of would be players dozens deep, all waiting to get a turn. TCH makes it clear that a big part of SF's successwas built on real life rivalries, and was one of the first games to put two players in direct competition. Online play is convenient and fun, but can never replace the joy of seeing your vanquished opponent right there gritting his teeth in quiet rage.
TCH contains a great collection of concept art and drawings from original Capcom artists like Akiman, and a lot of the more recent stylized art from graphic designers and urban artists. While there’s a diverse enough selection of art, Udon’s Street Fighter art books are infinitely more in-depth; TCH’s compact size also limits its appeal as an art book. While there are a nice array of art styles on display, numerous characters are left out, getting only a thumbnail image, if that.
Above: Don't look directly at him, he's just too damn handsome.
Unfortunately the book also falls flat on its “Complete History” subtitle, instead offering a light, condensed history of the game and its iterations. While there are interesting little factoids, like the fact that Final Fight was originally intended to be a direct sequel to Street Fighter 2, or that the original arcade version of Fighting Street operated via a delicate system of air bladders, there’s very little information here that isn’t already common knowledge to the Street Fighter community.
If SFIV was your first Street Fighter game, or if your most recent SF memory involves playing on SFII Turbo in your parent’s basement 20 years ago, then TCH will be a great way to get a general overview of SF’s history and some cool art to boot. For the diehard SF fan though, TCH is a middle of the road affair that’s too light on new info and original art to be of much interest.