GR: Virtually every game in the series still gets serious play today, both at home and in official competition. And SSFIIT:HDR and SFIV prove that the series still captures the gamer imagination like few others. Why has it had the staying power that many of its contemporaries and rivals haven't?
DS: Few games are able to stand up to the rigors of competition. VERY few games. Street Fighter does, and so the experts love it. At the same time, it’s easy to get into (no character creation screen, no leveling up, no barriers between you and playing), and it has memorable, cool characters, and it has a fast-paced fun factor. And the refined tuning I mentioned early. That perfect storm of design elements is why a fourteen year-old game with fourteen year-old graphics still has tournaments every week in Tokyo.
I’m very excited that the upcoming facelift for the game will rekindle interest in former players, and present the game in a modern way to new players.
GR: What makes a Street Fighter game, if indeed the series as a whole can be condensed down to such a summing up?
DS: I suppose Street Fighter is in the eye of the beholder. In some sense, Street Fighter offers a vocabulary for lots of other games. A 3rd person shooter could have a “Zangief-type guy” who tries to get close and has a lot of hit points, but poor or no projectiles. It could have a “Dhalsim-type” who tries to keep you away and a “Ryu-type” that is versatile, useful in many situations, and has some sort of attack that is powerful in the hands of mind-reading players (the Dragon Punch!).
But that’s not what you want to hear. Street Fighter is a fast-paced one-on-one forum of competition that tests mind-reading, trickery, controlling of space, timing, and dexterity. No player is allowed any advantage other than the skill he brings to the table. Street Fighter specifically does not test team-skills, your ability to grind experience points, 3D spatial intelligence, or your ability to navigate a map. It’s all about you fighting directly with your opponent.
As well as overseeing Street Fighter games, David Sirlin helps organise the international Evolution fighting game championships, plays Street Fighter at a competitive level, posts regular updates detailing his work on Super Turbo HD at the official Capcom blog, and maintains a personal web-site full of rather fine essays on game design and play philosophies.