Why Street Fighter is still the most important fighting game series around

Seventeen years after Street Fighter II there's still no-one to touch Ryu and co. But what makes the series so special?

Videogames you see, wouldn’t be what they are without Street Fighter II. When the game pounded its way into arcades in 1991, it brought about a change in gaming that echoed through every darkened nook and cranny of the industry and the culture of players, and which is still drowning us happily in its tsunami today. While basic one-on-one fight games such as IK+ and Yie Ar Kung Fu had existed before, the jump between those and Street Fighter II was akin to the difference between an original Model-T Ford and an F-1 car. This long after the game’s release, it’s easy to forget how fundamentally it changed things, but in a staggering number of ways it simultaneously pioneered and defined what the fighting genre is today.

While the original Street Fighter provided the player with a choice of two characters (Ryu and Ken, naturally), Street Fighter II brought a then-mammoth roster of eight to the table. Even more importantly, the fighters available were all unique in their capabilities and weaknesses, and had a variety of wildly differing but well-balanced special moves at their disposal. These moves were made much easier to pull off than in the original Street Fighter, opening up a vastly deep and varied game, and bringing a level of complexity and skill to the old face smashing that no-one had ever seen before.

And most vitally of all, Street Fighter II invented combos. Read that sentence back for a second and then let its significance sink in. The most fundamental building block of the fighting game came from Street Fighter II, and without it, who knows where the genre would be now. The phenomenon originally came about as the result of a programming glitch which allowed standard moves to be quickly cancelled into specials (See the modern SF terminology beginning to appear already?) to bring about unblockable strings of hits. Upon realising that players had uncovered the exploit, Capcom deigned to leave it in because of the brilliant gameplay possibilities it afforded, and began to build later games around the concept. Thus, fighting games as we know them were born. And that brings us onto the next major significance of the Street Fighter series. Its symbiosis with its community.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.
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