This year, street fighter 35 years or older. Yes, it’s been a long time since the first game appeared in the arcade, and it revolutionized the concept of fighting games, uh… two playable characters and giant pressure-sensitive buttons to clench your fists Mash them into mince because you have to hammer them hard to get a hard hit. Yes. That’s not at all why the series is remembered.
This series is really remembered Street Fighter 2, Of course. In fact, it’s easy to imagine a world without a sequel to the first game, what a terrible world – no Street Fighter, no Mortal Kombat, no King of Fighters, no Killer Instinct… It’s not worth thinking about.
The difference between Street Fighter and its sequel presents what I think is an interesting pattern in the series; an ebb and flow that matches the game’s numbered status. I’ll say this: Odd Street Fighter games are full of great ideas, but for some reason either flawed or difficult to fully appreciate by a broad audience. Even-numbered games blew the bloody door off.
On the other hand, we have Street Fighter 2 and Street Fighter 4 – arguably bringing mainstream popularity back to the fighting game genre at the time of their release. Street Fighter 2 ushered in the golden age of arcade fighting around the world in the 90s. In the late 2000s, Street Fighter IV was the vanguard of a new generation of fighting games, with online connections acting as the gateway drug to the explosive growth of the competitive scene. Street Fighter 4 brought EVO from the hotel ballroom to Mandalay Bay in many ways.
On the odd side, we have Street Fighter (a utterly necessary mess to get into the second game), the badly misunderstood third game (arguably, due to the ditching of one of the most recognizable and popular video game actors) , it’s grossly miscalculated) almost all the time), and Street Fighter 5… Now, it’s an awesome game that will forever be hampered by web code issues and lack of quality and content at launch troubled.
With Street Fighter turning 35, Capcom had to make sure Street Fighter VI followed that pattern. I mean: it’s absolutely critical that this is a rock-solid game whose cultural influence ripples through the genre.
It’s not just about delivering high-quality gameplay, it’s about maintaining Street Fighter status. Anyone in their head will agree that no matter how you look at these games, Street Fighter is the beating heart of the fighting game world. It is the originator. Mortal Kombat has higher sales and maybe The King of Fighters has a more loyal fan base, but Street Fighter is one of them. For example, Street Fighter’s status as EVO’s “leading” game always feels like it’s actually hypothetical. But that may not last long.
As Connor recently wrote, a major player is getting into the fighting game. Riot Games has “Project L” – a quirky fighter set in the world of League of Legends. The game clearly wants to change the fighting game, and comes with the Cannon brothers – the founders of Evo and the creators of the top-notch GGPO network code.
In the ’90s, there was a fight for the fighting game crown — and despite the name, The King of Fighters never really got involved. Arguably there is no real winner. Instead, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat have taken different paths, with the former becoming the core of the genre and the latter becoming widespread populist sales behemoths (as evidenced by the performance of SF4/5 and MK 9 to 11). Riot’s Project L wanted to do both. It wants a crown.
In that sense, Street Fighter 6 is probably the most important sequel the series has ever seen — starting with the second, anyway.Again, it is Critical Capcom got it right. Regardless, another even-numbered bang would be the perfect way to celebrate the 35th anniversary.
How can they do this? Well, the network code must be correct. Street Fighter eventually has to figure out what it wants to do for the single-player mode (my prediction? Some kind of Krypt-style world with quests and things that tie the fight together and unlock gear). Capcom will eventually have to find a monetization model it’s happy with, one in which it can present Street Fighter as a “service game” without fans wanting to kick them in the face with a hurricane. It also needed to look right, and the transition to RE Engine was the perfect time to redefine the way Ryu and crew looked. Check out the same transition from the Monster Hunter series.
As someone who really likes Street Fighter 5, and as the kind of crazy nerd who keeps a Japanese Street Fighter 4 Vewlix arcade cabinet in his office, I’m obviously very excited about Street Fighter 35. But I’m also acutely aware that this could be a dangerous time for the series. Hope Capcom makes the right decision.