Street Fighter 1
Whenever you mention Street Fighter to a gamer, the first one that usually comes to mind is Street Fighter II. Street Fighter II really revolutionized the one on one fighting genre. It had classic characters, music, and of course the trademark special moves. But wait—what about Street Fighter 1? Just why is the very first game in the iconic franchise so overlooked? Well because to be frank, it was not that great. Rather, not that great to play.
When viewed through the lens of history, the game can be appreciated and respected for being the root of the franchise. But in terms of playing and genuinely enjoying…not quite.
Street Fighter debuted as an arcade game, though the concept of its original arcade cabinet was a bit unorthodox; instead of the standard joystick and six button layout, having a light, medium, and heavy punch and kick, it was designed with two big rubber pads. One punch, and one kick. These rubber pads were pressure sensitive, so the impact of your attack, light medium, or heavy, was determined by how hard you slammed the button.
As you might imagine, many a cabinet had to be sent in for repairs due to players overdoing it, so that would probably explain why many older readers never or rarely saw one. They did end up releasing another version of the cabinet which featured what would become the traditional six button layout that we’ve come to know from later arcade fighters.
So now that we have a better layout for the cabinet, will that make the game more enjoyable?
Well I recently discovered a Street Fighter 1 arcade machine in my area, and after having heard of the game, I had to try it. I have spent an extensive amount of time with it (with this machine having had the six button layout), and I can tell you that…the game isn’t that much better. The reason why the game is as lousy as it is said to be, lies in the awkward and unresponsive controls, as well as the overall blandness
For starters, you can only play as Ryu. That’s right. The second player if there is one controls Ken, and must battle player 1 to determine who will move on to defeat the game. Ken is just a mere palette swap of Ryu in this game. So, a fighting game where you can only play as one character…sounds fun. Who needs variety? (Then again, the same could be said for the first release of Street Fighter IV with nearly everyone online being either Ryu or Ken).
Your goal in the game is to defeat the game’s eight computer controlled characters, and then you will move on to Thailand where you must defeat the Muay Thai masters Adon and Sagat to win the first World Warrior Tournament.
As aforementioned, one of Street Fighter’s trademarks are the special moves. Hadoken, Shoryuken, Sonic Boom. Having to study the combos and then frantically trying to recall and perform them in action. Well in Street Fighter 1, you have special moves…that you don’t get to use. Oh you have the Hadouken, Shoryuken, and Tatsumaki kick, but thanks to the unresponsive controls, the special moves only work when they feel like it. When you do manage to pull one off however, it does about 40% damage on the enemy lifebar. However, most of the time it happens when you’re frantically slamming the buttons whilst wiggling the joystick every which way, so it surprises you. You can’t just make a nice little Quarter Circle Forward and press punch.
Speaking of out of whack mechanics, this has got to be the most broken fighter I have ever played (even more so than Street Fighter IV with all the focus absorbing and focus cancelling nonsense that lead to near infinite combos that take you from 100% health to 10% in one go.) The game is generally in big time favor of the computer opponents; while you’re desperately trying (and failing) to pull off special moves, the AI character is jumping all around you getting in shots. Naturally, they have no issue executing their special moves, some of which can drain 60% of your health in one shot. They move like they’re on a different (better) engine.
The only way to defeat some of them is just to hit them until they’re remaining health meter is shorter than yours, and then stay in guard position in the corner until the timer runs out (that’s right, you don’t take any “chip damage” from blocked attacks in this game, so blocking turns you invincible until they hit you from another angle).
Most matches just consist of both of you jumping all over the place trying to land something, though even the normal moves of the AI opponents do much more damage than yours.
The music in the arcade version is…probably not the best they could have done, but I suppose it was acceptable for the time. Nice rhythms, just the quality of the sound was off. Sounded a lot like 8-bit NES tunes instead of something from a 1987 arcade game. The voice clips….are unintelligible. When you defeat an opponent, the victory quote is always, “What Strength! But don’t forget there are guys like you all over the world!” which ends up sounding more like, “WUT STREGH, BU DON’ FOGET THERE AWH MANY GI LI YU ALL OVA DA WORL!”
The visuals are pretty decent overall for the time, though some of the characters would undergo drastic redesigns in later appearances (like Birdie pulling a reverse Michael Jackson). Not every character reappeared though, but rather became the foundation for later fighters, such as Mike being the prototype to Balrog(boxer), and Geki, a claw-weilding ninja, being the basis for Vega (claw). This game did introduce some characters that would go on to play a bigger role in the series. This game introduced Ryu and Ken of course, as well as Gen, Birdie, Eagle, Adon, and Sagat, who is this game’s tournament host and final boss.
The game did have a few home ports, with the most known being that of the TurboGrafx-16. Reportedly it doesn’t really improve upon the flawed control of the arcade counterpart, though it does have a superior soundtrack since it was CD-based.
This game is available on TurboGrafx-16 as the most recognized home port, and the TurboGrafx-16 port is available on Wii’s Virtual Console under the changed title, Fighting Street. It can also be found as a part of the Capcom Classics Collection (Volume 1).
In closing, this game, as aforementioned, is interesting to view through the lens of history to see how it all began and where some of the iconic characters came from. When it comes to the actual gameplay however…well Street Fighter II improved upon it all. Alas, there’s a reason why it’s the one that usually comes to mind first when the series is mentioned, as described above.