Forget Street Fighter 5: Capcom’s latest doesn’t even have a proper single-player mode at launch, and its online multiplayer is hampered by the small but significant fact that it doesn’t currently work.
Which is a problem, granted. Still, there’s always Capcom’s greatest ever game to fall back on: The 1995 PlayStation version of Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game, despite the fact that a) it is the most 90s thing in existence, and b) writing its title requires more punctuation than Ulysses. Here’s why it’s so good.*
Street Fighter is revered for having some of the most famous characters in all of video games: they are so iconic, so ingrained into the psyche of players that people actually care about the backstories of Karate Man and Floating Bloke and Boob/Thigh Girl – an astonishing feat. Getting them right is a huge responsibility, one which Street Fighter: The Movie (and, consequently, Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game) in no way takes seriously.
I mean, just look at Blanka. Why does he look like he’s just stepped out of a deleted scene from California Man where Brendan Fraser has to pretend he’s David Bowie, perhaps to impress a particularly dim-witted-but-sweet valley girl in a karaoke contest he eventually wins against all odds? Why, in motion with his board shorts and tan, does he look like the second-billed bad guy in a Neighbours Halloween Special? Is Toadie the secret boss this time? Does Toadie jump in and kill Akuma if you spar for ten rounds with him? What the fuck is going on?
Other characters fare better, in the way the people who are killed instantly in plane crashes in mountains ‘fare better’. Ken’s default and walking poses are both ‘flex biceps and look confused’ which is perhaps apt given how much of a clueless wanker he is, and Dee Jay: poor old Dee Jay. There are no beautiful, ‘Maximum’ labeled trousers here for ol’ Billy Blanks-alike: instead it looks like they threw some long johns on a pissed man they’d kidnapped coming out of a pub and made him throw kicks for his taxi fare home.
Another iconic feature of Street Fighter are its backdrops. Who hasn’t spent hours looking over those gorgeous stages: Ryu twatting people on a rooftop, Ken uppercutting people into the sun from his dockside fight club, Guile backfisting people into boxes while men wank in the background. Halcyon days, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game doesn’t give a single fuck about any of this, apart from the wanking men, which it keeps for Blanka’s stage. Remember Chun Li’s SF2 home, a bustling market filled with detail, people riding around on bikes, animal cruelty played for laughs? Great. Now look at her equivalent stage in PSOne SF:TM:TG:
What happened, Chunners? Who hurt you? Why are you in a Resident Evil-style lab? Whose skeleton is that? Why are there rats running around? Do you live here now?
I understand that the game (obviously) has to work in backdrops from the film, but the ends don’t justify the means. So instead of fighting legally-not Mike Tyson in front of the baying Vegas crowds you have a fistfight with a man in front of a van like it’s kicking-out-and-kebab time at Sheffield Hallam uni. And when that’s finished there’s seemingly thousands of nondescript warehouses and military bases and other locales all cribbed from literally any walk-right-and-fight game of the 90s. Vega’s cage is somewhat reproduced, but the rest of it feels like a particularly violent version of Storage Hunters.
If you were alive in the 90s then you’ll know two things were all the rage: saying ‘all the rage’ and digitisation. The latter aimed to bring ‘real’ visuals to video games by filming actors against blue screens and putting that footage inside your computer, which was admirable given that they would be trying to crowbar this technology onto consoles which were available to buy before the fall of the Soviet Union.
The most famous game which featured digitised human characters was, of course, Mortal Kombat, which was Street Fighter’s deadly enemy in the 1990s. The fact that Mortal Kombat was crap didn’t seem to stop Capcom self-inflicting the necessary brain trauma needed to literally give up its tried-and tested approach in pursuit of copying their opponents, and so came SF:TM:TG.
The arcade version looked OK-ish, but the home equivalents were a disaster, with characters appearing as blurry, low-res sprites rather than WOW REAL PEOPLE DID YOU FUCKING SEE THAT? The PlayStation and Saturn versions also suffered from the fact that certain characters appeared more ‘faded’ than others, and certain animation frames would betray the bluescreen origin by having it bleed through the sprite. Basically, everything looked like you were kicking off in the Jedi afterlife, which as we all know is exactly what Street Fighter is all about.
Think of Street Fighter 2 and it’s difficult not to think of the game’s typefaces, particularly after reading that last sentence. Strange, stylised, violent: they’re great. The ones in Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game are, conversely, so bad it makes me wish I was dead. I mean, look at them.
What the fuck is that? Tell me right now. Who did this? Saddam? Probably. If there was a sequel to Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game – which there isn’t because not even this world could stomach that much awful – then it would be about Guile and the UN hunting down not Bison or Akuma or Sheng Long or Dr Manhattan or whoever the Pyjama Man story has cast as its new villain but instead whoever was responsible for the above monstrosity. Even the arcade version (which is vastly different in a lot of ways) doesn’t have typefaces this bad, and its timer ‘morphs’ between numbers like some sort of sad T-1000 clock.
Honourable mention: loading screens
This being a 2D PSOne fighting game there are more loading screens than there are bouts, but special among them is this:
*Terrible. Really fucking terrible.