Approximate Release Date: July 1, 1992
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior seems simple and basic to modern eyes, but it’s easy to forget how influential and revolutionary it would be to the fighting game genre.
All you need to do is look at Pit-Fighter to see the state of fighting games before Street Fighter II came around. This is a rare game that so utterly dominated its genre that there are clear pre- and post-release epochs, as noticeable and as distinct in retrospect as when our calendars changed from 1 BC to 1 AD. Is there a modern fighting game that doesn’t include a Ryu-type basic character or quarter-circle-punch as a special move?
Even if you have no interest in fighting games, take a moment to appreciate how rare that is. Only a handful of titles have ever had that kind of singular influence, so Street Fighter II joining the company of games like Super Mario Bros., Tetris, Ultima, and Pac-Man is a major accomplishment. Needless to say, this is a great game.
But because every fighting game after Street Fighter II has aped so much of what made it unique, it seems really basic today. There are only eight characters to play as, and even though all of them are iconic and have different strengths and weaknesses, that’s not a lot of variety. There are only two modes, too: arcade and versus. The versus mode is self-explanatory, with each player picking a different character and then proceeding to pummel each other. Arcade is a quick jaunt through the seven fighters you didn’t choose and then four boss battles. There’s not a lot to do here, and even less if you’re a solo player.
Luckily, the actual fighting part of the game was, and still is, exquisite. I’m not traditionally a fighting game expert or anything, but the appeal of Street Fighter II is how it’s an easy-to-play-hard-to-master type of competitive game. There are no super moves which require memorizing a dozen button inputs to pull off, which means anyone can pick up the game and quickly learn their favorite character’s moves.
It wouldn’t be long until Capcom released more refined editions of Street Fighter II for arcades and home consoles. These versions of Street Fighter II would build from the base game and eventually let opponents choose the same characters, speed up the fighting, add new fighters to play as, and unlock the boss characters for versus play in addition to under-the-hood tweaks and balance fixes.
That’s what makes recommending Street Fighter II: The World Warrior such a tricky proposition. It’s an incredible game, and it’s a ton of fun to play today. But the updated editions of the game – specifically Street Fighter II Turbo and Super Street Fighter II for the Super Nintendo – obsolete this original version. They’re better games in every way.
But those games didn’t exist in 1992, and maybe it’s worth playing the original to appreciate the genius.
For more information about the history of Street Fighter II, be sure to check out Polygon’s incredible oral history of the game. It’s very much worth reading and really puts into perspective how it changed Capcom and video games in general.
Tomorrow: Is there a game that would be more of a change of pace from this one than Mario Paint?