In 1994, Street Fighter: The Movie was unleashed upon the world. Made to capitalize on the worldwide phenomenon of Street Fighter II, Street Fighter: The Movie promised to bring everyone’s favorite world warriors to the silver screen in what was sure to be a cinematic tour de force.
But it wasn’t. It was godawful. With Jean Claud Van Damme bungling his way through the English language while portraying the ultimate American, pop singer Kylie Minogue acting as if she had never encountered another human being before, and various liberties taken with the original plot, Street Fighter was a mess. Gone were the days of Ryu and Ken exchanging shoryukens with the likes of Chun-Li and Sagat. Instead, characters were turned into con artists, scientists, and some characters were even Girl Talked together, such as Charlie becoming Blanka.
Despite it’s numerous shortcomings, the movie made money. Fans showed up in droves to support their beloved series, and Street Fighter ended up making approximately three times it’s budget worldwide. While it probably wasn’t what the fans had in mind, they still got to see M. Bison use his Psycho Crusher on Guile, and that was something.
Anticipating the success of the movie, Capcom decided to cash in by releasing a tie-in game. Well, there already was a tie-in game, but everyone already had that. No, Capcom wanted a game based on the movie which was, in turn, based on a game. Thus, Street Fighter: The Movie was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public.
With it’s cutting edge digitized fighters and buckets of blood, Mortal Kombat was burning up the arcades, with gamers standing in long lines just for the chance to get their hands on the joystick. Seeing the success of Mortal Kombat, Capcom decided to hop on the bandwagon and feature digitized characters in Street Fighter: The Movie. But while Mortal Kombat featured a bunch of no-name actors, Street Fighter: The Movie would feature The Muscles from Brussels himself, Jean Claude Van Damme! The plan was foolproof!
Considering that the game was sure to be a hit, Capcom decided to release an Arcade version along with a home console version. To ensure the games got out in time, they were handled by different teams: Incredible Technologies would handle the Arcade version, while Capcom Japan would take on the console version.
Because of this, there ended up being two games bearing the same name that played very differently from each other.
The Arcade version deviated greatly from previous Street Fighter games. Street Fighter: The Movie put a strong emphasis on juggling combos, which allowed characters to keep the opponent in the air with a series of attacks. To compliment this juggling tactic, every special move could be canceled into another special move, so players could create juggles from just about every special attack.
Unlike other Street Fighter games, Street Fighter: The Movie relied on the actors portraying the characters to supply the voices. This led to several move names being mispronounced, or replaced with English names for the move if the actor couldn’t pronounce the word. Infamously, Byron Mann, the actor portraying Ryu, bungled every special move name, with moves like the Tatsumaki Senpūkyaku coming out as a garbled mess. Damian Chapa, who played Ken, gave up and simply reverted to calling his famous moves “Dragon” and “Hurricane.”
Mortal Kombat’s influence was readily apparent in Street Fighter: The Movie, with stages featuring bodies impaled on spikes and scantily clad women tied up in the background. Street Fighter: The Movie even utilized the same palette swap technique Mortal Kombat utilized for the famous ninjas Sub-Zero and Scorpion. In Street Fighter: The Movie, the original character Blade (who is not Wesley Snipes, unfortunately,) was given three palette swaps of his own: the terribly named Arkane, F7, and Khyber.
Despite trying to be Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter: The Movie also attempted to shoehorn in some fanservice for the Street Fighter fans. After his appearance in Street Fighter II Super Turbo, it was decided to make Akuma a playable character, despite the fact that he didn’t appear in the movie. Another fun nod for Street Fighter fans was Guile’s “Handcuff” move, which was a reference to a bug that popped up in Street Fighter II.
Despite the fan service, the Arcade version was regarded poorly. However, it did introduce several techniques that would reappear in later Street Fighter games. Zangief was given a move that allowed him to deflect projectiles, which would later become a regular staple of his move list. “Interrupt moves,” which would allow players to attack after blocking a move, and “comeback moves,” which would allow players to utilize a special attack when their health bar is in the danger zone, would later reappear in the series as “Alpha Counters” and “Ultra Combos,” respectively.
Meanwhile, Capcom Japan was hard at work on the console version of Street Fighter: The Movie. In a classic example of “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand was doing,” the home version utilized the same digitized graphics, but played completely differently. Gone was the emphasis on juggles and cancels; in it’s place was a game that played similarly to Street Fighter II Turbo. The game featured Super Special Moves and even EX Specials, which would later become staples of the series.
The game also attempted to replicate the story of the movie in a mode called “Movie Battle.” In this mode, the player takes control of Guile, who must battle his way through various fighters in order to reach Bison’s lair. Movie Battle also featured branching paths, allowing players to choose who they wished to fight, which could affect the path of the story.
Capcom Japan decided to make the game a better representation of the Street Fighter franchise by refocusing the character line-up on just Street Fighter characters. The team cut Blade and all his palette clones, in their place, Capcom Japan brought Jamaican boxer Dee Jay and Brazilian wild man Blanka into the fray. They also decided to once again make Akuma a hidden character, taking him back to his mysterious Super Turbo roots.
The home version also ensured fans would no longer have to hear butchered versions of the names of moves they know and love. Capcom Japan so hated the movie actors lines that they brought in Japanese voice actors to redub the dialogue for the game. Capcom would later poke fun at the English mispronunciation of moves by including a drawing in Street Fighter Alpha of a chibi Ryu yelling out nonsense words during his Tatsumaki Senpūkyaku.
Despite the strides Capcom Japan took to make Street Fighter: The Movie an honest to goodness Street Fighter Game, it still turned out as a less than stellar title. Critics agreed that the console version was much better than the arcade version, but the general consensus is that it still wasn’t a very good game. It would seem that fans agreed, because the home version sold poorly.
While many regard the entire Street Fighter: The Movie debacle as a blight on Capcom’s reputation, it’s interesting to look back at this interesting footnote in the history of a beloved company.
But don’t get me started on Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Fuck.