Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991)

Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991)

When I was a kid, my dad used to do league bowling. I’d stay home the nights he actually did league, but on some nights he’d go to practice a few frames, and he’d take me with him. I had no interest in bowling; I just knew the alley near our home had a sizeable arcade (for a bowling alley). I also knew if I bothered him enough, he’d pop a few singles in my hand for the change machine and jokingly grumble at me to get out of his hair. I also know what I’d be spending those quarters on, more often than not. My love affair with the Street Fighter franchise all started when I heard this, as I walked in to the arcade area…

Street fighter II: The World Warrior is where the franchise started for most fans; though its prequel enjoyed moderate success, it was this one that truly caught on and blew new air into arcade fighting games as a genre. In SFII, your chosen fighter (ranging from karate masters to Russian wrestlers to sumo guys and even the animal-like Blanka) battles all comers in best 2 out of 3 matches for the chance to tackle 4 bosses and win the title of World Warrior. While later versions of the game (Hyper Fighting, Championship edition, etc.) expanded character selection and gameplay options slightly, this was the original “where it’s at” that got the hype started.

Your choices were limited, yes, but they were still awesome.

Your choices were limited, yes, but they were still awesome.

Expanding upon concepts introduced in the prequel, SFII’s gameplay included command-based special moves, such as the famous Hadoken fireball and Shoryuken uppercut of the game’s unofficial protagonists, Ryu and Ken. It also featured gameplay dynamics that allowed for “combos” – carefully timed or orchestrated sets of moves that could set up an unblockable or difficult-to-avoid string of damage to one’s hapless opponents. The 8 fighters you have to choose from each have different styles and strategies (save for Ken and Ryu, who admittedly have very few differences). This allowed players to experiment and gave the game an extensive replay value, essential for any arcade title’s success.

Chun Li takes to the air (upside down, no less) to kick the crap out of a staggered Ken. Each character’s special moves could be used as part of a rich tapestry of beat-down magic.

Chun Li takes to the air (upside down, no less) to kick the crap out of a staggered Ken. Each character’s special moves could be used as part of a rich tapestry of beat-down magic.

The graphics weren’t astronomically ahead of their time, but were definitely high-quality. Seeing as this was the 14th title released by Capcom for the CPS hardware, they’d had time to practice and polish – and it shows. The backgrounds of the stages are richly illustrated and often animated, showing pumped-up crowds and even elephants on Dhalsim’s stage. The sound and music are perhaps more worthy of accolade; certain themes and sound effects are so memorable that they have carved themselves into pop culture (one good example being Guile’s stage theme). There were lots of neat little things about gameplay, too, like little bits of dialogue when you won or lost, and individual storyline endings for each playable fighter.

You go, girl

You go, girl

"My favorite character’s ending. E. Honda is the man."

SFII: World Warrior has spawned countless sequels and ports; the selection of characters has more than quadrupled (probably an understatement) and the complexity of gameplay has increased with tons and tons more special moves and more mods to gameplay. There have even been crossovers with other franchises, even Marvel superheroes. But nothing, in my humble opinion, compares with the simple quality of the original. Lots of old-timers are also purists; count me among them, at least where this franchise is concerned.

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Thanks for reading!

Click HERE if you want to watch someone play through the game as Ryu, the “good guy.”