While relaxing at a friend’s house last weekend, an ad for Street Fighter IV aired during a commercial break from SportsCenter. I recognized it right away — Chun Li and Zangief battling amidst a layer of artistic flourishes —and a lull soon filled the room as my friends followed suit. Finally, when Ken and Ryu made an appearance, one of my buddies, who hasn’t owned a game console since we met in college, spoke up.
“Is that Street Fighter?”
That, I imagine, is the response Capcom was going for. Yes, Street Fighter is back, just as you remember it, but stuffed with polygons instead of pixilated 16-bit sprites.
Actually, Street Fighter never went away. Dedicated fans kept the series alive in Japanese arcades and the few left here in the states. Each incremental release after the iconic Street Fighter II was more obscure than the last, tailor-made for players with twitch reflexes and a rock-solid memory of combos. For the average gamer, challenging any of these veterans would constitute a wasted quarter.
So in reinventing the series, Capcom had the unenviable challenge of appeasing its base while bringing lost fans — myself included — back into the fold. The result is actually quite admirable.