Street Fighter Begins
July 08, 2020
Capcom's Street Fighter II and its various upgrades tend to get most of the attention in the gaming world, but when telling the story of the game that revived the arcade market in the early 1990s, it's important to go back to the very beginning. While the original Street Fighter hasn't aged well and doesn't have much replay value today, at the time it was the start of something big. Polygon is on a mission to chronicle all of the Street Fighter history over the next several months starting with the first game in the series that was greatly overshadowed by its successors. Here's a piece of the detailed oral history that describes the game's original control method that involved pneumatic sensors that players would physically pound with fists instead of the traditional buttons.
Takashi Nishiyama (Street Fighter director, Capcom Japan): The problem was, during location tests, we realized that it was very tiring to hit the sensor over and over. It was basically like exercising. The whole point of monetizing this business was to get people to become repeat customers, where they would put in 100 yen coins over and over again so we could make money. And when you're getting tired from playing the game, that's not going to happen.
Todd Cravens (son of Bill Cravens, Street Fighter vice president of sales and marketing, Capcom USA): You had to beat the hell out of it. I remember playing it for the first time and being absolutely exhausted. Everyone was kind of like, "Oh my goodness. It's gonna be hard to get the second and third quarter on this." [...] They were doing a big unveiling of this at a gym in Philadelphia for the U.S. distributors, and they had boxers there who [played the game], and even those guys were tired afterwards.
Street Fighter was ported to the TurboGrafx-CD and a handful of computer platforms of the time, but an easily accessible console version was never produced (the game was apparently slotted for the Nintendo Entertainment System once upon a time, but was never released). The easiest way to play Street Fighter today is the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection which includes it and all of its sequels through the II, Alpha, and III branches. I played through it once for the experience but see no need to go back to it. Unlike the depth of II or the dazzle of the Alpha games, there's just not much going for it. Animation frames are limited and the playable characters (Ryu and Ken) are identical, but there's definitely the seed of an idea in there. It's important to play from a historical perspective of understanding how the series began. Such importance, but don't forget there are many games like these all over the world!