A “Street Fighter 2” Retrospective

Capcom has a great legacy of creating popular and high-quality video games. Series like Resident EvilStreet Fighter, and Monster Hunter have sold millions of copies and made an impact on the industry and popular culture. However, the first and arguably most impactful hit that Capcom had was Street Fighter 2. First in arcades, then with ports on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis, SNES, and 3DO, the game shook popular culture, unlike any game before it.  Back in the mid ’90s, Street Fighter 2 was the reason a lot of people went to arcades. The Street Fighter series helped to popularize fighting games and spawned a rivalry with Midway’s Mortal Kombat series. While Mortal Kombat was gory, and featured a lot of blood, Street Fighter, and Street Fighter 2 in particular, was really well-balanced, polished, and was arguably easier to learn. The game was colorful, and in general was appealing to play. This article will take a closer look at the art, themes, and legacy of Street Fighter 2.

Capcom Street Fighter 2



The most recognizable and iconic character from Street Fighter 2 is probably Ryu. A big part of this is his notorious “Hadouken” move. This trademark blue fireball might be the move that most new players spam a bit too much but it’s also part of the reason the game was so successful in the first place (along with the fact that Street Fighter 2 is so well-balanced). It’s just a cool move. People all over the world reference this move a lot and it has become part of popular culture. More generally, Ryu, like every Street Fighter 2 character, looks like he’s been in a few scraps over the years. He’s well built and wears either a white or light blue karate gi with the sleeves ripped off bare feet, and a red or white headband. 

Street fighter 2 Ryu


Other Characters

The original versions of Street Fighter 2 include 8 playable characters. Ryu, Ken, Honda, Chun- Li, Blanka, Zangief, Guile, and Dhalsim, . Newer versions also include the British Cammy, the Bruce Lee-inspired Fei Long, the Jamaican Dee Jay, and the incredibly powerful Akuma. Then there are also the four ‘boss’ characters. You fight these characters after you beat the 8 playable characters and they include Vega, Balrog, Sagat, and M. Bison. In modern versions of Street Fighter 2 as well as the SNES and Genesis/Megadrive ports, these characters are also playable. The original characters, from the arcade and Sega Genesis/Megadrive and SNES ports are all cool and stylish, well-balanced in combat, and have helped popularize Street Fighter 2 around the world because they are all from a diverse range of countries. 

In the transition from the original Street Fighter to Street Fighter 2 a major change and improvement that was made was giving the characters in the new roster much more personality and niche abilities. The original plan for the Street Fighter 2 cast, while each character still being unique, and full of personality, was a completely different line up to the one officially released. The character names, abilities, and backgrounds were completely different at one point. They included a character named Dick Jumpey (whose name is the most memorable thing about him), Anabebe (a ‘beast man’ who was raised by lions and maybe later evolved into Blanka), and Zhi Li (a female character that could fight with her hair). This shows that obviously great effort, time, and thinking was put into creating the final roster, since various iterations of characters were developed.

The problems that occurred with creating the characters can be reflected in their names between regions (although the final designs were great and have become iconic). In Japan, Balrog, the boxer character, was called M. Bison, a play on the name of infamous boxer Mike Tyson. However, in the West, possibly due to licensing issues, the name of Balrog  was used for the boxer character. Also, the Spanish bullfighting character was named Vega (a Spanish surname), whereas in Japan, he was named Balrog.  Meanwhile, Vega is the name of the boss character M. Bison.

Vega, a fighter whose appearance and stage seem to be influenced by a combination of flamenco, Roma culture, and bullfighting garb, is the first ‘boss’ character, and the only character to use weapons in the game. He uses a claw (attached to his knuckle) which he loses if hit too often. He randomly jumps around the stage, he’s quick, and although his attacks are quite weak, he is the biggest test in the game up to that point. Once you beat him in arcade mode, there is only Sagat, and M. Bison left before you finish the single player game. 


Blanka Street Fighter 2

Visuals and Sound

Street Fighter 2 boasts a clean 16-bit art style. While the game’s major rival Mortal Kombat originally used rotoscoped frames of real people, Street Fighter 2 went with a visual style similar to anime or manga that still looks great to this day. I’m currently playing Street Fighter 2 Turbo: Hyper Fighting on the Wii (through the SNES emulator) and can confirm that the backgrounds are colorful, the sprite work is great, and the animations and responsiveness are some of the best for games of this era.

In terms of sound design, each of the character’s themes is epic and suit the scenario. For example, Vega’s theme takes inspiration from flamenco music, which originates in Andalucía, Spain. The tracks are iconic, and obviously a lot of hard work and effort was made so that the songs match the stage. I mean, some of these tracks are so ingrained in popular culture that Family Guy has even parodied them. Games like Smash Bros. Ultimate include various tracks from Street Fighter 2. The tunes are emotive, and borrow elements from music from various cultures specific to the areas of which the characters are meant to originate from. 

streetfighter 2

Overarching Impact

While I can only just about remember it, Street Fighter 2 was a big part of the gaming scene in throughout the 90’s. When it released in arcades, even people’s parents were impressed with the realism and depth of the combat. Then once it released on consoles, it was definitely the coolest game that you owned if you had it. Plus there was some status to being a good Street Fighter 2 player. For me, it was part of the mid 90’s just as much as Jurassic Park and the Game Boy. It has led to a whole series of new games (many of which have released recently, and all still use the core gameplay mechanics of Street Fighter 2.

One-on-one tournament fighters have had ups and downs in terms of popularity over the years. Their 90’s arcade heyday was definitely catalyzed by Street Fighter 2. With newer versions such as Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers on the Switch new generations of gamers can experience this classic. The Switch version sold above expectations for Capcom. Street Fighter 6 released earlier this summer on consoles, and while it has done well and is a great videogame, there will always be clamor for the 16-bit Street Fighter game that put the series on the map.

While Street Fighter 2 spawned a movie, it’s not the movie that most people will remember. I think that it’s legacy comes from the simple yet masterful use of sprites, an amazing soundtrack, and tight gameplay. 

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