Transitions: The Launch Games/End Games Blog

Posted on Feb 6th 2011 at 02:02:32 PM by (dsheinem)
Posted under Street Fighter The Movie, Launch Games, Playstation, Street Fighter, Classic Gaming

Here we have a perfect postmodern product, the kind of thing that made Baudrillard's head spin and which will make future generations look back on our culture with painful embarrassment.  This is a game based on a movie that is based on a game that is a sequel.  The inspiration for this game, Street Fighter II, was a beautiful and innovative arcade giant. The film, on the other hand, was a widely panned and campy take on everything that made the game interesting.  Where would the game stand?  Would it improve on the lowly film, or would it drag the Street Fighter name further down?

It would be easy to understand if early adopters for game consoles were leery of the Street Fighter name, as the previous launch title in the series largely failed to deliver the goods.   Nonetheless, on the day the PS1 launched in September 1995, early adopters who were interested in bringing home a fighting game (at a time when fighting games were still all the rage in the arcade) were presented with a choice of two titles: the new IP Battle Arena Toshinden providing a 3D graphics engine or the newest release in the wildly successful Street Fighter series: Street Fighter: The Movie.  Neither had seen an arcade release (although a different SF:TM game was released in arcades a few months earlier), so the new buyer had to rely on word of mouth, what they could learn from their past experiences, and what they discern from the boxes themselves.

So, if you were standing at a Babbage's or EB on that fateful day in September of 1995 with the two fighting games in front of you, what did you see?  For one, you saw Van Damme's giant fucking head:


On Street Fighter: The Movie you also saw a few additional important pieces of information on the cover.  You saw the boast of "DIGITIZED GRAPHICS FROM THE HIT MOVIE!"  You saw two names that were giants in the arcade industry in Capcom and Akklaim.  Turning the box over, you saw that the back cover was filled with content:  five in game screen shots, 14 pictures of the digitized fighters ("including Jean Claude Van Damme!"), and no less than 15 exclamation marks.  The whole thing appears to be a beautiful and/or unholy marriage of Mortal Kombat graphics, Street Fighter mechanics, and celebrity worship.  By contrast, on the Battle Arena Toshinden cover you see some awkwardly drawn, generic looking Japanese fighting characters, a handful of less than flattering screenshots of the game, and a description that does its best to make the launch title sound like the most generic fighting game of the era (and only seven exclamation marks).  So, if you had to go on the box art in front of you on launch day, you probably made a decision that you would come to regret: you probably took home Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game.

As a launch title, Street Fighter: The Movie is notable for several reasons:

It offered plenty of FMV.  It is important to remember that the PlayStation launched only a short time after FMV was the newest innovation in gaming, and if there's one thing Street Fighter: The Movie had going for it, it was copious amounts of FMV, both from the film and original to the game itself. This is especially prominent in the main story mode of the game in which you must play as Guile (Van Damme) and beat opponents on your way to M. Bison and the most obscenely gut-punching end game music video you've seen today:

Interesting trivia? This is actually the second music video affiliated with Street Fighter: The Movie.  The other? A video starring Street Fighter: The Movie actors, MC Hammer, and Deion Fucking Sanders .  Really. (CAUTION: the gut punch is even stronger from this video, as it manages to distill almost everything horrible about pop culture in 1994 into its purest form.)

"Hey! Kylie Minogue is in my PlayStation!"

It looked good when paused. Ok, this is debatable, but the game does feature passable digital capture work for the main characters, close approximations of the movie settings as backgrounds, and  reasonable effects for at least some of the various special moves.  If you were used to playing stuff like the Genesis port of Primal Rage or the SNES version of Mortal Kombat 3, then the look of the game (while paused) was quite impressive and showed off some of the potential of the PlayStation as a system.  When you unpaused, however...

The game was jerky, stuttered frequently, and controlled horribly.  A good fighting game must be fluid, and Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game's biggest flaw is that it is not a fun fighter.  It is randomly fast or slow, it isn't especially good at recognizing inputs for special moves, and the action of pressing a button isn't quite 1:1 with the movement on the screen, as it must be.  Even if you really liked Street Fighter: The Movie or really liked Capcom games, this title managed to kick you in the balls either way.  Built on the SSF2T engine, control shouldn't have been a problem (in theory).  I guess when you introduce motion-captured graphics into a 2D engine, problems result.

This picture of pissy Bison is courtesy of the excellent write up on the film and games @ RetroJunk!!!

The game didn't end the PlayStation's life immediately.  Bad launch games can hurt a system's pedigree from the start, and by the time the PlayStation came along the Saturn had already built an impressive roster of 2D and 3D fighting games (including its own launch title: Virtua Fighter).   The fact that a rushed, buggy, misguided game like Street Fighter: The Movie didn't kill the system's chances with fighting game fans is probably due to the fact that it had already been released on the Saturn and, presumably, been as widely panned as the film itself.  Maybe good-hearted Babbage's employees guided new PlayStation owners towards the superior Battle Arena Toshinden, maybe they urged them to wait for the upcoming Street Fighter Alpha (released about three months later), or perhaps they suggested that proof of the PS1's arcade chops could be found in games like Ridge Racer instead.

Street Fighter: The Movie must be regarded as one of the worst launch games for any system ever, and certainly the worst fighting game available for any launch.  As Van Damme's Guile asked Raul Julia's Bison in the film based on the game: "What happened to the purity of unarmed combat?!!!!"

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