The sequel to the 1987 fighting game Street Fighter, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior is credited to laying down the framework for the traditional fighting game genre, as well as kicking off the “fighting game revolution” of the 1990s. Along with introducing smoother control over each player’s character (as the control in previous fighting games are “stiff”), Street Fighter II: The World Warrior is the first versus fighting game to allow the player to select his character out of a pre-determined set of fighters, each with their own unique special abilities.
Players pick one of eight worldwide warriors (martial artists Ryu and Ken from the previous installment, Japanese sumo wrestler E. Honda, female Chinese martial artist Chun-Li, Brazilian beast man Blanka, Russian professional wrestler Zangief, American former Special Forces operative Guile, and Indian Yoga master Dhalsim) as they travel the world, trying to defeat the other seven warriors and progress through the martial arts tournament.
Due to its popularity, the game spawned numerous updates throughout the ’90s (starting with Street Fighter II’: Champion Edition), enough for it to be considered its own game series. The original game also received ports to certain computer and console system of the early ’90s, most notably the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The success of the game also spawned both a Japanese animated film (which later had its own game) and an American live-action film (which later had its own fighting game), two animated series (the Japanese Street Fighter II V and the American Street Fighter), and a Gottlieb-developed pinball adaptation.
In Street Fighter II, players engage in one-on-one martial arts combat (with either computer opponents or other players) with their chosen fighter. Each fighter has their own life bar, which depletes after each successful attack. The winner of the round is decided after either the game’s countdown timer expires or one of the fighters is “knocked out” (by emptying their life bar).
Typically a match is won by winning two out of three rounds, but a Double KO (in which both players are knocked out simultaneously) or a Draw Game (when the game’s timer expires and both players having equal vitality remaining) extends the match for another round (while no victor is declared). If the match extends to ten total rounds (four total rounds in the game’s updates) and no winner is declared, then both players lose the match.
When players are facing off against computer opponents, they must progress through each opponent throughout the game and defeat them. Losing a match allows players to continue, in which players can pick a different fighter (if desired) and restart the fight. If a player manages to defeat all seven opponents, he must face three Grand Masters: American former professional boxer Balrog, Spanish cage fighter Vega, and the master of Muay Thai, Sagat (the final boss from the previous game). It is revealed after defeating Sagat that the player must fight the mysterious dictator M. Bison to win the tournament. Each of the eight playable fighters have unique endings showing the aftermath of their battle with M. Bison.
Fights between players and CPU opponents can be interrupted by another player (causing the message “HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER!” to appear), which triggers a new one-on-one match between the two players in which the winner moves on to fight the current CPU opponent.
Like the basic version of the original Street Fighter, players have a eight-directional joystick (used for movement) and six buttons in a horizontal rectangular formation (used for attacking). Each of the six buttons corresponds to a different attack type (three “Punch” attacks and three “Kick” attacks) and strength/speed (two Light attacks, two Medium attacks, and two Heavy attacks). Light attacks are safer to perform (despite dealing less damage) while Heavy attacks deal powerful damage (despite leaving the fighter in a vulnerable state if the attack misses).
While walking in one of two directions by holding the joystick in one of two positions (Back for walking away from their opponent and Forward for walking towards their opponent), players can crouch down by holding the joystick in one of the three downward positions (Down, Down-Back, and Down-Forward) and jump up by tapping the joystick in one of the three upward positions (Up for jumping up, Up-Back for jumping away from their opponent, and Up-Forward for jumping towards their opponent). Certain attacks miss when their ducked under or jumped over, while these maneuvers also give new attack options (such as, for crouching players, an anti-air uppercut and a leg sweep capable of knocking down opponents).
Players who are hit with multiple attacks in quick succession have a high chance of becoming “dizzied”. Visualized by a halo of stars around the fighter’s head, dizzied opponents are stunned and cannot move or attack until they either receive another hit or “break out” of their dizzy state (by tapping multiple buttons and moving the joystick around).
Using the joystick, players can also perform blocks (known in Japanese version as “guards”) by holding the joystick in either the Back position (for standing blocks) or Down-Back position (for crouching blocks). Blocked players receive no damage or knockback/knockdown from normal attacks, but are more vulnerable to Grab Attacks (which throw the opponent in a desired direction, damaging them in the process). Grabs are performed by holding either Back or Forward on the joystick (the direction choosing which way to throw the opponent) and pressing Medium Punch or Heavy Punch while the opponent is very close and not jumping.
Along with a variety of normal attacks (some of which are different depending on how close the opponent is), each fighter has a set of secret “special moves” performed by specific joystick and button combinations. These techniques have special abilities (such as throwing a projectile across the screen or hurling the fighters at their opponents) and can deal more damage (even slightly damaging blocked opponents, later known as “chip damage”). In some cases, fighters may receive double damage if hit during the execution of a special move. This doesn’t apply universally–only some fighters and some moves lead to this vulnerability (Blanka’s rolling attack and Sagat’s Tiger Uppercut to name a few). This vulnerability made it into the Super NES port, but was removed in later revisions of Street Fighter II and their respective home ports.
Originally determined as a bug, players can “cancel” attack animations into other attacks, allowing players to chain several attacks and special moves into a “combo”. This technique was soon adapted as a standard feature of the fighting game franchise and was expanded throughout the Street Fighter series.
After defeating every three CPU opponents, players participate in a bonus stage for additional score. Each bonus stage has their own unique objective:
- Wreck a car located in the middle of the stage with a variety of attacks in a limited amount of time, in similar vein to the bonus stage in Final Fight. As pieces of the car fly off, players often have to change attacks and positions.
- Break wooden barrels that drop down above the middle of the stage. Barrels roll towards each direction and can knock down the player if it hits them.
- Destroy a pyramid of metal oil drums stacked in the middle of the stage in a limited amount of time. The drums take more damage to destroy than the barrels and can be knocked back (only if barrels below them are destroyed). Players can be knocked down by the oil drums, either through impact (when the oil drums are knocked back) or by fire (standing on an oil drum at the wrong time, since the oil inside is being burned).
Most console ports of the game (and its updates) replaced the third bonus stage with a large pyramid of bricks to destroy in a limited amount of time. Each section of the pyramid is impacted by attacks and is destroyed after a certain amount.
While it is usually performed by one player, a second player can join in (resetting the stage) to assist. Players receive score per each hit on the objective, and both players receive a bonus score for successfully completing the objective.
The game features eight playable characters, all with their own unique set of special moves (with the exception of Ken, who has the same special moves as Ryu) and fight locales. Both players can not pick the same character (a restriction that was lifted after the game’s first revision).
Non-Playable Boss Characters
- Balrog (known as M. Bison in the Japanese versions)
- Vega (known as Balrog in the Japanese versions)
- M. Bison (known as Vega in the Japanese versions)
Outside of the constant rehashes, the original Street Fighter II was ported to some consoles and computer systems in the 90s:
- The game’s first and main port was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in June 10, 1992 (in Japan), July 15, 1992 (in North America), and December 17, 1992 (in Europe). It’s one of the first games to have a dedicated Versus Mode (allowing players to select stages and player handicaps). The game also had mirror match support as a cheat code. It was later re-released digitally for the Virtual Console on the Wii (on December 25, 2006) and Wii U (on August 22, 2013). The port to Super NES–by many measures, very faithful to the arcade–lost a few details along the way (for example, showcasing two pairs of elephants in Dhalsim’s stage as opposed to three); another key difference was the instrumentation in the soundtrack, which was reworked to take advantage of the console’s sample-based sound chip and showcased instruments that were often vastly different from the FM synth coming out of the arcade board (e.g. the trumpets used to blare out the melody in Guile’s stage on the Super NES).
- Between 1992 and 1993, the game was ported to a variety of computers by Creative Materials (Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and PCs running MS-DOS) and Tiertex Design (ZX Spectrum). All of these ports were published by U.S. Gold in Europe only (the only exception being the PC version, which received an obscure North America release) and had numerous issues regarding audio, graphics, and gameplay.
- A handheld port was released for the Game Boy in September 1995. Including some assets and moves from later Street Fighter II releases (though resembling more like the original) and a Survival Mode, the port has numerous restrictions (including reliance on only two attack buttons and three absent characters: E. Honda, Dhalsim, and Vega). Like other fighting games for the Game Boy, multiplayer requires a Link Cable and multiple copies of the game and device. This version has full Super Game Boy support, including enhanced border backgrounds (that change depending on the current stage), limited color support (mostly for lifebars), and same-console multiplayer.
- It was later ported, along with the “Champion Edition” and “Hyper Fighting” versions, for the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn (exclusively in Japan) as the Street Fighter Collection 2 compilation (known in Japan as Capcom Generation: Dai-go-shuu Kakutouka-tachi). Released on October 31, 1998 in North America, December 3, 1998 in Japan, and May 1999 in Europe (by Virgin), this port includes a dedicated Versus and Training Mode, optional arranged soundtracks, and a “Super Vs. Mode” (which allows players to fight with different character versions, which was later expanded on in Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition). This version was also used in both the Capcom Classics Collection compilation (released on September 27, 2005 for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox), and the Capcom Classics Collection Reloaded compilation (released on October 24, 2006 for the PlayStation Portable).
- It was also ported to mobile devices in 2004 for Japan only.