Street Fighter might have more games under its belt than any other franchise, it’s hard to say. But until we get a Street Fighter vs. Final Fantasy crossover, it’ll always feel like it. So it may or may not surprise you that despite its long history, there are many things even hardcore fans of the series don’t know. For example, Golden Globe winning actor Raul Julia’s last movie was the critically panned Street Fighter: The Movie in 1994.
With countless spin-offs, sequels, special and limited edition video games – not to mention comic books, movies, animated TV shows and toys – it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Street Fighter lore has become a bit convoluted, and its past shrouded in mystery. Everyone talks about Street Fighter II, but have you ever heard much about Street Fighter I? Did you know Capcom teamed up with a famous superhero team for a Street Fighter Saturn game?
Capcom is determined to squeeze every penny out of the Street Fighter franchise, giving trivia buffs like me plenty to fawn over. If you’re a Street Fighter fan, or just like weird video game trivia yourself, why not check out our list of the 15 Shocking Things You Didn't Know About The Street Fighter Franchise.
14 X-Men vs. Street Fighter was the Prelude to Marvel vs. Capcom
In 1996, Capcom teamed up with Marvel to create X-Men vs. Street Fighter for the arcade, which was later ported to the Saturn and PlayStation. It was pretty revolutionary for its time. It was one of the first fighting games involving mainstream super heroes, it was the first fighting game to use a tag team system, and it kicked off the Capcom and Marvel partnership. That partnership would later result in the Marvel vs. Capcom series.
X-Men vs. Street Fighter remains a bit of a lost game however. A lot of that has to do with the fact that it debuted in arcades, which aren’t big outside of Japan, and that it was first ported to the Saturn, Sega’s failed console. However, once it was ported to the PlayStation, it came with one big restriction. The tag team system that made the game so great had to be removed due to the system’s hardware, so people passed on it. And by the time it made its PlayStation debut, the first Marvel vs. Capcom was out and was a much better game anyway.
13 The Street Fighter II Rock Opera
The Texas band Man Factory released a rock opera soundtrack telling the events of Street Fighter II. Over the course of six years, three albums (each titled Round One through Three) and 27 songs, the opera tells the story of Ken and Chun-Li as two different stories before eventually coming together. The songs start out simple, around two to three minutes long, but by the end of the final album, they’re about seven minutes long.
It took six years for the indie band to come together to make the opera. They talked about quitting several times during the process, but said their fans devotion made they carry on. The final result is an epic rock ballad unlike anything else in gaming. Obviously it’s not officially licensed by Capcom, nor is it considered cannon, but it’s still an amazing work of art, and shows how dedicated Street Fighter fans are.
12 Sheng Long Was Just a Typo
Sheng Long is a completely fictional character (in so much as that he doesn’t exist at all). Yet for a long time, he remained a legend in the fighting game community and still to this day in Japan thanks to Capcom’s teasing. So who is this character and where did he come from?
Sheng Long was first mentioned by Ryu in Street Fighter II, saying “You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance,” in victory. However, this was a mistranslation, he was actually supposed to say his signature move, “Shoryuken” instead of “Sheng Long.” This led to confusion amongst fans about who this was supposed to be. The magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly, which wrote yearly April Fools articles, once wrote that Sheng Long is a secret, unlockable character and that you have to do some pretty extreme stuff to get him.
Many didn’t realize it was a hoax, and for a long time, it was widely believed to be true until Capcom shot it down. Still, by the community this fake character is a legend, getting a mention in Street Fighter: The Movie (The Game) and even Capcom joked he’d be in Street Fighter IV.
11 Ryu is Now 52 Years Old
According to the Street Fighter II SNES manual, fan favorite character Ryu was born in 1964. Quickly doing the math would reveal that he is currently 52 years old, with his 53rd birthday coming on July 21st of this year. He looks (and acts) pretty spry for somebody at such an advanced age, doesn’t he?
Keep in mind that the SNES version of Street Fighter II released in North American on July 15th, 1992. That would have only made him 27 years old at the time, showing a real lack of forward thinking on the part of the developers, or at least whoever wrote the manual.
Believe it or not the Street Fighter games do have a story and they each take place in a certain time frame, though it’s never stated what year exactly in some games. Still, fans have determined the order of certain games and that the characters do age over time. Perhaps Capcom has chosen to ignore Ryu’s real birth date, or perhaps he’s into some weird, new age treatment that makes him young. Who knows?
10 Chun-Li is the First Playable Female Character in a Fighting Game
Chun-Li made her debut in Street Fighter II in 1991. Up until that point, video games were mostly the boys club and most female characters in games were either things to be rescued or ogled. Chun-Li broke that trend by becoming the first playable female character in a fighting game.
Chun-Li is an Interpol agent and martial arts expert who’s out for revenge against M. Bison for killing her father, Dorai. Dorai was a Hong Kong police officer who was investigating a drug ring when he mysteriously went missing.
Her name is Mandarin and can be roughly translated to “Beautiful Spring.” She was born in China in 1968 (making her almost as old as Ryu these days) and there’s been some controversy over what her name actually is. Some claim it’s supposed to be written as Chunli, or that Chun is her surname (which would come first in Eastern culture). In Street Fighter: The Movie, she’s given the last name of Xiang, though that’s not officially cannon according to Capcom.
9 Hacked Versions of Games Got Their Own Arcade Cabinets
Hacked versions of games are nothing new, especially retro games like Street Fighter II. Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition is no such exception. It’s a pirated version of Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, but it’s also been modified with changes. In this version, you can pull of combos mid-air, some of the combos have been changed completely, and you can change character mid-fight.
Surprisingly though, some arcades actually started putting this version of the game into arcade cabinets. That’s right, official arcade cabinets of Street Fighter II were swapped out for a pirated and hacked version. According to Arcade-Museum, there are at least 18 known cabinets featuring the game, including four that were built from the ground up specifically for Rainbow Edition.
So many people began playing this version, that Capcom took notice and released Street Fighter II: Turbo Hyper Fighting, which includes some of the changes from Rainbow Editions, and runs much faster.
8 An Unused Character in Street Fighter II Inspired Another in Divekick
A character in Zubaz was originally going to appear in the Street Fighter series, making his debut in Street Fighter II. Why the character was scrapped is unknown, but his design was heavily influenced by the WWE, referencing The Road Warriors. But once he was scrapped, he never showed up again. That is, in any Street Fighter game.
Instead, Zubaz lived on in the hearts and minds of fighting game fans thanks to him being used as a running joke in the Fighterpedia Machinma webshow. As a result, the duo behind another webshow, Two Best Friends Play, started backing Kickstarter projects that had a reward tier that allowed backers to create their own characters.
One such Kickstarter game was Divekick and the duo came up with a character called The Baz, which was directly modeled after the scrapped Street Fighter character. The Baz eventually made it into Divekick despite the game’s failed Kickstarter and similar characters started appearing in other crowdfunded games such as Skullgirls and Shovel Knight.
7 Different Characters Swap Names in the US and Japanese Versions
You think you know M. Bison or Vega? Balrog is pretty cool too, right? Well, chances are those iconic characters you know and love are actually totally different from their original Japanese versions.
You ever notice how in Street Fighter II, Balrog kind of looks familiar? Well, that’s because he was modeled after American boxer Mike Tyson originally. Well, in Japan he was initially named M. Bison, hence the ‘M,’ which originally stood for Mike. When the American localization team got the game to translate, they were afraid Tyson might sue them for ripping off his appearance.
So instead of simply renaming the character, the localization team decided to completely change everything and swap around the names of not two, but three different characters. The Mike Tyson lookalike was now called Balrog in the US version, the original Balrog was given the name Vega, and the original Vega was given M. Bison. This of course created confusion in subsequent tournaments, so they were instead referred to as “Boxer,” “Claw,” and “Dictator,” respectively. Seems like a really roundabout way of changing a name, huh?
6 Several Characters are Based on Real People
If you’ve been paying attention to this article so far, you’ll notice a couple characters were based on real people, such was the case with Zubaz and the original M. Bison. The same can be said for several characters throughout the series, most noticeably, of course, with Street Fighter II.
The often forgotten Eagle is based on a character named Petrov, played by Robert Baker in the film Fists of Fury. As the series progressed, he started to take on the look of Freddy Mercury from the band Queen. Fei Long is obviously based on Bruce Lee. Hugo is based on American wrestler Andre the Giant. It’s also believed (but never officially confirmed) that Sagat is based on Sagat Petchyindee, a legendary Muay-Thai Boxer in the 70s and 80s.
This was done to give the series more of an international appeal, as many of the real life people used as inspiration were popular Western icons, but also a few Eastern icons like Sagat which would help appeal in China and Southeast Asia.
Final Fight was Originally Going to be Street Fighter II
Final Fight was another Capcom fighting game released in 1989, two years after the first Street Fighter hit arcades. But it was originally going to be a Street Fighter game, first announced as Street Fighter ’89.
Street Fighter ’89 was modeled after Double Dragon II and was at first intended to be a different game. Designer Yoshiki Okamoto, who worked on Final Fight, states that marketers at Capcom asked that the game be called Street Fighter due to the success of the original arcade version. However, near the game’s release, Okamoto says that arcade operators complained that the game was nothing like the first Street Fighter and that their customers were complaining. The game was based on Double Dragon II after all, and not Street Fighter I.
As a result, the game was changed at the last minute to Final Fight, kicking off a brand new franchise that also proved to be successful.
5 The First Street Fighter Movie was a Hong Kong Rip-off Called Future Cops
Everyone knows about the terrible 1994 Street Fighter adaptation Street Fighter: The Movie. The film starred Jean-Claude van Damme, Ming-Na Wen, and was the final film performance of Raul Julia. But while that was the first official Street Fighter movie, there was still one that came before it.
In 1993, Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Jing directed a film called Future Cops (literally titled Super-School Tyrant in China) starring the characters of Street Fighter. All the usual characters were there, including Ken, Ryu, Chun-Li, and M. Bison, all of which going under different names for the sake of copyright. Funny enough, E. Honda was renamed to Toyota. Around the same time, Wong Jing released a second movie using the Street Fighter characters, this one called City Hunter starring Jackie Chan.
Needless to say Wong didn’t own the license to create either of these films, hence the changes to the character’s names. However, their motivations and even some plot points remain the same. Neither film is any good and they don’t stick too closely to the plot of the games. They don’t take themselves too seriously either, for what it’s worth.
4 The Developers of Street Fighter: The Movie's Game Thought They Were Making Street Fighter 3
According to developer Alan Noon, the team behind the Arcade version of Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game briefly thought they were working on Street Fighter III. First, some context. Capcom ordered a video game adaptation of the Street Fighter movie for arcades and home consoles, and hired developer Incredible Technologies (whom Noon worked for) to create the arcade version.
Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game (yes, really) was a radical departure from what Street Fighter was at the time. Instead of using drawn sprites, SF:TM:TG would instead go the Mortal Kombat route and use digitized actors and backgrounds, in this case the actors and sets from the film. At least, the console version did. The arcade version instead used various people.
Apparently there was a miscommunication involving Capcom when the team was first hired. They believed they were going to use the digitization process and create Street Fighter III, and began work under that assumption. They were going to incorporate several Street Fighter characters into the game that weren’t in the movie, as well as an appearance by Mega Man and our friend Sheng Long. However, it didn’t take long for Capcom to reiterate that they were working on an arcade adaptation of the movie, and the developers changed course.
3 Ken was Given a Last Name to Avoid Confusion with Barbie's Friend
Speaking of changing characters names, Ken was once given the last name Masters to avoid confusion with the Ken Barbie doll. To be fair, an official reason was never given, but thanks to the timing of a certain toy deal, many believe it to be the case.
In 1993, Hasbro and Capcom reached a licensing deal for Hasbro to start manufacturing toys based on Street Fighter. At the time, Ken was simply known as Ken, with no surname. But there was another popular character that was known only as Ken at the time and that was Barbie’s boyfriend. It’s believed that to avoid potential litigation from Barbie’s owner, Mattel, either Hasbro or Capcom came up with a random last name to differentiate the toys, and thus Ken became Ken Masters.
The surname Masters was first used outside the toy line in the animated Street Fighter II movie in 1994 and again in the anime series, Street Fighter II V, in 1995. It was used in a video game for the first time in Street Fighter Alpha II in 1996, all close to (and after) the toys came out. Coincidence? Doesn’t seem likely.
2 Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight
Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game: The Book: The Toilet Paper isn’t the only terrible spin-off in the Street Fighter franchise. Another exists in the form of Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight, released by Capcom in 1990 on the NES.
Whether or not this is actually a Street Fighter game is up for debate however. Once again those pesky localizers stepped in and made some head scratching changes. In the original Japanese version, it had just about nothing to do with Street Fighter at all, despite the name. In the international version, the translators had a field day changing it so that it was more like Street Fighter.
Originally, the protagonist was named Kevin, a cyborg policeman. In the US version, he was changed to Ken, who had retired from martial arts so he could fight robots in the distant future of 2010. Capcom USA also added the subtitled “The Final Fight,” to make it sound more like a fighting game. In reality, the game had nothing to do with Street Fighter in anyway, and it wasn’t even a fighting game. It was actually a 2D shooter, similar to Mega Man.
1 The Mystery of Fighting Street and Human Killing Machine
Ever wonder why you hear so much about Street Fighter II and later games, but no one ever talks about the first Street Fighter? It’s a bit of a complicated story, but while “Street Fighter” was first released in US arcades in 1987, this wasn’t the version everybody got to play.
Instead, some people got a game called Fighting Street, which was the ported version on the TurboGrafx 16 and computers. This version was developed by Tierex, a studio notorious at the time for terrible computer ports of arcade games. Fighting Street was no different, as the graphics were much worse, the game ran too slow to even be playable, and most of the moves stripped away. With this being the only real console version of Street Fighter I, not many people got to play it.
In 1989, one year after their notorious ports, they released a game called Human Killing Machine for various computers. The game was made using the same engine as Fighting Street, and even some of the same assets. It was also sold as the sequel to Fighting Street, despite Tiertex not having the license to call it a sequel to what was technically Street Fighter. This game too was terrible, receiving negative reviews from every magazine at the time.