Zangief and E. Honda take it easy in 2016. See below for illustrator Stephen Maurice Graham's thinking behind this image.
In February 1991, fighting (video) games changed forever. Capcom's Street Fighter II devastated the arcades of the time, in its native Japan and abroad, but it was when the game switched to home consoles (and computers, but the less said about those versions, the better) when its legend was guaranteed.
Speak to almost anybody who was playing video games in the early 1990s, and they'll have a story about when and where they first came across Street Fighter II. Chances are that they first played as Ryu or Ken, Guile or Dhalsim on the 1992 Super Nintendo port, which sold over six million copies worldwide and was Capcom's highest-selling individual piece of software until Resident Evil 5 passed it in 2013.
I know that was my experience—sitting on the carpet in front of a 14" CRT screen in my friend's house, amazed both at the game itself and its asking price. At launch in the UK, you'd have been lucky to take Street Fighter II for the SNES home for less than £60 [$85]. I'd seen the arcade game and had my breath stolen, and this was as close as I could imagine any home version being. It certainly kicked the Amiga conversion into the dirt, made it eat mud, and gave it a wedgie, for good measure. Whoever thought that a game that necessitated six individual buttons could be played using a single-trigger Zip Stick, bless you, you fantastic lunatic.
But my absolute favorite home version of Street Fighter II was the Mega Drive (Genesis, for American readers) port of Super Street Fighter II, which came out in the summer of 1994 on a "whopping" 40 megabit cartridge. You know, the one where a mean-looking Ryu built up a hadouken before launching it at the screen, ahead of the menu's arrival. So rad. Not only could you now play as any of the four "boss" characters—Balrog, M. Bison, Vega, and Sagat—but there were four all-new additions to the roster. Fei Long and Cammy I clicked with; Dee Jay and T. Hawk, not so much. I've still got it, boxed but dusty. The instruction booklet's long lost, and the cart rattles, but if I plug it into my second-model Mega Drive, it works just as it did over 20 years ago. (Just don't play it with a standard three-button pad, unless you're a total masochist.)
Not that I stuck with any of Super's new fighters—I've always been a Ken man. I know, how crushingly dull of me. But the character you played as on Street Fighter II, back then, is likely the same one you first select when firing up 2016's Street Fighter V, assuming they're available. This game, whether played solo against the machine or beside a friend who you'd soon fall out with over their spamming of the Hundred Hand Slap, got into the blood of millions faster and harder than even the most wicked booze this side of a free bar.
To mark Street Fighter II's 25th anniversary in 2016, regular VICE contributor Stephen Maurice Graham has (re)imagined what the original eight World Warriors would look like today, based on their ages at the time of the first game's release. Below, he explains his direction on each illustration, plus there are more Street Fighter II memories from VICE Gaming writers and fighting game super-fans Andi Hamilton and Dave Cook. Mike Diver
Ken's seen better days. Guile, he prefers to forget his past entirely.
When I first played Street Fighter II, it was at my friend Keith's house. He had a SNES and a Mega Drive and tons of games. He had that special mom persuasion power that netted him all the new consoles. He even had a Sir Alan Sugar Amstrad, which silently gathered dust next to Super Mario World and Earthworm Jim.
Keith was brilliant at Street Fighter and I was rubbish, a training dummy next to him. He was usually Ryu and I was Ken—so ever since then I've always thought of the American as the lesser character. I don't know if that was a thing in your playground or office space, but Ken was always the shit copycat one, right? A palette-swapped hanger-on?
Anyway, here poor Ken (born on Valentine's Day, 1965) has been rendered with a cane, broken leg, and a dodgy mustache. He's been worn down and broken—not by fighting, but by the realization he's a bit crap. He fights against Guile (December 23, 1960), who has put on a few pounds after all the PTSD he's suffered. Who could blame him, really, but at least he's still got the hair.
Too many Spinning Bird Kicks have rendered Chun Li's (March 1, 1968) legs completely ruined, so she now covers them with a long dress and wears orthopedic shoes to help her shuffle a little quicker towards her opponent. Said rival is Blanka (February 12, 1966), a biological experiment who shouldn't really even be alive. Initially I was going to just draw him as a pile of bubbling goo, but instead thought perhaps he'd deteriorate slowly, bones bending and hair falling out, losing his faculties until he's a gibbering wreck on the side of the street. Sorry, that was a bit of a sad one.
Dhalism (November 22, 1952) and Ryu (July 21, 1964) seem to have prospered, running off together to the bonus stage to run an eco-friendly car disposal service. I always loved this bonus stage—the graphics of the shattered car were amazing, and I always wanted to spend a bit more time there, thinking there was more to discover.
Finally, E. Honda (November 3, 1960) and Zangief (June 1, 1956) are just two old bears having a nice bath with each other. Stephen Maurice Graham
Blanka was nearly drawn as bubbling goo. Which still might have been a fate more favorable than Chun-Li's situation.
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I first played the SNES version of Street Fighter II at my cousin's place, and I was just blown away by the graphics—which at the time, to my infant mind, felt arcade perfect, even though they weren't. I loved Blanka, especially because he was so animated, and his electric attack was fun to execute. Also, there was a slight elation that came with pulling off a well-timed shoryuken before the inputs became a thing of pop culture normalcy.
But above all else, I couldn't beat the game. Sure, Sagat took a good 20 or 30 attempts, but with Bison all bets were off. Street Fighter II was an early source of gaming frustration, but a hell of a fond time. I still have my original SNES cart and dust it off from time to time. Dave Cook
Insert your own joke about a knackered banger being banged about by a couple of knackered bangers.
I used to live in a shitty village that had a fun fair show up once a year. It was largely horrible, but there was an arcade on it that was full of coin sliders but had one copy of Street Fighter II. The buttons and stick barely worked and it was covered in cigarette burns, but hearing that music and watching that intro—where that dude totally KTFOs a guy and the camera pans up to show the Street Fighter logo—was about the coolest fucking thing I had ever seen at, like, nine years old. Didn't even have a go on it; I just watched that attract mode and had my trousers blown into orbit by how awesome it looked.
Then I got a SNES, and a summer holiday of showing up at mates houses with a pad and a copy of SFII (nobody had two SNES pads of their own, come on now) happened and started a lifetime of playing fighting games. Andi Hamilton
Character ages taken from the Street Fighter Wiki.
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