It took me just over a year, but I’d finally played and beaten Street Fighter II. And there were already TWO new versions in the arcade; Street Fighter II: Champion Edition which included a couple of new moves, varied the speed and range of some of the previous moves, and allowed a character to face him or herself in a new color. It also re-colored all of the backgrounds, to allow for easy visual distinction. Champion Edition also allowed players to use the four boss characters; Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison. Finally, all 12 characters would be playable!
But by the end of 1992, we also had Turbo Street Fighter II: Champion Edition – Hyper Fighting, which replaced everybody’s original color with a new 3rd color, and made the original colors the 2nd player color. It also increased the speed of the game by 15%, as well as introduced even more new moves, such as Chun-Li’s fireball and Dhalsim’s teleport.
In late 1992, Capcom announced that Champion Edition would be coming to the Sega Genesis (known as the Mega Drive in every non-US country ever), making the Genesis seem like the ideal console for SFII playing. Except that its controller only had three buttons, and SFII required at least six. And then in the late spring of ’93, Capcom announced Street Fighter II Turbo (a shortened title for the 3rd installment of SFII) for the SNES. In the summer of that year, SFII Turbo came to the Super Nintendo as announced, and SFII: SPECIAL Champion Edition came to the Genesis. What made this edition so special? It had all the same features as SFII Turbo on the SNES. So Capcom basically marketed the same game with two different titles.
Also, to make up for the lack of necessary buttons, Sega designed a six-button controller, and several third-party companies began designing 6-button arcade sticks, specifically to cash in on the popularity of Street Fighter II. Otherwise, players could press the Start button to swap the A, B, and C buttons between punches and kicks – Not ideal, but probably the best solution Capcom could’ve come up with that didn’t destroy the integrity of SFII’s control scheme.
I remember the first time we rented SFII Turbo on the Super NES, I was up until 3:26 am trying to beat the game as Vega. Even before I grew my hair out, I was intrigued by long-haired dudes. I think my early days of watching wrestling may have had something to do with that, as mullets were super-popular in the WWF during the early 90s. Plus, Vega had a claw similar to Wolverine from the X-Men comics, and had a cool sash. Besides, he was always the hardest character for me to beat in the original SFII, so he must be the best, right?
Anyways. I defeated all 12 characters that night, and didn’t do anything besides play that game, outside of go to school and homework for the rest of the rental period. Oh, summer vacations…
In October of 1993, my brother got Turbo on the SNES for his birthday, the first copy of SF owned by somebody in my house! It was super-exciting. But by that time, Street Fighter‘s reign of excellence seemed to be coming to a close.
Midway, the company responsible for games like Smash T.V. and Arch Rivals, had released a competitor to Street Fighter II. Japanese company SNK had tried, but all of their games were only available on the Neo-Geo console.
Now, the Neo-Geo was a wonderful piece of machinery; It had all the power of an arcade cabinet, and hooked up to your home television. The controllers it came with were two arcade-quality joysticks, and the cartridges were the size of video cassettes. The games found in these cartridges were arcade-perfect realizations of SNK’s games. The problem? The Neo-Geo cost $500. That’s what consoles are released for today, but back in the early ’90s, the SNES debuted at $250. Not to mention, due to the high quality of the Neo-Geo cartridges, the games were all priced at around twice what SNES, Genesis, and NES games cost. Sure, I could have my arcade-perfect port of SF-competitors Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, but not at a price anybody that *I* knew could afford.
But Midway did something else. Rather than try and beat Street Fighter at its own game, they used the cutting-edge technology available to them. Rather than create a fighting game with anime-inspired, hand-drawn graphics, as SNK’s Neo-Geo games were doing, Midway used real people, and digitized the footage of these characters into game sprites. The lead designers for Midway’s project, Ed Boon and John Tobias, also decided that SF wasn’t violent enough for their tastes; They couldn’t understand why, when Blanka dizzied an opponent, he didn’t just eat their head. So ultra-violence was the theme of their game. Arcades had been abuzz of this smash hit for a few months, but in September of 1993, console gamers were told to prepare themselves…