Ryu, Ken and the Peanuts Parents’ Association are ready to rumble

Street Fighter (1987)

I don’t embarrass easily, which any one who has ever seen me after a few gargles will know. But when my very awkward childhood is brought up, I find myself going as red as a well smacked arse. You know, I suppose when it’s written down, my childhood of eating coins and cigarettes and being obsessed with traffic lights and wandering around naked is all very funny, but when it’s said to me and brought up in polite company it doesn’t half get embarrassing. But that’s probably the same for everyone right? Right…?

You tend to think that your childhood, your formative years, were the most small time and inferior and embarrassing of anybody’s and you just wish you could hide it all away, hang it up like some shirt in a place that nobody will ever find until you’re ready to finally throw it out and get rid of it. But that’s childhood for everyone, unless you were Dwayne Johnson or someone. The worst part is that once you get past those early years, you’re into puberty which is even more excruciating except you’ve got a deeper voice and sex organs that just won’t leave you alone.

And it’s often easy to think that successful people, or any other thing for that manner, were always successful from the very start. You never see the rough edges that were necessary to be ironed out before the well-refined product that eventually becomes easy on your eyes, ears, perhaps even your hands. You might think that, in order to get anywhere, you have to be perfect right out the gate.

But you don’t, you know. Case in point, I don’t think they even repeat the first series of Top Gear anymore, by which I mean the first reboot. God, how many versions of Top Gear can there be? The first series of Blackadder is by no means classic at all. The first and arguably the second season of The Simpsons, the same thing. And how many times did it take for Star Trek to get it right? Well, they still haven’t yet, but that’s not the point.

God knows Capcom have taken enough bites of the Street Fighter cherry over the years. Just listing all of the games and their many, many variants would waste an inordinate amount of e-paper, but what I’m saying is that everyone on God’s green earth remembers Street Fighter 2 and how great it was. It’s so good in fact that it makes us gloss over the whole idea that there had to have been a Street Fighter 1, some sort of early egg that had to be broken before the tournament fighter omelette could be dished up.

You won’t find Street Fighter 1 on many consoles, though. In fact I doubt that you’ll have any capable consoles in your arsenal, not counting compilations on modern systems. It was originally an arcade cabinet of course, but I can’t recall ever seeing one in my life.

Home ports were available on Amigas, Commodores and Speccys various, including a version strangely renamed Fighting Street on the TurboGrafx 16 – a console I’ve never seen before with my own eyes, ever. The game is a lot more accessible these days of course, and it’s now in our power to play the original arcade version. Honestly, I’d been quite dying to give it a whirl.

Well, I’d heard it was bad, but crikey – I don’t think this game did a single thing right. I can always give some leeway to an old arcade game from 1987, especially as the first of its kind, but this really does become laughable. The graphics are alright actually, I’ll give it that. Actually, damn good for 1987, even if you may not be used to Ryu as a redhead.

You can also pick Ken, although you don’t have a character select screen, merely a country select screen – that’s USA and Japan. But yes, this was the debut of both Ryu in Player  1 and Ken in Player 2, and only in Street Fighter two shall they meet 

They’re the only characters you can pick by the way, even though you’ll take down nine opponents, and that’s the first disappointment. Ryu and Ken actually have the special moves you’re used to from later, better games. But you can forget about spamming Hadouken at your foes – no matter what input you use, even something nice and precise like a Nintendo Joy-Con (oh, scratch that actually), you’ll get nowhere.

Trust me, you can mash those buttons all you like but you’ll only get a move off every so often , meanwhile the enemy is raining blows down on you and doing all sorts of things to the frame-rate. And even if you do pull it off, they’ll probably block and completely no-sell it.

In the meantime, the fastest timer in the world is ticking down. 100 seconds? That’s what it claims, but you’re lucky to get 20 real seconds. But you do die in about 4 quick hits so what’s the difference? That cuts both ways at least, so whenever you do manage to whack the enemy with a Shoryuken, you’ll erase about 40% of their lifebar just like that.

With no health and no time for either party, this means that most fights, if you can call them that, descend into the enemy reading your inputs and chipping away at your life bar while you try to keep a distance and gamble that your special moves will work. When you do use the move, things go all slow motion and you begin to get treated to probably the most absurd element of Street Fighter 1 — the digitised voices.

You’ll get a digitised voice after every bout you win or lose as well, generally a taunt of some kind. But you’ll be quite glad of the subtitles here, even if they also don’t make a lick of sense, because the sound quality is like nothing on bloody earth. The voices coming out the arcade machine, or more likely some emulator or retro revival you’re using, sound just like the adults in Charlie Brown giving it full trumpets..

But there are worse aural assaults to come. At the end of the game, if you somehow manage to muddle your way through the impossibly prophetic enemies, you visit Thailand, where there is a serious war crime happening. It’s not any kind of regional war – it’s not even an unfortunate incident with a squadron of ladyboys.

No, it’s the background music on Sagat’s stage, the final boss of the game and the only other character besides the two playable ones to return for Street Fighter 2. It’s interesting to see him actually, because this game culminates in your tearing a scar the size of the Grand Canyon in his chest, a chest that’s more generously proportioned than any of the zero women that could have featured in this game.

Sagat’s music is the worst offender, but most of the music is horrendous anyways, real ear-bleeding stuff, and the sound effects are ridiculous – standard punches and kicks sound like metal getting crushed, the voices sound like trombones falling down the stairs, the controls are atrocious, and the fun factor is non-existent. All in all, Street Fighter 1 probably wishes I just left it alone and that I never came along to highlight its cringeworthy formative years. But where’s the fun in not embarrassing an old friend?

13 May 2022

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