Street Fighter I arguably set the formula that led to Street Fighter II‘s success: players fight characters around the world 3 rounds at a time, using a joystick and buttons to execute a variety of moves. The graphics looked believable, each character was distinct, there was an attempt made at adding human-sounding voices, and there were bonus stages to break up the repetition of the fights. At a glance, the two games don’t appear too dissimilar. Yet Street Fighter 1 was almost a disaster.
Better Hold On
The first problem was the controls. Capcom, the developers, took a flying innovative leap by making pressure-sensitive buttons that would translate how hard players were pressing to how hard the characters were punching and kicking. Sadly, the experiment failed. Players mashed the buttons mercilessly, trying to hit hard all the time, resulting in broken buttons and bruised fingers. Additionally, the tech made each cabinet far more expensive than typical cabinets, requiring far more plays to return the investment.
So, Capcom replaced the pressure-sensitive buttons with normal buttons, and just happened to invent what is now the traditional fighting game button layout: 3 buttons in the top row for light, medium, and hard punches, and 3 buttons on the bottom row for light, medium, and hard kicks.
The second problem was, again, the controls. Fixing the hardware didn’t solve the more fundamental software problem of bad response time. The controls’ timing always felt off. You could far too easily commit your character to the jumps or sidesteps, and executing the power moves (“special moves”) required machine-like input precision.
The third problem was the game’s feel. The animations were just a little too stiff, the colours a little too drab, and the sounds weren’t recognisable. Overall the game felt disjointed and didn’t suck you in.
A fascinating attempt, and very close to the mark, but it will always be the forgotten ancestor to far greater sequels.