Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion on the internet and social media about certain games in the Street Fighter franchise, and whether or not they’re “real Street Fighter” games. This discussion started in part due to a poll by HiFight that James Chen then made a comment about. This discussion has been further fueled by RISE|MenaRD’s win at Capcom Cup 2017 over Echo Fox|Tokido — the latter considered to be a veteran of “real Street Fighter.”
The question is then, what exactly is “real Street Fighter.“ Well, simply put, it’s any fighting game that’s part of the Street Fighter franchise. As for why, the short answer is that’s because it’s what Capcom says it is. The longer, more concrete answer has to do with the series history, and the games that fall under the Street Fighter umbrella.
Now, I’m pretty sure that most competitive fighting game players can all agree that there is a “core” Street Fighter style of gameplay. This is in essence what was put forward and refined in the original Street Fighter II series. Ground-based combat, risky jumps, simple meter management, and a high emphasis on footsies and space control were first defined in Capcom’s iconic sequel. However, Street Fighter is more than just Street Fighter II. Even before Street Fighter V, Street Fighter has strayed widely from this.
When James Chen commented on the HiFight’s Twitter poll, he singled out one particular example: Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. Now, as much as I love 3rd Strike, James does have a point here. The parry system alone changes the style of gameplay, swinging it away from “core” Street Fighter, changing the zoning and space control game. Instead, it makes 3rd Strike much more about making reads and guesses.
Now, if that last bit sounds familar, it’s likely because it’s also a criticism that has been made repeatedly about Street Fighter V. However, making such a comparison between these two understates just how much Street Fighter III‘s parry system changes the game’s fundamentals. Suffice to say, the Street Fighter III series, including 3rd Strike, is quite different from any other Street Fighter that has come before, or since.
Another popular installment of the franchise that strays from the series’ core is Street Fighter Alpha 3. While the Alpha series as a whole experiments with new mechanics, none stray so far as Alpha 3 did. While most will point to the game’s various “ISMs” and heavy reliance on custom combos as the main culprits of why this is the case, it goes much deeper than that.
A good part of the way Alpha 3 moves away quite a bit from “core” Street Fighter has to do with things under the hood. Most notably, normals and projectiles were toned down compared to its predecessor, Street Fighter Alpha 2. Now Alpha, despite all the Alpha series additions such as air-to-air blocking and custom combos, does not stray that far from Street Fighter‘s core gameplay. Indeed, with the right characters, a player can easily dominate Alpha 2 just by playing using fundamentals, using good normals at the right ranges.
With Alpha 3, the hitboxes of many normals were changed to make them weaker than in Alpha 2 (likely in response to some characters in the latter having strong normals that could cover multiple situations). This meant that Alpha 3′s normals felt much stubbier (and less useful) than in its predecessor. In addition to this, fireballs now did less damage the further out they hit. It came to the point where getting hit by a fireball at max range was preferable to blocking. It did the same damage, but getting hit provided more meter! The result of all this is a game that plays at much closer range, and favors offense and aggression much more than Alpha 2 — and indeed the Street Fighter II games before it.
Now, as much as Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike stray from the core of Street Fighter‘s gameplay, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who’d say that either isn’t a “real Street Fighter.” Even someone like me who much prefers Street Fighter Alpha 2 over its sequel still doesn’t discount Alpha 3‘s place in the series’ competitive canon.
Then there’s the matter of non-Street Fighter games that play closer to the core of the series’ gameplay than the above examples. Games such as Karnov’s Revenge, Rising Thunder, or Sailor Moon S. Most people wouldn’t seriously call these “real Street Fighter” games.
The point I’m trying to make here: with so many games as part of the series’ history, Street Fighter has at multiple times experimented with moving away from the core gameplay established in Street Fighter II. Not only that, these games have done well enough to cement their places within the series’ competitive canon. In fact, many cite Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike as their favorite title in the series. As such, it’s pointless to try to judge games in the series on whether or not they count as “real Street Fighter” games.
At the end of the day, all these arguments about games being “real Street Fighter” only serve to fracture and divide the community. A community that got together because of our love for Street Fighter in all the various forms it’s taken throughout the years. Why not celebrate the differences instead?