Covering the cultural phenomenon known as Street Fighter II, Here Comes A New Challenger is a documentary directed by Oliver Harper of “In Search of the Last Action Heroes” fame. I had the privilege of watching it to see how well it captures and informs one of the periods that lives vividly in my mind and still impacts me even today.
Here Comes A New Challenger starts with the origins of competitive arcade play. Illustrating that arcade games were originally more about competitive hi-score chasing before titles like IK+, Yie Ar Kung Fu and Karate Champ started to take off, this beautifully segues into the beginnings of the Street Fighter series.
This section did a fantastic job of dispelling the “meme” that SF1 is a bad title with little value. Instead, it shows off that it was quite an original concept at the time. Beyond that, it shows the roots of Capcom going back and making changes with a section about the infamous Pneumatic control scheme getting replaced by the “confusing” 6-button system that is now associated with the genre.
The documentary also tackles the subject of Final Fight initially being called Street Fighter ’89, the impact Double Dragon had on the series, changes to the team, influences on the series, and even how a shortage of parts delayed Street Fighter II affected the release. It’s incredibly informative.
Alchemizing Games To Make Magic
Of course, the main topic here is Street Fighter II itself. It starts with the original arcade release and goes all the way to the 15th Anniversary release of Hyper Street Fighter II. It even goes as far as to touch upon the console ports and infamous home computer ports put out by U.S Gold. This is all beautifully complimented by concept art, design documents, and footage of the game being played, often well used to accompany points such as the accidental discovery of combos.
As someone who’s played Street Fighter II since the SNES release, a lot of what was being shown was common knowledge to me. That said, it was still done in an entertaining and informative manner. What did take me by surprise were the details about the arcade business and how Capcom’s American branch influenced the Japanese branch. This was vividly described by James Goddard (co-lead designer SF2 Turbo), Yoshiki Okamoto (Producer SFII), and Jeff Walker (Head of Sales and Marketing at Capcom). They go into great detail about how feedback from the arcade was getting to James who ran the “tips hotline”, who would then pitch ideas to Jeff Walker, who then describes how they would go about getting Capcom Japan on board.
Cash Rules Everything Around Me
The sections where the documentary covers how the game performed in the arcades were the most fascinating part to me. I love arcade culture and the way it’s described you can see just how much of an impact Street Fighter II and its subsequent versions had on the arcade scene. From its launch to having a knee-jerk reaction to a bootleg version doing the rounds called “Rainbow Edition”, I got so much out of these sections and the passion that James and Jeff have for Street Fighter II just oozes out of the screen. It really makes you want to grab some coins and travel back 30 years!
The back and forth between Capcom USA and Capcom Japan powers this documentary as it shows this mutual dynamic where ideas from each team would inspire and create more of the Street Fighter II phenomenon. This goes as far as influencing strategy guides and merchandise ideas to the cultural clash that is Street Fighter: The Movie vs Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie.
There is a fantastic section talking about the SNES and Mega Drive versions of the games including the advertising campaign involving the late Rik Mayall and showing the comparisons between the versions which were always a hot topic in the schoolyard. There’s even a brief section about the ill-fated action game Captain Commando, which is a personal favorite. Topping this section off, there’s a great segment from Mick McGinty, the artist behind the artwork for many 80s films such as Jaws and Rambo, as well as video games such as Streets of Rage 2, Kid Chameleon, and of course that infamous Street Fighter II SNES Box Art.
These games don’t exist in a vacuum, so it’s certainly interesting to hear how they affected each other. Super Street Fighter II is one such example used, with discussion around the competition of Mortal Kombat and SNK. This is something I remember quite vividly from my childhood. One of my only gripes with this documentary is that I wish more time was spent showing this power struggle to be the top dog of the fighting game world. What I did appreciate though was the honesty about how interest in Street Fighter was lessening. The many editions and lack of ports were causing apathy toward the Street Fighter product by this point.
“Guess You Didn’t SEE That Coming”
Tying the whole Street Fighter II craze up is a section about Street Fighter The Movie which details the struggles and issues that ran wild through the now cult classic cheese-fest. Steven. E Desouza and Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez talk about the trials and tribulations that the film went through and other speakers such as James Walker, Damien Mcferran (Nintendo Life), and John Linneman (Digital Foundry) are on hand to walk you through the confusing but financially successful title jokingly dubbed “The first live-action G.I Joe”.
Thank You For Playing
Closing out the documentary is a short section about Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. Comments from the voice actor of Ryu (Skip Stellrecht) help to show the impact that 3D fighters like Tekken and Virtua Fighter were having on Capcom’s 2D outings such as Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter III, and Darkstalkers. While not the most detailed section of the documentary, it was still a fantastic finale to show just how the Street Fighter II bubble burst and that arcade culture was once again dying out.
My only other main criticism of Here Comes A New Challenger is despite a good section on how the game performed in the arcades and the cultural differences, there wasn’t much discussion regarding any tournament scenes around the game. There is a small part where Ryan Hart (Pro Fighting Game Player) talks about this, but overall this seemed like a strange omission when compared to the details given in, for example, the merchandise which taught me something I never knew about the G.I Joe/Street Fighter toy line.
Here Comes A New Challenger is 2 hours and 20 minutes of the late 80s/early 90s culture, presented by an enthusiastic, passionate, and informative cast. These range from developers to toy enthusiasts who have all experienced or worked with Street Fighter II during the period it consumed the planet. I learned, I laughed, and I reminisced. It is never full of fighting game jargon and is presented most entertainingly with a mixture of original synth-wave music and video game music and footage to accompany it. Heck, we even get segments from the movie and cartoon series which are better left forgotten.
As a fan of fighting games and someone who lived through the Street Fighter II phenomenon, I couldn’t recommend this more if I tried. If you want to see just what a cultural impact Street Fighter had not only on fighting games and arcade culture but for the medium and beyond as a whole, this is an essential watch. Even if you don’t learn anything new from it, it will ignite that fighting flame in your soul and have you hankering to pick up your SNES pad and go first to five on Street Fighter II: Turbo with your friends once again. With the imminent release of Street Fighter 6, what better way to get that hype flowing?
HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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Pride of utopia & greatest thing ever, I found the One Piece, Collected the Dragon Balls & won the Mortal Kombat Tournament in one night, it was quiet for me that night! Follow me on Twitter @powahdunk