There was a time, back in the early 1990s, when fighting games ruled the arcade scene across America, Japan, and around the world. And if you had to go back in time to the starting point of the fighting craze, you'd stop at the sublimely balanced Street Fighter II, a game ahead of its time; one for which even the term "seminal" is an understatement. Fighting games may not be at the forefront of gaming the way they were in those halcyon years, but if any game is going to rejuvenate interest in this flagging genre, it's Street Fighter IV.
If the name alone didn't already whet your nostalgic whistle, consider this: Capcom has announced that the entire lineup of fighters from Street Fighter II--including Chun Li, Zangief, E. Honda, Blanka, and Guile--will appear in Street Fighter IV. To find out more, we went straight to the game's producer, Yoshinori Ono, and Capcom's director of communications, Chris Kramer.
GameSpot: The character designs here seem to be very faithful to the originals in Street Fighter II. Considering the many different looks of all these characters, why did you decide to go back to SFII?
Yoshinori Ono: The character designs for this title aren't based on SFII as much as they are intended to represent the next step in the evolution of the Street Fighter series in general. However, I can say that I personally look at this game as being closely tied with SFII, and you may see some influence in the art design from that title as a result.
Note that the art director, Ikeno, was also involved in SFIII, so the influences come from many sources. His intent is to represent the natural visual evolution of the series as a whole.
GameSpot: Shadaloo's been mentioned a few times in relation to the game. Can we assume Bison, et al will also be making a return?
Chris Kramer: We can't comment upon any character possibilities right now other than the ones previously announced (Ryu, Ken, Chun Li, Crimson Viper) and the new characters we are talking about today. Additionally, we're still keeping elements of the story a mystery. We want to pique players' interest and keep them thinking about Street Fighter IV for some time. More of the story will be revealed in various forms in the months ahead of us.
GS: Why stick with 2D?
YO: I consider one of the core elements of Street Fighter game design to be playing within a 2D plane.
Working only in two dimensions, players are free to read their opponents' moves and engage in compelling tug-of-war-style fights. This is at the core of what makes Street Fighter fun. There was no hesitation on my part when moving forward with this project. I knew from the start that we must stick to the 2D gameplay formula.
GS: What new moves can we expect from each of the eight original characters?
CK: Street Fighter IV is building upon the foundation of everything that made Street Fighter II a phenomenon. You can expect to see new gameplay elements applied to the returning characters, including moves that come from the new game systems being added.
GS: You've unveiled focus attacks for both defense and offense. How will players be able to implement these in gameplay?
YO: I can't go into too much detail here just yet, but I can tell you that it is a system designed to add a little spice to combos and the idea of reading your opponents' moves. We're currently making adjustments to the system so that it can be used in this fashion.
One of my goals for this project is to create a game that a wide audience can enjoy. That is why focus attacks are implemented with a rather simple and intuitive command. You need only to press the middle kick and middle punch button simultaneously to initiate the move.
In this way, light users who may not be familiar with the intricacies of fighting games have a new weapon in their arsenal that they can utilize with relative ease. At the same time, high-level players will find new and interesting uses for this new move, working it into their combos and strategies to bring out the depth and breadth of the system.
GS: Are focus attacks tied into the previously unveiled revenge gauge? How do the two systems work and interact?
CK: The gameplay system designs are still being finalized; the way that focus attacks and the revenge gauge function in final form will be shaped by feedback from the AOU show, location tests, and internal play sessions. Feedback from the player community (with experts both inside and out of Capcom) will be crucial for fine tuning these newer systems.
GS: How many new characters are you planning to introduce?
CK: At AOU, we will be revealing the return of the original Street Fighter II roster. Needless to say, there will be more brawlers added and revealed in time.
GS: What can you tell us about Crimson Viper? How does she fight? How will she fit into the SF story?
YO: As of right now, all we've revealed is Viper's existence.
If you are after information as to her connection to other characters, I'm afraid I'll have to make you wait a bit longer. I can share this much about her fighting style, though: Her strength comes not from a complete mastery of martial arts like so many other characters, but rather from her use of technology. She utilizes a system of high-tech devices.
This series has always involved what I call "tricky" characters (like those who stretch their limbs or emit electricity), but Viper is unique even when compared to the characters we have already seen. She really represents an entirely new and unique fighting method that encompasses everything from electricity to fire. I hope you look forward to giving her a test drive!
GS: When is the game's story set in Street Fighter chronology?
YO: Well, the [sequel] number has indeed ticked up one unit, but the story and time period is actually not after SFIII. This game actually takes place after SFII. Is it before SFIII? Does it represent some parallel timeline? I guess you'll have to wait and see...
As for why we chose to not place the game after SFIII, ask me again at a later interview...
GS: We'll try to wait until then. Thanks for your time.