The Making Of Street Fighter II (or, Writing is Rewriting)
by Chris Kohler
Special to Insert Credit


Hello again.

Those of you who read my website know that I recently had a fun day at Book-Off. The Book-Off store in Sanjo station in Kyoto, besides having a silly name, is one of the worst places to shop for used video games in the city. This is not to say that they do not have a selection of them. Indeed they do have literally piles of used games for many different obscure systems. But they insist on pricing them all about two hundred percent higher than they should be.

At any rate, Book-Off is an excellent place to shop for books, because they don’t price those nearly as high as they should. Cast-off books in Japan still have that connotation of dirty, whereas used video games are becoming less and less so now that the economy is taking a crap. But I digress – I came out of Book-Off with a great haul of cheap used books on video games, and one of them was Street Fighter II Complete File, released at the end of 1992 by Capcom.

I didn’t really know what to expect, since the book was cellophaned shut. Opening it at home, I found that the bulk of the book was full-color plates of the same SFII production art that has appeared in all eight hundred million Street Fighter II art books out there. But the last few pages, a black and white section, turned out to be the most fascinating, especially since I had never seen anything like it before. It was filled with early sketches of SFII designs and characters that were completely different from the final game. And through the magic of digital image scanning technology coupled with the World Wide Internet, now you can share this joy with me.

Page 1: These were the very first rough sketches of what would become Street Fighter II, done in the fall of 1988. The idea was that the event would be held on a deserted island converted for that purpose. The island image would scroll on-screen to show the next destination, culminating at the top of the island. The character order would be fixed as each character’s stage went along in turn. The eight character designs (below) would all have been playable:

1 – Sakurada Gashou – karate
2 – Can’t read the name (chi-something) – Chinese martial arts
4 – Dick Jumpsey – boxer
5 – Tahelmaya (?) – pro wrestler
6 – Shiruke Mera – Martial arts
7 – Great Tiger – Indian
8 – Anabebe – Beastman

Note the similarities – rather than go with a Ryu-ish karate master they kept Ryu; Chi-whateverhernameis is Chun Li, Anabebe is a prototype Blanka, and of course the turbaned Dhalsim called Great Tiger (who was supposed to be able to double-jump in midair).

Page 2: So they basically ditched that and made Final Fight in 1989. It was originally called Street Fighter ’89, in fact, but anyway it was such a big hit that they decided that they really did need to do a sequel to Street Fighter. So they sketched out two of the stages from the original design – there’s the street (stage 1) and the cave (stage 5). Then there’s a hilarious look at some rejected character designs – there’s a ripoff of the guy from Fist of the North Star, a generic policeman, a ripoff of Tiger Mask, an S&M-looking ‘bullfighter’, Gen with no clothes and a stick, NINJA, another generic fighter, and of course a Ugandan mystic.

Phew! Who stepped in that?

Page 3: A few rejected character designs, and finally the first roughing-out of what would be our eight playable characters. Note that some names are not in place yet: Honda is called simply “Sumo”, Chun Li is “China-Daughter”, Dhalsim is still “Indian”, Blanka is “Beast-man,” and Zangief is…

“Vodka Gobalsky.”

Man, I wish they’d kept that. Wouldn’t have fit on screen though.

Lots of other things to be learned here. First off, the text below Guile says that he is a “normal” (or average-stat) character put in for Americans to use. I don’t know whether that’s racist or genius or both, but it obviously worked exactly as they intended it to. I still wish they hadn’t, of course, because it led to Guile being the hero of the fucking movie.

Also, it is noted that Honda will be recognized by Americans as well as have strong appeal in Japan. Boy, they were really pulling for American response on this one, weren’t they?

Page 4: Here, finally, are some embarrassing baby photos of the characters we know and love. A very rough sketch of a very hairy Blanka – who at this point was called Hamablanka, for some reason. Then there’s Kenryu in the middle. And then there’s Vodka, looking very not-Russian with a one-strap top and an anchor tattoo. Apparently a pro wrestler at this point.

Bottom row there’s the later version of Chun Li, the first, waifish version of “China-Daughter”, and finally the single worst idea for Dhalsim ever. I hope they fired whoever drew that.

Page 5: I’d seen this Knights-Templar version of Vega before, in some other book or maybe a back issue of EGM. But check out Kane on the right. That’s nuts. He’s not going to be climbing fences and yodeling, that’s for sure.

Finally, to round everything out, here are some detailed sketches of Zangief’s and Ken’s stages – more detailed, in fact, than the final versions if my memory serves me. Pretty neat, huh?

The moral of the story is, of course, don’t judge a book by its cover don’t use the first draft of anything always have a character for Americans to use because, you know, Americans are so racist, as compared to you guys with your elephant-head Indians and Russian guys named “Vodka.” Holy crap…

Chris Kohler has recognition in Japan and appeals strongly to American audiences