Animated kung-fu video game tie-in
Trivia In the Japanese version Bison is Vega, Vega is Balrog and Balrog is Bison. His full name is M. Bison because he's based shamelessly on Mike Tyson, but they couldn't get away with that outside Japan.
There are around twenty different versions of the original Street Fighter arcade game, and they're all great.
The live action version is absolute rubbish, even if Kylie Minogue is in it.
You can unlock the Ryu and Ken vs Bison mode in Street Fighter Alpha.
The B-side to the Arctic Monkey's debut single, I bet you look good on the dance floor, was titled Chun-Li's Spinning Bird Kick and opened with the line "Show us your special move..."
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Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (1994)
3rd Mar 07
An international terrorist organisation is trying to take over the world by compiling data on the best fighters in the world. They don't like it.
Back in 1991 the Street Fighter II coin-op arcade game was something of a revelation. For a starters, it was the first that required six buttons (that's three punches and three kicks) and it was the first to introduce us to the fighting game special move, whereby a combination of clever joystick twists and button presses produced an extra special flashy attack. It also brought in the combo concept, combo being short for 'combination', which basically describes a certain combination of punches or kicks, culminating with a special move which, if all button presses were timed correctly, was impossible to block. Blocking it seemed was the key to Street Fighter II as you took no damage from a block and could block all attacks, and games soon turned in to a tight cat and mouse affair of attack and counter-attack, with skilled players taking advantage of their opponents mistimed combos and fumbled special moves to provide that all important victory.
The allure of Street Fighter II also owes heavy debt to the different characters it introduced, each with their own look, characteristic fighting style, their own special moves, their unique animations and, most importantly for this article, their own convoluted back story that you couldn't help but digest as it continuously scrolled up the screen between matches, or while no one was playing and you were waiting for a new challenger, depending of course on what your arcade's house rules were. Some arcades operated a strict 'winner stays on policy', some no policy, but others - especially where I learnt to play - raised the ante even more, making challengers not only pay for the match but throw extra coins into the pot if they lost. This of course raised the stakes considerably, and it wasn't uncommon for players to gather around machines observing potential rivals, noting who could pull off Bison's 'scissor kick to throw', or Ryu's 'jumping two-in-one to Dragon punch', and more importantly who couldn't.
But while we were holed up in some smokey arcade, the marketing wing of Capcom, the Japanese software power house behind the Street Fighter franchise, was in full swing. Toys, card games, lunch boxes, Street Fighter was hardly Pokemon-like in it's aggressive sales strategy, but within three years of its debut it did have three movie projects on the go; a little known Japanese live-action comedy, the disastrous Western Van Damme vehicle (which was also sadly Raul Julia's last movie) and this feature Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. And I'm very pleased to say that out of the three individual efforts its this one that sticks closest to the canon of the original arcade game, and as such has the biggest cult following.
The plot is a very simple one. An International terrorist organisation known as Shadowlaw is headed up by the very evil Bison and his three henchmen; Vega the vain Spanish matador, Balrog the American prize fighter and Sagat the towering Muay Thai champion (note that these four bosses make up the bosses in the game too, who themselves became playable characters from Street Fighter II Champion Edition onwards). Bison's typical world conquest plan involves collecting data on the best fighters in the world and to do that he's created an army of watcher androids that travel around the world recording the best street fights, beaming the info via satelitte back to Shadowlaw HQ. The better the fights the better the data, so Bison's androids hunt continuously for the best of the world's warriors, with the ultimate prize being data on the mysterious Ryu, a wandering world warrior who previously beat Sagat in an epic fight which he won by busting out the mother of all Dragon Punches, scarring Sagat’s chest permanently (and this whole episode is shown to us as a pre-credits introduction to the film).
But with Ryu wandering all over the world, Bison is finding it very hard to track him down, until he discovers that famous American fighter Ken Masters trained with Ryu as a child and, as such, they have almost identical fighting techniques. Sure enough Bison sends his henchmen to track down and bring back Ken for Bison to use his psychic powers on to brainwash, but he’s not the only one who’s after Ken. Chun-Li, the famous teenage female Interpol agent, and Guile, a famous USAF pilot who also has exceptional fighting skills, are both on the trail of Bison and consequently, when they find out about this Ken fella, they both get on the trail too.
So, who will get to Ken first? And will Ken lead whoever gets to him first to Ryu? Will Ken and Ryu put their old rivalries aside to deal with this new and very powerful foe? Will Sagat get revenge on Ryu for the scar across his chest? Well, you’ll just have to watch the film to see.
Of course, the plot I’ve just described to you is in fact just one big excuse to have fight after fight but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, not especially if you’re making an anime based on what was at the time the world’s most popular arcade game. Opening with the Ryu versus Sagat encounter that I mentioned earlier, there’s usually barely time to catch you breath before the next fight starts, and I’m very glad to report that every character from the fighting game makes an appearance (even the four new challengers from Super Street Fighter II get a look in) with every fighter getting a fight of one sort or another and the lead characters, like Ryu, Ken and Bison, getting several. And this is where Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie really comes alive. It has to be said that in terms of ground-breaking animation Street Fighter has nothing on the anime greats like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed, Patlabor, etc, in fact a lot of the time the picture quality is rarely better than the Saturday morning cartoons we were bought up with as kids. But when a fight kicks off, things really pick up. For a cartoon, the level of detail in terms of fight choreography is really impressive, as characters brawl with very tight, flowing, action editing, and it looks like a lot of effort has been put into making the physical dynamics of each fighter seem very realistic, with fighters’ weight distribution and balance a priority. And you’ll be glad to hear that every fighter pulls of at least one of their special movies without it seeming forced and inappropriate, which is a pretty neat touch for fans.
Of course, there are the stand out encounters. Ryu versus Fei Long is a great fight early on, but that’s not surprising because Fei Long is one of the new challengers and is based unashamedly on Bruce Lee, so it’d be criminal not to give him his moment. Another winner is Honda versus Dhalsim, which is hilarious just for the number of times Dhalsim shouts ‘yoga!’ before busting into one of his trademark teleport moves. And keep your eyes open for Zangief versus Blanka which is a crackerjack mid-movie crowd pleaser. Zangief the brutish Russian wrestler was a very hard character to play as in the original game with difficult to pull off specials, but not so here. Watch him take Blanka sailing with an amazing sky high spinning pile driver. You can’t help but smile.
There’s a stunning fight between Ken and Bison on the wing of a jet plane, and the climatic battle between Ryu, Ken and Bison is pretty fantastic, but fans everywhere will rate the Chun-Li versus Vega clash two-thirds of the way through the film as the best of the movie I’m sure, and for several reasons. It comes when Bison hears of Chun-Li’s search for Ken and he dispatches Vega to kill her, so Vega dutifully heads to Chun-Li’s apartment for a high speed showdown (these two were the fastest characters in the original game, so the match-up was always a lot of fun to play). But, as luck would have it, Chun-Li’s actually having a shower when Vega turns up, setting up perhaps the most surprising and controversial scene in the whole film. Yes, Chun-Li, the nubile teenage fighting prodigy Interpol agent, is having a shower while Vega creeps into her apartment, and the animators seem to take great pride in lingering the camera on Chun-Li’s naked soapy breasts and buttocks for what is a quite disturbing amount of time. Uncut and uncensored this movie is for sure, but that’s not exactly what I was expecting! Anyway, Chun-Li puts on some bra and panties and her and Vega fight in what turns out to be a spectacularly well choreographed encounter, with both characters fighting in the confines of her small apartment, smashing furniture and bouncing off walls while still managing to sneak the occasional brilliantly timed special move in too, although the slightly gratuitous close-up camera angles are a little bit cheeky when Chun-Li pulls off her upside down spinning bird kick – she is only wearing a bra and panties remember!
But still, this is a collector’s edition and is marketed at fan boys rather than pre-teen adolescents like it was on its first release in 1994, so maybe we shouldn’t be so harsh. For a piece of anime that was obviously rushed out to take advantage of the early 90s Street Fighter bandwagon it’s aged pretty well, particularly in terms of the fighting action, and even if it’s going to appeal to fans of the games a hell of a lot more than those that have never partaken, it’s still a lot of fun. I for one have gone out and bought Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max for my PSP and am loving the game all over again on my tube journey to work every day, so who says nostalgia is a bad thing? Not me, I plan to be busting out dragon punches until the day I die. Hadoken!!!
And just to spoil you all, here's a few clips from the film for your viewing pleasure.
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