Street Fighter II

Developer: Capcom
U.S. Manufacturer: Nintendo
U.S. Release: September 1995
Format: Cartridge

Based on: Trying to run an aging, fuel-hungry behemoth on a teaspoon of fuel.

Games | Game Boy | Street Fighter II

Article by Johnny Driggs | July 20, 2009

Street Fighter II is the Bizarro Tetris. The latter was a seminal title in gaming history that got its big break on the Game Boy and was subsequently ported to every piece of consumer electronics under the sun, most of which were overqualified to match the simple addictiveness of the the monochrome "original." The former was a seminal title in gaming history that got its big break in the arcade and was subsequently ported to every piece of consumer electronics under the sun, each more inept at delivering an experience on par with the arcade than the last. Tetris convinced everyone that "puzzle game" really meant "games where things fall into a well" while Street Fighter II codified the fighting genre so rigidly that the world's arcades were immediately flooded with copycats by developers who wanted to create the next big hit but were terrified to change Capcom's winning formula. Tetris was the subject of a tenacious, drawn-out legal battle to determine its publishing rights. SFII was the target of some of the most blatant and infamous instances copyright infringement in the electronic entertainment industry. You can still find Rainbow Editions tucked behind motels across America. Plus, both games featured the USSR to varying degrees.

So while Tetris on the Game Boy was a crowing moment for the series, Nintendo, the Game Boy brand, and handhold gaming in general, Street Fighter II on the Game Boy was another part of Capcom's quest to prove that you could in fact get enough Street Fighter.

It's not even as though the game is a complete abortion. Compared to some ports, it's a faithful installment. The characters have all their special moves, the controls are somewhat responsive, the character sprites are good by Game Boy standards, and the music competently mimics the original tracks. It's sort of charming in that retro, chiptunes sort of way.

But there's still no reason to have a Game Boy version of Street Fighter II. Six buttons have been hacked down to two. Vega, E. Honda, and Dhalsim have been culled from the character roster. The physics, jumping especially, are lacking. And then there's multiplayer—you know, the reason most people play fighting games. In order to play against a human opponent, you'll need a link cable, two Game Boys, and someone else who made the dubious decision to buy Street Fighter II. Of course, you could say that about any Game Boy game, and it didn't stop Pokémon from being wildly successful or Faceball 2000 from being a novel experience.

But that's just the thing: each of those games used the Game Boy platform to do something unique. Street Fighter II is emblematic of the attitude most publishers had towards the Game Boy. Just stick any ol' crap on a cartridge and expect brand recognition and the system's giant userbase do the rest. Rather than build something from the ground up that suited the hardware, Capcom tried to squash something that didn't fit into the handheld format. SNK, by comparison, developed several fighting games uniquely tailored to their portable system. They even used the Neo Geo Pocket as the platform to debut the initial entry in their blockbuster series that featured Capcom's characters. Imagine that: a pre-GBA handheld game that was tailored to the system's strengths and used as the vanguard entry in a tentpole franchise.

SNK was, of course, rewarded with financial insolvency before being taken over by a pachinko manufacturer. Hey, nobody said what SNK did was smart.

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