25 years ago, Capcom released a trilogy of prequels to Street Fighter II that expanded its world and brought us some of its most memorable characters.
The Street Fighter Alpha Story
On June 5, 1995, Street Fighter Alpha: Warrior’s Dreams was released to arcades. Rather than tell the third chapter in the series, the game was more of a Street Fighter 1.5, not only bridging the gap between the two existing games, but also expanding on the Street Fighter world and even tying it into another classic arcade series.
In terms of gameplay, the changes were mostly minor. As Super Street Fighter II: Turbo added super meters, Street Fighter Alpha split it into three bars. It also added air-blocking, chain combos, and the ability to worm your way out of a throw and not endure the full damage. The bigger change was the look, which had a lighter, more colorful take on the designs.
The game featured eight matches in single player with ten readily available characters and three unlockable bosses. Not an impressive roster (especially since four characters are head-swaps of the same basic sprite set), but then again, it was what it was for a first attempt at an engine.
The narrative also felt extremely different despite being so simple. Rather than be based on a tournament happening, the basic story was that these various characters were just wandering around, meeting each other, and getting into fights. Even M. Bison wasn’t completely defined as the final boss. Certain characters went after different final targets, such as Ken facing Ryu or Adon facing Sagat.
All in all, the cast revolved around three main things:
Following up on Ryu’s defeat over Sagat.
Ryu and Ken are continuing their rivalry as always, though Ryu dons a white headband instead of his iconic red one. As Ryu’s legend is starting to rise, Sagat’s dealing with his loss of face by obsessing over a rematch, while his former student Adon (penultimate boss from Street Fighter) feels disgust towards Sagat and wants to take his spot as the world’s greatest Muay Thai practitioner.
Speaking of Sagat losing face, we also meet Dan Hibiki. As SNK’s Art of Fighting gave us Ryu and Ken knockoffs Ryo and Robert, Capcom decided to poke some fun by putting Robert’s head on Ryo’s body, making his karate gi pink, and depicting him as a laughably shitty version of Ryu. Dan is the self-serious jobber of Street Fighter lore who wants to avenge his father’s death at the hands of Sagat. Dan’s father is the reason why Sagat lacks depth perception, you see.
The rise of M. Bison
The game borrows a lot from Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, but the biggest inclusion is Bison’s design from that anime. Here, he’s a big, smiling, floating block of muscle with a love of teleportation. The game’s story uses the fact that he’s Street Fighter II’s boss as an excuse to give him crazy plot armor.
Chun-Li – wearing a skin-tight uniform instead of her classic dress – wants to bring him to justice. As does Charlie Nash, a man namedropped in Guile’s Street Fighter II ending as the man Guile is trying to avenge. In other words, Charlie is outright doomed. Rose is a mysterious fortune teller who seems to understand exactly what Bison actually is and wants to snuff him out before it’s too late. The vigilante ninja Guy is drawn to Bison so he can put an end to his evil.
Outside of Sagat, the only guy on Bison’s side is Birdie, another return from Street Fighter, albeit with a massive design overhaul. They even turn him black and have him explain himself as being sick and pale during the first game.
Not counting MAYBE Akuma’s ending, Bison can’t be stopped. Various endings show him surviving one way or another. He springs to life and hospitalizes Chun-Li. He gets to his feet and ambushes Charlie. Rose gives her all to stop him, but still hears a heartbeat. Guy leaves him for dead and Bison swears revenge. Even Dan and Adon’s endings involve them pissing off Bison and the insinuation was that he’ll probably kill them down the line.
After all, neither of them are in Street Fighter II. At the time, their fates were extremely open-ended.
Final Fight is part of Street Fighter canon.
Street Fighter Alpha brings in Guy, one of the heroes from the side-scrolling beat ’em up Final Fight. Joining him is Sodom, the second boss from said game. Not only does this connect the two series, but it also means that Saturday Night Slam Masters (which features Final Fight‘s Mike Haggar) is part of Street Fighter lore. It’s even canon that Birdie used to be in a tag team with Titanic Tim back in the day.
Street Fighter Alpha: Warrior’s Dreams lacked the big cultural footprint of Street Fighter II and its iterations. In the US, the only thing the game got shortly after release was a handful of cameos in the Street Fighter animated series. The first season had an episode where the heroes entered a fighting tournament (crazy, right?) and Birdie, Adon, Rose, Guy, and Sodom made appearances. You probably know the episode better for giving us M. Bison screaming, “YES!! YES!!”
More on that cartoon later.
The Street Fighter Alpha Manga
Masahiko Nakahira created a Street Fighter Alpha manga. It features a lot of interesting takes on its characters. Guy is considered a vigilante force of nature who can’t be stopped. Adon obsesses with fighting Ryu to the point that he goes on a killing spree, only to later break down from his loss of honor. Birdie and Ryu become good friends and Birdie tries to bring Ryu into his life of crime as a way to give him direction.
The main idea from the manga that sticks is the introduction of the Satsui no Hado, the Surge of Killing Intent. It’s explained that Ryu didn’t beat Sagat due to superior skill, but because he briefly became overcome with his mindless dark side and instinctively sucker-dragon-punched Sagat into oblivion. Ryu would spend the book struggling with his alter-ego and thus, the concept of Evil Ryu was created.
Street Fighter Alpha 2
On February 27, 1996, Capcom released Street Fighter Alpha 2. The game walked the line between being a sequel and an upgrade. It had the same cast, plus five more. The endings were different, albeit with a lot of the same basic events happening. The biggest change to the engine was the addition of the Custom Combo system. Otherwise, the most notable change was the new art and backgrounds.
With the added characters, they went with the same thought process as the first game. Zangief and Dhalsim were returning (preturning?) characters from Street Fighter II. Rolento from Final Fight joined the fray. Gen from the first Street Fighter got a redesign. This left one brand new character in Sakura Kasugano, a spirited schoolgirl who once saw Ryu fight and became obsessed with learning under him.
Bison remained an unstoppable rising force, but the game’s story started to put more of a light on Akuma. Ryu and Gen were both bent on finding and fighting Akuma and Adon’s ending had him pivot from wanting to best Sagat to wanting to best the bigger fish Akuma. This in turn emphasized Ryu’s Satsui no Hado self, since it’s the same force that powers Akuma. The threat in the air was that Ryu was possibly going to succumb to his inner demons and become the next Akuma, whether he wanted to or not.
Street Fighter Alpha 2 was an extremely polished upgrade and one of the most solid releases in the Street Fighter series. It would be two more years before a direct follow-up, but there were some notable releases tying into it in-between.
The Crossovers and Upgrades
First off, at the end of 1996, Capcom released the tag-team fighting game X-Men vs. Street Fighter. Obviously, the former was represented with sprites and assets from Capcom’s X-Men: Children of the Atom. With Street Fighter, they used assets from the Street Fighter Alpha games, which visually matched up perfectly with the superhero counterparts. Meanwhile, the game included Cammy, who was redrawn in the Alpha style despite not having been in any of those games yet.
Cammy’s deal in Super Street Fighter II was that she was an amnesiac with a mysterious past and whatever that past entailed, it was linked to M. Bison and his Shadaloo organization. X-Men vs. Street Fighter made sure to give her an outfit and personality that reflected that. This version of Cammy was added to the console upgrade Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold.
The Animated Series
By this point, the existence of the Alpha series had a noticeable effect on the Street Fighter animated series. The cartoon was meant to be a quasi-sequel to the live-action movie and due to various reasons, the emphasis was on Guile, Chun-Li, and Blanka. Guile and Blanka, you may have noticed, hadn’t made any appearances in the Alpha games. While the showrunners considered them big deals, Capcom was leaving them in the dust. The show treated Ryu and Ken as secondary characters, even giving them the Gilligan’s Island “and the rest” treatment in the opening.
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