Though it has hit arcades in Asia and elsewhere to plenty of acclaim, there was a time when the idea of Street Fighter IV seemed an incredibly dicey proposition.
Capcom had long neglected the series, which had its last arcade installment (Street Fighter III: Third Strike) in 1999. In characteristic Capcom fashion, spinoffs and remakes followed, but the true and pure Street Fighter series was all but dormant.
Street Fighter III, in all of its forms, is an excellent game. It is also an incredibly difficult game to truly understand and play well, and in this sense it presaged the dormancy of the fighting game genre. Capcom's last original, internally-developed game in the fighting genre, 2004's Capcom Fighting Evolution, was weak and piecemeal.
Ironically, the man responsible for that game -- general manager of the online game development department and R&D management group of Capcom -- is also one who was deeply involved with Street Fighter III.
But he is also the producer of Street Fighter IV, a game which will likely bring the series as close to its early-'90s heyday as it can realistically get, and is due to hit Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC following its arcade run.
Here, Ono discusses the mental shift required to go from one of the most complicated and difficult games in the series to one which is welcoming and appealing to the legions of fans who potentially have not touched a Street Fighter game in 15 years.
In addition, he examines how bringing complicated play mechanics into an accessible game makes it a more compelling experience for all audiences, and how revamping the game based on user feedback is essential to developing its look and feel.
Why do you think that Street Fighter III was so ahead of its time? It feels like it's starting to really get appreciated in the last two or three years.
YO: Definitely at the time we didn't think it was ahead of its time. I think at the time, it was the right game to come out, from our perspective. The way that fighting games were at the time, their popularity, and the need for something more technical and complex... we felt that it suited the air at the time.
The reason it seems to be ahead of its time and the reason why it's gaining more popularity now is probably because it's taken people that long to get really good at it, and they appreciate the depth that the game has to offer.
I think that the reason I would consider it ahead of its time is that it seems when it was released, there was only a very small group of people that could actually play it effectively, because it was more technical and hardcore, so it appeals to the top of the proverbial pyramid.
Capcom's Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
I've played a little Street Fighter IV, and it's hard for me to compare it to another game, actually. I would almost say that the closest might be Real Bout Fatal Fury 2, because you can do the fake out moves, and it goes a bit 2.5D at times. Is there a game that you would compare it to? It doesn't play like Street Fighter II or III. It plays like its own kind of thing.
YO: I think the closest game I can compare it to, would be Super Street Fighter II Turbo. That being said, it is a slower game. It's been tuned to play more slowly. But it's probably the closest to that...I think the essence is closest to that.
I think there is definitely an influence from pretty much every fighting game that came out in the '90s, and all of the SNK games, the Virtua Fighter series, and all that. There was a time when everyone was making fighting games, Capcom, SNK, Sega...
Basically what you're seeing is a result of the influence of the best parts of those games from back then, so it's not your imagination if it feels a bit like Fatal Fury here and there, or even some other game. We were very strongly influenced by the history of the fighting game heyday.