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Saving Street Fighter: Yoshi Ono on Building Street Fighter IV
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Saving Street Fighter: Yoshi Ono on Building Street Fighter IV

September 26, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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.

Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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Maurício Gomes
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Good article!

It remembers me that when appeared Street Fighter II and MK I tought it to be great, and I played those games, I knew how to do the most simple (but exploitable moves), but when expert players started to show up, I got: Oh man, I have no idea how to play this thing, I will not play anymore.

And in fact I stopped playing those games, with the notable exception of Virtua Fighter series (simple and lovely gameplay!) and Soul Calibur 3 (that people that live with me has, and I play sometimes, it is a good game, simple and not overly complex, altough I avoid playing it when expert players are around...)

Even the MK series got harder and harder to play, in fact I could not ever beat the second character on easy mode on MK2 unless using spammer characters...

The Shaolin Monks MK game, altough it does not look like MK, it was one of the few games from the series that got my attention again.

I hope that it works with Street Fighter IV! A game where I can play, and not get easily beaten by the pros :P (not that I do not get beaten, but do not happen like when I tried to play Guilty Gear with a friend of mine, and he launched me on air and I only landed after being dead...)

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He seems like a smart guy and I expect Street Fighter 4 to be the way he wants it to be gameplay-wise. But I strongly disagree with his comment on the animations of Street Fighter 3 feeling weird and the animations of 4 being better.

I think Street Fighter 4 has a big problem when it comes to animations and it's not only the way the transitions are done. Animations don't match with flying arcs especially when hit. And even pre-packaged ones like Abel's big throw look extremely stiff and wrong.

I will still buy the game and it could end up being the best 2D fighter yet but the animations already bug me.

Jordan Carr
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Hélder Gomes Filho, You can't make it past the second fight in MKII without cheap-move spamming?

Then it sounds like you should play an RPG or something that does not require reflexes, timing, or skill.

I mean seriously, my sister beat MKII back during out boring childhood summers. For fun.

Rosso Mak
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Don't mind Jordan.He is just telling U that he is not that into fighting games but loves to give comment on something.

I would like say something on the 'SF3 is ahead of its time' comment Ono said in the interview.

I think if 'SF3 is ahead of its time' , then the right time would never come. The problem SF3 had was the plan they use on balancing the game was not that right. The fault was not the parrying system;it is the push this parrying too hard in the first installment. I think it should make it nearly useless at first and push EX special move instead of parrying in the first SF3.EX special move give a easy solution to every character to deal with some problem beginners often face but not easy to solve. Just let parrying be there and leave it alone at first, and put more importance on this after people feel familiar with its existence and basic usage like deflecting projectiles. The lukewarm result SF3 series got also was also caused by many balancing fault in the first installment of SF3.

On SF4, I don't agree that the approach currently used in the game can bring forth a chance for the beginners. Look at the gauges! Life bar, super and Ultra. Hardcore love the maths behind these but beginners killed by these without knowing what happened. This turn-off a lot of amateur.

Finn Haverkamp
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Great interview. And answers. Fighting games require extremely intricate design and fine-tuning. I imagine designing them is quite the challenge.

Dedan Anderson
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El Fuerte reminds me of El Blaze - anyhoo great interview!

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Good stuff! Waiting for a KOF12 interview now! Hop to it!

i play winner
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There is more going on screen with Halo, Final Fantasy and these other "casual" games than Street Fighter IV. The life gauges, Ultras and whatever is not what is going to prove to be a hurdle for casuals; once again it is the gameplay system that will be the real barrier. People keep saying that this is a "rewind to Street Fighter II" but its really only SF2 on the surface.

Ive had 2 months to play this game heavily in the arcade, and I was able to attend some location tests (if thats what you want to call them, GDC and Evolution) here in the states over the past year. So, I have had some time with SFIV and I'll say the gameplay system is much more complicated in IV than it is in SF3: 3s. This is the biggest misconception about SFIV, that it is some sort of dumbed down street fighter for the masses. You all are in for a big surprise.

Look, with parries it was just a tap forward or down. With Street Fighter 4 so much goes into the Focus Attack system most people wont even really know where to begin. To do the most damaging combos you have to utilize then Focus Attack Dash Cancel and I'll say its much more difficult to do something like that compared to a parry into super or something.

With that being said this is a real good interview, I really enjoyed it!