Street Fighter introduced us to Ryu, a lone warrior who joined an international fighting tournament to prove he was hot shit.
Ryu, proving himself to be hot shit to Mount Rushmore.
The tournament takes Ryu from Japan to England, China, the USA, and finally Thailand (it was sponsored by Orbitz). There, he faces off against Sagat, who you probably remember as that guy who wore a bitchin' eyepatch, had scars the size of small child, and really loved talking about tigers. He was, in fact, the Perfect Man.
"Chicks dig scars, eyepatches, and cats. How can I fit cats into my theme?"
Sagat had Ryu on the ropes. Desperate to win, Ryu tapped into his emo rage (or Satsui no Hadou if you're into that) and delivered a vicious Shoryuken (that's the uppercut thing) that won him the fight and gave Sagat an even more bitchin' scar to show off.
Having sufficiently proven his strength to the world (of underground fighting tournaments), Ryu resumed his wandering lifestyle. Until...
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
This is where shit got real. Capcom realized that punching the computer was fun and all, but punching your friend was way better. Though Street Fighter allowed a second character to jump in and play as Ken, he was a straight-up clone of Ryu with a different shirt color. Street Fighter II introduced several new characters to liven things up a bit. Of course, we all know what happens when Japan livens things up a bit. The phenomenon can actually be explained mathematically:
Monsters + Tits + Ethnic Stereotypes = PARTY!
As for the story, well...
There's this guy named M. Bison who runs a major criminal paramilitary organization named Shadaloo. He's also certifiably insane, even going so far as to name the device that previously gave him almost godlike power the "Psycho Drive." Unfortunately we just missed that bus, because the Psycho Drive has been destroyed before the story even starts. Bison, still tough as nails, declares a second World Warrior Tournament, and invites all the jerkbags who previously ruined his plans and/or destroyed his Psycho Drive, as well as a few of his own lieutenants, to fight for his amusement (and maybe cash prizes).
Old Characters Returning:
Ryu. Still trying to prove he's hot shit, even though we all pretty much get it by now.
Ken. Desperate hanger-on that he is, joins as soon as Ryu does.
Sagat. Still super-pissed at Ryu for beating him in the last tournament, so he signs on with Bison's crime organization with the promise of a rematch.
Wow, is that really it? Some sequel.
New Characters, Yay:
Edmond Honda. A sumo wrestler. Yes, really! Pissed off that no one outside of Japan gives half a shit about sumo, he enters the tournament only to lose in the first round and cement sumo's position as lamest martial art national sport ever.
Chun-Li. Detective or something for Interpol. Had been investigating Bison, since he killed her dad, and ended up destroying his Psycho Drive. She gets an invite and joins up immediately because she can actually kick some serious ass.
Guile. Lieutenant in the United States Air Force, which in this universe is okay with illegal street fighting and flinging energy beams from your arms or feet as desired. Bison killed a friend of his (sensing a pattern?), so he's out for revenge. Also, that hair...
It... is glorious...
Blanka. Separated from this mother after a plane crash, which somehow turned his skin green, his hair orange, and his blood into fucking electricity. No one knows why he's in the tournament. Does he even need a reason?
Zangief. A powerhouse wrestler, able to take down a bear with one arm. He represents the USSR at Gorbachev's request, in what can only be described as a timely reference to world events circa 1991.
Balrog. A Las Vegas boxer who once killed an opponent in the ring. As if that weren't dick enough, after signing on with Bison's Shadaloo, he punched Dhalsim's elephant so hard that he killed it. Which sorta puts the other guy's death in perspective. Oh, speaking of which,
Dhalsim. The fire-breathing Stretch Armstrong of the imaginary form of Yoga that is also a martial art. Noted pacifist.
Vega. Gayer than rainbows rimming unicorns. He's obsessed with beauty (in the creepy, ugly-people-must-die way), and wears a cheap ceramic mask to protect his face, even though it breaks in every fight. He wields a sweet claw gauntlet, in the vein of Wolverine, but isn't badass enough to make it work.
M. Fucking Bison. The badass, completely psychotic leader of a massive underground paramilitary installation, who insists on inviting the strongest fighters in the world to a loosely organized tournament in a bizarre attempt to enact revenge against them for already beating him once before. Great plan! Definitely gonna work out this time. Fingers crossed!
Man, with a cast like that Capcom is gonna be set for a long time. Hell, just working out the loose plot threads could occupy gamers for a solid decade, right?
Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers
Alright, here we see the cast expanded by four. Looking over the new characters, they all kinda suck, except... whoa. Whoa. WHOA.
We mean, uh... yeah she seems OK.
Man, there we were, thinkin' Chun-Li was pretty awesome, but then Capcom comes in and fixes the only problem: too much clothing. We can't believe it took us two games and three revisions to get here. Maybe this new update isn't all bad, let's take a look at these new characters.
Cammy White. Member of an elite British paramilitary organization, Delta Red. Mysteriously linked to Bison. That's it? Oh well, we didn't really care anyway. Let's get the rest over with.
Dee Jay. A kickboxer from Jamaica who fights to music. Seems really happy all the time. Gay?
Thunder Hawk. Forced off his native land by Shadaloo at a young age. Now that he's older and can kick some ass, he wants revenge against Bison, who is conveniently holding a fighting tournament.
Fei Long. Bruce Lee. He's just fucking Bruce Lee. He wasn't even good enough for that shitty movie they made. Oh, you didn't know they made a movie?
Street Fighter: The Movie
You just had to open your fucking mouth. No. NO. We're not doing this. Why? Here's why.
Not gonna fucking happen.
Next game, let's go.
Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors' Dreams
A couple more revisions on Super and we get the next seque--wait, what? It's a prequel?
So, hold on. It's a prequel to 2 but a sequel to 1. So it's 1.5? Why isn't it 2? This should be 2 and 2 should be 3. Wait, that's confusing. Fuck it let's just see what happened.
Since Alpha adds a fuckton of characters that never live past the series, we're only going to focus on the ones that eventually come back, and are therefore worth wasting space on.
Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Guile, Dhalsim, E. Honda, Vega, Zangief, Blanka, Sagat, Fei Long, T. Hawk, Dee Jay, and M. Bison are all back and not terribly interesting.
Birdie and Adon come back from Street Fighter with makeovers and unimportant backstories. Adon got to kick Sagat's ass, though, so that's something.
Cammy. We finally get an idea of what Cammy was all about. Apparently she was made as a clone of Bison (we can see the likeness), along with several other girls. Wait, what? These clones would serve as vessels for him in case he died, which is really messed up. Still, if you gotta inhabit a new body...
We just wanted to use the picture again.
M. Bison. Now we get an idea of what this guy was trying to do. With the Psycho Drive functioning, he had ridiculous power, and was enacting an extremely elaborate plan to have an army of clones capable of containing his soul so that he never truly died. It worked, a couple of times actually, but in the end the Psycho Drive was destroyed and he had to go back to a crummy old man body. For his revenge, see SF2. He's just really bad at plans, you know? Not the making, the actual doing. He can make plans all day.
New (Interesting) Characters:
Charlie. Guile's bromantic interest, and former U.S. Martial Arts Champion. In the middle of an undercover operation to infiltrate Shadaloo, which had not yet taken up the practice of handing out invites.
Rose. A psychic, who apparently shares a soul with Bison. How this works is never fully explained. Upon Bison dying, he ends up possessing her until a better body can be made, as featured in SF2. Again, never fully explained.
Juli and Juni. Two more of Bison's clones, twins to boot. Bison knows what he likes, what else can you say?
Dan. The best character ever. After his father was killed by Sagat, he swore revenge, but was kicked out of the dojo where Ken and Ryu trained due to his intentions. Unaffected, he established his own martial arts style (Saikyo-ryu, "The Strongest Style") and uses it to defeat Sagat, who claims he threw the fight to get Dan off his case. I guess any excuse was good after three crushing defeats in a row.
Sakura. A high school student who idolizes Ryu to the point of learning his entire movelist by watching him on television (oh, apparently the first tournament was televised, very underground). Despite this, she wants Ryu to train her personally. So, she sets off to find him.
Akuma. Initially a callback to an April Fool's joke, Akuma is basically the baddest ass in the game universe. He destroys islands with his bare fists, has an attack that kills you AND sends you straight to hell, and can throw fireballs in midair. Try to process that for a second. Midair.
Sodom, Guy, Rolento, R. Mika, Cody, Karin, Maki, and Ingrid aren't interesting enough to detail here.
Anyway, this all goes on to explain what got Bison so pissed off in SF2 - namely, the destruction of both his base and his Psycho Drive. It ties up a couple loose ends in the SF2 backstory and adds a bunch of other characters from the Capcom universe just for laughs. By the end of it we have an unreasonably large character list and even more plot holes and loose ends. Cut your losses, Capcom. It's over.
Street Fighter III: New Generation
And cut they did. For the first revision of the latest Street Fighter sequel, not a single character returned. Makes the subtitle accurate, makes the fanboys angry. It's win-win.
Let's get this over with, then.
Gill. The new main boss. I introduce him first because it makes everyone else easier. Anyway, he controls fire and ice and runs an organization named the Illuminati that seeks to restore balance to the world through fighting tournaments or whatever. Okay, here we go.
Alex. New main character. Gill beat up his best friend, so he joins his tournament and kicks everyone's ass.
Dudley. A dandy boxer. Gill bought his dad's car at an auction. Yes, really.
Elena. A flexible African warrior princess. Wants to travel the world and beat ass.
Ibuki. Ninja. Final stage of training is to win this tournament. Stands no chance.
Necro. Superhumanly flexible Russian that can harness lightning (thus ripping off Zangief, Dhalsim, and Blanka in one shot).
Oro. An ugly-ass hermit with an obscenely powerful fighting style. Wants to give it away to a worthy opponent.
Sean. Ken's pupil. Throws balls better than Hadoukens.
Yang and Yun. Chinese kung fu masters. Want to stop Gill from doing whatever it is he's doing.
Hugo. Giant-ass wrestler that's looking for a powerful tag-team partner.
Urien. Gill's brother, wants the Illuminati. Why can't these guys wear clothes?
Makoto. Karate master with her own dojo, which is sucking lately. Wants to beat Ryu.
Q. A robot or something. Also possibly a detective? No one fucking knows.
Remy. A Frenchman ripping off Guile.
Twelve. Part of the same project that made Necro what he is. Has orders to destroy him.
Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Akuma. The only returning characters this generation, and not until at least one revision later. The games actually takes place many years after SF2, so they're all quite a bit older, and quite a bit more badass. Ryu's in 'cuz it's a tournament, Ken's in 'cuz Ryu's in, Chun-Li's investigating... something, and Akuma kills everyone. That about covers it.
That wasn't so bad.
The overall story is that Gill is the new head of the Illuminati, which has controlled world events for over 200 years, and is now ready to roll out a new world order/utopia and take over as world ruler. Since they're going to need strong DNA to repopulate the world, he holds the Third World Warrior Tournament to lure in strong fighters, from whom he can pick and choose the future of society.
These plans never work out, of course, and Alex wanders up and beats the hell out of Gill not even knowing they were going to remake the world. How sad they must have been when a New York wrestler took down their demigod.
Oh well. Next game!
Street Fighter EX
We don't care about 3D games.
Street Fighter IV
Wait, maybe we do.
Intended as a "back to the roots" pre/sequel (taking place between SF2 and SF3, because Capcom has bad timing), here Capcom went back to the mechanics of SF2 to provide a simpler fighting experience.
I'd like to take a moment to address Capcom specifically, here. Guys, there's nothing simple about down-to-forward-to-down-to-forward-plus-all-three-punch-buttons-and-you-better-get-it-right-or-Bison-is-gonna-Psycho-Crusher-you-into-oblivion. You want simple, make Super Smash Bros.
Carrying on. Here, we find a corporation named S.I.N., apparently related to Shadaloo and it's outrageous cloning program. A cloned being named Seth is at the center of the BLECE project, which intends to create the perfect fighter by combining data from the best fighters in the world. Wait, this sounds sort of familiar.
Unoriginality aside, it's yet another grand scheme that requires a fighting tournament. All the old names from SF2 are there, along with five new names and the ridiculous characters attached thereto.
Seth. A cheating bastard with everyone's powers that's looking for more data so he can become the ultimate fighter. Has a Yin-Yang for a stomach.
Rufus. A lardass mechanic that taught himself kung fu. Despite his size, he is ridiculously fast, and could be considered a true expert in kung fu. Somehow, he ends up even more ridiculous than this all sounds.
Abel. A French mixed martial arts fighter with amnesia. After learning of his connection to Shadaloo, he seeks to destroy any surviving member of the organization. This mission, plus his entrance in the tournament, are all taken on in hopes of getting his memory back.
Crimson Viper. A mole for an American organization that has infiltrated S.I.N., the weapons developer that Seth runs and that is hosting this tournament. She's actually after information on the BLECE project, which IS Seth, so that's weird. She fights using a special suit that S.I.N. made that apparently only she can use effectively.
Or maybe she was the only one it fit.
El Fuerte. A luchador that also fancies himself a chef. He travels the world looking for the perfect recipe and fighting in martial arts tournaments (the two fields are inextricably linked - Steven Seagal proved that ages ago).
Street Fighter IV ends with Seth getting destroyed by someone, S.I.N. headquarters getting destroyed by someone, information on the BLECE project getting destroyed by someone, and a whole lot of people going home empty-handed. This is to be expected, however, because it's only the first game in the IV series. Speaking of which...
Super Street Fighter IV
Just kidding, we're done.
Street Fighter gameplay has, since its very beginning, been about one-on-one combat between people capable of superhuman agility and endurance, that can with but a moment's effort launch devastating attacks, often harnessing spiritual or physical energy in order to do so.
It has also never, ever, been about the streets.
Street Fighter introduced us to the concept of special moves: attacks that were performed by moving the stick or pad in certain directions and then pressing an attack button. Since every fighting game since has followed the same formula, we can assume it's a popular one.
Even statues understand it.
In the Street Fighter series, super moves come in five distinct flavors:
The most common special move type.
Start in one direction (down) and slide to another (to forward).
Typically used for: fireballs, spinning kicks, and the occasional rushing attack.
Noted Practitioners: Ryu, Ken, Shotoclones, Fireball Whores, pretty much everyone.
Z Slide (I'm sure there's a better name for it)
A variant on the slide that starts one direction and ends another.
Press one direction (forward), then press another direction and slide halfway to the first (down to down-forward).
Typically used for: shoryukens, similar rising attacks.
Noted Practitioners: Everyone that uses the Slide.
A variant on the slide, it just keeps going.
Start in one direction, and rotate fully until you come back to it.
Typically used for: grapples.
Noted Practitioners: Zangief, wrestlers, heavy melee characters.
Hold one direction for a moment, then tap another, usually opposite, direction and attack.
Typically used for: projectiles, rush attacks, rising attacks that aren't shoryukens.
Press an attack button rapidly. Alternately, tap a direction twice and then attack.
Typically used for: rapid-fire attacks, electricity. Alt., rushing attacks.
Noted Practitioners: Blanka, Chun-Li.
These five make up 99 percent of the entire special move arsenal in every Street Fighter game ever produced, and virtually every fighting game to follow as well. So basically it'd be worth your time to learn them.
Super Moves, Super Combos, Alpha Combos, Super Arts, etc.
Street Fighter also introduced us to the concept of an attack more powerful than a special move. This started in Super Street Fighter, which featured another bar along with the health bars that indicated your Super Meter. You filled it by attacking, or being attacked, and once full you could use your Super Move. This was typically a variation of an existing attack, and was performed by repeating the motion before pressing the attack button.
So, if Ryu's Hadouken is ,
then his Shinkuu Hadouken is .
Variations on this were performing the motion once, but pressing all three of the appropriate attack buttons, like so .
The method used depends on the game. Again, this is a staple that has been copied by virtually every fighting game to follow. In fact, let's just assume that from now on.
Blocking / Air Blocking / Parrying
To block, you press whatever direction isn't towards your opponent. Doing so will prevent or limit damage caused by the attack, push you or your opponent away, and leave you briefly stunned. There are two block zones in Street Fighter, and most of the games that followed: high and low. Blocking high prevented all standing and air attacks, but left you vulnerable to ground attacks. Blocking low prevents low and most medium attacks, but left you vulnerable to overhead attacks.
Street Fighter Alpha introduced air blocking, which is just blocking in the air and really not that fascinating.
Street Fighter 3 introduced parrying. To parry, you press towards your opponent (for high/mid attacks) or down (low attacks) just as the attack would have it. If successful, the attack does no damage, even special moves or super arts, and you are not stunned afterwards.
Parrying is the difference between dying like an idiot or winning like a hero.