Iconic characters like Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li are the faces of Street Fighter, but the series has always included a diverse cast of outlandish fighters. We spoke with executive producer Yoshinori Ono about the process of crafting the combatants and making familiar faces feel fresh again for the newest entry in the legendary fighting series.
This article was originally published in issue 275 of Game Informer.
Here Come Some New Challengers
The way a fighting game plays is of utmost importance, but with hardcore players pouring thousands of hours into gaining an intimate familiarity with their favorite characters, the roster carries undeniable weight. This makes implementing a well-rounded cast of fighters essential. The Street Fighter series excels at this, consistently delivering games full of characters with diverse abilities, looks, and personalities.
This is largely thanks to Street Fighter’s ability to introduce compelling new combatants regularly. Though the classic fighters will always receive more love and attention from the fanbase, the new challengers breathe fresh life into the franchise.
EXPANDING THE ROSTER
More returning characters are coming to Street Fighter V’s roster by way of downloadable content. The decision was made that players will never need to buy a new disc-based product or upgrade pack in order to avoid using Street Fighter IV’s disc-based update methods.
“We’re trying to match users’ lifestyles and where the culture is heading,” says executive producer Yoshinori Ono. “That’s what we’re really trying to accomplish with the service model approach.”
When the characters release, players have the option to earn characters in-game rather than buy them through accomplishing certain goals. So far, Capcom has revealed Balrog (Boxer), Guile, Alex, Ibuki, Urien, and Juri.
According to Ono, the process of introducing a new character can be a difficult and stressful one, with fears that the new faces won’t fit in with the rest of the roster, or that they’ll feel wrong for the game. However, the team has a long pedigree of successful over-the-top characters to fall back on, which galvanizes the team when brainstorming new ideas.
“We could be scared of new and different things, but at Street Fighter we have kind of a tradition of having really outlandish characters suddenly appear,” he says. “That’s actually something that we go for because those are most of the characters that really end up sticking with people and they end up falling in love with. In the long run, those are the characters that end up having a lot of longevity and more of a chance of sticking around in the series.”
Street Fighter is popular all across the globe, and the team often looks at underrepresented regions when creating a new character. From there, the characters are crafted to ensure they have significance in the story. The example Ono gives is the Korean character Juri, who made her introduction in Super Street Fighter IV. Juri is the first Korean character to appear in the series, and the intention was to represent the many fighting game fans in Korea through this character.
In Street Fighter V, the team approached the new characters with these same ideas. Each of the four new characters – Necalli, Rashid, Laura, and F.A.N.G – were created to appeal to the worldwide player base either through their origin or new fighting style. Necalli and F.A.N.G’s origins are unknown, but each of them uses a unique fighting style. Laura is the first character to employ Brazilian jiu-jitsu tactics, while Rashid is an acrobatic character who also happens to be the first in the main series to hail from the Middle East.
Familiar Foes With New Twists
New characters can inject a feeling of freshness to a fighting game, but it wouldn’t feel like Street Fighter without the franchise mainstays. With Street Fighter V, several fan favorites are represented, including Ryu, Chun-Li, Ken, M. Bison (Dictator), and Cammy. These names are familiar to longtime players, but Capcom and Dimps worked to make the experience of controlling some of those fighters different from past games.
“We have characters coming back like Chun-Li, Ken, and even Cammy changed some, but we made sure to have at least one thing – I told the team I want one thing that they change on purpose for these characters,” Ono says. “I wanted them to go out of their way to make sure they did that.”
For example, Vega (Claw) is still an acrobatic, aerial assault-style character, but his inputs have been switched up to play more into his style. Dhalsim has also received some big changes including a revamp of his iconic Yoga Fire move, while Zangief has been given new throws to help him restrict his opponents even more than before.
Even with the notion of intentionally changing up legacy characters, Ono paid close attention to the process to ensure that the DNA of these characters remained intact in a way that was recognizable to the passionate fan base. “The way that the character attacks, the way that you play with them, the DNA of the character – I made sure to tell them to keep that 100-percent intact,” he says. “Even though the characters may have changed, they still have stuff that you’re used to. If you look at Ken, we made sure to keep his attacks and made sure that he has a playstyle where he’s constantly attacking and rushing down the opponent. Or with Chun-Li where she has a lot of kick moves, but also capable in air-to-air combat sort of situations. It’s how we’re resetting and how we’re having people approach it a little bit differently.”
Because of where the story falls in the series’ timeline, Street Fighter IV’s original roster relied heavily on the characters appearing in Street Fighter II. Appearing later on the timeline, Street Fighter V’s launch stable pulls from a more diverse pool. Several characters from Street Fighter II’s roster appear, but Street Fighter V’s roster also pulls in multiple fighters who made their debuts in the Alpha trilogy, as well as Birdie, who appeared in the original Street Fighter, but skipped the Street Fighter II series.