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Street Fighter
by yo go re

Has it really been 15 years since Street Fighter debuted? Well, no: the original, forgettable version showed up in 1987, while its more popular younger sibling Street Fighter II was released in 1991, so I'm a little unclear on when they're counting that "15th anniversary" from.

In any case, SF2 breathed life, however briefly, into the sagging arcade industry. Just as the home videogame market was really beginning to heat up, Capcom managed to get kids to line up to drop their quarters into the machines again.

What made the game so special? Though Capcom had programmed a few secret moves into the original Street Fighter, the technology wasn't advanced enough to handle it - it was more a question of luck than skill. The sequel had a new control mechanism and scanning routine that constantly checked the position of the buttons and joystick, allowing players to do things like roll the joystick from down to forward and hit a punch button to perform a special move.

The other innovation, the one that has really had the largest impact on the gaming industry, was something unheard of before Street Fighter II: the ability to select which character you wanted to play.

Before SF2, you may have had a "choice" of two characters who differed only in the colors of their clothes. Suddenly you could choose from eight visually distinct characters, each with unique fighting styles. It was a quantum leap in terms of design and content, and became not only a videogame standard, but also one of Street Fighter's most enduring strengths.

Ryu It's that strength that SOTA hopes to draw upon for its new Street Fighter line. Their stated goal is to produce every character who's ever graced a SF screen, finally showing the love to the characters overlooked by previous companies. Of course, to get to the little guys, you have to start with the big boys.

The "star" of Street Fighter has always been the wandering warrior Ryu. He was the Player 1 character in the original game, and has been present in every incarnation of the game since - 27 appearances in all. Orphaned as a young boy, Ryu was taken in by a great karate master who taught him how to fight. Soon after his master's death, Ryu began roaming the world, training against any fighter who challenged him and becoming a controlled, diligent warrior.

SOTA is following the Marvel Legends model for these figures: a 6" scale and tons of articulation. Ryu moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, hands, torso, waist, hips, thighs, knees, ankles and toes. Though it looks like he should move at the point where his legs poke out from his pants, he doesn't.

Going the highly articulated route was a smart idea: Street Fighter has never had superposeable figures, and the characters have met up with Marvel properties so often that integrating them with Marvel Legends can only help sales. Plus, thanks to all the movement, there's no special move Ryu can't perform.

None of the detail seen on the Evil Ryu/Psycho Bison preview figure has been lost. The fuurinkazan is still a molded part of the belt, the cloth is wrinkled dynamically and the musculature looks just cartoony enough. The face seems inspired by the artwork in the Dreamwave/Udon comics rather than the in-game models: it's a bit more manga and a little less anime, but you can still tell who this is supposed to be.

The paint apps are particularly good, with nice subtle shading and no noticeable mistakes, other than the usual touch-ups over the joints. Particularly nice were the figure's wrists - since he wears those weird red glove things, the top part of the joint had to be red, while the bottom had to be skintone. SOTA actually made sure the colors extended far enough that there weren't gaps when the hand was flexed all the way in one direction or the other. Nice!

The figure has interchangable hands (open or balled into a fist) and heads (calm or angry faced). The pieces swap out easily, and hold tight even after you switch them. Ryu has one accessory, a white duffel bag with a black string. Molded from hard plastic, the bag is 2½" tall. Of course, neither set of hands is molded to hold it, but you can sling it over his shoulder anyway.

SOTA's Street Fighter figures are wonderfully detailed, but are still more than glorified display pieces. These are the best SF figures ever seen, and if SOTA wants to make every character who ever appeared in the game, then more power to them. The line's worth it.

Ryu | Chun-Li | Sodom | Sagat | M. Bison

-- 11/17/04

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