Cheese and crackers, coffee and cigarettes, some things are just incomplete without the other. So why, asks Don Rowe, have Capcom dropped by far the coolest character in their canon for the latest Street Fighter game? The answer probably won’t surprise you.
In 1987, eight years before Tekken hit the Playstation, an ambitious new fighting game began to appear in the cacophonous neon dens of the world’s arcades. It’s name was Street Fighter – you might have heard of it
Controlling the gloriously-rendered 2D sprite of a karateka called Ryu, players fought their way through five countries against a line-up of racially questionable stereotypes before challenging the final boss Sagat in the compound of a Thai Watt. With terrible 8-bit music, hilariously Japanese character design and even local multiplayer capabilities, Street Fighter was pretty bloody impressive for a time before commercial internet or mainstream personal computing.
Thirty years later, Street Fighter remains an entertainment powerhouse, releasing the fifth numbered game in the franchise just yesterday amidst considerable hype.
For the most part, it’s not bad. The basics are the same: a third-person, side-scrolling fighting game with a mostly recurring cast of consistent characters. There have been omissions and modifications throughout the years, minor tweaks and re-skins here and there, just basic evolution stuff.
But where the fuck is Sagat?
At more than 7 feet tall, 110kg, The Emperor/God/King of Muay Thai is pretty hard to miss. The guy never wears a shirt, lives in a pair of Muay Thai shorts and has a big fuck-off scar down his chest. He simply doesn’t blend in to a crowd, even one of Street Fighter eccentrics. Nevertheless, I thought I had surely glassed over his striking ‘bald head and eye patch’ combo on my first run down the character selection screen. Same goes for my second and third.
“Surely, surely, surely Sagat is here somewhere,” I thought. What kind of bumbling fool would exclude the literal yin to Ryu’s dragon yang? A rivalry more than thirty years old can’t just be tossed to the side like a pair of old sweaty handwraps.
Turns out it can if your name is Yoshinori Ono and your job title is “Producer of Street Fighter”. Unbeknownst to me when I settled in to crush some noobs with my flaming tiger punch, Ono confirmed Sagat’s absence late last year in an interview with Japan’s Famitsu magazine. I don’t speak Japanese, but according to the internet, Ono’s decision basically came down to ‘wanting a balance of characters’. I can buy that excuse if he meant Sagat was unbalanced in terms of being too damn awesome – he was based off the legendary nak Muay Sagat Petchyindee after all – but I don’t think that’s what Ono was getting at. “We didn’t want to just blindly increase the number of characters,” he said, before releasing this:
Server issues aside, Street Fighter V is a damn good fighting game. The mechanics are fluid, the characters do seem balanced (clothe-to-skin ratio aside), and there’s even a map, ‘The Forgotten Waterfall’, that looks suspiciously like NZ.
However there are certain things one comes to expect with their franchises. You wouldn’t watch the Simpsons without Bart, or play Crash without a bandicoot. There’s no Mario Kart without a little Italian plumber and there’s no Pokemon without a fucken Pikachu, so what makes Capcom think they can sell some half-assed Street Fighter totally lacking in Muay Thai deities?
It’s simple: paid DLC. And, for me at least, it’ll work. Shut up and take my money.
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