Ever since the World Warriors’ first console outing on the Super Nintendo in 1992’s Street Fighter II, something always bugged me and, perhaps, it should also bother me that such a trivial matter has stuck to my brain for the past 17 years. In the game’s arcade mode, everything is innocent enough for the player, which chooses one of eight characters and then battles through seven other competitors to tackle four boss characters to clear the game. Since Street Fighter II is a tournament, though, obviously the other characters can’t be sitting around waiting for a single fighter to compete with everyone – they have to fight against someone to progress through the tournament to meet the player at his or her current standing in the brackets. In a perfect world, if only eight fighters were invited to the tournament, the winning fighter would only have to fight twice (with each fight accompanied by Joe Esposito’s, “You’re the Best,” of course) before moving on to the Shadoloo goons. So the million dollar question is, who are the remainder of the Street Fighter cast fighting to advance to the same bracket of the tournament?
Thankfully, I think I finally found my answer this past weekend while scoping out my favorite used bookstore (The Dawn Treader Book Shop in Ann Arbor, Mich., if you must know) – sandwiched in among the tombs of Dungeons & Dragons manuals and homeless video game strategy guides, my good friend pointed out this highly amusing publication: White Wolf’s Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game. It’s no secret – I love Street Fighter. Going beyond the games, I own a number of comics, manga, figures, key chains, posters and the like. Seriously, if Capcom slapped the Street Fighter name on a do-it-yourself home colonoscopy kit, I would probably buy it, so purchasing nearly 200 pages of content based on one of my favorite series for seven bucks was a no-brainer. When my friend handed me the book, I was subjected to a cover featuring what appeared to be a 50-year-old Cammy arm barring a grizzly Blanka while what appeared to be Kamen Rider in a trench coat and Charles Bronson in a bandanna and army vest cheered on. From that moment, I knew these seven dollars were going to be among the best I had ever spent.
Packed with original art by a number of artists, the scenarios presented in the guide explain everything. While Ken was going fist to fist with Dhalsim in the first round, Ryu was fighting a half-naked Viking in the arctic north, T. Hawk was fending off a cybernetic lizard man and Cammy was engaged in combat to the death with a seedy fishmonger with crab claws instead of hands. Why are these characters not in the games? In fact, every game should have a seedy fishmonger with crab claws. I’m not sure why, but one of the pieces features Chun Li on a wharf, apparently breaking wind. I apologize if I’ve now ruined your Chun Li fantasies.
A very interesting tidbit found in the book is the fact each of the World Warriors featured has an official win-loss total. How many fights has Ryu seen exactly? How many fools has Fei Long knocked out? Take a look at the official standings as of the book’s printing in 1994:
Blanka – 58 wins/54 by KO, 3 losses, 1 draw Dhalsim – 195 wins/80 by KO, 18 losses, 2 draws Fei Long – 72 wins/45 by KO, 6 losses, 1 draw T. Hawk – 54 wins/50 by KO, 4 losses, no draws Zangief – 155 wins/103 by KO, 6 losses, 2 draws Ken – 105 wins/91 by KO, 1 loss, no draws Ryu – 102 wins/88 by KO, no losses, 1 draw Guile – 92 wins/83 by KO, 2 losses, 2 draws Cammy – 80 wins/65 by KO, 4 losses, no draws E. Honda – 160 wins/105 by KO, 13 losses, 2 draws Dee Jay – 80 wins/45 by KO, 3 losses, 1 draw Chun Li – 74 wins/67 by KO, 3 losses, 1 draw
While most sane people would wonder who could have taken Ryu to a draw, immediately, my first question is whether or not bears are included in Zangief’s win total.
Being a fantasy game, however, Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game is all about creating your very own character, the results of which fill in the aforementioned holes in the roster. Players get points to assign to physical, social, mental, abilities, skills, knowledge and renown and are able to learn disciplines such as capoeira, kabaddi, kung fu, sambo, shotokan and more. Sure it takes a while, but anyone who takes any RPG character creation seriously knows the process isn’t a five-minute ordeal. I’d never played a pen-and-paper RPG before, so the Street Fighter motif was finally enough to round up someone and give it a go.
Seeing as I didn’t want to take a huge amount of time creating a character, I entered Garou: Mark of the Wolves character Khushnood Butt into the Street Fighter mix, a semi-reasonable fit for the shotokan discipline. Things didn’t go too well and I found out how fickle of a mistress RPG life could be when the very beginning of the story resulted in me waking up and getting electrocuted in the tub because of a nearby radio. I had five D-10s and not a damn one of them rolled a six or higher. Rest in peace Butt. I hope you find your billboard up there in heaven … or wherever the storyteller makes you go.
Ultimately the game allows players do just about anything and even institutes rules for using firearms and animal companions and as seen in the above example, the storytelling route extends to events outside of fighting tournaments as well. For the most part, as long as a player can roll six or higher and avoid ones (which result in extremely unfavorable events and cancel out successful rolls), everything will go their way and they can punch people in the face, stop drug cartels or succeed in asking people out on dates. My RPG career may have been a short one, but, hopefully someone out there has stories on how they gave Ryu a wedgie as, seriously, anything is fair game in Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game.
For now, though, I’m quite content surfing through the art and content of this book. There’s nothing like seeing T. Hawk hoisting a lizard up for a Titan-like (remember Saturday Night Slam Masters?) torture rack when I’m having a bad day and seeing M. Bison engage in a psycho staring contest with a warlock sporting a fu man chu just brings a number of questions to mind. When it comes to actually duking it out, I think I’ll just rely on my trusty quarter circle plus punch for a hadouken as opposed to praying that a dice lets me pull off the move without it sending me back in time or something. As for those unseen characters that test your opponents in the earlier rounds of the tournament, I salute you – yes, even you, really fat luchadore. With this book finally comes the solace of knowing my next opponent is fighting to keep their place in the tournament instead of watching reruns of Seinfeld while they wait for me to fly all the way to their home country.