Fighting games are not known for having cogent or gripping stories. This has to do with the fact that a majority of original titles in the genre work off archetypes. The kung-fu master, the silent assassin, a street-smart boxer, a Muay-Thai tyrant, and so on. All of these descriptions illicit an immediate idea as to who that particular character might be, letting any player jump in and choose a favorite.
Street Fighter 2 was one of the first titles in the fighting game genre to attempt a semblance of character development and story arc for individual characters. While still working within the aforementioned archetypes, characters like Ryu, Guile, and Chun-Li grew into something more. Despite this growth, the overall story line always boiled down to “we must fight because of revenge or something!”
Fighting games have done their best to change this trope. The 2011 release of Mortal Kombat showed audiences that you can take the sheer fun and stupidity of a stereotyped story arc and turn it into something more. Netherrealm Studios’ remake of their classic franchise proved that fighting games can be known for a single-player story mode.
On the other hand, Capcom has not caught on to this approach with the Street Fighter franchise. Considering the rich background of lore that Street Fighter possesses, the creators of the hadoken would be fools to not capitalize on a wealth of characters and history. Many may not know that the series and lore have carried on through multiple manga volumes by industry mainstay Udon. Hours of anime based on this classic fighting series also exist. Capcom has over a decade of canon to use as their playground, if they so choose.
Not all story arcs are created equal, though. Street Fighter has always been about acknowledging the silliness of its subject, and this has shown time and again across each format. Certain moments are curious choices in plot development, while others leave the viewer confused.
Here are four Street Fighter lore moments that are goofy yet wonderful.
Akuma killed M. Bison… but he got better
Most casual players may not realize that fan favorite and evil fighting master Akuma was in a version of Street Fighter 2. In Super Street Fighter II Turbo, the fifth iteration of the arcade series, Akuma appeared before the final match with series villain M. Bison. Before the player can challenge Bison, Akuma completely obliterates the master of the Psycho Drive, leaving the player to challenge the spikey-haired antagonist.
If players were not sure that Akuma actually killed Bison, this moment was extended further in the Udon manga when Akuma used his secret forbidden technique, the Shun Goku Satsu, to kill Bison and send his soul to hell.
The end of Bison, right? Wrong. In the next game in the timeline, Super Street Fighter IV, M. Bison is back to his old ways. What happened? In the manga, this moment is glossed over when it is mentioned that Bison has multiple bodies in which he can revive himself.
Sure, why not? No reason to let a little thing like having your soul sent to hell get in the way of world domination.
Dhalsim’s fire is all in your mind
Everyone loves a yoga master that spits fire. True story. Would everyone still love Street Fighter’s resident stretchy-armed warrior from India if said fire was imaginary? Capcom has given multiple explanations for Dhalsim’s ability to spit fire, ranging from his love of curry to the fact that he worships Agni, the Hindu god of fire.
The Udon manga and Street Fighter IV toss these concepts out the door in lieu of old fashioned mind games. In the comic, Dhalsim mentions that his fire is a mental illusion that will only burn those who truly believe they will not be burned by the fire. Dhalsim also makes reference to this fact in his win quote vs Hakan when he tells the oily Turkish wrestler not to worry about being burned by an illusion.
A shame, really. Hundreds around the world will be disappointed that curry does not offer the power of Apollo.
Abel is a robot, of course
The French mercenary and grappler Abel was a new addition to Street Fighter lore beginning with Street Fighter IV. Abel also has the misfortune of being the series’ new “man with an unknown past” trope. Suffering from amnesia, Abel’s goal in the Street Fighter IV story is to get to the bottom of S.I.N. and Seth’s plans while working with Guile.
By the end of Abel’s story, it’s strongly hinted that a connection exists between Seth and Abel. This is shown even further by Abel having a few moves in-game that make him look like Seth, including his Ultra 1 attack.
Street Fighter X Tekken confirms that Abel is one of the many copies of the Seth robot created by M. Bison, in an attempt to find an indestructible body to place his soul in. Abel was lost in the shuffle during an attack on Shadaloo, lost his memories, and continued on as a human.
At least that explains why Abel always seemed so stiff and mechanical.
The grappler’s plight
Street Fighter has always enjoyed having characters whose motivations for competing in the world street fighting tournament are a bit off the wall. This is especially true for the grapplers of the franchise, whom all have bizarre reasons for competing. Hakan, a Turkish olive oil baron, is competing for two reasons: to sell his olive oil, and to help teenage ninja Ibuki find a boyfriend. Sumo king E. Honda competes to spread the word that sumo is the greatest fighting style in the world.
Newcomer and luchador El Fuerte wishes to become a better chef, and can only do so by fighting against competitors from all over the world. T-Hawk competes so that someone will not think he is a boring stereotype that nobody likes.
These all pale in comparison to the undisputed lord of wrestling, Zangief, and his motivations for competing. In Street Fighter II and the early 90s, Zangief’s reasons for fighting had to do with his love of the Soviet Union, being sent into battle by then-President Gorbachev to defend the ideals of Mother Russia. This motivation is changed dramatically in Street Fighter IV, when Zangief competes in order to make the children of Russia smile.
Oh, and Zangief was a robot for awhile. Don’t ask.
Street Fighter has a wealth of history, characters, and lore that is waiting to be explored and discovered. As the paradigm of single player modes in fighting games shift during the current console cycle, companies will hopefully do more than just offer a basic single-player arcade mode. Capcom would be wise to take advantage of their most beloved franchise and revel in it’s glory, goofy lore and all.