Street Fighter II Developer's Interview
The Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is now on sale! Also, on November 16th we will be releasing "How to Make Capcom Fighting Characters" - which is an archive featuring the making-of and background materials of the characters created in Street Fighter II up through their evolution in Street Fighter V. While this book is Japan-only, we would like to share here part of the "Street Fighter II Developer's Symposium" which is featured in the book!
There's plenty of juicy nuggets of information found herein, such as Nishitani-san's "I really hate side-scrolling action." and Akiman-san's "I totally lost it when I saw..."
Read on to find out more!
SFII Developers Gather!
How were you involved with SFII?
I was the character designer for E.Honda. At the time I was a hapless newbie, so I think Akiman-san took over the team figuring he needed to step in and do something. lol
That's not true. lol
I remember thinking you were quite skilled on the Magic Sword team.
I joined the Street Fighter II development team after we finished the development of Magic Sword (Capcom, 1990).
I was the designer for Zangief and M. Bison in SFII, and then I worked on Fei Long in Super SFII.
I was on the dev team for Final Fight, which was originally going to be Street Fighter '89. From there I transitioned onto the Street Fighter II dev team. lol I was in charge of stages, and I created the stages for Ryu, Honda, and Balrog.
I was assigned to the SFII team right before the characters were to be finished, due to a lack of manpower. My character was Vega, and I remember I only had 2 months from the design right up to the final content.
I was in charge of Ryu and Ken in SFII. They were originally going to be Y.S.-san's characters, but I ended up taking over in the early stages. I remember making the dot patterns for the Shoryuken and the Hadoken first. After that, I moved away from game design and created a design room for the illustrations and manuals. Aside from SFII, I've also been in charge of making the game logos for many titles such as Darkstalkers and Monster Hunter.
Shoei-san has created a great deal of Capcom title logos. He's the person who has created the basis for what a Capcom logo is.
The Start of SFII!
Let's talk about how the SFII project got started. Nishitani-san and Akiman-san, did you feel like the time was right after the development of Final Fight ended?
The request we got was that people were into the Vs fighting of SF1, even overseas, so make a Vs game to keep that idea going.
I think the environment was just right.
-- Was the timing right after Final Fight?
It was immediately after, yeah.
I don't think there was a lot of time in between.
It was a hit, so the mood was right. We separated from (Yoshiki) Okamoto's team and formed our own team.
-- Up to that point it had been Team Okamoto?
It felt like we'd already halfway established ourselves in the middle of Final Fight, but the influence was pretty strong. When we started development, we were no longer in a situation where we didn't have enough ROMs, so we could really focus on improving the game's characteristics, which was good.
-- How did you decide on what parts of Street Fighter I you would carry over into the sequel?
This has been true ever since the days of Final Fight, but I really hate side-scrolling action.
-- Oh really?!
I hated it, so I made it with thinking about how even I could enjoy it while playing it. The Vs fighting in SF1 was fun and it made money, but I thought I wanted to further improve upon the gameplay. The basics were that you could jump, and you'd fight against one opponent. From there, we moved forward based on the idea of improving upon the gameplay.
-- Were there any thoughts of changing the 6-button layout?
To be honest, we thought about a lot of things. There were plenty of ideas put forth, but since we had one of the SF1 6-button table cabinets on hand, we decided to just go with that. At first, we strongly felt like we wanted to go with the pressure-sensitive buttons. If the 6-button cabinet hadn't been there, the system might have been completely different.
-- Speaking of buttons, having the attacks change based on how far away you are from your opponent as a part of the game system must have been a lot of work.
Yeah. Thinking back on it, I almost wish we hadn't done it. lol
-- What was the intent behind it?
Ultimately, I think the results were very good, and it added depth to the moves, but originally the intent was quite different. The original intent was to have rapid chain moves like Final Fight. The norm is to have the same move come out if you press the same button repeatedly, but attacks in close range would eventually push the opponent away due to pushback on hit, so the idea was to have a different move come out in order to connect. We gave that a try and it didn't work out, so we tried adjusting the hitboxes in order to find a different use for the application.
The Mystery of Character Assignments?!
-- For Final Fight, for the most part, development started after the character designs had been decided to a certain point, but what was the process like for SFII?
We had rough drafts for everyone except Ryu and Ken, with keywords such as "beast," "military man," and "sumo wrestler." Once we got it narrowed down to a point, we called in the pixel artists and had them draw everything at once. We'd look at their drawings and say, "this is good" or "that's good" and that's how we decided things.
If you think about it, that was the first time we ever used a system like that, wasn't it? Having everyone submit their ideas.
You might be right about that.
-- How did you decide who would be assigned to each character?
I wasn't a part of the rough drafting process, by the time I joined Akiman-san had already done the rough drafts. When I joined the team there were four of us as character leads - Y.S.-san, Pigmon-san, and Ikusan.Z-san in addition to myself. Y.S.-san was the most skilled, so he would take Ryu and Ken. One day, Akiman-san brought us the rough sketches of a pro wrestler, sumo wrestler, and a beast, and said "decide who does what." To be fair, we played paper-rock-scissors to determine. lol
Ikusan-Z was the first RPS winner, and at the time he was well-known for being a big pro wrestling fan, so naturally he took the pro wrestler. I won next, and I was left with the sumo wrestler and the beast. I took the sumo wrestler without a second thought. lol That left the beast for Pigmon-san. But thinking about it now, I feel like God must have influenced our RPS game. Those two really created some amazing characters in Zangief and Blanka.
Pigmon's Blanka was definitely very interesting.
It really is wonderful. If I had done Blanka I don't think he would have come out the same.
If Erichan had done Blanka he would have been interesting in a different way I think. I totally lost it when I saw Honda doing his headbutt flying level to the ground. lol
Yeah, I was surprised when I saw it too.
When I saw the name for it - "Super Zutsuki" in Japanese - I thought - "what exactly makes it super?" My conclusion was that he had to fly. (everyone laughs)
-- Was the creation of the type of move it would be left up to the pixel artists?
There was an order for the output of moves, like an original idea.
Right, we had the move names like "Hundred Hand Slap" written down, and it was up to the pixel artists to come up with the content.
During development, Nishitani was really good at getting everyone involved, getting everyone motivated.
Yeah, we were always thinking - what should I do to get Nishitani-san to like this?
When showing the moves, there was the feeling that if Nishitani didn't smile it wouldn't get approved.
-- Ikusan.Z-san, were you able to bring your love of pro wrestling to life when making Zangief?
Yeah. But the feelings I wasn't able to put into SFII, Director Nakayama-san put into Zangief's new move, so I was very happy about that. lol
Even if we tried to make the Captured throw in 2D pixels, it wouldn't have looked right.
-- For sure. lol Were you a fan of the UWF pro wrestling league?
Yep. Bison's shin guards are also something from the UWF.
-- (Looking at a picture) Hey, they sure are!!
Bison's design hadn't been finalized right up to the final stages. I remember Ikusan.Z-san submitted his design, and that's what we went with. It really was down to the wire, and without his design he might have ended up differently. We had about 3 different patterns.
When Ikusan.Z-san entered a homemade robot contest, it was pretty much like he made a robot version of A. Maeda-san.
-- That's some fierce dedication! lol
Shoei-san, when you took over as the lead for Ryu and Ken, did Y.S.-san already have the basics in place?
I had the standing pose drawings as a base from Akiman-san, and production footwork from Y.S.-san. From there, the first move I made was the Hadoken. Ryu and Ken are the so-called standard characters in the SFII world, and since they were coming from SFI, we could have the other characters be weirdos. I made them with a stoic feel.
You say weirdos...but I was serious when I made Honda! (everyone laughs)
No, no, that's not what I meant. For the other new characters, you couldn't predict how their moves would play out. For example, how Blanka scrunches himself up when moving backwards. Also, Blanka's skin was originally pink.
Right...Akiman-san changed his skin color.
At first, Blanka's skin color was pink, and that was disgusting. Lol
I felt much better after changing it to green.
Honda was more of a normal sumo wrestler at first too.
Akiman-san told me "his face is lacking, so please think of something." Overseas, people conceal their identities when engaging in street fights, but I thought that something like kabuki-makeup to really show his pride for Japan would be good. I looked for materials, and even thought about him being a hero of justice for a while.
That's...the first time I've heard that. lol
He didn't have the yukata at first, right? How'd he end up with it?
That was also an order from Akiman-san.
Hmm? I don't remember that.
Having him wear that, I thought that making the patterns alone would be pretty difficult.
Probably, just the sumo wrestler's belt alone would be a bit lacking, so I think it was added to give him some distinctiveness.
You say that, but it was upon your orders. lol But the result was that we ended up with a diverse and colorful cast of characters, so I think it worked out well.
-- Katuragi-san, you joined the dev team later, and the character you were in charge of was Vega. How did you finalize him off the concept of a Spanish ninja?
As soon as I joined the team, I was told, "Draw a Spanish ninja. Could also be a Thai ninja." I had just started work on the Thai ninja when I was told again, "Let's go with Spanish. Think of the first guy that appeared from the Land of Asura in Fist of the ***** Star," so I made my design from there.
-- That certainly sounds like an order Akiman-san would give. lol How was the actual production?
It was quite the challenge. I'd just joined the team, and I didn't really understand what pattern art was, but the deadline was extremely tight, so I went home, and based on my own understanding of it, stayed up all night and drew 40-50 sheets for what I imagined the animation for the Flying Barcelona Attack would be - climbing up a wall, jumping, and attacking. The next day I showed them to Akiman-san and he rejected them all. This happened for 3 days in a row. I was leaving work on time and staying up all night at home doing it, so when Akiman-san said to me, "You work fast, so it's not a problem" I thought I was gonna die.
-- lol Sounds like it was a pretty harsh situation.
That makes us sound like one of those black corporations.
Well, we more or less were. lol
Afterwards, Akiman-san showed me his Chun-Li pattern art as he was drawing them, so I gained an understanding of what pattern art was, and was able to finish my work.
-- Speaking of Vega, how did you come up with the concept of the Four Kings non-playable boss characters?
At the time the Vs fighting genre didn't really exist yet, so we made the boss characters thinking they'd fill out the content as an action game. They weren't hidden characters, but we liked the idea of having characters that weren't on the character select screen.
We originally wanted to make Sagat from SF1 playable, but we felt that things as-is was boring, so we packaged him together with the Four Kings.
Major Changes from SFI?
-- In SFI, most of the characters were more or less grounded in reality, but then in SFII we had characters who could roll themselves up into a ball to attack, and stretch their arms and legs across the screen. How did you arrive at these eccentric characters?
I might have had a small hand in it, but I think it came from everyone wanting to make their characters strong and interesting.
Nope, it all started with you. You were known as the guy who wouldn't reject anything. You kept asking for more, more.
"More, more" was a popular phrase among the dev team. lol
"Make them more interesting," "Make them more cool," stuff like that.
When he wasn't feeling it, we'd get a long "Hmmmmmmmmm...." reply. lol For the most part we'd get a "Awesome!", and that reaction was interesting so everyone got into it.
And that's how the characters and world outlook got expanded.
This isn't the plain world of SFI.
To be honest, I spent some time worrying about putting Chun-Li, the heroine, into such a plain setting. Ordinarily, you don't see women participating in global martial arts tournaments. Just by adding her we were starting to push things to the "fun" side. For movies as well, you have a range from the subdued, to full-on entertainment, and I felt that this was similar. I didn't think about it at the time, but thinking about it now, from the moment we put Chun-Li into the game we were already pushing things towards the full-on entertainment side.
We pushed things just beyond the realm of unrealistic. lol
SF1 was just barely realistic, and SFII was just crossing the realm of unrealistic.
-- Nissui-san, while designing the stages were you actively coming up with many different variations?
Yes, us background artists were all pretty unique, so I think thanks to that we could create a lot of different variations. Personally speaking, I created many stage rough drafts, and took them to Akiman-san, and they were all rejected.
...Sorry 'bout that. lol
I was running out of ideas and getting desperate. I like bath houses, so I just randomly drew a sumo ring in the middle of one, and rolled with that. I took it to Akiman-san thinking it'd get rejected for sure, but he picked it up and said "OK." lol He then said, "Draw another stage in the same vein as this one."
"OK" is really the only answer you can give to that submission. lol
For Honda's stage, I was told, "You can draw anything, as long as it includes Mt. Fuji and a sumo ring." lol
If you win the picture in the background moves, something unique to the wall painting in the bath house.
By the way, when I was drawing the bath house background painting, my model for that Japanese-styled art character was none other than Nishitani-san.
I've been meaning to ask this, but it was you who made that special ending in SFII Turbo if you cleared the game using no continues, wasn't it?
Oh, I don't remember!
What's with the innocent act? lol
You know there's an ending where the characters come out and break stuff.
If you're asking if I made it or not, I don't remember. But it was probably me. lol
-- Is there anything that's left a lasting impression on you regarding the backgrounds in SFII?
I knew we had raster scrolling as a part of the CP system board's functionality. I talked with the programmers and we gave it a shot, and it was effective. However, even now I kinda have no idea about what's going on under the hood. lol
-- It made for a really prominent feeling when the characters were on the ground.
The character would move slowly backwards but the background in front of them would move quickly. The programmers were all surprised when they saw it.
I watched the programmers work really hard on it. Though I don't really know how they adjusted it. It came out better than I had hoped it would.
That's all for today! We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from the SFII Developer's Symposium. If reading this made you nostalgic for some classic SFII, be sure to pick up the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection if you haven't already!
■ Developer's Symposium Participant Profiles
He joined Capcom as one of our first dedicated planners, and worked together with Yasuda-san on the development of Forgotten Worlds, Final Fight, and Street Fighter II. After leaving Capcom he started his own gaming company, and has released titles such as the Street Fighter EX series and Tetris: The Grand Master. Their latest release is Fighting EX Layer.
Currently the president of Arika.
Akiman (Akira Yasuda)
The lead character designer and planner for Street Fighter II. In his time at Capcom he worked as a graphic artist and planner. He also invested heavily in the growth of his successors, making significant contributions to Capcom's graphics and animation patterns. He currently works as a freelance illustrator, character and mechanical designer, and as a manga artist. He's best known by his nickname Akiman.
For fighting games, she was the character artist for Psylocke in X-Men, Chun-Li in Street Fighter Alpha, and Mai-Ling in Red Earth. She was also the lead for the 2D character model for Princess Zelda in The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, and the 3D modeling in Mega Man Star Force and Resident Evil: Deadly Silence among others. Lately she has mostly been serving as a manager, overseeing the management and growth of other character artists.
He created Fei Long in Super SFII, Aleksey Zalazof in Saturday Night Slam Masters, Leo in Red Earth, and Raiden in Capcom Vs. SNK. He also contributed to Mega Man EXE and Mega Man Star Force. He is currently the lead motion capture data editor.
Contributed to creating the backgrounds in Final Fight, Captain Commando, Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness, Dungeons & Dragons, Street Fighter Alpha 3, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Mega Man Star Force, etc. Currently, she has served as an outsource manager for titles such as Resident Evil 7 and Monster Hunter World.
During the 2D age he primarily worked on the SFII and Darkstalkers series, and in the 3D age he's primarily worked on the Monster Hunter series, while also lending his talents to the Ace Attorney series. Lately he's worked on the motion for MH World, as well as had a hand in the creation for the motions for Street Fighter V Season 4.
His game development resume includes Tiger Road, Ghosts & Goblins, Mercs, and Knights of the Round among others. Currently, he's putting his experience gained from SFII to use in creating a design department that provides illustrations to game development. This department houses many illustrators, including Bengus, Shinkiro, and Chisato Mita.