I’ve never been a Street Fighter fanatic. It’s among
my favorite fighting games based on the combination of character designs,
animation and relatively memorable combat styles. But I can barely take on an
average ten-year old Japanese kid, much less someone who has dedicated loads of
time to the game. Most of the time I’d rather watch a couple really good
players go at it than jump in myself.

Still, I was excited to play Street Fighter 4, which
takes the series back to roots established by the oft-revisited second game. At
Capcom’s press event I had a chance to sit down in front of a Japanese-style
cabinet in front of an essentially final version of Street Fighter 4, and I
liked what I found.

Most qualms about the updated character designs and fight
stages faded away. Not being a purist, I care more about whether the timing and
tempo of the fights are set properly than if Ryu is a bit too beefy. The fights
felt right, the pacing almost ideal. Combos still fly like lightning, but
there’s just enough time to step back and strategize, if that’s your

I’m not quite sold on some of the new characters. The
gigantic Rufus could be a too-powerful fighter in the right hands. And the
wrestler El Fuerte is entertaining, but his reach is almost non-existent while
his overall speed is absurdly fast. Think Spider-Man from Marvel Versus Capcom 2 on

Along with a few other writers, I sat down with producer
Yoshinori Ono to discuss a few aspects of the game. He spoke through a
translator, so be patient with some of the convoluted text that follows.

Can you explain some of the changes to the fighting system?

In collision detection, initially we were using standard 3D
detection, and what that means is that any physical thing in the game is going
to have a boundary box around it approximately the same size and shape as the
object. The problem with that in something like Street Fighter is that, unless
one thing is actually touching another, it’s not going to register as a hit.
Whereas is you look at older street fighter games, it was almost fake hit

Sometimes the box was bigger than someone’s arm or hand,
because it felt more natural that way, sometimes it was smaller. Or with
Dhalsim’s extending arms, the only collision part is the fist itself. With
polygons you can’t do that easily. What we ended up doing, because the game
didn’t feel natural in parts, it didn’t feel like Street Fighter, is we took
the 3D collision detection off and replaced it with old-school 2D detection. So
there’s an invisible box drawn around every part of a character that could hurt
another character, like the arms, feet, whatever. So if you look at some of the
crossover kicks, where you’re kind of over the guy’s head, but you still tag
him on the way down? That came about almost by mistake because it was a weird aspect
of the collision detection, but now it’s a part of Street Fighter and very hard
to simulate with a 3D system. So this feels a lot more like Street Fighter now.
We only had a month or two to revamp the whole system, and we think it feels

Really, we thought we were doing ourselves a favor by using
3D detection, we thought it would be easier to adjust later for balance issues,
as we could just physically change the length of a punch instead of fiddling
with all the hit boxes. We ended up doing that, then going back and re-doing it
in 2D, but we think it’s better for the game. If you played it at GDC it might
have felt a little goofy to you at the time, but this version we have now is
very much improved.

In all the talks of SF4, SF2 has been mentioned a lot, and
SF3 very little. What did you learn, positive and negative, from SF3?

Just playing Street Figher 3, you could tell it was a game
made by people who love fighting games for people who like fighting games. It’s
a specific audience, really. We made the rules so rigid and severe, so
technical and deep, that if you look at making fighting games like a mountain,
we pretty much made the peak. There’s nothing else up there but air; you can’t
top SF3 when it comes to complexity and depth. So we decided to go a different

To use a chess analogy, which we like around here, chess is
the same no matter where you play it, and Street Fighter is Street Fighter,
whether you play 2 or 3 or 4. But a really high level chess player is in a
tournament with a timer, you can’t take back a move, etc. That’s SF3. The
hardcore, high pressure chess. The other end of the spectrum is old men in the
park playing on a cardboard board; they’re letting each other take moves back,
they take an hour to think of a move with no timer, they have weird house
rules, whatever. That’s street fighter 2.

What we learned from 2 and 3 is that, while 3 is a great
game and we hope you still play it, for 4 we wanted to take it back to the fun
of SF2, to the guys in the park instead of the pros.

There’s speculation that there might be a Wii version. Will
that happen?

It’s not that a Wii version would be impossible, and we’re
not ruling anything out, but looking at the main target we’re trying to hit
with this game, users are more likely, from where we’re sitting, to own a PS3
or 360 than a Wii. Are there fighting game fans who own the Wii, especially in
north America? If there are, we’re more than willing to do something for them.
But it seems like a safer bet to go with the PS3 and 360, and the PC is more a
European-centric thing, so we don’t want to leave regions there out.

What will we see online?

As far as that is concerned, there will be standard versus
modes playing against other people. That’s standard now; we wouldn’t dream of
releasing the game on any home platform without that feature attached.

Above and beyond that content, there are a lot of ideas
floating around right now, but to be clear we’re not kidding when we say we
just started working on the home version. The arcade version is just now going
gold, those guys working on it until now for the last couple of years, they’re
not getting a vacation; they’re going straight into the PC, PS3 and 360
version. So at the very minimum you’ll absolutely have the versus mode.

What we don’t want to do is have a lot of weird
discombobulated online modes that don’t have anything to do with SF. We don’t
want to do weird mini-game collections online, we’re not doing anything like
that for sure. Whatever we do online will have to come back to the essence of
SF, which is the one on one combat. We’ll see what other ideas we can squeeze
in there.

Street Fighter 2 had loads of revisions; will new versions
of SF4 come as DLC?

We don’t know what the future of the title will be, whether
there will be a Champion Edition or anything. If one does come to pass that
makes sense to us to use the network to distribute, sure, but it’s too early to
say anything else.

What’s the second-best fighting franchise?

Aside from SF, I’m going to go with Darkstalkers. I’ll cheat
and give you a Capcom game. What’s really good about that game is that, while
SF has always been about gauging the distance between you and an opponent and
guessing what they might do next, Darkstalkers has always been about really
speedy combat, jumping in and hitting buttons and combos. Not hitting combos on
accident, doing them on purpose, but in a really aesthetically pleasing way.
It’s the difference between chess and something like shogi. I’m actually trying
to get a new Darkstalkers made and have been turned down many times. We’re told
the game is not popular enough in NA. if enough people keep asking about
it…that’s how SF4 ended up getting made.

This looks not like Street Fighter with 3D models, but
really like Street Figher, based in part on all the background detail. What’s
your favorite detail?

My favorite stage is the China stage, in part because it’s
very nostalgic and brings back memories of Chun Li’s old stage. It’s not the
same, but it has the same sort of essence. I like the sign that falls apart,
the old man getting pissed when you fight near him, and of course the guy on
the bike, because he’s the unifying detail in all the China stages in various
games. In Alpha 2 there are a bunch of guys on bikes, for example, and there’s
one in the original China stage. I’ve been to China a few times recently and
not a lot of people ride bikes anymore. They’re using cars and motorcycles, so
even putting a bike in there is not a modern thing to do. But a SF China stage
has to have a guy on a bike.

What’s your favorite Street Fighter character?

Dhalsim, both because I love him as a character and because
it took a long time to get him working in SF4. It was such a long process, it’s
nice to see him working properly. I’m at a vulnerable time now, the arcade game
just got finished so I’m more myself. I won’t take the opportunity to push a
new character.