RetroVision – Street Fighter II’s Bug That Changed Gaming Forever

This week we celebrate the global Arcade release of the legendary fighting game Street Fighter II. However, things could have quite easily been very different, for what is seen by many as the world’s premier fighting game, and a title that changed gaming forever. You see, it actually turns out that the combo system that makes up one of the fundamental aspects of Street Fighter II, was actually an aspect of the game’s development that was not initially intended.

In truth, the first time that a combo system was considered during the development, came when producer Noritaka Funamizu noticed a bug with the car-smashing bonus stage. Here he noticed that it was possible to get in two punches that would be treated as the same attack, in essence creating a combo. It was then later discovered that this could be pulled off with other moves, and in mid battle.

SFII Ken Car
Ken Masters uppercutting a car. A move that arguably changed fighting games forever.

Once discovered, this all important bug would become extremely important to the game’s development,  fundamentally changing the direction and future vision for the title. The development team were well aware that if players learnt how to exploit this bug, it would allow them to continually attack their opponent with constant standard and special attacks.  Moreover, they could attack without any kind of response from the opponent.

Thus, given the multiplayer arcade focus of the game, this was a game changer, especially from a tactical point of view.  As such, this was an aspect of the game that the development team would have to now consider carefully. In spite of the fact that it was not a part of the original vision.

SFII Ryu vs Ken
Ryu sends a Hadouken at Ken.

However, there was a catch to all this. You see pulling this off, let alone exploiting this aspect of the gameplay, was viewed by the game’s development team at Capcom in Osaka, as something that would require perfect timing. As such, Funamizu and the team left this bug in the game, feeling that it would be far too difficult for the average player to pull off these sorts of string attacks.

Also, on playing with the system, the team decided that the game would be worse off for not having this present, despite its perceived difficulty. Considering it something that could potentially become important to the game’s future. This was something Funamizu recalled when he stated:

Actually, at one point we weren’t sure whether we should allow multiple moves to hit in succession in SF2. Wouldn’t that be unfair? But we experimented with making it so that once one attack hit the next would miss, and it ended up being dull. You can see some leftovers of that in Hundred Hand Slap and Lightning Legs. But even with running the risk of unfair traps, it’s good that we ended up including combos.

Honda Slaps
Artwork for Honda’s Hundred Hand Slap move.

On release in 1991, Street Fighter II was not only released to rave reviews, but it also found global popularity. Moreover, players, especially those interested in competitive gaming, would soon discover how to chain their attacks in order to dominate their opponents. And with that, the gameplay mechanic that was once considered a bug, became all the rage, with players practicing these attacks until they ran out of quarters.

What’s more, once the game was out in the wild, it would prove to be a wise decision by both Funamizu and producer Yoshiki Okamoto, not to have underestimated the importance of the gameplay altering bug. As they certainly underestimated the skill and dedication of those who played the game.  Furthermore, upon seeing the feedback for the game, and the player base’s obsession with stringing these attacks, Capcom would soon move to make this a more established and official feature of the series.

Super Street Fighter II
Promotional art for the most iconic Street Fighter II release, Super Street Fighter II.

Beginning with Super Street Fighter II, the most iconic release within the six different versions that make up the Street Fighter II catalogue, the team would actually make this gameplay mechanic official.  From here on out the game was now balanced with these combos taken into account.  That’s not all, as players would also now be rewarded with higher scores, depending on the difficulty and the length of the combo executed.

All in all, combos had added a dynamic to the multiplayer scene that not even the developers had not originally considered. You see, as this mechanic became more official, and as such more well known, it also meant that every player had the belief that they were still in the game. As just one stringed combo was enough to bring anyone back into the match.

In essence what the team had originally thought of as something that could break the game, actually became a key part of the enjoyment found within the experience.  It was also integral in making both the game, and  Street Fighter series, what it what it is today. Heck, it was integral to the future direction of the whole fighting genre.

Nevertheless, of course, the popularity of Street Fighter is made up of a lot more than just the combo system found within. There’s the insanely popular and well rounded characters like Ryu and Ken, alongside the world known iconic special moves. I mean who doesn’t know the Hadouken.

Ryu and a new look Ken take each other on in the upcoming Street Fighter V.

Yet, could you imagine how different the game would have been without the combo system and the moves that form it? Heck, could you imagine how different the finding genre as a whole would have been if Funamizu hadn’t discovered that glitch all the way back in 1990. Street Fighter II changed gaming, and 25 years later not only is it just as popular, but it’s still just as influential, with the entire gaming community patiently awaiting the series’ latest evolution in Street Fighter V.

Sophia Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that she's written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DivaXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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