At this point, Street Fighter is a part of the public consciousness. It’s up there with series like Pokemon and Mario in terms of brand recognition. And yet, it is a very constrained, focussed series. Every Street Fighter game is a fighting game, meaning its audience is narrowed when comparing it to other massive series. And, yes, characters have appeared in other games from different genres, your Project X Zones and the like, but Street Fighter is and always will be a 2D fighting game. And while I’ve dipped my toe in this monolithic franchise, I’ve never committed more than a few hours and across a handful of games – Gav is our fighting game man. That being said, I’ve always had an interest in the epic fights and cheesy storylines, so when I spotted the Street Fighter Classic comic/manga I figured why not give it a shot. Turns out it’s pretty alright, but let explore a little deeper.
Street Fighter Classic: Volume 1, takes its time to introduce us to the major players in the series. Each gets a little short story to set up who they are, how they fight and where their allegiance lies. It isn’t much, but for a story about punching people in an alley, it’s enough. We get the main motivations for Ryu to go on his world-spanning journey, Chun-Li’s reasons for hunting down Bison and are shown why Guile helps her. On the other side of the fence, things are left more mysterious as we’re left wondering what Bison is up to and how big his forces are. However, we do get to spend some time seeing Vega’s craziness and take a look at the duality in Nash. All of which is pretty surface, but leaves things open to developing in future volumes.
Characters aside, it’s the fights and action that get you excited about anything from the Steet Fighter Universe and Street Fighter Classic is no different. Everything is beautifully drawn with crisp lines and clear direction. Watching characters throw our their iconic moves such as the Hadouken or Shoryuken, match their video game counterparts in style and ferocity. Everything that you’d expect to see from a Street Fighter video game is here and here in style and it’s something I can wait to see more of as Ryu encounters more fighters from across the globe. Going into Street Fighter Classic, I was expecting a lot of fighting and for a lot of it to be there for the sake of it. Thankfully, that was a complete misconception and everything punch and kick fits the narrative and pushes the story forward. Whether this is Ken’s encounter with Vega or Sakura hospitalising Dan, they all serve the narrative. And this works to make the world fully realised as characters storylines crossover and one affects another organically.
One of my major criticisms, though, is how Street Fighter Classic treats its female cast. And while I know Street Fighter has everyone with ridiculous proportions male and female (that’s fine, this is a silly universe of big biceps and breasts alike), the choice of panels is offputting. We get several pantie shots of Sakura, a high schooler, and there is one shot of Cammy which is just her bum. If this were returned with crotch shots of the boys, then I at least we’d know the creators want you to be horny for everyone. But when the men are treated as serious fighters and every woman like a sex toy, it puts me off recommending this series. It also makes me uncomfortable reading it and caused some raised eyebrows from my partner as she questioned what on earth I was reading. I know that some of this is part and parcel for manga and comics but it’s still disappointing.
That aside, Street Fighter Classic: Volume 1 is a fun read. It should not be taken seriously, but the above issue is still a serious one, as everything about is full of stereotypes, cliches and more cheese than your average ploughman’s, but it’s still fun to watch these iconic characters punch each other and wonder about the wider story as it unfolds. It’s not going to rock your world but if you’re interested in finding out more about the Street Fighter world or are a long time fan of the franchise, then there’s a lot to enjoy. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in Volume 2 and who Ryu is going to punch next.
Thanks for reading. If you want some more video game book stuff, then why not have a look at some of the Halo novels starting with The Fall of Reach. Alternatively, if you like the global conspiracy angle, then have a look at my article on the investigation board in Phantom Doctrine.