INSOMNIA

By Recap / Originally published on Postback on May 25, 2008 and translated for Insomnia from the Spanish by Emmanuel "El Chaos" Fernández Noguera


Let's recapitulate: Capcom, immersed in the new tendencies and incapable of overcoming itself, opts for the complete ceding of the intellectual property of its Street Fighter series to Capcom USA, which, apparently, thinks the opposite and it's feeling like being something more than a simple adaptations' publisher. Turning its cloak into a smock [Spanish idiom, it means that Capcom USA does as it pleases with what has been given to it -Trans], or endowing the term irony with a new dimension, Capcom USA, lacking the necessary developing capacity, turns to... Capcom. The one that didn't want to have anything to do with Street Fighter finds itself engrossed, one could say without really knowing how, into the work of developing no less than Street Fighter's fourth episode [ > ] thanks to the American dollar. Without personnel nor infrastructure — nor the most important thing: appetence — for the realization of a versus fighting game in our days, Capcom leaves it all in the hands of the aseptic Dimps under Yoshinori Ono's direction. It's part of that heartbreaking irony, of course: Dimps is a studio co-founded by an ex-Capcom employee, Hiroshi Matsumoto, one of the architects of the first Street Fighter.
   Yeah.
   Let's enjoy: Capcom has no creators. Not like those that lifted it in its day as the most competent company in the arcades' outlook thanks to a way of understanding the 2D design — both graphically and mechanically — without equal. The Okamotos, Funamizus, Shoeis, Akimans... are not there anymore. In fact, it hasn't stopped subcontracting other houses in order to get on the 2D fighting revival bandwagon that is enjoyed in the Nippon arcades nowadays. It would be more than advisable that many note down something as basic as the fact that a brand doesn't develop a work, but a team of people do. I mention it because Street Fighter IV is generating more than enough expectation. Through a tube, I would add.

Street Fighter
vs.
Street Fighter

   That Street Fighter abjures itself, its name, is not something that I say. Ono himself wanted to make quite clear — in more than one of those interviews for the North American media — that the saga had reached what — for him — was a dead-end. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike had turned into the absolute paradigm of what the versus fighting means — put in hands of the players an almost inexhaustible potential to confront one on one, to compete. The tail of this fascinating head is that there's no more limit for dominating the mechanics than that which one wants to impose on oneself. Only through constantly practicing it's possible to progress and acquire the minimum skill the game demands, which generates marked differences among the different types of player. This is what made of 3rd Strike a game for specialists, an evolution of Street Fighter II's concept in its most technical sense (which was being refined in a thousand previous episodes), and, by extension, a commercial failure during years in which the genre wasn't going through its best time.
   Seen like this, it's a dead-end, effectively, but from eight years ago. It doesn't seem right to take us back that much if we are looking for commercial perspective, but it won't be me who gives you marketing lessons. What matters for us is that SFIV is born by Capcom USA's initiative for Capcom USA's market. The market that was the first one to close its doors to 3rd Strike (even before calling itself "3rd Strike"; SFIII ~New Generation~ was Capcom's first big blow in the West...), so its big intention is to recover all that public that once hurled itself in mass to play SFII but that also massively ignored SFIII.
   Clean slate, then. If there's ignoring to do, let's ignore. SFIII never existed. Neither its storyline, nor its characters, its graphic style, even less so, its class-conscious mechanic conception. SFIV will take place, story-wise, before SFIII, and will rescue the entire cast of SFII characters just as we knew them, in addition to simplifying almost to the initiatory levels its mechanical attributes. And we keep all our bases covered.
   It's such an elementary and crude operation, so inelegant, that it produces hilarity. Besides the fact that it cannot have proceeded from anyone who really comprehends what Street Fighter is. And without comprehension we already know there cannot be respect [see previous editorial]. Unfortunately, it's not the only ignominy. The scarce new characters that'll be presented in SFIV can only be described as rebuffs with no chance whatsoever of integrating with the rest. Because of style, because of identity, because of attire. Spearhead of a mise en scène that breaks with its legacy dramatically. The sprite is, once more, replaced by the polygons. The meticulously pre-designed animation, by the real-time. They tried to get back the original caricature and expressivity and the result has been the most atrocious ridicule.
   Street Fighter has gone through several visual styles throughout its history, of course. Artwork and in-game illustrations aside, there are three differentiated lines attending to the graphic style used and to the character design: the one comprised by SFFinal FightSFII, the one developed in the Zero subsaga and the one present in the three SFIII episodes (we obviate SFEX, naturally). Different, but with a common base; the one favored by graphic artists' teams with similar interests and sensibilities, and, above all, an incommensurable talent. SFIV, with the supposed excuse of taking up the original line again and eliminating every possible trace of Japanese comic / animation in the visual approach, has outlined a clumsy and wicked design that does nothing but clearly show how far its designers are from the artists they claim to imitate, starting with the insistence in using the, more than ever, inappropriate polygons and their real-time animation, which render impossible, by their very nature, the physics, the rhythm and the visual precision that a 2D fighting game requires today.
   For the record, I don't write these lines out of sadness or outrage, even less so being Capcom's case. Not at this point. Those who follow these Pages since their beginning know that I firmly believe that the war is lost since years ago, even with the celestial vision of The King of Fighters XII [ > ] on the horizon. It's only mere informative eagerness. Someone had to say that Street Fighter IV is, however you look at it, a joke.