This year, Capcom is celebrating the 25th anniversary of one of the most important videogames ever, Street Fighter II. Street Fighter II pulled itself up after the less-than-stunning Street Fighter, creating a competitive fighting genre and reinvigorating arcades throughout the world. In the time since Street Fighter II first spun its tale of twelve world warriors fighting across the globe, a number of characters have been added on top of that foundation. Most of them hit well, but some of them definitely didn’t quite land with series fans. Let’s celebrate Street Fighter II’s anniversary and next week’s release of Street Fighter V by looking at the characters who time forgot, either because of their design, their story, or just mismanaged expectations.
While more of a Final Fight alumnus than a Street Fighter one, Sodom can most accurately be described as the Jabberwock of the Street Fighter universe. Clad in a Samurai kabuto helmet, metal mask, jeans, and a football uniform, Sodom dresses like he tumbled head first through a Japanese history museum on a school field trip. Sodom’s backstory is uncomplicated: he likes Japan, so he dresses as a Samurai. Unfortunately for him, he is inexperienced with the language, and frequently flubs what he believes to be poignant lines. The kanji on his jersey is supposed to mean “Death,” but it’s miswritten, instead simply being gibberish. Sodom himself never left the Street Fighter Alpha series and very rarely do you ever see fans clamoring for his return.
When Street Fighter III came along and Capcom had truly mastered intricate sprite work, they desperately wanted a way to show it off. While Dee Jay’s “MAXIMUM” pants were clever (the letters looked the same mirrored, so new sprites did not have to be made when facing either direction), the team wanted to demonstrate that they were no longer held to those same limitations. This decision was the genesis of Gill, the final boss of Street Fighter III. A muscular, blonde Fabio look-a-like, Gill differentiated himself from the rest of the cast when he disrobed before a fight and revealed a red and blue body, split down the middle. The absurd design was more confusing than intimidating and Gill’s boss special, which allowed him to simply revive after being beaten, likely won him no favors. The Street Fighter story has never moved past Street Fighter III in the timeline, though I hope Gill no longer has plans to attend when it does.
Debuting in Street Fighter IV, Rufus has the singular goal of defeating Ken Masters and proving himself as the strongest martial arts master in the United States. Ken, however, has no idea who Rufus is or that Rufus is stalking him around the world to have this grudge match. Rufus rocketed to a popular lead among competitive players because his wide and quick attacks made him incredibly hard to defend against, which turned a lot of early tournaments into Rufus mirror matches. Unfortunately, as a character, Rufus is one big joke, annoying other characters and constantly screaming about his girlfriend after matches. It almost makes you feel bad for the character rather than excited to play as him.
When series producer Yoshinori Ono announced that a new character would be added to Ultra Street Fighter IV, the fifth iteration on Street Fighter IV, fans lit up with speculation over who it could possibly be. The answer came in the form of Decapre, one of M. Bison’s “Dolls,” or possible bodies for him to inhabit. Despite being a new character, Decapre was clearly appended to an aging game, and her appearance as essentially a clone of rival character Cammy disappointed fans that had been hotly anticipating a new character from Ono’s trademark teasing. While Decapre thankfully had a unique playstyle that separated her from her identical 3D model twin, she failed to really capture the imaginations of fans hoping for more.
Appearing first in Capcom Fighting Evolution before crossing over into Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX, Ingrid might be a character producer Ono would prefer to forget. Not much is known about the silver-haired schoolgirl, but her win quotes make strong implications that she is the progenitor of the series’ much-vaunted Psycho Power and also may not actually be human. Fans mostly rolled their eyes at her pandering character design and forced story push, the latter cementing her as the Roman Reigns of Street Fighter. Fortunately, Ono has never entertained the suggestion she might come back and fans cross their fingers he never rethinks that position.
Introduced in Street Fighter IV, El Fuerte is a Mexican chef that uses the mostly unrepresented lucha libre style. There is nothing especially wrong with El Fuerte, except for the fact that he is entirely unmemorable. He is almost completely absent from tournaments, never on hopeful returning character lists, and just skirts the line of comfortability on accents. Perhaps there is simply no story or motivation to hook players, as all El Fuerte wants to do is research the best dishes, and names all his moves after food items. Despite his colorful mask and flashy moves, he just didn’t make much of an impression.
With long hair, a leather jacket worn as a top, and skin-tight pants, Street Fighter III’s replacement for Guile is a character lost to time. Deliberately designed to evoke the late ‘90s Hot Topic aesthetic, Remy looks amazingly dated today and does not share the kind of timeless look more memorable Street Fighter characters possess. Remy hates all other fighters, as his father was a hopeful warrior, and had left the family to pursue martial arts. Remy then encases his passed away sister in a block of ice and sinks her to the bottom of a bay to preserve her. Personal style aside, he does have a flair for drama.
When Evil Magic Martial Arts enthusiast Akuma becomes one with said Evil Magic, he eventually becomes the monster Oni. The final form of Akuma’s path down the Satsui no Hado style, Oni is a what-if character showing where Akuma would go if he were to cast away all his humanity in search of power. While a novel idea, Oni strips away the few bits of Akuma that are actually interesting as a character and turns him into a castaway from a Dragon Ball Z movie in design and development. He made his first, and thus far only, appearance in Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, but who knows? Perhaps Akuma will be forced to unleash this beast to combat all the devils running around in Tekken 7: Bloodline Retribution.
In the same vein as Oni, Evil Ryu was a strange, puzzling decision for a new character. Originally introduced in the Street Fighter Alpha series as a cocky, more powerful version of Ryu (essentially, Ryu as a jerk), Evil Ryu made his leap to differentiated new character in Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition alongside Oni. The modern incarnation is more of a feral murderer who has lost his mind rather than simply dressing in dark colors and being condescending. Ryu has always been teetering on the edge between light and darkness and his attempts to stay away from giving into the dark side have been his central to his character, but after a while, it begins to beg the question: Why on Earth does Ryu keep engaging in tournaments with evil wizards when he’s that susceptible to turning evil?
This top choice might seem unfair or also completely baffling, depending on your age. Kevin Striker is the main character of the heavily maligned Street Fighter 2010, an NES action game that took place in what was purported to be Street Fighter’s universe in the 1990 future of 2010. Humans and aliens are now (or, six years ago) living alongside each other and it turns out aliens are uniformly evil, so cyborg officer Kevin Striker was sent to take care of the alien menace. It may seem far-fetched, but after Oni and Evil Ryu, cyborg officers and aliens are not too far in the distance. U.S. players may not recognize Kevin Striker as the protagonist of Street Fighter 2010, as that was only his Japanese name. In an attempt to make the game better resonate with western gamers, Capcom USA changed the main character to be Ken, of World Warrior fame. Maybe that’s why he looks so different in Street Fighter V—becoming a cyborg officer can’t be an easy process.
Imran Khan is a San Francisco-based writer that tweets @imranzomg and must defeat Shen Long to stand a chance.