When this title came out, Capcom had released several games, but nothing that drove their popularity or success through the roof. Mega Man was still a few months away, and the folks at the company thought they'd try their hand at fighting games. Fighting games were a primitive thing, with terrible games like Urban Champion on the market. From that perspective, the bar wasn't too high for Street Fighter, and Capcom thought "Why not? We can make a better game than all that."
With that said, I'm going to shock a lot of you here: Street Fighter is one of the worst games I can remember playing. It's better than Urban Champion, for sure, but Street Fighter is just a nightmare to play. I want to blame the 1987 technology, but that's not fair when you look at the vast array of good games coming out in that time period. That schmuck you see above is Ryu. Yes, the Ryu. That's taken from one of the game's bonus levels, in which you have to chop through a cinder block, or kick wooden boards for extra points. But the guy is clearly a tool, as are the nameless sycophants cheering him on.
And throughout the entire game, he is the only fighter you have the ability to control. You'll "fight" a wide range of different people throughout the game, and some of them seem like they would be marginally less painful to play as, but alas, you are stuck with Ryu.
Now let's talk about the multiplayer component of the game before we go any further. That portion of the game is significant because it involves the only point at which you can control anyone other than Ryu. While Player 1 is still stuck with him, Player 2 gets control of a guy named Ken, who is blonde and clothed in red, but otherwise identical in every single way to Ryu. Same moves, same style, same control, everything. And Ken exists only in the multiplayer portion; he appears nowhere in the single player game. The reason for this is unexplained.
That said, the single player game is absolutely atrocious. You begin by picking a country out of the USA, United Kingdom, Japan, or China. There are two fighters in each country, and your choice of where to start only determines which ones you will fight first. You'll fight them all eventually though, as a little map screen shows you traveling from point to point, so the whole choice is relatively meaningless.
The other fighters are usually just amalgamations of stereotypes condensed into single beings. You get a Chinese farmer type dude, the British punk (keeping in mind this was on the heels of the British punk movement), Japan has a ninja...you get the idea. The other Brit is this dude, named Eagle, who looks like he belongs less in Street Fighter and more in a rousing game of Clue.
The text on that screen is notable too, because that's a pretty frequent occurrence in the game. Anytime you win or lose a match, you get somebody's mug with a wall of text underneath it. In itself that's no biggie, but the game sees fit to attempt to speak the text as well. It's got a voice modulator with horrible, horrible sound quality, and they got a Japanese guy to speak the stuff so it has an overly thick accent too. It's barely decipherable but really gritty and might as well be fingernails on a chalkboard. Not to mention that the continue screen displays a countdown clock on some sort of homemade bomb. That's pleasant.
The worst part of the game though is the fighting. Which is obviously pretty unacceptable when working within the format of a fighting game. There are six attack buttons, though many times it is difficult if not impossible to distinguish any difference in their functions. Every move, and I do mean every move, including jumping, happens on a severe delay. You'll be mortified the first time you press the punch button and see the arm fly out a full second later.
And though you see a special move (the hadouken, which at this point was called "ball fire" or something ridiculous) being performed above, it's really more luck than anything to pull one off. They're supposedly controlled as you would expect, with the quarter-circle motions on the joystick and whatnot, but 80% of the time they just don't work. The input for them has to be incredibly fast, which is ironic in a game that runs so incredibly slowly. And often you'll do a dragon punch when trying to shoot a hadouken, or vice versa, because you're spamming the command so much just hoping for anything to work.
Not that it matters too much anyway, because the fights themselves are absurd. You can button mash the first full six or seven matches and never take a hit. The AI is just terrible, and it's obvious that the computer can't even handle the lag of this game. And if you do somehow manage to land a special move, you'll take away half the opponent's life, and that's not an exaggeration.
Then, suddenly, you'll reach a match that you just can't seem to win. The enemy AI is no better - the game makes matches progressively harder by making the computer do more damage to you. By Sagat at the end (above), you die in three hits. Any. Three. Hits. Less if you get hit by one of his special moves. It's one of the furthest things from "fun" I can imagine. If you want to make the difficulty that obscene by the end, why not gradually build there? I didn't even think it was possible to lose a single round until I was getting annihilated repeatedly.
Well, I persevered so you wouldn't have to. The last two fights take place in Thailand, where both fighters (Adon and Sagat) fight in Muay Thai. Surprised? No? Because you're used to the stereotypes by now. And when you finally win, a battered Sagat tells you that you're now "king of the hill." Only he tells you through that horrible voice modulation crap. Then the credits roll, and they're all in broken English. They even misspell some of the names of their own programming and design team. I know, because I looked it up. Again, so you wouldn't have to.
So do me a favor, and never, ever play Street Fighter. It's a painful experience, only earning what points I gave it for the fact that you'll get a few chuckles out of how bad it is. It's the sort of game that in no way merits a sequel of any sort, and had I been aware of it at the time, I'm sure I would have cursed Capcom when they announced they were making a Street Fighter II. After all, with a series foundation this utterly poor, surely the sequel must be pure crap as well, right?
Bottom Line: 3/20