We jumped at the chance to ask some question of the producer of the entire Street Fighter series, Capcom's Tomoaki Ayano, because, well—it's Street Fighter! Little did we know that Ayano-san would use this opportunity to announce the next Street Fighter cross-over game: Street Fighter X Complex. No doubt it'll be the best one yet.
Capcom being currently entrenched in the series' 25th anniversary celebrations, we also touched on what 25 years of Street Fighter means to him—and even some moves that were left out of the most recent entry, Street Fighter IV.
Our Q&A was accomplished over email and through a translator. For more Street Fighter 25th anniversary celebration coverage check out our gallery and interviews from the art gallery opening in LA.
Complex: What does 25 years of Street Fighter mean to you?
Ayano-san: My first encounter with the series was Street Fighter II when I was still in middle school (around 12-13 years old). I was absolutely hooked on playing the game in the arcades back then. Trying to beat M. Bison in story mode, practicing combos I couldn’t get right, making friends with other players, and so on. I owe a lot of my friendships to the game and community around it, so it means a lot to me personally. After graduating university I decided I wanted to work at Capcom because I couldn’t live without the series in my life somehow. In fact, I had to apply to Capcom three times before they accepted me into the company! I kept on “continuing” however and that got me to where I am today, as a producer for the series. If Street Fighter didn’t have a “continue” feature, I may have never gotten into Capcom [laugh].
What do you think it is about the series that has caused it to become such an important cultural force?
At its core, Street Fighter is a tool for competition between players, and it pioneered the fighting game genre during the 90’s. Within the designated rule set, players can freely act and execute strategies as they see fit, which leads to endless gameplay possibilities. The variety of options and outcomes and resulting gameplay depth is what keeps users engaged for a long time. That, in tandem with the eclectic cast of memorable characters, is what made the series so endearing to fans all over the world.
Also, simply put, the series is just plain fun! Street Fighter is able to celebrate its 25th anniversary this year because the fans have supported the franchise through thick and thin, and they wouldn’t have stuck around during the large gap in time between Street Fighter III and IV if the games weren’t fun to play.
How has Street Fighter evolved over the last 25 years?
The basic gameplay design of Street Fighter has not changed since its inception; it’s still about using the options and strategies available to you to the fullest in order to defeat your opponent. What we want to do with each new game is to build on the foundations set before, and to add a new dimension of gameplay, while still keeping that Street Fighter flavor. One of the biggest changes to the series has been the advent of stable online netplay, and this has been a huge boon to the growth of communities all over the world.
What message would you like to send to fans with the 25th Anniversary celebrations?
Street Fighter has finally reached its 25th anniversary! As producer of the series, it’s my job to help make sure the series continues to grow around the world, so that we can enjoy the 30th, 50th, and 100th anniversary. The first step towards that goal is to show the fans how much we appreciate their love and support, and to that end we’ve planned a number of festivities surrounding the franchise. One of those being the awesome 25th Anniversary Collector’s Set that is jam packed with Street Fighter goodies, as well as a global tournament series, where players around the world can duke it out for over $500,000 worth of cash prizes and amenities. As an added bonus, the winner of the Street Fighter X Tekken global tournament will also receive a customized Scion FR-S sports coupe, so please check it out!
Where do you think Street Fighter will go over the next 25 years?
We wish to make Street Fighter one of the leading online competitive games out there. Instead of solely focusing on game design, we’re working to come up with services that can keep players engaged and think this is an important next step for the franchise.
As well, we want to support the pro-gamer and tournament scenes out there. The fans are the lifeblood of the game, and being able to help provide support for tournaments is something very important to us. Spectators have also become a key component to the entire Street Fighter experience, so if we can cultivate the “sporting atmosphere” aspect of it, that would also lead to a new evolution for the game as a whole.
How was the fantastic 25th Anniversary box set devised?
With the 25th Anniversary Collector’s Set, we wanted to give back to the fans that helped support the series for over 25 years. Not many brands get to celebrate a 25th anniversary, so we knew that we had to put something special together in order to truly show how grateful we were for all the love and support out there. Thus, we felt the best thing to do was to put together a collection that encompasses everything that Street Fighter represents. Not just games, but music, fashion, art, and other aspects as well. So while we do have games, we also have soundtracks, video content, an art book, and other great collectables as well. You will find the content of the set is so varied because we have such diverse fans. All of them have earned the right to say “I am Street Fighter,” and this set is a love letter from us to them.
What's your favorite game in the series so far? Favorite character?
I’ve spent so much time playing all of the games it’s hard for me to decide! Street Fighter II is the first one I ever played, and much of my youth was spent in the arcades at those machines. Street Fighter III introduced a technical battle system that is praised to this day by fans. Street Fighter IV brought back the game to its roots and helped create a new fighting game boom, which we are still enjoying today. Each game has its merits, but I would have to go with Street Fighter III if we are just talking about which game I enjoy playing the most.
As for characters, I would definitely say Ryu! He has been in the series since the beginning and his way of life is an inspiration to me. Without Ryu, I might not have joined Capcom in the first place.
Street Fighter IV introduced new moves like Focus and Ultra Attacks. Were there any additions or changes that you had to leave out? Could they be included in future games?
There were a few ideas that didn’t make it into the final version of Street Fighter IV. Just to give an example of one idea, we came up with something called “Waving.” This was a universal gameplay mechanic which allowed characters to shift their upper body during dashes in order to avoid projectile attacks. However, Focus Attacks also fulfilled this role in some ways, so we scrapped the idea as a whole. There were several other ones, but I won’t get into any more details here [laugh].
It’s tough to say if those ideas could make it into future games however, since we’re still discussing what we will be making in the future. If there is a good chance to do so, I’d like to take the opportunity though!
There's a massive series of global tournaments this year as part of the 25th anniversary. Do you think Street Fighter will continue to be a staple in arcades and tournaments? Why?
Of course I think Street Fighter will continue to be one of the most popular games in arcades and tournaments. The series has always resonated with fans in ways that other franchises couldn’t match and as developers, we want to keep that Street Fighter “flavor” going strong far into the future. There was a 10 year gap between Street Fighter III and IV, and we certainly don’t want that to happen again, so we will continue to grow the series and communicate with fans in order to build more and more communities worldwide.
Are there more cross-over titles in the future? What other franchises or universes would you like to cross Street Fighter with?
Right now, we are just focusing on Street Fighter X Tekken for the PS VITA which releases in October, so we can’t say anything about other future cross-over titles.
In terms of other franchises to do crossovers with…Street Fighter has already done quite a number of them so it’s hard to say what would be fresh and exciting! Oh! How about “Street Fighter vs. Complex”? That would be something absolutely new that no one ever saw coming [laugh].
We're looking forward to that. Thanks Ayano-san!