Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Really, Really Lost Street Fighter

One good thing about liking Street Fighter is the knowledge that you can ignore just about every movie and TV series it inspires. After all, the games themselves don’t acknowledge any of them; not the hysterically awful live-action Street Fighter: The Movie nor the hysterically awful USA Network cartoon it spawned. The only exception is 1994’s Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. It’s quite stupid, but it was Capcom’s own project. They had money to spend on it, the experienced Gisaburo Sugi (Night on the Galactic Railroad, Touch) to direct it, and the advantage of video-game nonsense always going down easier as animation. And it paid off. Sort of. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is still the best anime inspired by a fighting game, even if that means next to nothing.

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie was also close to Capcom’s vision for the games, and so pieces of it turned up in later Street Fighter titles, particularly the Alpha series. Ken, Ryu, Cammy, and several other characters had their looks tweaked in accordance with the movie, and Alpha 2 recreates some of the film’s battles. One character from the film even crossed over: Senoh, M. Bison’s bald scientist crony, pops up in one or two Alpha endings.

There’s another piece of obscurity attacked to Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. One character, also an agent of Bison’s Shadaloo syndicate, was on the drawing boards but never made it into the film. Her absence was noted in an old issue of Anime UK, and the magazine ran a sketch of her with this description: “In the outline, she worked for SHADOWLAW [Shadaloo] and appeared on the stage in Las Vegas wearing what one Japanese source describes as ‘radical bondage gear.’” Presumably, she was inspired by the showgirls that mill about in the background of Balrog’s stage in the original Street Fighter II.


Had she actually made it into the film, the unnamed dancer might’ve also slipped into the Street Fighter games and their loosely structured canon, which Capcom makes up only when circumstances and lawsuits demand.

Or maybe the dancer and her radical bondage getup aren’t so lost. With her Bison-like hat, she bears a certain resemblance to Poison, the Final Fight regular who was changed into a guy for the Super NES version of the game. Poison’s backstory has described her as both a cross-dressing man and a fully transgendered character, and the inconsistency has started far more fan debate than it probably should have. And now Poison’s in Street Fighter X Tekken, which will stir up even more debate. Of course, Poison is a non-existent video-game character and is therefore without any gender, but pointing that out makes you a jerk.


Was the dancer a Poison cameo that Manga UK didn’t notice? Or was she just some background filler that the story didn’t want or need? Whatever the answer, she’s still the most obscure of all unused Street Fighter characters, even more so than those early drawings of Dhalsim with six arms and an elephant’s head.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Phantasy Star III: Care and Feeding

Game manuals are a dying breed. As the industry shifts toward online distribution and cheap packaging, manuals grow thinner and less informative. In fact, some modern titles don’t even include them. And why should they? Most of today’s games have extensive, intrusive tutorials that make manuals unnecessary. Yet there’s one important thing that only manuals have: drawings of the game’s characters telling you not to set your new purchase on fire and throw it in the toilet.

The majority of games lack such warnings, of course. That sort of thing was seen mostly in Japanese releases during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when game companies felt the need to inform players of the best ways to care for the imposing technologies of CDs and game cartridges. My favorite little warning section comes from the manual for Phantasy Star III.



I don’t know Japanese well enough to fully translate this, but I’m not worried. I tried to do the same thing with a Demo Demo PlayStation cover, and someone dropped in to correct my largely wrong interpretation. So I’ll just translate this Phantasy Star III cartridge-care guide as best I can. It’ll all work out in the end.


“Thank you for purchasing Phantasy Star III for the Sega Mega Drive, which is what we call the Genesis in Japan and Europe. Observe that the cartoon characters on the right are happy. If you are not happy while playing this game, the problem obviously lies entirely with YOU and not with the people who rushed the game through development, leaving in bugs and unexplored concepts. So it's YOUR fault.”


“To turn on your Sega console, point at it and scream at the top of your lungs. Sega systems are hardened, manful devices that require verbal abuse to activate, unlike frail and sensitive Nintendo consoles.”


“Your Phantasy Star III game cartridge is made of precision electronics. It can bring good luck to a woman if she sits upon it on the day of her wedding. However, if the cartridge emits comical star effects, the bride will know only shame and disappointment throughout her marriage.”


“Do not attempt to sexually stimulate your Phantasy Star III cartridge by curiously stroking the contacts. Your Phantasy Star III cartridge has taken a vow of celibacy.”


“Do not take your Phantasy Star III cartridge out to the desert and stare at it with a look of simian contemplation while the green light of an alien sun beats down upon you and your curiously hovering game. You will find no enlightenment.”


“Do not attempt to call upon demons by soaking your Phantasy Star III cartridge in virgin blood. At best, you will summon only messy and disobedient eye creatures.”


“While superficially similar to human beings, androids can be detected by observing their eyes during a Voight-Kampff test. Note that while Phantasy Star III allows you to marry and have children, you are not permitted to do either with the android characters, as this would be an abominable crime against God and nature.”