Review: Street Fighter: The Complete History

Believe it or not, it has almost been twenty years since Street Fighter II: The World Warrior was released – an event which changed the face of fighting games forever. The franchise continues to flourish to this day, and its rich history is the subject of a recently released book – Street Fighter: The Complete History.

The book is written by Chris Carle, formerly the editor of the IGN Guides section, now the entertainment editor. Carle splits the Street Fighter timeline into three periods – Genesis, Evolution and Impact. Genesis discusses how the series rose to prominence, Evolution details how the series moved from the mainstream audience to a hardcore audience and back again, and Impact examines how Street Fighter has affected the world of video games, the audience and other media. Interspersed between pages of prose are over 200 artwork images, including the original art pieces from the development of the game as well as pieces drawn by fans, both professional and amateur.

The problem is that none of this amounts to anything along the lines of the “complete history” promised by the book’s title. There’s little information in the book which isn’t already general knowledge. The text reads like the author is in a hurry; he never stops to discuss any of the Street Fighter games in detail and reduces several major titles (most notably the Alpha and Versus series) to little more than footnotes.

There is no examination of the ongoing story in the series, no breakdown of the characters, comparisons between ports and very little detail on the cross media adventures of the franchise – the kinds of key features one would expect in a complete series reference. At the risk of sounding very harsh, the book reads like it could have been an IGN feature article.

One would have hoped that, given Carle’s ties to the video games industry, the book would feature information about the development of each game in the Street Fighter series, but that is just another thing the book fails to deliver. There are some anecdotes from people involved with the series, but they’re from the current era of Street Fighter brand management like Street Fighter IV producer Yoshinori Ono and Capcom Community Manager Seth Killian. What about the stories behind the development of the original game, or the evolution to Street Fighter II? The insight into the EVO tournament and Street Fighter Devotion fan site is great, but one cannot help but feel let down.

The art featured in the book is great, but the sheer volume of it seems like it is intended to overshadow the weak text. The problem is that very few of the images in this book are exclusive – in fact, many of them are featured in SF20: The Art of Street Fighter but in much greater detail with artist notes. Not all Street Fighter artists are represented equally, either – Shinkiro fans will balk at the paltry number of his drawings that appear in the book.

With a title like Street Fighter: The Complete History, one might summon an image into their head of a book filled to the brim with information on the development of Street Fighter and its associated spin-offs and sequels, along with loads of information on the story and characters of the franchise. Unfortunately, the titular promise is something the author never delivers – a more fitting title might have been Street Fighter: A Brief Overview.