Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (1994) Review:
“The world is your arena, now. Not just the street.”
- M. Bison to Sagat
In the Olympic Spirit, here’s an anime based on a 90s fighting game (which I remember playing from a van for the first time, and being completely enthralled by!) about international fighters! But, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is no mere videogame movie. It also combines buddy cop, kung fu, and Terminator motifs all nicely meshed together against the backstories of the characters. The best fighting game movie ever!
Now, yes, I know if you don’t know about the game, it’s not going to grab you. But, I think it’s the best videogame movie ever made because, for starters, there’s actual fighting in a fighting game movie. Within 15 minutes there are about 4 matches. (Ryu vs. Sagat, Ryu vs. Fei Long, E. Honda vs. Dhalsim, Ken vs. T. Hawk!) and many of the special moves of the characters are used throughout the fights.
Street Fighter II’s impact on the world of videogames is colossal enough. But, this movie captures enough 90s cultural tropes to make it more than just a straight kung fu flick. And that’s what makes it great! To begin, M. Bison (Or Vega in Japan…how’d this movie work out over there?) is tracking down Ryu (And yes, it’s REE-you, not RYE-you.) via “monitor cyborg” after he beats Sagat. Ryu’s power level is 3620, which is supposed to be very high.
Bison’s psychic power along with his cyborgs allows him to turn people into mindless terrorists (Cammy assassinates an English anti-drug politician under such hypnosis!) and drug dealers for his evil organization Shadowlaw. So, Ryu is on the move at random around Asia: China (Fei Long’s encounter.) India, (Where he meets E. Honda, who beats Dhalsim.) and then Thailand. He is portrayed as a nice guy who’s just passing through and looking for the next good fight, but he knows that his only equal is Ken Masters of Seattle, who trained with him for 10 years in Japan.
Ryu’s movements catch the attention of Shadowlaw, INTERPOL (Represented by Chun Li, misspelled as INTERPOLE, but, oh well.) and the US Air Force, both of whom are investigating Shadowlaw. At first, Guile (The All-American Air Force Captain, who keeps an outrageously cool hairdo.) doesn’t want to investigate with Chun Li, but after she’s attacked by Vega (Balrog in Japan…again, how was that movie different, guys?) The Spanish wall-jumping ninja, he agrees to track down M. Bison for her.
Although, it felt weird in the 90s to me, now I think the US military probably WOULD investigate a terrorist organization turning people into zombies. So, now it feels prescient with The War on Terror. Meanwhile, Ken Masters is being followed in America by Chun Li, Guile, and Bison’s cyborgs, as Bison has figured out that he’s Ryu’s equal. He’s more of Smart Alec than Ryu. His scenes are accompanied by Alice in Chains, which is nostalgic. Second to the final battle is a three-way fight in Thailand (Because of course, Thailand is the last level in the game.) between Guile/M.Bison, E. Honda vs. Balrog (In Japan, M. Bison.), and Ryu vs. a mind-controlled Ken.
Finally, M. Bison is defeated by a double Hadoken by Ryu & Ken into his jet engine. I’m told Street Fighter: The Animated Series picks up after the credits scene where M. Bison follows Ryu in a semi! The credits music is Rage Against The Machine. How’s that for 90s nostalgia? This movie is awesome, and far better than anything Hollywood attempted with the franchise. And drawn in excellent manga-style!
Again, if you don’t know the game, then the entire post probably just sounds like a 90s nostalgia rant. And that’s okay. Because partially, it is. But, in the game it’s an international tournament. Maybe it is here too, but filmed on cyborgs. Whatever the case, I thought it was a good tribute to the Olympics, and Blanka, the beastman of Brazil actually tangles with Zangief, of Russia, in the movie! Still I can’t think of better representatives for the US of A than Guile and Ken!
This movie is great! 4/5 stars! Well, the dialogue could’ve been delivered a bit better. It’s amusing to hear Ken say things like: “Buffalo, or whatever your name is…you’re full of crap!” A wild ride that combines all things 90s with all things manga! If you don’t feel like playing Street Fighter II afterwards, something is wrong! Go Ken! Go Team USA!