In a recently translated 2003 interview with former Capcom developer and Street Fighter II character designer Akira “Akiman” Yasuda, he talks about how the iconic World Warriors were created alongside Capcom planner Akira Nishitani. [Thanks, Shmuplations!]
Here are the highlights:
At last we come to Street Fighter II. A joint effort between you and Akira Nishitani, how did this project get underway?
Akira Yasuda, developer: “Nishitani really came into his own then, it was amazing. It was like seeing the birth of a leader, you know? All of his communication with the staff became commanding and confident: “This should be like this here”, “This part would be better this way”, that kind of thing. He was like a god at Capcom.”
Nishitani had the confidence that only success can bring.
Yasuda: “His planning documents were extremely simple. He used to write his comments in these big, childish handwriting on the documents, so big it made you laugh: “THIS PERSON IS FAST, THEIR SPECIALTY IS MID-AIR FIGHTING. THROWS ARE LIKE THIS. MID-DISTANCE ATTACK IS A SLAP. HURRICANE KICK LOOKS LIKE THIS.” And his notes were intentionally vague, so that every department had to flesh out the details on their own. That’s how the character creation process went in Street Fighter II.”
Were the “weird” characters like Dhalsim and Blanka also Nishitani’s idea?
Yasuda: “The characters for SFII were checked by three people: myself, Nishitani, and another developer. We’d go through the moves one-by-one and approve them. There was this unspoken rule we operated by, where “It wasn’t good until it made us laugh.” Take Dhalsim’s punch, for example. In the actual planning documents, we set a limit on punches, that they couldn’t extend further than 128 pixels. But in that process of reviewing the characters, we decided to extend it a little further, then a little further, then a little further more… until one day we saw how long his arms came out and everyone cracked up. That was the moment we knew it was good.
That attitude transformed the atmosphere of the development. Joking around and laughing became the rule of the day. Blanka, too, started out with normal skin color, but as we were flipping through the pallete and trying out different colors, green came up, and everyone burst out laughing. It was like, “What?! Why would this human have green skin..!?” We thought it was hilarious.”
Balrog (Vega overseas) was another crazy character.
Yasuda: “Balrog’s creation was really something. Looking back at it, it’s hard to convey how impressed I was. When Nishitani was imagining the characters for SFII, he divided them into different nationalities and their respective fighting styles. First he would choose their country (India, Japan, USA etc), then he would figure out a fighting style that matched it, like sumo or boxing. After matching all those up, the only ones that were leftover were “Spain” and “Ninja”. He had wanted to use ninjas for Japan, but Japan already had karate and sumo. So he just combined what he had leftover and came up with the “Spanish Ninja”.”
How did you come up with the design for Chun-Li?
Yasuda: “My first idea resembled the Chinese character Tao from the Genma Taisen (Genma Wars) animated movie, with big wide-legged pants. She would also have that front and back apron. The character wasn’t very sexy though, and my design lacked visual impact and personality. So at the 11th hour, I experimented and made a bunch of frantic changes to the pixel art. First I tried giving her bare legs and a bodycon dress. That made her look like a female pro-wrestler, a sort of “fake” kung-fu fighter. It’s a little bit hard to describe in words, but it had a lot of impact, and I decided to go with it and release her to the world this way. She became far more popular than I had imagined, I was shocked. I guess part of it was that she was the only female character in the game.”
You can read the full interview, including how Akiman became involved with Capcom, here.
Street Fighter II originally released in arcades.