Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie Is Still The Best Fighting Game Movie I've Seen

Over the past few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about the connection between games and anime and how as a young gamer I would eagerly watch any game adaptation I could get my hands on. Sometimes (many times) I wound up entering a world of disappointment. However, other times I would come across a movie that I really enjoyed.

Despite never being a hardcore fighting gamer, I spent more than a little of my youth playing Street Fighter II. And so I was overjoyed when I randomly came across the Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie on TV for the first time in the late '90s. I also remember thinking that it was a great telling of the Street Fighter II story. And since I hadn't see the film since high school, I dropped by my local video store (yes, these still exist in Japan) on a nostalgic whim and grabbed a copy. I'm glad I did as Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie remains, even after all these years, the best fighting game movie -- anime or live action -- I have ever seen.

Good -- Excellent Choreography

As an anime based on a fighting game, good fight scenes are key. And by and large, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie delivers. The fights in the film are numerous and well choreographed. In an excellent creative choice, the fight scenes stick closer to a realistic portrayal of martial arts than in the games; and attacks like the hadouken, sonic boom, and lightning kick are treated as rare and powerful special attacks. The Chun Li versus Vega fight and the Ryu and Ken versus M. Bison battles are especially well done -- mixing perfectly realistic martial arts with signature Street Fighter moves.

Good -- Well Managed Characters

One of the main problems in adapting any fighting game to film is the sheer amount of characters. Even the original Street Fighter II had 12 characters, and more were introduced in the updated versions of the game. The film gets around this by focusing on five characters: Ryu, Ken, Chun Li, Guile and M. Bison. This is further streamlined by having Chun Li and Guile become partners and by having Ryu and Ken constantly dish out plot exposition of their shared history.

But even though only five characters receive the movie's focus, most of the rest of the cast from Super Street Fighter II Turbo get a fight scene if nothing else -- except for Akuma who just has to settle for a brief cameo.

Mixed -- Drags A Bit at Times

When the film isn't showing awesome fight scenes is when it begins to stumble. Parts of the film -- like a one minute and 20 second scene of M. Bison walking through his base or the numerous Ryu/Ken flashback scenes -- break the film's pace and feel more than a little like padding. Of course, the numerous fight scenes with the non-main Street Fighter characters are technically padding as well, but fan service and the fight choreography keep those scenes captivating.

Mixed -- The Music

When I took a look at Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals last month, one of my biggest complaints is how badly music was used -- with no music at all used in several climactic moments. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is also an interesting case as to the effect of music on a film -- though not because the music is bad. Rather, it's that the Japanese and American versions of this film use completely different sound tracks.

While the Japanese version is scored with typical '90s anime background music (read: forgettable elevator music) with the occasional well-done J-rock or J-pop song accentuating the important scenes, the American version is a mix of grunge and techno -- it even has music from Korn and Alice in Chains -- the result of which is two very different-feeling versions of the film.

Take Chun Li's amazing fight scene with Vega (video to the left). The Japanese version starts with an acoustic guitar song; the American version with an electronica track. Then, each transitions into a new song, with the Japanese version being generic background music and the American version being the KMFDM song "Ultra". Regardless of whether you like the Japanese or American soundtrack, comparing the two is endlessly fascinating.

Final Thoughts

I was completely blown away by how well Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie has held up in the 20 years since its creation. It has excellent fight scenes and manages to be true to the game's story while streamlining it at the same time. Moreover, it manages to be a film that both gamers and non-gamers can enjoy. And, for a late '90s anime, it still looks pretty darn good -- though it could definitely use a digital remaster. If it weren't for recent films like Ace Attorney, this could arguably be one of the best game movies of all time.

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie was released in 1996 and is currently available on DVD.


Comments

    The soundtrack for the English version was well timed and added tension and excitement to the fight scenes, especially Chun-Li vs Vega. The Akuma cameo is forgivable given his more rare and hidden nature at the time, but what he was doing in India I will never know... Unlike Street Fighter 2 V where he pops up in some of the weirdest places, especially laughing while sipping on a glass of wine during the Vega vs Ken cage fight

    Last edited 09/03/13 8:27 pm

    The Fatal Fury movies were pretty good also. I'd have to say the English track wins out. For some reason, 90's 'Manga' published anime all had really good English dubs.

      The Fatal Fury OVA double was good, but the movie.... That was pure trash

        I have to agree with the OVAs, even though the versions that we got in the west (the dubbed releases) had some pretty meaty fight scenes edited out of them (some editions had the cut scenes featured in the end credits).

        The Samurai Shodown OVA wasn't all that bad either.

          Just avoid the Art of Fighting OVA like the plague.....

          No really just avoid it. It's like getting every STD, Cancer, virus and all condensed into 25 goddess awful minutes!

    I think that BlazBlue would make an amazing movie.

      Same. Though i also think that Metal Slug would've made a good movie too ( i saw someone mention Samurai Shodown earlier)

    Still want them to remake the old Tekken anime! That one had potential but yes I agree SFII blew it out of the water

    I loved the flashback scenes! Especially the music whilst they were happening. I have googled for that music many times, but never found a decent quality version.

    Great movie!

    If you've got the Madman release of this movie, on the profile character select menu, enter the SSFIIT Akuma/Gouki code.

    And while highlighting the Movie Trailer extra, enter Right, Down, Right.

    I added a few easter eggs on this DVD for the fans. ;)

      Thanks for mentioning this, Gabriel! I just went and checked this out, and these are certainly some really nifty easter eggs. Cheers for putting together such a cool menu and chucking in some extras to boot. :-)

    Nah, DOA: Dead or Alive was easily the most faithful to it's source material.

      I'm can see what you're trying to get at, but as a long-time fan of the series, DoA: Dead or Alive was a terrible adaptation of the source material and fairly inaccurate (other than the lack of clothing on the actresses, of course).

        It had boobs. Case closed.

    Nice! I wore out my VHS copy of this movie. Loved it.

    I remember Ken pumping Silverchair as he drives off! Loved this movie.

    the King of fighters anime was awesome too but too bad each ep only last 10min or less

Join the discussion!