As the popular beat 'em up returns to PS3 with new fighters and new features, we catch up with the game's producer Yoshinori Ono.
What was the most important thing to change and add from Street Fighter IV?
I think it would be the online features! Fully utilising the PlayStation 3 network capabilities, it is now possible to freely match up friends and form teams. Many other functions that were requested on top of the original SFIV have been implemented.
The new online system has endless battle mode where a group of friends can play in a continuous winner-stays-on style, just like in the good old arcade days! Team battle mode allows a team battle amongst friends or otherwise, while waiting for the matchup in the arcade mode. All you need to do is sign up and wait while playing.
We have drastically enhanced the community aspect of the game too, adding spectator mode to every existing online mode. If you are waiting for a matchup, you can either play arcade mode or watch your friends play. You can send yells via voice chat as well of course. In addition, you can press a button any time during the match and the entire match is saved onto your PS3.
The most wanted feature online was the ability for players to study one another's skills. This, we have realised with our new Replay Channel. It works like cable TV. Just tune in to a channel and your PS3 gathers all replay video from players all over the world, and all videos found are recordable to your own PS3. You can also organise a mini-cinema session and invite your friends to watch your replay collection.
Oh, and needless to say, each replay video data is complete with damage statistics and key inputs with precise timings throughout.
Did the popularity and success of Street Fighter 4 surprise you in any way?
I keep on saying that SFIV was an alumni reunion invitation to all those who loved SFII. More people than I expected have participated in this grand project. It's been, what, 15 years since II and ten since III; I would have thought it would take a while for people to wake up to the call. Instead they were more anxious about the title than I ever imagined – which I am very thankful for. I still don't think I've seen all the faces I used to see in the SFII days, so if you ever spot someone who keeps on reminiscing about the glorious past, be sure to let them know it's back, bigger and better than ever!
How difficult was it not to take things a step further and alter more of the game?
I honestly think the changes we've done on Super Street Fighter IV are all we ever could do. If we were to change any more, then those who have finally returned to the franchise will again be scared away – a path we took in the past and regretted, with regards to the SFIII franchise. Ultimately, I would like the SFIV franchise to remain the root of all fighting games.
You were a big fan of the bonus stages which you had to drop in SFIV, which made it back for SSFIV – was there anything else you missed that you couldn't add this time?
I can only apologise that we did not have the bonus stages in the original SFIV, and I have learnt my lesson, passionately taught by all the disgusted fans in the world in the harshest form of insults. Now we've done it and it's in - I now eagerly await praises and encouragements to be sent in. Essentially, we aimed to implement all the major requests received and I think we managed just that. Actually I take that back, I really wanted Rainbow Mika to be in...
What were the criteria for adding and creating the newer characters of Juri and Hakan, and bringing back some old favourites?
Character selection is the result of popularity amongst the fans. The final roster is a result of our extensive cross-referencing of popular characters and their suitability to the SFIV system. We even sought solutions for those characters that didn't quite match SFIV, especially the SFIII characters. Although none of the SFIII characters can parry in SSFIV, they play just like they used to. I am proud of them all!
Were there any characters which were left out at the last moment?
I personally wanted Rainbow Mika to be in it but unfortunately that didn't come to fruition. In terms of popularity of the fans however, Rolento was very nearly there but Adon won over him in the end. Oddly enough though, Rolento's stage was half implemented as you can see in the Construction Stage.
Where did the idea to use the Turkish oil wrestling discipline for Hakan's character come from? And where did the distinctive visual inspiration come from?
When we created some new characters for SFIV, I think they were all so very appropriate, with fairly understandable characters so to speak. In SSFIV however, I wanted some very Street Fighter-esque characters like Dhalsim and Blanka for only then would SSFIV be an epitome of the franchise, as if it were Super Street Fighter II x 2. In order to do this I asked the team to gather as many interesting videos as possible and one of them was of Turkish oil wrestling. If you think about what we did to E.Honda and the Japanese Sumo, I think you'd get the idea of what we did with Hakan and the Turkish oil wresting.
Who are your favourite characters to use? Are you still a fan of El Fuerte?
I still find El Fuerte interesting but now I must say I like Hakan the best. What more satisfaction could you wish for in a fighting game than to pull off super degrading moves using a middle aged man literally dripping in oil? That's it, get your oil on and FIGHT!
What about your favourite moves and Ultra Combos?
My favourite Ultra Combo is Hakan's Ultra Combo II. Some of you may have seen it in our amazing trailer. That was a challenge and a message to you all from all of us here at Capcom.
Back in the heyday of Street Fighter II, people used to gather friends in the living room and play it together, almost like a house party. As the franchise progressed, it became more stoic and isolated. What I wanted to re-suggest is that SF doesn't have to be so hardcore and can be enjoyed by a lot of people! I would like people to gather around a TV and laugh together, watching Hakan's Ultra II and that would be one of my objectives for the game ticked.
What's been the most surprising aspect in working on the game?
I was pretty shocked when we released the original SFIV in Europe to find out how many fans were out there. Our office in Germany used to tell me fighting games are dead in Germany so they didn't want it. As a result I didn't hold much hope for the German market but the fans I saw at gamescom and press tours proved otherwise, which pleasantly surprised me.
I know I'm far from Europe living in Japan but I very much intend to visit and organise events in Europe to thank the SF franchise fans!
What sort of PlayStation Store downloads can we expect for SSFIV?
We have what you expect – costumes! If you have bought some in the original SFIV they are still valid for SSFIV and can be re-used. We are also releasing the new tournament mode in summer 2010 free of charge so make sure you download it from PlayStation Store! We will be holding Capcom official tournaments and will be issuing rare titles to the winners. You had better start practising now!
What little known fact about SSFIV would you like to share with the fans, any secrets we should keep our eyes open for?
Let's see, in the new India stage you can actually find Dhalsim's wife in the background. She cheers when Dhalsim wins, so keep an eye out for her.