In Armchair Arcade‘s ongoing series (first started back in 2012 on the old version of our Website, here and continued on our current site, here), we ask the provocative question, “What makes a particular videogame sexy?” Each feature explores some of the many intriguing approaches game designers have taken over the years to make their games more sensual, not just with increasingly detailed graphics, but also with romantic and seductive gameplay. While some of the games we’ll be looking at are unabashedly low brow, displaying their raw sexuality like a badge of honor, other games in contrast are remarkably subtle, often downplaying their suggestive themes.
Today’s series entry, which is the seventh, features a popular entry in the legendary Street Fighter game series, Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers, which, specific to our purposes, brought the visuals to a greater level of fidelity:
Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers
Initial Release Date: 1993
Platforms: Arcade and most contemporary home platforms
Game Type: Fighting
When Capcom’s Street Fighter II: The World Warrior was released in 1991, it is no exaggeration to say that it helped invigorate, if only relatively briefly, a moribund arcade industry with its hyperreal, but still skill-based, head-to-head martial arts fighting action. The now legendary game improved upon its prototypical, but wholly unremarkable 1987 predecessor, Street Fighter, in nearly every way, from its audio-visuals to its myriad moves.
Perhaps the biggest single improvement between releases, however, was expanding the number of playable characters from one, a Japanese martial artist named Ryu, to eight (plus four computer-controlled bosses), which included Chinese policewoman, Chun-Li, whose gender was little seen to that point as a lead in any videogame, let alone one that involved hand-to-hand combat. Also unlike the first game, where Ryu’s rival Ken was playable in two player matches, but who played identically, these were fully formed characters, with distinct back stories, looks, personalities, and moves. While Street Fighter II: The World Warrior set the competitive requirement for all future fighting games to have compelling characters, it wasn’t until its first true sequel in 1993, Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers, that Capcom was able to free themselves from the shackles of incremental Street Fighter II sequels and raise that bar even higher. Not only did Super Street Fighter II feature new hardware that far surpassed the technology that its predecessors ran on, it also introduced four new characters, one of which was another critical female addition, Cammy, a 19-year-old special forces agent from England.
Capcom’s designers were free to put the new hardware’s improved audio-visual prowess to good use with a diverse mix of archetypes and original creations among the game’s generous roster of 16 playable characters.
Series mainstay, Ryu, whose shout of “Shoryuken” when he performs the jumping uppercut has become as iconic as his karate gi, which is as carefully ripped as his physique.
E. Honda, the burly Japanese sumo wrestler, whose signature move is the “Hyaku Retsu Harite,” which is commonly referred to as the “Hundred Hand Slap.” (Needless to say, that’s a lot of hands to work with.)
Blanka, for those with a shocking fetish for green, Brazilian monsters.
American soldier, Guile, for those who can’t resist a man in uniform.
African American boxer, Balrog, who has the physical presence of a prime Mike Tyson, without all the ugly baggage.
The other series mainstay, Ken, whose exotic mixed American and Japanese heritage and blond hair come in handy against Ryu in the battle of “gaming hunks.”
Russian wrestler, Zangief, who’s so manly that he doesn’t seem to care that his name isn’t even possible within his native language.
Dhalsim, the lanky Indian Yogi who can stretch and lengthen various bodyparts at will, which goes without saying would be a handy skill both in and out of the ring.
Sagat, a Muay Thai style bad boy from Thailand who stands over seven feet tall and possesses massive hands.
Vega, a vain, Spanish Ninjutsu master with the moves of a matador and moviestar good looks that he protects with a mask during his fights.
T. Hawk, an unusual Native American and Mexican amalgam that really gives the player something to think about.
Hong Kong action star, Fei Long, who clearly made the right choice in channeling Bruce Lee’s essence.
Dee Jay, the Jamaican kickboxer, who’s a curious mix of the island’s native flair and American Tae Bo pitchman, Billy Blanks.
M. Bison, would-be dictator, master of the psycho power-infused style, and all around domineering presence.
And then of course, there are the two ladies of Super Street Fighter II.
First up is the trailblazer, Chun-Li, whose thick, muscular thighs have kicked off a thousand fansites. Unlike most of the other female videogame characters on our list, Chun-Li is not rendered as a stereotypical vision of idealized feminine beauty, where it seems a chipped nail might be a major catastrophe. Instead, it’s clear that Chun-Li has trained as hard as anyone for the fights at hand, representing a positive female role model when the norm is still, at best, a bimbo with boobs, or at worst, a damsel in distress. Mario can stay home, because this is one videogame princess who can clearly find her own way out of the castle and look damn good doing it.
In contrast to Chun-Li, then series newcomer Cammy was downright twiggy, but certainly no shrinking flower, packing her own sexy, muscular punch. During her signature victory pose where she lithely twists around and shows off her best ass-ets, even die hard fans of Chun-Li realized that there just might be room for one more digital vixen with verve in their hearts.
To say that Super Street Fighter II was a great game because of its sexy characters would be disingenuous. Like any classic, it got the fundamentals right, which in this case was being a finely tuned head-to-head fighting game. For something to be considered a legend, however, it must enhance these fundamentals in some way, and for that, the memorable, sexy characters are part of the total package and a combination that fighting games – which include this game’s descendants – still try to mimic with varying degrees of success today.