Street Fighter might be one of the most recognizable fighting game brands bar-none, but in 2009, it was in a rough spot. Years of offbeat entries since Street Fighter 3 left the series with no roadmap forward; for its fourth numerical title, it sounds like producer Yoshinori Ono was considering all avenues for what Street Fighter could become.
In a recent interview at EGX 2019, Ono told Eurogamer’s Martin Robinson that he had, at one point, considered making Street Fighter 4 a turn-based fighting game.
“I did have an idea that I thought was revolutionary, to turn it into more of a turn-based simulation,” Ono said via a translator. “So you would take the moves you want to do and put them together like blocks and they’d run automatically. But obviously we didn’t make that in the end.”
Even though the concept sounds intriguing, it’s ultimately a good thing that didn’t happen. It’s easy to identify Street Fighter 4 as being largely responsible for the modern wave of fighting game popularity, both in terms of Street Fighter itself and for fighting games as a whole. The community that sprang up around its Street Fighter 2-centered approach was the same generation that latched onto streaming and a concept of “esports” that expanded beyond dimly lit arcades.
In the same way that the simple addition of a parry had revived Street Fighter a decade earlier, the work Ono and the Street Fighter team did on SF4 was a turning point that brought life back to the series. But it was also something of a gambit.
During Ono’s interview, he mentions that Capcom’s higher-ups were unimpressed by the commercial success of Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike and Capcom Vs. SNK. He says the company was 99.9 percent against the idea of Street Fighter 4, and had to convince then-head of R&D Keiji Inafune to let him have a try at it.
And now, Street Fighter stands in another awkward position. While Street Fighter 5 has certainly managed to get past its rocky start, the stigma sticks to it. Ono mentions during the EGX interview that he’s sticking around to work on the Street Fighter franchise a while longer, so it’s good to know that the man who saved Street Fighter once is around, bonkers turn-based fighting game theories and all.