This is a visually striking, entertaining and cohesive film that no fan of the Street Fighter franchise should miss.
Not only was Street Fighter II a fantastic fighting game in its own right, but it also set a new standard for the genre. There’s no doubt that if it wasn’t for the second Street Fighter, fighting games wouldn’t be what they are today. Over the years, there have been several adaptations based on Capcom’s fighter that range from respectable to horrid and luckily, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie falls into the former. This is a visually striking, entertaining and cohesive film that no fan of the Street Fighter franchise should miss.
So there have been several Street Fighter adaptations (both official and unofficial) and most of them have failed at either telling a coherent story or portraying the characters we know and love from the games authentically. What does the animated Movie do differently to avoid those common missteps? For one, the movie quickly introduces the World Warriors and their motivations in a way that makes sense and doesn’t feel overwhelming. In fact, some fighters make cameo appearances, but are not an integral part of the movie. It also helps that the characters look like their virtual counterparts, so at no point will you wonder who’s who. That’s thanks to the fantastic animation. Not only do the characters look like what they are supposed to, but they move convincingly as well, an important part for a movie based on a fighting game.
Here’s a synopsis of the story: Ryu, a Japanese martial artist on a retreat to seek worthy challengers, fights against and defeats one of Byson’s most reliable henchmen, Sagat. Byson, the evil leader of an organization known as Shadow Law (aka Shadaloo) is looking for some of the most powerful World Warriors in the world and he wants to induct Ryu into the crime organization. This leads to several street fights between some of the most recognizable characters from the game. Despite introducing all the characters that matter in a way that makes sense, some them are incredibly underdeveloped. Then again, that’s what happens when you make a movie with a dozen characters and their primary motivation involves fighting in the streets.
Most of the fights look incredibly convincing, not only because there’s blood and some of the fighters can be badly injured, but also because they are well choreographed and animated. But punches and kicks aren’t the only parts about the movie that feel genuine, some of the relationships between these characters also seem realistic (such as Ryu and Ken’s rivalry.) There are definitely times when the animation looks rough and it isn’t on par with the rest of the film. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen often enough yo ruin the experience.
It’s worth pointing out that there are basically two versions of this movie that came out on different formats over the years: a PG-13 and an unrated version that features a revealing Chun-Li shower scene, more vulgar language and other minor differences. Needless to say, the “Uncut, Uncensored and Unleashed” DVD version is the best one because it addresses the complaints from fans and collectors (it comes with both the Japanese and the English soundtracks, the English dub and the original Japanese voices.) If you’re a purist and you’d like to watch this in the way it was meant to be watched, you’d be wise to track that down.
As it’s usually the case with media based on video games, avid Street Fighter players will be the ones that will get the most out of this film. That said, I think Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie works on many levels and I’d go ahead and recommend it to anyone remotely interested in watching it. It isn’t perfect by any stretch, but this is the rare video game movie that works to such an extent, that at times, I completely forgot it was based on one.