Computer games have rarely fared well in celluloid. Everything from Panzer Dragoon to Tekken, from Legend of Zelda to Parappa the Rapper, failed to live up to the quality of the games they were based on. There have been exceptions, the live action Mortal Kombat film was fun (even if it was a rip-off of Enter The Dragon), the original Sonic the Hedgehog anime film wasn't that bad, Gungrave is good and of course there's the hugely successful Pokémon, but generally they've been lacking the spark that made the games so great.
One of the main reasons is that the plot of the games
generally isn't strong enough to sustain a film or series. In a game you
are controlling the action and the plot is little more than an excuse for it to
happen. Admittedly things are changing and games are becoming far more
cinematic, but for most older games this is still the case. However,
Street Fighter is one of those games that works relatively well in animated
The plot is simple and typically unbelievable. Awesomely powerful overlord M. Bison (Vega in the Japanese dub) and his Shadowloo organisation plot world domination, and are recruiting powerful street fighters to their cause with a combination of mind control and persuasion. There is one man Bison needs more than any other though. Ryu is a wandering martial artist who is believed to be the strongest of all, and Bison wants his power. The problem is finding the nomadic fighter, but Shadowloo have a plan for that - using the power of Ryu's oldest friend Ken Masters. Meanwhile Chinese Interpol agent
Chun-Li launches a joint investigation with Guile of the US Military into Bison and Shadowloo. Both she and Guile have reasons to want to bring down the dictator, and they soon realise Ryu is the key. Can they get to him before Bison? And can Ken stand up to Bison's mind control powers, or will he betray his friend?
Yes, as you can see it doesn't win any marks for intelligent plotting, but then Street Fighter was never about existential discussions about the nature of the universe. What it was about was good old fashioned scrapping, and on that this film comes up trumps.
The action is superb. No other word for it. The fight choreography is excellent, and many of the scenes rank amongst the best fights in anime. Ryu's fight with Sagat on a stormy night at the start of the film sets a standard that the rest of the film consistently lives up to, with the
highlight undoubtedly being Chun-Li's battle with the psychotic masked fighter Vega (Balrog in the Japanese). Everything a Street Fighter II fan could possibly ask for is here, every character from Street Fighter II, including the four that were added in Super Street Fighter II, make an appearance and fight at some point in the film. However, unlike the follow up Street Fighter Alpha few of the fights appear to be tacked on or the characters crowbarred in. The fights come thick and fast, and the film contains the single greatest moment of 'fanservice' (see glossary) in the history of anime - the legendary Chun-Li shower scene.
Yes, the moment every Street Fighter II fan who had ever done the Spinning Bird Kick in the game simply to see Chun-Li's pants (that wasn't just me, right..?) had dreamed of, here completely uncut for the first time. Yes, ok that just means you get to see an additional shot of her soapy bum, but I don't see anyone complaining. Come on, it's CHUN-LI. In the SHOWER. YES!
Unlike many other computer game films this one hangs together. The narrative keeps it rumbling along at a fair pace, and never really seems to be an excuse to give everyone their five minutes of screentime. A lot of care has been taken over the film to see that it lives up to the quality of the games, and it really shows. The animation is superb and it's incredibly good fun to watch. Everything a fan of the game could possibly want is here, and it's interesting to finally hear the original Japanese dub and music track. Unfortunately the Japanese music is so screamingly cheesy even Van Damme would hesitate to kick arse to it, but at least the dub doesn't have all the embarrassingly stilted swearing the English one has. Still, it's hugely entertaining in either language, and there's something great about seeing Ryu launch into his Dragon Punch or Guile fire off a Sonic Boom (which is the only thing he does in the entire film!).
In fairness if you are not a fan of the games then you will probably see it as nothing more than an entertaining martial arts film with some interesting characters. It is also a shame that some characters, like Dhalsim and Sagat, have very small roles overall. However, if you are a fan of the series then you'll love this film, and if you're not there's still plenty here to enjoy. Street Fighter II The Animated Movie is one of the best films to show people who are not into anime and is also probably the best anime martial arts film available in the UK. It's very accessible, has tonnes of action and Chun-Li gets her kit off. Repeat: Chun-Li gets her kit off. You must buy this film.
As well as obtaining the original Japanese audio tracks, Manga also include DTS audio options in both languages. Also included are trailers and a series of 'Player Cards', an extra feature that allows you to view information about each fighter. Not bad.