The first 3D STREET FIGHTER game faces tough expectations...but will new developer Arika come through? GAME ON! interviews Akira Nishitani, founder of Arika and former game designer for Capcom

TREET FIGHTER and 3D gameplay. Fire and water? Sugar and salt? When Capcom announced STREET FIGHTER 3 would use the super-2D CP System III, instead of joining the ranks of cookie-cutter polygon fighting games, many of their fans breathed a sigh of relief. But a side story, or perhaps an alternate reality of what STREET FIGHTER could have been in 3D has still been developed... as STREET FIGHTER EX.

fighter1.gif (9k)STREET FIGHTER EX brings back Ryu, Chun Li, Guile, Ken and Zangief while adding five new characters who will go down in the annals of street fighting as some of the weirdest ever. Pullum Purna, an Arabian fighter in harem pants, and traditional Japanese warrior Hokuto, are joined by the increasingly deranged Doctrine Dark (a sepulchral, gas-mask-wearing creep), Skullomania (who dresses in a full-body skeleton costume), and Cracker Jack (a thug wielding terrific punches and a baseball bat which can reflect projectiles). M. Bison thunders in as the final boss.

Will it be a success? The qualities that Capcom fans love -- character designs and precision gameplay -- are both harder to emulate in 3D. However, Capcom has provided full deniability by letting Arika, a previously unknown company, develop EX. The reason why is EX's president; Akira Nishitani, a former member of Capcom, who worked on FINAL FIGHT, X-MEN and STREET FIGHTER II.

Game On! magazine in Japan recently interviewed Mr. Nishitani, asking about the game, and the possibilities -- and problems -- of porting 2D games to 3D.

Game On!: Did you found your own company because you wanted to make games Capcom couldn't or wouldn't make?

Nishitani: I can't say that didn't occur to me, but, in brief, I wanted to try making games on my own. I didn't want to make a game that belonged to some other company. I wanted to make one from scratch by myself.

Game On!: So, that's why you're making EX. Why did you choose a 3D fighting game?

Nishitani: My biggest motivation was that I wanted to try using new technology. Since I myself hadn't ever made a polygon game, I wanted to try it at all costs. But of course, it was a lot of work. If a game's 2D, I understand most things, but when it comes to 3D, we had to use a system that none of us knew nothing about.

Game On!: From what we've seen, it looks almost done. How long has it been in development?

Nishitani: Was it in March of this year that we started? Before then, there was a little basic research time, but essentially it's taken about seven months [circa October &emdash; Ed.]. Completing it appearance-wise was amazingly fast, because it was different from drawing each cell of an animation pattern. The flow of the whole body and the parts corresponding to the characters' frames were finished comparatively quickly. The more detailed areas, however, we're still working on even now.

Game On!: If you don't make the character motions too complex, is 3D faster?

street2.gif (21k)Nishitani: As a rule I don't think so, but luckily for me, it was fast.

Game On!: Why did you use the STREET FIGHTER characters?

Nishitani: I was interested in how STREET FIGHTER would be if it were done in 3D, and I also felt that the characters were well-known, and would be recognized by everyone. In addition, I thought I would try to change a system that was well known in 2D into 3D, make it look like I had made the impossible possible, and it would be interesting (laughs).

Game On!: Do you think that a lot of people wonder about the fact that a STREET FIGHTER II game is coming out from someone besides Capcom?

Nishitani: After all, that's what people know, right? (laughs) It's difficult to figure out how to explain it, but Capcom trusts me, so they lent me a big title like STREET FIGHTER. They've said they want to be on friendly terms despite my setting up an independent company, so from here on they plan to cooperate.

Game On!: By the way, the character lineup is said to be fifty-fifty, composed of very familiar characters and new characters, such as the long-awaited revival of Guile. What were your standards for the choice of characters?

Nishitani: I imagined the game's worldview to be the period of STREET FIGHTER II. Not STREET FIGHTER ALPHA. I thought that STREET FIGHTER II's simple system was more fun as a game. While the rules themselves are simple, the characters are very individualistic, and yet they're balanced strength-wise, such that anyone can immediately understand. Making such a game was my ideal. So, in the end I thought about the distribution of well-balanced character types and the popularity of the STREET FIGHTER II period, and so the old characters I picked were Ryu, Ken, Zangief, Chun Li, and Guile. For the new characters, I made them with the idea of including things that weren't present in polygon fighting games so far.

Game On!: Did you create EX using the STREET FIGHTER II game mechanics as a model?

Nishitani: In trying to combine simplicity and enjoyment, I made some choices. For example, because super combos are fun, I put them in, but I decided that midair guards and prone evasions were unnecessary and didn't put them in. This is because I wanted clanging attack-filled play, rather than so-called "hesitation," for example "guard breaks," which forcibly destroy an opponent's guard. The guard position is an invincible one to the extent that one can't be thrown or cut down with a killing move. My decision came from this, because I didn't think there was any way I could possibly manage to solve it. With fighting games, the more you adjust them, the more powerful attacks end up become impossible from a theoretical stance. You can't have a game in which counterattacks are impossible, but when you balance attack and defense well, the fight becomes a seesaw, and what I attempted earlier ends up becoming a disadvantage. In short, "hesitation" becomes a stronger element. To prevent that, it's better to eliminate the opening after an attack, but doing so puts one in a corner. If it were children playing, everyone would tacitly understand it as being like "cheating," but in the case of a videogame, I can do anything I want since it's recognized as the game system. I also considered a system where one adds the ability to automatically distinguish between guard-breaking and non-guard-breaking moves, saying "just wait right there," and if he doesn't move, he dies (laughs).

Game On!: There are already many 3D fighting games. How do you plan to distinguish EX?

Nishitani: I think the feel of STREET FIGHTER II &emdash; let's call it the feel of 2D fighting games &emdash; doesn't yet exist in 3D fighting games. In short, jump attacks that are actually useful, the possibility of flips, the ability to parry, and a refreshing sort of flashy production values. These are the good aspects of 2D fighting games, and I want to to express them in the world of 3D.

Game On!: So it won't be a "fighting simulation?"

Nishitani: Yeah, though thinking of it as a realistic simulation is also right in a way. I think it's possible to preserve a high level of game quality by thoroughly investigating reality, but in the case of this game, I'm aiming for having a pleasing appearance. There are a lot of realism-oriented games because of the influence of VIRTUA FIGHTER, which came out first. We were so powerfully influenced, with VIRTUA FIGHTER's images strongly in our heads, that while making 3D games, we thought, "We shouldn't go beyond VIRTUA FIGHTER's limits, should we?" Everyone thought alike and there ended up being a lot of realism-oriented games. I wondered if we could go beyond those limits and make something new.

Game On!: What do you think of the recend trend that if a game's not 3D, it's no good?

Nishitani: 3D technology is expanding as a genre that will be used more and more in the future, and it will be used as the technique of choice. That being said, as for the question of whether or not 2D will become extinct, even I expect it to stick around. In designing a game, 2D or 3D, I think you should choose the one that suits you. But for myself, I always want to be connected with the technologically superior position. The good points related to arcade games can always improve my technology in a high-end environment, and that's an advantage you always want to win.

Game On!: Lastly, will you port EX to the home systems?

Nishitani: Since I have my hands full with finishing itat the moment, I haven't thought about porting it yet. Of course, after the game comes out, if there's a lot of demand, I'll port it (laughs).

Thanks to Game On! for their support and assistance.
Jason Thompson


Street Fighter EX ©1996 Capcom/Arika
©1996 Viz Communications, Inc.