The Best Street Fighter Levels
CW: Flashing lights.
INTRO (by Jacob):
Despite what the name implies, fairly little of Street Fighter actually involves fighting in the street. In this international brawl simulator, various characters travel to various locales to get their tussle on and compete to determine who is truly the greatest at punching and, uh, the other one. With the feet. Foot-punching? Who remembers? Anyway, as in most fighting games, the stage has basically no effect on the outcome of the match and only serves to set a vibe and act as some lovely scenery for the preceding slap-around. A few members of the Super Trashed TV crew got together and wrote about what our favorite stages from the massive series are and why. Enjoy!
OVERPASS (Street Fighter IV)
From the outset, this stage doesn’t look like much. It can be found in the Kanto region of Japan (huh, not just a region in Pokemon, TIL) and, if memory serves, is where Ken fights Rufus in Ken’s story mode (this might be wrong). The backing track is pretty good and the setting is charming and low key, but that’s not what puts this stage at the top of the list for me.
No, that would be this fucker.
This chubby little punker watches the fights on this stage. He’s not always there, sadly. (I guess sometimes he has school.) But he’s there most of the time, often supported by a few peers. He seems to just love watching violence, as he gesticulates and dances at every move, and doesn’t appear to be rooting for anyone in particular as he cheers the hardest whenever there’s a KO. He just loves the sport of it all. My favorite thing about this little dude is the way he cheers: both fists pumping above his head like he’s at a rock show, until he suddenly wobbles forward like he’s tripping over nothing. Once he’s regained his composure, it’s right back to fist pumping and going “YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH” until the fight concludes and he goes home, where I assume he runs an underground gambling ring designed for children. He’s my favorite Street Fighter character (yeah, that’s right, get fucked, Guile) and I’d like him to speak at my funeral.
Temple Hideout (Street Fighter II, Street Fighter V)
The late actor Raúl Juliá enjoyed a career of limited acclaim. After making a name for himself in Shakespearian theatre, Juliá eventually made his way to the big screen, playing roles like Gomez Addams (twice!), Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and activist Chico Mendez, the last of which won him a posthumous Golden Globe and Emmy. Awards eluded Juliá throughout his life, but he is known today for giving the greatest line delivery in cinematic history.
On December 23, 1994, almost exactly two months after Juliá's death, the Street Fighter movie was released. Today, the movie is often overlooked as a joke — another "Oh, ha ha, video game movies are so corny!" to throw into the pile. But for Juliá, the film was a triumph.
In his final moments, Juliá plays the villainous M. Bison, who surges with so much power that he's no longer bound by mortal limitations like gravity. He is, in this moment, ready to challenge and dethrone God. Then, he bellows a line that still sends adrenaline coursing through my veins.
"…For I beheld Satan as he fell from heaven! Like LIGHTNING!!! EEEEAAAAAAAGGGHHH!!!!!!"
I have never owned a copy of any Street Fighter game. My knowledge of the series comes from several tangential exposures: going to arcades and button mashing while someone kicks the shit out of me, thinking Vega's Wolverine claw was kind of neat, playing Marvel Vs. Capcom, seeing my brother get frustrated with SF4's laggy online play, and watching thousands of “Guile’s Theme” memes on YouTube in the late 2000s. I haven’t even seen the whole movie. And still, here I am.
I dare you — I *dare* you — to tell me there has ever been a better video game villain represented in film. (Please disregard the roundhouse kick that detonates M. Bison right after this moment. That doesn’t count.)
I have never played Temple Hideout, but Google tells me that it "is M. Bison's stage.” As is the Street Fighter movie, my pick for best stage is dedicated to Juliá in celebration of his final triumph.
Field of Fate (Street Fighter Alpha 2, Street Fighter 5, Scott Pilgrim)
In Street Fighter x Tekken, there’s a stage called the Cosmic Elevator. It’s a giant elevator that hurtles into space and the whole time you get to see crazy shit going on outside. In Street Fighter 2, there’s this dope bathhouse that has water pouring over the side and, when you win, a painting comes to life. It sounds crazy but it’s super cool. There’s one in Street Fighter 4 that’s just a bunch of low riders outside a diner watching some people beat the shit out of each other. A true street fight if you will.
But none of those are my answer. In a game that has stages taking you to a deserted temple, the back streets of China, collapsing laboratories, and even shit with dinosaurs, my favorite stage has to be the one that is just a field of grass.
Yeah. That’s it. It’s just a field of tall grass with a thunderstorm raging in the background. It’s apparently 2 AM and apparently located in Australia.
It’s just epic as shit. Like, you’re in this surprisingly well-organized world fighter tournament and you get to the end and they’re like “What’s up, you gotta fight the leader of this secret underground criminal organization” and you’re like “Alright where” and they say “Ya know just this random-ass field of grass in Australia at 2 AM.” It’s ridiculous but it really fucking works. Like, no matter who you play as, this is your Final Destination (I don’t know if that’s a Smash or movie reference; they both work). Oh, you’re Sakura, just a Japanese high school student who idolizes Ryu? Congrats, your final fight is in a fucking field. You’re a Brazilian kid who didn’t go outside enough and that gave you electric powers and you just wanna see your mom? Fuck you. Field, 2 AM, Australia.
It’s the simplicity that gets me. Everything about the stage is right there the second you see it and it just works. It’s fitting. The blowing grass, the storm raging in the background, it brings you in and makes you feel how epic this confrontation is, even if you’re playing as fucking Dan.
Apparently it’s also banned in competitive play because it’s just a fucking field of grass so no one can tell where the edges of the stage are. Also, apparently it’s in Australia because if you’re in Japan that’s where the world’s belly button would be and there’s something in Japanese culture about it being the “center of the world” and biologically being where you’re mana is held. But I dunno — I just read that on the Street Fighter Wiki and it seems like someone just got super overzealous with their idea. Also they’re publicly edited so anyone can say anything…
Shopping District, Taiping Road (Street Fighter II)
I’m sorry if you’re able to properly accept metaphors and allusions. My deepest apologies if you can take a title at face value and move about your day.
But it’s a disservice to the premise and misleading to call something a “street fight” when those fights happen on roofs or a bathhouse.
“Street Fighter” (or Fighting Street) calls to mind brawls and bedlam.
Every street fight I’ve seen has been spontaneous, chaotic, scary. Nothing got the blood pumping harder than tensions boiling over. The air changed when mindless quibbles met a flash of anger.. The ground, sky, and surroundings changed as well if you were scheduled for action in the middle of the makeshift battle arena. We didn’t need no demons or crime syndicates to start fighting. We just needed 5-10 children in a circle, instigating the conflict with wildly inappropriate jeers.
I’ll admit that there are “fights” and “fighters” in Street Fighter. But where are the streets? Does a pier count as “a street”? Does whooping ass at a military airstrip count as fighting in public? If not, the game should just be called, “Fighters Who May or May Not Fight In the Street” or “Fighters (Not Commissioned by an Official Governing Body).”
If you call something “Street Fighter,” I’m going to need to see people clearing out of the way, the cops enroute to break up the public disturbance. Can we get some specific streets, like Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd? To quote Chris Rock, “if you’re on MLK Blvd, there’s some violence going down!” Is it too much to ask to get some “you won’t hit em, you won’t hit em” chants of encouragement in the background? I want the headcanon that this particular street fight, between a green monster and a sumo wrestler, will end up on WorldStarHipHop. “Green homie probably eat ALL the vegetables,” a commenter would say.
IF I’M IN THESE STREETS, I WANT TO POTENTIALLY BE HIT BY A CAR!
ME BEATING UP A CAR? WHAT KIND OF SENSE THAT MAKE?
Aside: Maybe the franchise is named after the Street Fighter film series. I haven’t watched any of that franchise but the movies sound as convoluted as the game’s plot. Do they also give the false promise roadside attrition and of a skinny, loudmouth running to a fallen warrior yelling, “YOU GOT KNOCKED DA FUCK OUT!?”
Anyway, Chun Li’s Street Fighter II stage is alive and vibrant. The Shopping District on Taiping Road (China) has shops and villagers gawking at the pure brutality. According to the Street Fighter wikia, the premise of the stage is:
"Chun-Li went to the crowded shopping district to investigate a possible drug route and ended in a street fight.”
That’s the kind of “on sight” action this series needs!
There are Coca Cola products in the background! Some dude is holding a chicken upside down. What a freak! People are riding their bikes, dodging stray fireballs. A little girl watching in the corner is like, “damn!” Some other people continue to work because THEY DON’T GIVE A SHIT! Respect the hustle.
Everyone is dressed in their best outfits. Haven’t you heard? There’s a damn street fight going on! Xiamen Meat Company? Well, THIS RUSSIAN WRESTLER AND THIS RANGEY YOGI GOT BEEF!
WHY AM I TYPING IN ALL CAPS!?!?!? DO YOU EVEN HAVE TO ASK?????
I’m sure some other installments of the franchise have more “street” locales. But my thirst for ludo-narrative-aptronym synergy remains. We need more streets in Street Fighter. Also, considering how many real life fighter analogs are in the franchise, let’s get Kimbo Slice, the ultimate street fighter, into one of these games. Or at least give Balrog an alternate costume with a beard and a durag.