Ep. 2: Matt Leone and The Making of Street Fighter 1

Matt Leone, features editor of Polygon, recently published the second in a series of articles delving into the history of the Street Fighter franchise: Street Fighter 1: An oral history. Matt helps us understand the market conditions that made this game unique for its time and how it served as a foundation to a wildly successful giant in fighting game history. 

Hear more from Matt Leone:

Twitter: @LattMeone

The Video Game History Hour music is Blippy Trance by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Kelsey Lewin  00:00

Welcome to episode number two of the video game history hour presented by the Video Game History Foundation. Every episode we’ll be bringing in an expert guest, someone who’s done the research and has an interesting story from the history of video games to tell. My name is Kelsey Lewin, I’m the co-director of the Video Game History Foundation. I’m here as always with Frank Cifaldi, the founder and co-director of the Video Game History Foundation. 

Frank Cifaldi  00:22

That’s me! Hi!

Kelsey Lewin  00:23


Frank Cifaldi  00:25

So today, I’m very happy to bring on a guest that is a former colleague of mine. In fact, God, he used to be my boss!  Matt Leone, features editor of Polygon, how’s it going Matt?

Matt Leone  00:36

Not too bad. How are you?

Frank Cifaldi  00:38

Good!  I just, I feel like I owe you a feature or something.  It’s like being back in school or something.

Matt Leone  00:46

Yeah, it was a pretty short period of time but it was… yeah, that was very tumultuous at the-

Frank Cifaldi  00:52

Yeah!  So, Matt and I worked together at 1up.com for the brief amount of time I was there – I don’t know, a year and a half, two years, something like that? -when I was the features editor, actually, of 1up below you.  

Matt Leone  01:05

Really, I thought you were news? I don’t know. 

Frank Cifaldi  01:08

Well, I came on as news and then as we shed talent, I ended up inheriting features as well. So I was doing news and features. Yeah, not not that much work.

Matt Leone  01:25

Just pile it on. 

Frank Cifaldi  01:26

Yeah, just give me more. Who cares?  So Matt recently published on polygon.com an oral history of Street Fighter 1, which is actually, Matt, a preview of a larger work that you’re doing, right?

Matt Leone  01:43

Yeah, it’s kind of a combination of a few things. So back about I think six years ago, I published a story, it was an oral history of Street Fighter II.  And then, maybe a year or two ago, I was like, “Well, I kind of want to tell everyone everything around that.” So I was like, “Well, what if I tell Street Fighter 1 and put in the spin off games, and Street Fighter III, and all those, and kind of collect them all as like a big series.” So in the end, when it’s done, which it’s not yet, but when it’s done, you can kind of line them all up, and it’ll go from the beginning to the end.  So I’m in the middle of that right now.

Kelsey Lewin  02:14

And you have a book on Kickstarter right now based on this concept. Can you talk a little bit about that, too?

Matt Leone  02:20

Yeah, the campaign’s over, so don’t go look to fund it or anything. But yeah, basically, that’s the idea is that when you line them all up, they’ll tell the full story, which we then will publish as a book and it’ll have some extra stuff in there too, just to kind of like connect everything. But yeah, I think about maybe 75% of it will appear on Polygon, and there’ll be some extra stuff for the book.

Frank Cifaldi  02:42

So people don’t talk about Street Fighter 1 very often, or people don’t play Street Fighter 1 very often so I think that a lot of this will be brand new to our listeners, especially if they haven’t read your piece yet (which if they haven’t, what is wrong with them)? But kind of take us to the beginning. I mean, what’s the genesis of Street Fighter from Capcom?

Matt Leone  03:12

Yeah, so the stories that I’m kind of putting together are very much focused on the people and how they came up with the ideas and that kind of thing. So for Street Fighter 1, basically, there was a guy named Takashi Nishiyama, who just kind of had an idea one day.  He had done some other games in that realm.   There’s a game called Kung-Fu Master, which is basically like the prequel to Street Fighter, even though he was at a different company at the time. And then he’s like, “If we took that idea of just, like, pull out those boss fights and add some more depth to them, we could make this its own game!”  And they had a bunch of weird ideas like these big, pressure-sensitive buttons you could use and all this other stuff that fell aside as this as Street Fighter took off.  But that was the basic idea was just kind of that simple concept of what if people are fighting one against another?

Frank Cifaldi  04:00

So I’m thinking back to Kung-Fu Master – or Spartan X if you’re in Japan – or if you had an NES, it was just Kung Fu.  And that’s a game where, I haven’t played this in years but, you’re kind of scrolling left to right or right to left and there’s grunt enemies coming at you that you can just kick off screen and they disappear.  But you get to boss enemies occasionally within the same framework that take multiple hits, and that’s kind of what Nishiyama was thinking about when he conceived of Street Fighter, right?

Matt Leone  04:37

Yeah, it’s like at the end of each stage there would be a boss and then that would kind of move you up to the next floor of the building you’re in if I’m not mistaken, I might be wrong about that. But yeah, the idea is basically what what would happen if these these one-on-one fights became the point of the game and I think where it gets interesting is that Street Fighter 1, it was not really focused on like a competitive kind of angle. You could play against another player that wasn’t really the point, it was just a side effect of having a one-on-one game. The point was just to kind of have it be a single player game that you’d fight one-on-one battles.

Kelsey Lewin  05:13

It is strange that this thing that we attribute to… You know, this is like the whole genesis of the fighting game genre here. I mean, not literally, there’s certainly games that influenced it that came before it, but the two-player thing was almost an afterthought?  Or at least not the focus of it, where it is the focus of all the fighting games these days.

Matt Leone  05:34

Yeah, you can’t even play, you can’t select the other characters, if you’re a second player, you automatically use Ken, but you can’t choose Ken just from the beginning, the only way you can play as Ken against the computer opponents is if you start a vs. game, and then Ryu dies and then you just continue on. It’s just a really weird setup to get to him. And then obviously, even the people making it, they knew they wanted to make the other characters playable at the time, but it was early days and they only do so much.

Frank Cifaldi  06:03

So something that kind of struck me reading the oral history and sort of trying to get into the heads of these people – which I guess is the whole point of what you’re doing here, right?  Is putting us into people’s heads.  It kind of struck me that it seems like, creatively, what was driving them making this game was the idea of pitting different fighting styles against each other.

Matt Leone  06:27

Yeah, yeah, very much.  I mean, I think that’s partially what what Street Fighter II also did really well is just take these characters that… It’s not, like, a karate game where every character is the same.  That partially it and brings in kind of the world feel of places around the world which, you know, can get them into trouble of stereotypes and stuff, too. But as far as like fighting styles was very unique at the time because it was like, if I want to be a boxer, and you want to be a Judo fighter or whatever else, then you can kind of see how those styles mesh.  At least they credit that as one of the things that they think is why that series took off.

Frank Cifaldi  07:04

Yeah. And it kind of feels to me creatively like, “what if Batman fought Spider Man?”

Matt Leone  07:10

Yeah, no, I think it’s the same kind of idea.  But yeah, I dunno, it’s… I think, at this point, if you look at like the new Street Fighter, they’re kind of scratching every area to find anything they haven’t done before. So it’s kind of tapped out. But at the time, it was really fresh because it wasn’t what you had seen.  Most boxing games were just straight boxing games.  There was no kind of crossover.

Frank Cifaldi  07:32

Yeah!  And to be fair, there were one-versus-one fighting games before this, even if they weren’t directly influencing Street Fighter 1, but surely they would have seen some of these?

Matt Leone  07:44

I think so. I didn’t really talk to them about that. But yeah, I mean, definitely there were, like, Karate Champ and stuff like that.  Am I getting that name, right?  I think I’m getting that name right…

Frank Cifaldi  07:52

That’s one of them.  And then there was Yie Ar Kung-Fu from Konami, yeah.

Matt Leone  07:57

So there were definitely others out there. And you could argue that those games were probably similarly successful to Street Fighter 1.  I haven’t really dug into it but, it wasn’t really… Like, Street Fighter 1 became a big deal just because of where the series went.  It was kind of just a modest thing when it first came out.

Kelsey Lewin  08:14

Yeah, so let’s talk a little bit about that.  First of all, I think a lot of people might not even be familiar with what that original Street Fighter cabinet looks like. So can you describe kind of, like… You know, it was it was a weird thing that they were pushing!  It wasn’t just your standard Capcom arcade cabinet with the swappable boards and stuff.  This was a whole new thing they were pushing.  Can you talk about what made the original Street Fighter cabinet so interesting?

Matt Leone  08:40

Well it was designed by Atari, too, which is really strange in retrospect.  So there’s kind of a whole backstory there of, like… Capcom Japan was trying to get into the more deluxe cabinet business.  They saw companies like Sega, Namco, doing stuff like you say, like, Hang-On or something like that. And they’re like, “Hey, we could do that!”  Because those kinds of machines are making a lot of money, they could sell them for much higher price. So Capcom was like, “We want to do that.” But Capcom didn’t really have that kind of division built for putting those kinds of machines together. So that’s why they reached out to Atari. They’re like, “Well, you guys do interesting cabinets. Maybe we could work with you?”   And I think Capcom Japan, they knew they wanted to do the the kind of pressure-sensitive button gimmick thing, which is what they thought would make their game have more of a deluxe thing. So the cabinet was basically just built around that which, if you really take it apart and look at all the pieces, there’s like all these… it’s a pretty complicated setup, which is partly why it broke down a lot!  So basically the cabinet was that: it was like a joystick with the big fancy button and it had a bigger screen than other cabinets out there. But when they went to sell it, most people didn’t really want to buy that.  So it didn’t really… that part was a failure.  The cabinet itself, they didn’t sell very many of them. But then after they kind of decided, “well, we could just kind of rip it out and put it in a generic cabinet,” then it did a little better.  And that’s kind of the version that is more commonly seen if you find it in arcade today, which is not super common.

Frank Cifaldi  10:06

Not very often.  Yeah, it was if you have a really weird laundromat near you

Matt Leone  10:11

Yeah, you go to like Galloping Ghost or something like that you’ll find it, but it’s not… Yeah. Honestly, the only place I really see it these days is if you find one of those, like, 101 games in one machine or something like that. 

Frank Cifaldi  10:22

Right. Totally.  So, I mean, it makes sense. If you’re thinking back to I mean, what year is this, it’s like, ’89? Something like that? 

Matt Leone  10:30

So it came out in ’87, I believe.

Frank Cifaldi  10:32

 ’87, okay, even earlier!  God.  So it makes sense. Back then, if you’re in the coin-op industry, you need a cabinet that sticks out, right?  Because your whole business is attracting people to make microtransactions, right?  So a good way of doing that Capcom recognized back then, I guess was, “We need a unique looking cabinet that is going to get people coming to drop quarters,” right?

Matt Leone  11:01

Well, if you think about it, Capcom is selling it to arcades and distributors, so they don’t really care how many coins drop unless those influence their sales. So they were looking for something that they could sell at a premium price to arcades or to distributors.  And then arcades, basically, would give them the feedback.  Like, “Hey, no one’s playing this because people are hurting their hands and they got tired and it broke down,” and stuff like that. So yeah, I think the the goal for Capcom was, “We could sell something at a higher price.”  But ultimately, I think the desire from arcades is often like, what’s something cheaper that will make… like, if you say, I don’t know exactly what the game sold for, but if it sold for, say, $8,000 or $10,000 -which I think might have been the case in Japan, I’m not sure – and that game made $500 a month in an arcade, then it would make money over time. But if you sell a cheaper game that costs, like, $3,000, and it still makes like $400 a month ultimately that’s a better investment. So I think the arcades would often look at it from that perspective.  They would care less about the big flashy thing and more about just like, “What is the the profit ratio we’re making here?”

Frank Cifaldi  12:11

So did Capcom go further with this idea of making big splashy deluxe cabinets? Because I can’t recall any other than Street Fighter.

Matt Leone  12:23

Not a lot. Especially not the time.  I think it was basically, like, that kind of scared them off from it. I haven’t really researched this too much. I know they like… Did little things, I think, didn’t do the Luigis Mansion thing that came out more recently?

Frank Cifaldi  12:37

 Oh, sure. That was waaaaay later!  

Matt Leone  12:40

Yeah, it had a weird kind of setup, too.  But at the time, I don’t think there was a lot of that. I think they were kinda like, “Well, we could try something…”  Especially because if you think about the big success that Capcom had right after Street Fighter was Final Fight. And that was very much not a deluxe thing.  It was like, “let’s just put it in any cabinet and it’ll make a ton of money.” And I think once they saw that takeoff they’re like, “Okay, let’s just let’s stick to this because this is doing pretty well for us.”

Kelsey Lewin  13:04

Yeah, recognize their strengths and kept going with thing that was actually going well for them. I mean, especially when you have to reach out to, you have to work with someone like Atari just to even make a flashy cabinet feasible for them, I mean… That makes sense to me that they’d kind of abandon that after Street Fighter 1.

Matt Leone  13:21

It’s so weird to me thinking of Atari as the trendsetter as far as fancy arcade cabinets because I don’t, like, when I think back to like the best arcade cabinets I don’t really think of Atari, but… 

Frank Cifaldi  13:33

Well this is, like, Paperboy-era Atari!  So they are doing weird experiments.  Marble Madness, I think, is around this time as well.

Matt Leone  13:40

Right, right, right. I mean, I guess, probably because it’s not a direct competitor?  I think of like Sega when I think of those kinds of things as the most innovative, but I guess if you partner up with someone overseas, then maybe it’s not as much like you’re, you’re kind of fighting your own fight?

Frank Cifaldi  13:57

Well, actually, on that note, was this game kind of targeted at the overseas market?  Overseas being the US, for Capcom.

Matt Leone  14:08

I think in part.  I think the idea of having people fighting from different places around the world would naturally kind of appeal to selling internationally. I don’t remember if it was specifically, like, that was their main goal with it. I know some of the certain characters, especially as the series went on, were targeted that way.  I don’t remember if Street Fighter one specifically was like, “we just want to reach overseas.”

Frank Cifaldi  14:34

Yeah, I mean, I guess I’m just trying to make that connection to like, “Oh, there you go! That’s why they went with Atari!”

Matt Leone  14:39

I’m sure that’s part of it, yeah. And honestly, just from a distribution perspective too, if they can build them overseas then – which I’m not actually sure if they did, I think they probably did – then that would make it much easier to ship them.  Because a cabinet like that would be very expensive to ship internationally.

Frank Cifaldi  14:56

I want to backtrack a little bit because, again, I don’t know that a lot of people have played Street Fighter 1. So can you just describe- I mean, you can assume that the people listening have at least seen Street Fighter II, right? So like, let’s just use that as a baseline. But if one were looking at Street Fighter 1 for the first time, what would they be seeing? What kind of game are we talking about here?

Matt Leone  15:20

Yeah, I mean, it’s basically a much more choppy version of Street Fighter II.  It’s very jerky, the animation.  When you when you walk you do little hops. And when you jump it’s not smooth. It’s kind of like you’re slingshoted through the air and you just kind of have to wait ’til you fall, that kind of thing.  It just feels very… I don’t know, I mean, it feels kind of like a prototype for Street Fighter II.  Street Fighter II, one of the great things that it did was just, it smoothed everything out.  It made the animation really smooth, it made the controls really smooth. Like, the typical interaction would be one character throws a fireball and other character jumps over it and they, like, use a dragon punch to knock him out of air and stuff like that. And that kind of balance of how all those moves worked harmoniously together, they really didn’t figure out until Street Fighter II.  So I think a lot of the elements that were in Street Fighter 1, like for instance the special moves, just even pulling off a fireball was much more difficult in Street Fighter 1.  You’d think it’s the same because it’s the same motion that you do in Street Fighter II, but they did all these little tweaks to the input and what is acceptable and that kind of thing. So, it’s much more likely that – unless you’re  really precise and good at Street Fighter 1 – just for an average player, you’ll pull off a fireball much more frequently. So it becomes much more a game of skill of like, “I’m going to use this move at this time,” and less of like a game of chance, where it’s like, “if you happen to pull this off, then you’re going to win. But you don’t really know.”  You have to kind of fight with the machine to make it work.

Kelsey Lewin  16:48

And that seems especially funny to me too with, you know, those original cabinets had those pressure-sensitive buttons. So you’re hitting it at different pressures to do a weak, medium, or hard punch or kick or whatever. So to have to wrestle with making sure you’re hitting the button with the right amount of force as well as like a frame-perfect… You know, to pull off those specials, I mean, that seems really difficult!

Matt Leone  17:14

It is. And I think that’s part of the design of the game, too. I think Street Fighter 1, a lot of it is chance of like, if you happen to press the button at the right pressure at the right time, then you inflict a lot of damage, and if you do the move the right time. So there is very much that risk/reward of a single hit, where as Street Fighter II became more of like, “let’s do these moves in conjunction with another, let’s do combos, let’s do things that fight back against what the opponent is doing.”  So you’re kind of interacting based on what they do, whereas Street Fighter 1 is very much like, “if you can pull it off, then you kind of… you get lucky,” and you win based on that.

Frank Cifaldi  17:50

Yeah, it’s meant to be a rare occurrence that you would pull off a special move, right? It’s not, it’s not something you can really use strategically.

Matt Leone  17:58

I mean, yeah, there are people.  I know people who got good enough that they could do it every time. But I think for 99% of the people playing that game, yeah, it was like… you considered it lucky if you just even saw a fireball or a Shoryuken on the screen, it wasn’t something that you would throw out ten of them and just use that as tight chip-away, and that kind of thing.

Frank Cifaldi  18:20

So that brings up another huge differentiator between 1 and II, which is that (we alluded to this earlier, even) you can only really play as Ryu — or if you kind of force it, Ken — who are basically just palette swap versions of each other. And the game primarily was the single player campaign, if you want to call it that, of going through and defeating all of the fighting masters from around the world, right?

Matt Leone  18:51

Yeah, yeah. And Street Fighter II, obviously, the probably the biggest — well, I don’t know if the biggest — but one of the biggest changes is that you could pick everybody. So if you wanted to play as, you know, an American fighter like Guile or something like that, it was a whole different feeling and different controls and everything else whereas then if you use Ryu or Ken.  So yeah, I think that was a big part of why it was successful is that it wasn’t the same thing every time it did vary based on who you chose, and how you played and that kind of thing.

Frank Cifaldi  19:19

So there were a lot of development concerns, I guess, during the making of the game. The one that jumps out at me remembering your article was the inexperienced engineer sort of slowing down production.

Matt Leone  19:36

Yeah, I mean, I think that’s just kind of the time they were in.  When you’re talking about the ’80s then make arcade games, you didn’t have a lot of people who were super kind of experienced with it just because you couldn’t be.  There was only so many people around at the time. So yeah, they mentioned that they kind of got stuck with a programmer who wasn’t really even from the game industry and they had to kind of figure out how to make it work. And I think that’s probably why you see some of the more choppy movement in the game and it’s not as precise and smooth and stuff like that.  Partly that’s to go along with the design and partly I think that’s just because the limitations they are up against.

Frank Cifaldi  20:11

So you have a really good description at the beginning of this piece that I really liked about the debut of the cabinet in a really flashy way for arcade distributors to see for the first time.  Can you tell us about that?

Matt Leone  20:27

So that was basically just, that was a RePlay magazine, the arcade trade magazine, had done a story on the game’s debut. And I was basically just kind of rewriting what they wrote with a few extra details, that kind of thing. But yeah, I think a lot of people who play games, they don’t really realize just how different the arcade or amusement industry was – and I guess still is – to a degree. But just in terms of how they sold games: they would always have these distributor parties, or everyone was dressed in suits, and they were these very elaborate things and it was a very different industry and, you know, very much based on like relationships.  Lots of weird stuff there too, as far as  rumors of, like, the mafia being involved or corrupt sales people and stuff like that.  All that kinds of that stuff just kind of folded in because it was very much is this industry that sold stuff to arcades.  It was very unregulated in many ways. So yeah, I mean, for Street Fighter 1, they had this party that was – I don’t know if they call it party – but a distributor meeting where they had everybody come to, was it? I’m forgetting location…

Frank Cifaldi  21:43

I think it was in Philly, right?

Kelsey Lewin  21:44

It’s the place from Rocky or something, right?

Matt Leone  21:46

Yeah. Okay, because so Bill Cravens, who actually passed away, he was kind of Capcom’s head sales guy at the time and he lived in Philadelphia at the time. So he brought everyone kind of to him and there were a number of distributors in Philadelphia already.  And they added in this kind of fighting ring, which is where they filmed parts of Rocky. And it was kind of it was like a press event in some ways in the old days where they were just laying out like, “Let’s put a show on and bring out like ring girls, and let’s have it be this whole kind of show about what it’s like to be in a fight!  And oh, by the way, here’s Street Fighter!”  Yeah, so it’s very random in that sense, but it was kind of this big thing where he’d like, they had the machine like covered in brown butcher paper. And he’s like, “Okay, everybody, we’re gonna show it!” and he goes over and tears off the butcher paper is like, “Here it is!”  Yeah, it’s very kind of old school style of salesmanship, I guess.

Frank Cifaldi  22:46

Let’s talk about RePlay magazine for a second.  RePlay: not in any library in the country!  I mean, we’ve got a few in ours, but this is not something you can easily access…

Matt Leone  22:57

There’s… so I found a guy who has a whole bunch of them, he let me look through some of them. It’s the same guy who bought the Super Nintendo CD prototype. He has, like, this whole collection of RePlay. 

Frank Cifaldi  23:08

Oh, yeah, yeah! So did you travel to his library?

Matt Leone  23:12

I went to his house. This was for the old article I did, like, six years ago.  But I stopped by his house at the time and he had all these old mechanical arcade games around. It was kind of amazing.

Kelsey Lewin  23:22

His house is his museum as far as I understand.

Matt Leone  23:25

I thought he was moving at the time. I don’t remember exactly. But yeah, it was pretty impressive. 

Frank Cifaldi  23:30

Oh God, I can’t remember the guy’s name, feel like a jerk…

Matt Leone  23:32

I want to say, is it Greg McLemore? 

Kelsey Lewin  23:36

Greg McLemore. 

Frank Cifaldi  23:37


Kelsey Lewin  23:38

Yup! [laughs]

Frank Cifaldi  23:39

Okay, so you’re able to access Greg McLemore’s collection at the… what is it called, the International Arcade Museum, right?

Matt Leone  23:47

Yeah. And I mean, it was just at his house, but I don’t know if it was a complete collection but he certainly had some issues that were super helpful.  But yeah, RePlay, in general, I think is a fascinating magazine. Like, it’s interesting: you look at Andy McNamara at Game Informer, and everyone’s talking about how he’s got this massive career working in game media. The guy who runs RePlay has been doing it quite a bit longer and he’s still there, is Eddie Adlum. And, I mean, it’s not consumer facing so most people in our world haven’t heard of him, but it’s kind of amazing that they’re still putting that magazine out and it’s still kind of the dominant force in that that world.

Frank Cifaldi  24:26

Yeah!  And they are actually, I don’t know if you’ve ever reached out to them, but they are pretty helpful if you have specific needs.  We were able to get permission from them, for example, to include any of their their work inside of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, for example, when I worked on that and it is kind of neat that there is this very old-school resource that’s still existss that you still can access and I don’t know how much longer that’s gonna be the case.

Matt Leone  24:59

Yeah, they give us permission to use that, there’s a photo in the Street Fighter 1 story that was from their issue back in the day, which is kind of amazing because if you look at it, it has Kenzo Tsujimoto, who was the the guy who started Capcom and still owns it. And it had like [Takashi] Nishiyama, who’s the guy who directed the Street Fighter 1, they’re all kind of in the same photo playing the game. And that kind of stuff, you just wouldn’t find if they didn’t have an old magazine like that, just a random photo in it. 

Frank Cifaldi  25:23

Yeah, absolutely not.

Matt Leone  25:24

But yeah, I think Play Meter just ended fairly recently, which is RePlays kind of competitive over the years.  But RePlay still going, it’s kind of amazing.

Frank Cifaldi  25:32

Yeah, we have a few of both of them in our library, and it’s the arcade trades, the coin-op trades, I should say; they’re not arcade trades, they’re coin-op trades! 

Kelsey Lewin  25:41

‘Cause it goes back further!

Frank Cifaldi  25:43

But also one issue will have the photographs from the Street Fighter unveiling and, you know, the cover story of the next issue will be, like, “Cigarette machines! Where they are they going?”

Matt Leone  25:55

Yeah, and if you really look at it from a consumer perspective, they get a lot of details wrong on the specifics of each game, but it’s not for consumers.  It’s for people buying machines. So a lot of the issues are just pictures of people from around the industry because the whole point is to, like, so you’ll recognize them at the trade show and so they can sell you a game.  No, it’s interesting, too, because Play Meter (RePlay’s competitor), one of the things I was digging up when I was doing this is there’s an issue of Play Meter, which I have right here. So I’ll get the date: it was September ’88. They have… so Street Fighter 1 came out in 1987. Street Fighter II didn’t come out until 1991 so they were not working on Street Fighter II in 1988. It didn’t happen until a couple years later. But there’s a Street Fighter II logo on the cover of Play Meter. 

Frank Cifaldi  26:40


Matt Leone  26:41

This is in 1988! Yeah!

Frank Cifaldi  26:43


Matt Leone  26:43

But it looks kind of handmade. I wonder who drew this? Because it doesn’t have the normal font for the “II.” And it on this-

Kelsey Lewin  26:50

Is it Final Fight related? Because that was…

Matt Leone  26:53

Yeah, exactly. Like, you would think maybe there was some confusion there? Because, you know, there’s a whole story of how Final Fight was originally called Street Fighter ’89. But yeah, like, I’m guessing there is some kind of confusion along those lines handed over to the US office or something who may be a little like, “hey, we’ll just put together a logo…” Because it’s this whole article advertising I believe it’s the CPS one at the time, that kind of Capcom’s arcade hardware where you can swap in different games. But yeah, they have a Street Fighter II logo on the cover and it’s not mentioned at all inside the magazine. And unfortunately, the lady who ran the magazine has passed away, I believe. So I…

Kelsey Lewin  27:31

I’m sure she would not remember why Street Fighter II was on the cover in 1988!

Matt Leone  27:36

But that’s the kind of stuff I’ve been trying to dig up. But yeah, so like, yeah, it was… The whole transition from Street Fighter 1 to Street Fighter II is a lot more complicated than you might think. And a lot, mostly because a lot of people who are involved in it disagree on how it happened. I haven’t really pieced it all together because partially it’s because some of those people have passed away and partially it’s because they just don’t remember all the details. But it’s kind of interesting how I don’t think that story will ever fully be figured out.

Frank Cifaldi  28:06

Yeah, we’re gonna pause this narrative and talk about this right now. Because there’s fun mysteries in this transition that, Matt, it’s now your job to figure out.

Matt Leone  28:16

I’ve got about 15,000 words in a doc that I’ve yet to put together. So I can just read it to you if you want. [laughter]

Frank Cifaldi  28:23

Well, so I mean, from my own research, and you probably pulled up almost all the same stuff that I have, but I worked on Street Fighter 30th Anniversary, for example, which was a commercial game product that went into a little bit of history. You know, what I could dig up without access to anyone.  Because if you’re working with Capcom directly, they like to pretend that no one that doesn’t work there now has ever worked for them.

Matt Leone  28:48

That’s a very complicated topic, which we could talk about for a while, too. Yeah.

Frank Cifaldi  28:53

But, you know, one of the things that we dug up from official stuff back then was, of course, the original Street Fighter 2 concept that started development and was cancelled mid-way. But I think the mystery that that came to mind for me when you mentioned this Play Meter cover, is that around the same time, ’88, maybe ’89, and if y’all have NES collections at home you might be able to dig this out yourself, there was a fold-out poster sort of advertising upcoming Capcom games, if you had a Capcom game like Mega Man 1. And in this thing there is a logo, and it’s a different logo for Street Fighter II in, like, ’89. And I’m just kind of wondering if it’s related and there might be this weird mystery Street Fighter II, or maybe like Final Fight was just being called Street Fighter II? I don’t know!

Matt Leone  29:50

Yeah, I think you actually sent me that picture for the original article I ran back at, like, six years ago. So it might be in there, thanks to you, so I appreciated that!

Frank Cifaldi  29:57

Oh that’s right, yeah!

Matt Leone  30:00

 Yeah, it’s weird because the people who made the version of Street Fighter II that came out that made it, like, good.  They did not start on it then.  They started on it later. So there probably was some experimenting along those lines. But it kind of depends on who you ask. So, if you ask, like… there’s guy named Akira Yasuda, who was kind of the main art lead and creative kind of head on Street Fighter II.  He had done some kind of sketches for the version you’re talking about. Or at least one of the versions you’re talking about, where it was kind of before Final Fight. And that didn’t get very far.  Talking to him about it, he’s like, “Yeah, you know, that was kind of just concepts. We never really turned that into a game.” But then, it depends who you ask, because other people are like, “Yeah, I don’t remember that at all.” And maybe that was just like one guy doing some doodles. It’s really hard to know exactly because different people remember it differently. The ultimate version of Street Fighter that came out was much more like, “Okay, now we know Final Fight’s done well and we can build on some of the art and animation we’ve done on that.  And some people say the reason they did Final Fight instead of Street Fighter II at that time was because of, like, hardware issues. Like, they didn’t have the kind of memory they needed at the time, because the way the industry was going- 

Frank Cifaldi  31:01

Well, the story that I read actually was it was the ROM chip shortage.

Matt Leone  31:24

Right, so that’s, that’s one version of the story. But there’s other versions of it that are more like there’s versions of it that came in they’re like, “Oh, you know, we got requests from capcom USA and we didn’t want to do what they did.” Or, “We got requests from capcom USA and we didn’t understand them.”  So each person kind of has their own little spin on how the transition worked there. And like I say, the person at Capcom USA who would know best, Bill Cravens, unfortunately passed away. 

Frank Cifaldi  31:51


Matt Leone  31:52

 The person, there’s a couple people in the Japan side who would know a little better. There’s but there’s another guy who passed away [named Sekai?], who was kind of involved who passed away tsujimoto who runs kept calm and owned it back then he might have some insight into that. I don’t know, I haven’t been able to talk to him because Capcom won’t let me. But everyone else who was like key to that process I have talked to, and they all kind of have, like, similar but a little different versions of the story.

Frank Cifaldi  32:21

And it’s not like, you know, I don’t get the sense that they’re, like, weird about it, right? 

Matt Leone  32:26

Yeah, they’re not hiding it, they just don’t know!  It’s been, you know… It’s kind of like if you think about, like, me.  If I was talking about something that happened almost 30 years ago, at this point, I would probably forget some of the details.  For instance, there was that Twitter meme the other day, it was like, “What was the first game you ever played?” And I’m like, “I don’t know! I can’t remember specifically!” I remember playing games in arcades and stuff. But that was 30 years ago, I’m not really gonna be sure exactly what the first game I ever played was. So it’s hard to know exactly what the story is. And I think that’s… I think, in some ways that is more interesting, just telling the different versions and how they disagree. But it’s unfortunate that there’s no, like, canonical version of that story.

Frank Cifaldi  33:08

Is it though?  Is it unfortunate, like to your point, I think…

Matt Leone  33:12

 For my book it is!  It’d be easier if it was straightforward!

Frank Cifaldi  33:17

For your book! [laughter]

Matt Leone  33:17

 But I mean, I think that’s part of the interesting thing about the way that I’m putting it together where the whole point of this is just to put their comments next to each other and show how people remember it differently.  In some ways that is more interesting.  But I guess what frustrates me about it is when I see people who just tell one version of the story, and I’ve probably done this in some story in the past, too, if not with Street Fighter definitely with other things.  Like, the number of stories that I tell where there’s a version of something that happened as told by one person, then I later find out that other people either knew other things or saw it differently, is amazing.  And it drives me crazy, because I, I certainly… I want things to be as comprehensive and accurate as possible. And I think that’s a big kind of struggle with reporting on stuff is that unless you literally talk to, like, ten people involved with every single thing you ever write about, inevitably you’re going to get something that people disagree on or have different perspectives on.

Kelsey Lewin  34:11

Right, and you know, like, what do you put in the Wikipedia, if that’s my point point, right?  Because but most people, if you’re just looking for the story on something, you just want a general overview of Street Fighter history. There’s a lot of people who maybe don’t want to hear ten versions of the same story that are like, “Just tell what the real one is!  What’s the [base] version?” 

Matt Leone  34:33

Yeah, exactly.

Kelsey Lewin  34:33

So that part I can see as being frustrating, for sure.

Matt Leone  34:36

Yeah. And it’s one of those things that, I think the longer I’ve done this kind of stuff, the more I won’t just put one person’s comments on something. But you know, sometimes that’s all you’re able to get. Sometimes that’s… You know, in the case of a story that only two people are involved in and one person won’t talk to you or has passed away or something like that, do you just not run the other half or what do you do?

Kelsey Lewin  34:58

Right, that just becomes the accepted history at that point because that’s what you’ve got to go on.

Matt Leone  35:04

And for Street Fighter, it’s interesting too, because prior to about 10 years ago, in the the English speaking world, there really was not a lot of Street Fighter history stuff out there, at least not good stuff.  There was there was articles but they had all these flaws and stuff in them. And so it’s kind of interesting how, as time goes on, you get more and more the story kind of unraveled whereas I think games that are made not necessarily in the U.S. but by people who speak English, you get a little bit more insight earlier on.

Frank Cifaldi  35:34

Yeah, and they tend to be a lot more accessible in general.

Matt Leone  35:38

A lot cheaper to get any access to them, too!

Frank Cifaldi  35:40

Yes, indeed. [Laughter] But in terms of people remembering things differently, I mean, that even comes up in your published Street Fighter 1 oral history where you just can’t really nail down how many units sold of the cabinet.

Matt Leone  35:56

Yeah, Capcom had no official answer for it. And each of the people was remembering it very differently.  This is a very similar thing in the Street Fighter III story I’m working on now. It’s like, people remember it very differently than one another and just how successful it was. And I think that is probably more interesting than getting an exact number in many ways. But it’s one of those things that like, I don’t know, if you’ll ever get proof.

Frank Cifaldi  36:19

Yeah, there might be, you know… There might be on a piece of paper inside of Capcom, Japan. 

Matt Leone  36:23

Yeah, there might be.  And who knows, but then even that, it’s like, when you get that… Which version is it and does it account for international markets and stuff like that?  It’s really hard to be comprehensive with that kind of thing.

Frank Cifaldi  36:36

Well, and then also, it’s like, how does that compare to everyone else? Because we don’t really have everyone else, either. So what does this number mean?

Matt Leone  36:42

Yeah, other Capcom games? What did it sell for?  What it every unit fell for? Because not every arcade machine is going to sell for the exact same amount.  A lot of negotiating going on with deals that arcade salespeople would make and that kind of thing? So like, yeah.  As much as it’s hard to track a console game after it drops to $30 instead of being at $60 or something like that and  how profitable that would be for the company, I think with arcade games, it’s even more; it fluctuates even more.

Frank Cifaldi  37:06

Yeah, the one thing that that people did seem to agree on, anyway, is that the original cabinet did not sell nearly as much as the revision. And I guess we didn’t talk about it at all. So we talked about how the initial cabinet that was sold was this crescent-shaped bombastic Atari thing with these giant pressure sensitive buttons that had some issues, right?

Matt Leone  37:34

Yeah, I think was very common at the time.  It’s kinda like a movie, like a first-run movie, where you would have a… whether it’s deluxe cabinet, or just a dedicated cabinet where you have to buy the wood and you wouldn’t just get the board, would kind of be for sale first. And then later on, you would be able to buy the kit version you could stick in just a generic cabinet. So that was very much a common arcade industry thing. And definitely, everyone I talked to was like, yeah…  I’m not even sure if they sold a kit version Street Fighter 1.  I don’t think they did, actually, maybe in the Japan [market] they did, but I believe in the U.S. that was not something that was part of their rollout initially. But yeah, definitely the more generic, dedicated version was much more successful. Just because… It’s kind of like, it’s just the economics of arcades.  Yes, it’s not as flashy and it doesn’t look as impressive in arcade, but if it makes more money, that’s what they care about. That’s what they’re gonna buy.

Frank Cifaldi  38:23

Yeah. And they, you know, there’s some history in your report of how people were sort of even injuring themselves on the originals, right?

Matt Leone  38:34

Yeah, because there was the big button, which encourages you to hit the thing hard. So obviously, you’re gonna have some issues with that. But also because the shape of the button had, like… if you didn’t hit it right in the middle, if you hit on the side, your fist would kind of slide down and it might hit a screw or it might hit the plastic or something like that. So there was, you know, you had to be kind of careful.  You could play it.  It’s kinda like the same way I play  Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, where you can even play it like you’re slapping it and kind of like getting into it!  Or you can just press it really gently, like it’s just like a button. And you can play Street Fighter like that but it kind of defeats the point to a degree.

Kelsey Lewin  39:10

And I thought it was really interesting that you put in your article, there was something about how even the professional boxers at that event were getting tired of playing it.  Like it was exercise to play this game. So you probably don’t get too many quarters out of that when after, like, three rounds you’re just exhausted, right?

Matt Leone  39:30

Yeah. And that was coming from a guy who was a kid the time, Bill Cravens’s son, who was playing it and so he would have had more energy than anyone, you’d think. If he gets tired, then everyone’s gonna get tired.

Frank Cifaldi  39:43

So they switch over to traditional button input, but actually, at the time, not so traditional, right? I mean, they actually split that, split the two pressure sensitive buttons into a six button configuration that’s exactly what’s in your head right now if you’re if you’re picturing a Street Fighter II cabinet, right?

Matt Leone  40:01

Yeah, yeah. And apparently that was a controversial thing within Capcom, too. Just people thinking it’d be too complicated to have six buttons and that sort of thing, because most arcade games at the time were not.  They were, you know, two buttons, or three or whatever.  So yeah, I think that was… Anything that complicates things, I think, scares people. But obviously, that became pretty easy to understand. And once Street Fighter [II] took off, that was just kind of the default.

Frank Cifaldi  40:25

So a big part of the focus in the oral history that’s published on Polygon is getting into this rivalry that happened between SNK and Capcom due to essentially them poaching talent from each other. Can you can you explain that to us?

Matt Leone  40:43

Yeah, that’s kind of a big theme throughout the whole series. In the book, it comes up again in the [Street Fighter] Alpha story and obviously in Capcom vs. SNK eventually, how they had to all kind of put that behind them. Yeah, it’s one of those things that like, we couldn’t talk to the two people who are the central characters of that. So there’s guy named [Kenzo] Tsujimoto, who started Capcom, there’s a guy named [Eikichi] Kawasaki, who ran SNK. And we weren’t able to get in touch with either of them. So we talked to a lot of people who know them, and whether they’re friends or have just talked to them and heard about things over the years.  And the general story people tell, which not everyone agrees with, but the general story is that they got upset at each other because they were poaching talent from one another. And we know, I can say for certain that they did not get along.  Everyone has said they had issues with each other. I’m not 100% sure it’s because they were poaching talent – that’s what people have said. It make sense that would be true. But there could have been other issues there. I’m not really sure, there’s a lot of politics with that kind of thing. But yeah, I mean, I think there definitely was talent that went from one company to the other and I think the the first instance of that that we found out about was, there were a few sales people. There’s a couple sales people and a composer from SNK who went to Capcom, and then the big one was when, after Street Fighter 1 came out, SNK hired the majority of Capcom’s Street Fighter 1 team.  And it may not all have happened at the exact same time, like the hired Nishiyama, who was kind of the head of that project. And I know he brought the other people with him, but I’m not sure if they, like… I don’t know exactly the process of what date that all happened on.  But yeah…

Frank Cifaldi  42:28

And it’s not as if they were like, “We want to the Street Fighter team,” right? It was like, they probably hired [Takashi] Nishiyama and then he brought his people over.

Matt Leone  42:34

It could have been I’m not sure. And some people say that was like a political kind of move because it was with Capcom, because, like… One other factor here is that these companies are both based in Osaka, which is very much like they’re competing for talent already, because they’re the two kind of arcade companies right next to each other.  But yeah, it gets it gets tricky. And I don’t want to assume anything. But definitely there seems to have been some tension over that hiring and when Nishiyama went to SNK, he kind of eventually took over all of SNK’s development and he was very integral in NeoGeo development and all the other games that came after that, like Fatal Fury and King of Fighters and all that. But he’s also an interesting guy, because he’s not your typical, like, “hardcore gamer.”  He’s more of like… I guess you could say, like, a producer who kind of keeps games at arm’s length. So he’s more like a business guy who has ideas for games but he’s not the person who’s managing hitboxes to an extreme degree and the kind of person who really makes a game like Street Fighter feel good and has like that precision. That’s more detailed than he would get into. So he kind of fit in well, when he went to SNK as far as overseeing a bunch of different things.

Frank Cifaldi  43:55

So I can give you just a tiny bit of insight from my own experience, working on SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, which is that we also tried to speak to Chairman Kawasaki, the founder of SNK. And with… The idea that we wanted was that he would write a sort of intro, like in like a hardcover book and he would just write a quick intro. 

Matt Leone  44:20

Like a foreward or something?

Frank Cifaldi  44:20

Yeah, yeah, exactly the foreword to the game, which… I don’t know, I’ve never seen a foreword to a game before. I thought that’d be a really cool idea.

Kelsey Lewin  44:27

There’s sort of one and Animal Crossing.  Is there really? Yeah, you get a letter from… oh, gosh, now I forget. I think it’s from… it’s either from [Satoru] Iwata or [Shigeru[ Miyamoto, I forget now.

Matt Leone  44:37

See, I’m picturing Indigo prophecy with David Cage.

Frank Cifaldi  44:40

Oh, yeah. “Hi, I’m David Cage. The game you’re about to play is brilliant!” Yeah. 

Matt Leone  44:46

It was pretty good at the time!

Frank Cifaldi  44:48

 … yeah, it actually was, it actually sucked me into that game.  I was like, “Okay, this is different.” But with Chariman Kawasaki, he just… he doesn’t have the health for it.  So I don’t think you were just being ignored if there was a request I think…

Matt Leone  45:04

Honestly, I didn’t I didn’t have a good in with him to begin with, like we tried, but I think a lot of other people, we had much more kind of concrete discussions with.

Frank Cifaldi  45:14

Yeah. And for us, it was like he, you know, we…. a producer on the SNK side for our project who had worked under him kind of approached him and he just wasn’t well enough.

Matt Leone  45:26

Honestly, the whole health thing? I’m not sure if I buy that, that sounds like an excuse to me… 

Frank Cifaldi  45:30


Matt Leone  45:31

…because pretty at much any point you could write 500 words if you really needed to, or at least dictate to them to someone. 

Frank Cifaldi  45:39


Kelsey Lewin  45:40

…unless it’s brain health, right?

Matt Leone  45:41

But that sounds to me like a polite way of saying no.

Frank Cifaldi  45:44

Yeah, it could be and what’s unfortunate there, at least for our project — not to derail the Street Fighter conversation too much —

Matt Leone  45:50

No!  I’m more interested in yours, probably! [Laughter]

Frank Cifaldi  45:51

…is that we just don’t know a whole lot about SNK’s earliest output. And in fact, you know, you kind of take for granted that like, “Oh, all the arcade games are in MAME!” It’s like, the first four SNK games are not in MAME.  You know, we barely know how they play!  We have video footage of one of them, thankfully, but…

Matt Leone  46:16

Even Kawasaki is interesting, because if you look him up, if you try to find pictures of him online, you can find them but there’s not a lot. But if you start flipping through old the issues of RePlay, he’s in, like, every issue just like hanging out with sales guys.

Frank Cifaldi  46:29

Yeah and he’s in, what’s the Japanese one, Game Machine? Right? 

Matt Leone  46:31

Oh, probably, yeah yeah.

Frank Cifaldi  46:35

 But yeah, that’s another, you know, unfortunate part of the kind of work we do is that when we’re talking about the golden age of this stuff, we’re talking about people who are fairly old now and a lot of them have started passing on.

Matt Leone  46:49

Yeah, no, I mean, it’s very sad. It’s also makes it harder to tell some of those stories. It’s why I think it’s in some ways valuable to try to tell them now before you can’t anymore.  Obviously, there’s Bill Cravens, who was kind of Capcom said sales guy. There’s other people at Capcom, too. There’s a guy named Steve Blatspieler, who passed away. There’s another guy who I don’t want to name because I’m, like, 90 something percent sure he passed away?  But I heard I heard something that might not be true so I don’t want to say it yet? But yeah, so there’s a number of people who were involved in these stories who you just can’t talk to anymore.  And some people don’t want to anyway, but… yeah. 

Frank Cifaldi  47:27

So is that, you know, the biggest challenge you faced with this Street Fighter project is access to people? Or is it maybe deeper than that? Like, what have been your challenges bringing this together?

Matt Leone  47:40

I mean, access to people is probably the challenge with any of these stories. And that, you know, when I start in I want to talk to literally everyone who was involved. And for various reasons that’s not always possible. Sometimes it’s political, sometimes it’s people don’t want to, sometimes it’s because they’re not around, etc.  I think one of the biggest challenges we face is that there was a company… so Arika, which is the company that makes Street Fighter EX games and Fighting EX Layer and stuff like that, they were on board to participate initially but then ended up dropping out, which was unfortunate. And that is a very long story that I probably can’t even get into all the details because I don’t remember them all. But it’s unfortunate, because sometimes that comes down to just miscommunication. And we may have gotten some emails locked in spam filters.  We may have had some kind of conversations where we thought we said it one way and they thought we said it another way and stuff like that. So yeah, it gets very complicated as far as like getting all this stuff done. It’s also complicated, because you’re talking about earlier, some of these companies have very strict rules. And some of the Japanese companies have different kind of expectations of things than Western companies do. So talking to someone who used to work at Capcom USA, they know what you expect to use from an interview, whereas talking to someone from a company overseas it might have different kind of expectations of what you’re going to do.

Kelsey Lewin  49:01

And I assume a lot of this is through a translator, as well, especially when you’re dealing with… And, you know, there’s just always the potential for things to get a little iffy there, whether it’s the translator misunderstanding what you’re saying or from the other side, or I mean…

Matt Leone  49:14

Oh, yeah, no, I mean… It’s one of those things that, the longer I’ve done this, the more I’ve gotten super-paranoid about that kind of thing. Pretty much any interview I do at this point that is in with an interpreter, I will hire another translator to comb through when they’re done just to kind of get all the quotes right. And it’s amazing how many little, tiny little things that you know, like… If you look at all the translated interviews that are out there on the internet I’m sure most of them are probably about 90% accurate. And it’s really unfortunate when you’re trying to be really precise with this stuff, historical stuff or current stuff, too.  Some people claim they’re mistranslated and that’s just a lie because they don’t want to be embarrassed later, but a lot of times,  there are mistakes that happen and it’s really hard to get that stuff perfect.

Kelsey Lewin  50:01

Yeah, and I think especially when you’re working with a specific industry, the video game industry, so you have to have someone who is interpreting who understands the subject matter as well as… You know, it’s not just like a casual conversation, you guys might be talking about things that are kind of niche words in both Japanese and English are niche concepts. 

Matt Leone  50:24

Oh, for sure, yeah.  That’s a huge deal with talking about something like this.  So for instance, if you’re talking about the mechanics of a Street Fighter game, that would be very hard to get into, like, if you say, “How does the custom combo work?”  And describing that, the interpreter would really have to understand what that is and what the terms are that are associated with that, and that kind of thing. And, you know, we work with people who are pretty good at that stuff but it’s definitely a challenge.  And I think, in some ways, it’s a little bit easier because most of the stories that I work on, are more about people and less about the hardcore specifics of the game. So if you’re telling somebody’s life story, it’s a little easier to be accurate with that than it is really getting into the nitty-gritty of a plot or a mechanic or something like that. But it’s always a challenge. And yeah, like, I think at this point, it would be really hard for me to comfortably publish something without having it checked over by a second translator after I’m done with it, which, you know, that’s a budget thing. And I’m fortunate we’re able to do that. But…

Frank Cifaldi  51:28

Yeah, it’s um, it’s kind of funny that you’re talking about the second translator. Alex Highsmith is who you hired? 

Matt Leone  51:36

Yeah, yeah!  He’s great!

Frank Cifaldi  51:37

Yeah, he is!

Kelsey Lewin  51:37

I’ve hired him before!

Frank Cifaldi  51:39

 And I have also hired Alex, I bet, before.  So it just occurs to me, you know, we’re talking about how tricky interpretation of the language can be. And it’s like, “Uh oh… we’re all using the same guy!”

Matt Leone  51:51

And he’s the second guy.  So like, for most Street Fighter interviews, I’ve been using Alex Aniel, who does a bunch of different things. But he’s been helping out with a lot of the live interpretation. So I think it helps having two people.  But honestly, even with the retranslation, like a lot of times I’ll have him retranslate it, and then I’ll go back, I’ll be like, “you know, this doesn’t really make sense.” And there’s a lot of back and forth on each line and trying to not only get it as accurate as possible but also, like, I want to understand it 100 percent.  And sometimes a translated or interpreted thing, it’ll sound good when they say it, but if you really think about it and dig into it, it’s like… this doesn’t line up with this other thing they’re saying and you have to kind of go back and forth a lot. So, there’s interviews that I’ve done over a year ago, at this point, that we’re still going back and forth on certain lines and trying to make it not only as accurate as possible, but also read well in English, which is kind of like a localization challenge.

Kelsey Lewin  52:48

So this is a lot of work to tell a story. I mean, this is something that I think  when people see an oral history from you, or this book, or an article or whatever, I mean, you know… I think a lot of people are like, “Okay, he interviewed. Maybe there was a translator, and that’s it.” But there’s there’s so much more going on behind the scenes to make sure it’s accurate.

Matt Leone  53:09

The goal is to make a to make it look easy, because then it would read more comfortably for people and that kind of thing. Like, I think a lot of people are mistaken and thinking like, “Oh, you just sat down in a room with these people. And this is what they said.”

Kelsey Lewin  53:20

Like a roundtable.

Frank Cifaldi  53:20


Matt Leone  53:23

And occasionally that like, you’ll get two or three people in a roundtable!  And it’s confusing, too, because sometimes people list, like, they’ll call an interview and oral history, too.  Which it is, technically. But it’s a very different kind of thing that just takes a lot more editing time and effort and that kind of thing. And ultimately, I think you have more control over it and you can get a more kind of comprehensive and fair version of the story.  There’s a lot of editing that goes into not just saying what they said, but also making sure it’s balanced and fair to what their original intent was, and making it as accurate to what their perspective was and showing what other people when they disagree and all that kind of stuff.  It takes a lot of time just to kind of balance it all. But yeah, I mean, the goal is to make it read as a punchy, fun thing and it takes a lot of time to get there. But I think that’s part of the fun, too.  If it wasn’t challenging, I don’t think it would be as interesting to me just to work on. So yeah, I think, partially that’s… I’m just fortunate that Polygon is able to give me the time and the money to work on that kind of thing. But partly it’s just more interesting if it’s challenging.

Frank Cifaldi  54:33

So when we talk about Street Fighter 1, in general, it tends to be in comparison to [Street Fighter] II, right?  We talk about Street Fighter 1, and I think you actually said this earlier in the show, as a sort of prototype of what Street Fighter II became. Is there anything more to Street Fighter 1 than that? I mean, are we being fair to Street Fighter 1? Or is there something that maybe we’re missing that’s worth diving deeper into with this game? Or is it just something that we talk about as the stepping stone to the “real” game?

Matt Leone  55:12

I kind of feel like that’s fair. Because if you look at other comparable games,  for instance Karate Champ or something like that, people don’t really talk about that that much. It’s not like it was that different a thing from Street Fighter 1. So I feel like if there hadn’t ever been a Street Fighter II people really wouldn’t talk about Street Fighter 1 as much.  Honestly, the most notable thing about it, which I guess it still is, but is kind of the unique control setup, which that would probably be the only thing people remember about it if there wasn’t ever a Street Fighter II that kind of evolved everything. And then, I think Capcom also has done well, especially more recently, of using some of those same characters from the old days, bringing them back around. So they kind of make it… They make those characters from Street Fighter 1 relevant again, but I think… Yeah, I don’t really think it would have been something people would really still care about or play or talk about if it hadn’t been for everything that happened after.

Frank Cifaldi  56:05

I think I agree.

Kelsey Lewin  56:06

And it’s interesting that you call it, you know, that we think of it as a prototype when it involves two basically entirely separate teams. It’s not the same people working on Street Fighter II as made Street Fighter 1.  So it’s like a prototype to a game that another team ended up running with?

Matt Leone  56:26

Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting, because the majority of that team went to SNK. And they made Fatal Fury. And they made other stuff, too, but Fatal Fury is very much a kind of spiritual successor to Street Fighter 1.  A lot of the movement and kind of how characters jump around and stuff like that is, I think, more similar and Fatal Fury than it is in Street Fighter II.

Kelsey Lewin  56:45

Right. So is it fair to call Street Fighter 1 of Fatal Fury prototype?

Matt Leone  56:49

Yes!  Honestly, yes.  I think, yeah: apart from the characters and the names, I feel like Fatal Fury is as much a sequel to Street Fighter 1 as Street Fighter II is.  Maybe more.

Frank Cifaldi  57:00

Cool. Well, I think that’s all we got. You got anything else, Kelsey?

Kelsey Lewin  57:06

No, I think that about wraps it up!

Frank Cifaldi  57:09

So, Matt, before we go, is there anything you’d like to plug?

Matt Leone  57:13

Um, this is kind of the only thing I’m working on for the rest of the year for the most part. So hope you look forward to future installments of this thing and the eventual book, which have stories on Street Fighter Alpha and Street Fighter III coming pretty soon. And some more after that.

Frank Cifaldi  57:29

What’s pretty soon mean?

Matt Leone  57:31

I wish I can tell ya!  With the whole Arika dropping, we were gonna have a Street Fighter EX story that isn’t quite happening at this point. So we had a little hiccup there, but… I don’t know?  Soon as I can get it done. The Street Fighter III one is almost done. The art looks really good…

Frank Cifaldi  57:48

Cool, I think the lesson here is, “Don’t rely on other people.”

Matt Leone  57:52

Yeah, I mean, I had saved most of it. Like, it’s one of those things where I’ve been planning it for a long time and I wanted it to all hit and be a perfect, like, this one hits and then this one hits and it’s all this sequence and things and… You know, it always has some hiccups, but it’s better I think — especially when you’re doing like historical stuff — to wait and get it when you’re happy with it rather than to kind of just force it hit a schedule. So.

Frank Cifaldi  58:15

Make sense.

Matt Leone  58:16


Frank Cifaldi  58:16

Matt Leone, thanks again for joining us on the Video Game History Hour.

Matt Leone  58:20

Any time, happy to be here.

Thanks for listening to the Video Game History Hour brought to you by the Video Game History Foundation. If you have questions or comments for the show, you can find us on Twitter @gamehistoryhour or email us at podcast@gamehistory.org.  Did you know that Video Game History Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit and that all of your contributions are tax deductible? You can support this podcast and all of our other work on Patreon or at gamehistory.org/donate. This episode of the Video Game History Hour was produced by Robin Kunimune and edited by Michael Carrell. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.