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A stylized illustration of Ryu from Street Fighter
When making Street Fighter Alpha, Capcom went for a simpler, more approachable game.

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Street Fighter Alpha: An oral history

We continue our Street Fighter history series with a look at the moment Capcom went back in time

In the early ’90s, Capcom was starting to develop a reputation. In a world before games became services, the company had a thing for incremental upgrades.

It started small, with Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition. The idea that designed itself. Millions of fans wanted to play as the bosses, and Street Fighter 2 had been enough of a sensation that they were happy to get anything new.

Then came Hyper Fighting. Again, it made sense, as a reaction to hacked versions of Champion Edition. And many loved the speed, despite minimal other changes.

When Super Street Fighter 2 came around, the naming convention started to get a little silly. And by Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, it all felt like a bit of a con. But players loved the games, so they kept putting in quarters.

Behind the scenes, Capcom had business considerations players weren’t aware of. It had excess hardware to clear out and, as the series took off, a development pipeline it needed to keep running. Publicly, though, players saw Capcom pumping out upgrades and spinoffs, rather than moving forward to the next numbered Street Fighter sequel. So when the time came for the next Street Fighter game after Super Turbo, many assumed the next step was Street Fighter 3. Capcom had drawn out Street Fighter 2 for three years, so the obvious move was to finally take a proper step forward.

Instead, Capcom announced a detour and went back in time.

A game of convenience

Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams wasn’t a remake, though it had traits of one. Falling early in the Street Fighter timeline, the game brought back two characters from the original Street Fighter and two characters from Final Fight, and folded them into a game that played like the next incremental step after Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo.

With popular characters like Chun-Li and Akuma on board, and a new look that added a youthful, anime-inspired style, Capcom put together a game that bought itself time before the next proper numbered Street Fighter sequel would be ready — and allowed it to use up some of its leftover arcade hardware. To that end, Capcom ended up making two slightly different versions of Street Fighter Alpha: one on its new CPS-2 hardware that powered the Super Street Fighter 2 series, and a slightly compromised version that ran on its legacy CPS-1 boards.

Noritaka Funamizu
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

To explain the whole story of how the Street Fighter Alpha series came about, there were a few different factors at play. First off, one of the sales tactics that we used to sell CPS-2 boards was that we offered to buy back the leftover CPS-1 boards that a lot of arcades had. And we had done enough of that that we were building up a big stock of CPS-1 boards.

By this point, [we had been doing this for a while and] I was personally sick of hearing about boards being in abundance, and I pretended not to know anything about it. But there was this warehouse where they kept all of them, and they were just kind of stacking up over time.

Hideaki Itsuno
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

Yeah, initially we were working on trying to get rid of the CPS-1 boards, but then halfway through the process, we realized we had a decent amount of CPS-2 boards left over as well, so it was this combined inventory ... we were trying to figure out how to get rid of all that. [laughs] In terms of the exact numbers, I don't remember, but considering there was such effort put into getting rid of them, I imagine we had quite a lot.

Noritaka Funamizu
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

So that's kind of the first factor that led to Alpha.

The second factor was, we had a lot of freedom in planning the game, and we started thinking there were a lot of players whose skill and technique were incredible. It was a problem because normal players couldn't go into an arcade and play anymore. Everyone was too good. So we wanted to create a game that would lower that threshold.

Also, at that time some new designers joined Capcom, and they were recruited for [Akira Yasuda's] new design group. That design team had Kinu Nishimura and [Naoto] Kuroshima, whose pen name was Bengus. His first job was to illustrate drawings of Street Fighter 1 characters, but re-imagined in a modern style. It was for a gaming magazine, which I can't remember the name of. They were really great, though. I kept saying over and over how amazing they were. Eventually [Street Fighter 2 series programmer Seiji] Okada heard this, and he said to me, kind of off-handedly, "Hey, if they're good, why don't we try making a Street Fighter 2 game with these Street Fighter 1 characters, like you've been talking about?"

My first impression was one of slight panic: "Oh god no, not again. Don't make me deal with this again!"

Anyway, we ended up deciding that we'd make a game based off those designs of Kuroshima's. And it was partially a way to use up the CPS-1 inventory that I mentioned. Plus, we had all these new employees — I mean, a lot of them — to train. Also, [Street Fighter 2 series lead programmer Shinichi] Ueyama had been leading the programming team for a long time — which is to say, not "leading" a team; it was just him at first — but around this time the leadership passed to Okada and his team for this project. With Okada in, I decided to throw my hat in too, and agreed to be a part of it. What I was not prepared for, though, was the impossible three-month deadline we were then given.

Seiji Okada
(Street Fighter Alpha lead programmer, Capcom Japan)

Yeah, I learned that the Alpha team had been given a three-month deadline to make the game. So even though I was working on something else, I thought to myself, There's no way they'll make it without my help. That's how I ended up joining the team. [...] I had been doing research on the PlayStation, and it was my first time learning about 3D. But then, just as I was starting to understand it, I had to switch over to Street Fighter Alpha.

Noritaka Funamizu
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

Yeah, we had a three-month deadline. I mean, it was initially three months, although I guess the game really took six months in the end.

Chris Kramer
(Street Fighter Alpha public relations associate, Capcom USA)

It did come out of nowhere. It showed up really fast, and it was at a point in time where there was already concern — like, Hey, do we have too much Street Fighter in the marketplace? You know, the Super Nintendo version of Hyper Fighting came out in '93 and then Super Street Fighter came out in '94 and all these [console] games were just coming on top of each other, and the arcade games were getting either updated or were getting new versions, and I was like, Oh no, another Street Fighter game. What are we going to do here? Are we oversaturating the global market with this brand? And I think there was initial hesitation just across the board from people going, Oh, do we really need a new Street Fighter? But then when it showed up, it was very different. So once people saw what it was, there was less hesitation around the game. I think people were like, OK, it looks fairly different. The art style had moved to a much more anime style, and they were doing different things with the gameplay, and it's like, OK. We get what you're doing.

Six screenshots show fights in Street Fighter Alpha
Before settling on the name Street Fighter Alpha, Capcom went through a number of different titles, from Street Fighter Classic to Street Fighter Legends (which Capcom originally announced as the U.S. title) to Street Fighter Zero (which the game went by in Japan). “Capcom U.S. had a long history of trying to rename every game that came out,” says Alpha public relations associate Chris Kramer. “When we got the word that there was a new Street Fighter game coming and it was called Street Fighter Zero, it was like, OK, we can’t call it Street Fighter Zero,” he adds. “That sounds negative. So people looked into it and they were like, OK, well, this is a new beginning. It’s a prequel, so why don’t we call it Alpha instead of Zero? Because it kind of satisfied the intention of what Zero meant in Japan.”

A big break

On top of the short timeline, one of the biggest challenges the Street Fighter Alpha team faced was its lack of experience. While the game was led by Noritaka Funamizu — a series veteran who had overseen multiple Street Fighter 2 games — the team also consisted of a number of younger members, including planner Hideaki Itsuno.

At the time, Itsuno was new to Capcom, having worked on a couple of obscure quiz games, and Alpha served as a turning point in his career. Following Alpha’s release, Itsuno moved into various leadership roles, overseeing Capcom’s first attempts at 3D fighting games, working on key 2D fighting games like Capcom vs. SNK, and eventually heading up the Devil May Cry and Dragon’s Dogma franchises and becoming one of Capcom’s most popular game directors.

He says it all started when Funamizu noticed him playing a game from Capcom rival SNK.

Hideaki Itsuno
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

They were short on staff, and my boss [Funamizu] saw that I came into the office early every morning to play the Neo-Geo — I was playing King of Fighters '94. So my boss was like, Hey, how about you become the new planner for Street Fighter Classic? Street Fighter Classic is what Alpha was called at the time; it was abbreviated "SFC." This was around the time Super Famicom was released. Since it had the same abbreviation as "Super Famicom," we were confident the game would eventually be ported over to the Super Famicom, right?

So when I was given that opportunity, I was like, Yeah, absolutely. I want to have an opportunity to work on this. Internally, I was freaked out. I had absolutely no confidence I could make this happen. But how many times do you have a chance as a new employee, being given this great opportunity? I felt like, if I back down now, then I'm not going to be able to do anything in the future, so I jumped on the opportunity.

Noritaka Funamizu
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

I apologize to Itsuno for saying this, but I can't actually remember working on Street Fighter Alpha with him. I saw Itsuno mention it in an interview recently and I was like ... Oh, OK.

Hideaki Itsuno
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

I was still a fresh new employee at the time, so it was one of those things that anything that I did was very much training. You're talking about working on the biggest franchise, Street Fighter, so I did a ton of research. It wasn't just researching Street Fighter games. I would go out and research whatever was in the genre, and of course I studied the source code of prior Street Fighter games, looking at the way the hitboxes work. [...] Yeah, I spent a lot of time researching, and I feel like that was the foundation of how I was able to build myself up.

Noritaka Funamizu
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

You can say that he was part of that next generation [of staff who worked on the game].

Hideaki Itsuno
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

Funamizu is not one to dish out compliments too often, so I can't remember a single time I was ever complimented during my work on Street Fighter. [laughs] [...]

The most memorable thing that [Funamizu] said to me was ... he pulled me aside and he told me, "Man, you've got no talent." He would also say, "You have no sense." I started to hate the word "sense" just because I associated it with being told that.

I learned a lot from him, though. One of the things that he taught me was, "Every move has a purpose." Nowadays I've morphed that into "every concept has a purpose," but at the time when we were making the game ... for example, a crouching mid kick: For some players, that may feel like a useless move they don't use too much, but when we were developing the game, I was told, "Look, every single move that you create has to serve some kind of purpose. And the player senses that it's fun because there is a purpose. It can't just be a throwaway move, so regardless of what you're creating, make sure that there is some kind of purpose associated with it."

A console-like game

With only three months scheduled to develop the game, and the need to also make a version that ran on Capcom’s dated CPS-1 hardware, the Alpha team had to cut certain corners to make the game work, leading to a lot of experimentation. As Itsuno remembers, Street Fighter Alpha marked a time Capcom allowed itself to break its own rules.

Hideaki Itsuno
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

Thinking back to making arcade games, our mentality at the time was that we wanted to make games that were impossible to port to home consoles. We wanted to take advantage of the hardware and push things as far as we could. But for Street Fighter Alpha, because we were still working with the CPS-1 board, we felt like the specs were low enough that ... we had this idea: "This is going to be a game designed for porting."

The initial thought was, "Let's make it for Super Famicom," but when it was time to actually start the porting process, it was decided that we would be porting it over to PlayStation. So it wasn't a matter of "this is going to be designed to port to this specific platform." It was more that it was designed to be ported in some form or fashion based on the board that was being used. It just so happened that when it came time to decide where to port it, Capcom decided to put it on PlayStation.

Ken Williams
(assistant editor, Electronic Gaming Monthly)

It really felt like it was made for consoles. It didn't look like it was taking advantage of the arcade technology at the time, but it played well. That was the important thing. Back in the day, it wasn't really about the graphics and all that other fun stuff. Because it was very cartoony. But if it played well, it was gonna be a hit. If it felt smooth and the action was there and the variety was there, I mean, I could play that endlessly.

Stephen Frost
(Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection producer, Digital Eclipse)

For me, personally, no, I didn't feel that [it seemed compromised] because I was so enamored with the art style and stuff like that. I mean, they made new backgrounds and character designs. They had [...] new abilities for the characters and things like that, plus some new characters. So I didn't feel that. I didn't feel it at all.

James Chen
(Street Fighter series commentator)

I hadn't ever thought of it [as a game designed so it could be easily ported], but, yeah, that definitely makes sense. I know a lot of people really appreciated the nice anime style, the graphics and everything like that, but the gameplay was just so, so simplified. [...]

When Street Fighter Alpha came out, at the time I don't think we realized it, but subconsciously we realized it — it was really Capcom's first attempt to kind of dumb down Street Fighter, right? It's simpler to play because we had the chain combos, alpha counters, air blocking. They really put in a lot of concessions to try to make the game easier for beginners to play.

Chris Kramer
(Street Fighter Alpha public relations associate, Capcom USA)

We knew from the get-go that it was more of a prequel, which was kind of a weird decision because it was like, Well, why aren't you just making Street Fighter 3? But it took a while to see that. They were kind of splitting the Street Fighter series, right? Alpha was going to be the more new-player-friendly one because arcade operators were saying, "Hey, look, the only people who are playing Street Fighter 2 games are these hardcore guys, and they can put tokens in and stay on that machine for an hour. And new players don't want to put money in because it's so overwhelming: You have to know moves and countermoves for everything." So that's why Alpha had air block and counters and combos and stuff in there that were a lot more friendly, and the input timing is a lot more forgiving than Street Fighter 2 as well. So they really did kind of look at it as a split within the Street Fighter games in order to make a game that would be easier for new players to get into, slightly less intimidating to learn.

Hideaki Itsuno
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

The thing is, Capcom — and this is still the case today — has always been a maker of "hardcore" games. They've never been about simply trying to suck up to and curry favor with players. The developers have a strong artisan's disposition; they make games for experts, and for maniacs ... that is, when it comes to making games, they have a lot of pride. However, the development period for Street Fighter Alpha was very short, we were using inferior hardware, and we had a bunch of new hires on the team. In addition, this was a time of experimentation with new visual techniques at Capcom. Drawing extremely detailed pixel art is very time-consuming, but if we compensated for that by going overboard with the animation, we could still make the tight production deadline.

Specifically, for Darkstalkers, what we did was decrease the color palette but increase the frames in the animation to portray a sense of higher quality. But for the Street Fighter Alpha series, we cut back on the number of colors and decreased the number of frames per second of animation and cut down on development time. We were rushing to make everything as fast and low-cost as possible. But thanks to that approach, we were able to make not a game that pleased only the expert or hardcore fans, but something that would appeal more to what casual fans wanted, full of flashy moves and designs. This was the only time we were allowed to experiment like that.

There was also the benefit of me not having been in development for years and years. I was still very much a fresh new recruit that could be seen as someone from a consumer perspective. They were like, Use that to your advantage. Use the fact that you're still new and you still have that consumer mindset. We want to tap into that — we want to know, hey, what do the consumers want to see? So I came up with a bunch of moves along those lines. Street Fighter teams were always made of veteran developers who wouldn't accept any other way of making the game. I was lucky to fall into the team that wanted to hear my ideas. And coincidentally, this approach just happened to succeed, and it was because of this experimental mentality within the team.

Screenshots and artwork show the character Dan in Street Fighter Alpha
From his personality to the damage he inflicted, Street Fighter Alpha’s Dan Hibiki was designed as a weak counterpoint to the overpowered Akuma. “It was kind of a snobbish thing, I guess,” says Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection producer Stephen Frost. “I don’t know if that was their intention with him, but it felt that way. If someone bothered to play Dan, then it was like, Oh, I’m a superior Street Fighter player. I’m just doing this to level the playing field.”

Dan Hibiki

Since the mid-’80s, a rivalry had been brewing between Capcom and SNK. To some, it felt tense; to others, playful. And as the years went on, the companies started referencing one another in their games and marketing materials.

In a spring 1993 issue of Capcom USA’s newsletter, the Capcom Craze Club, for instance, a comic shows Ryu mistaking Art of Fighting’s Ryo for Street Fighter’s Ken. The two proceed to fight because their names sound alike, and they match each others’ moves one to one until Ryu comes up with a unique attack to win the fight: a Burning Dragon Punch. “It took all my strength and power but I finally defeated him,” says Ryu. “Funny though, the only move he couldn’t match was something original.”

Street Fighter Alpha marked a new stage for the rivalry, as Capcom adopted an anime-influenced art style that looked more like SNK’s games and brought back fighters created by staff that had gone to SNK. The most scrutinized element, however, came with the secret character Dan — whose design looked like two characters from SNK’s game Art of Fighting mashed together, and whose weak strength and goofy personality made him more of a joke character than a serious competitor. Dan wasn’t the first example of the two companies referencing one another, but quickly became the most popular.

James Chen
(Street Fighter series commentator)

It was pretty clear right away that Dan was a way for them to poke fun at SNK. That was pretty clear. He was Robert Garcia's head on top of Ryo's body. At that point in time, that "rivalry" was pretty big. And so it was pretty clear that they made him as a character to say, "Hey, look. This character sucks and he's from the Art of Fighting series."

Chris Kramer
(Street Fighter Alpha public relations associate, Capcom USA)

There was that feeling that SNK had stolen away a lot of Capcom talent in that era, and I think there was some bitterness there because a good chunk of the Street Fighter team had gone over to SNK for various reasons. And so Dan was 100% their opinion of what SNK fighters were versus Capcom fighters at that time.

Noritaka Funamizu
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

That might have been the case for the person who designed the character and brought him to me. But I didn't think of Dan as a mockery of SNK's characters. [...]

I think the person who came up with Dan wanted to put in a character who wasn't so strong, physically speaking. The whole idea was you could use this character, and even though he wasn't very strong, you could use him and win battles — I remember noticing that about the character. Because we had added a super-powerful character in Akuma, I thought it would be cool to have a weak character like Dan, too. I thought it would feel satisfying for more skilled players to win fights with a weaker character like Dan.

James Chen
(Street Fighter series commentator)

He was funny, and at the time — because nobody was winning tons of money on these games — it was OK to have a character kind of uselessly taking up a spot to be noncompetitive. So it was pretty funny, and as a result, I do think he was kind of popular in a way, and a lot of people did try to win with him because he was bad.

[Ed. note: While Akira Yasuda didn’t design Dan, he illustrated an iconic image showing Street Fighter’s Sagat holding Dan by his head — an image that many saw as further evidence of Capcom displaying its superiority over SNK.]

Akira Yasuda
(head of illustration group, Capcom Japan)

I didn't think that it would catch that much attention from people. I remember the deadline was pretty close anyway, so I was just trying to figure out what would work. [...] I just thought it would look cool to show how much stronger Sagat was than Dan. I wasn't trying to mock or make fun of the character or anything. [...] Maybe it's sort of referencing a pro wrestler's performance on a microphone. You know, they'd speak on the mic and say, "Oh, I'll beat you up." [...] I mean, if anything, maybe there could have been elements of Capcom parroting the SNK character, but there was no intention to belittle SNK or make fun of them. But if that's what people think, then, I guess, what can we do?

Toyohisa Tanabe
(King of Fighters series director, SNK Japan)

This is just my personal opinion, but I always felt Capcom was one step ahead of SNK. So when Dan came out, it was like, Oh look! They're noticing us! They based a character on us! Personally, I was happy about it. There may have also been people at SNK who thought they were making fun of us, but I was happy they were referencing us like that. Actually, in the King of Fighters games I was involved in, we inserted some Capcom references as little jokes. I wonder if Capcom wasn't, in part, responding to those. I felt that Capcom and SNK were very aware of each other during that period.

As to whether I was ever involved in the creation of these jokes ... I can't deny I was. I worked on the series from King of Fighters '94 through King of Fighters '98, and ... well, I don't know if I should say this, but there's a character in those games named Yuri Sakazaki. Her background story says she learned her amazing moves and abilities in a very short period of time. I can't deny; I did give her some of Capcom's special moves.

Yuri Sakazaki originally was a character in Art of Fighting. In the first game, she's a weak girl who can't fight at all. In Art of Fighting 2, she learns kyokugen karate and becomes an extremely strong character. That was her background, and well, honestly, I did this out of respect for the character, but I added my own interpretation where she learned all those special moves very quickly. And I started adding more and more moves from other characters to her. Then it kind of occurred to me — again, really just as a joke — Oh, hey, what if she could use Capcom's moves too?

A dramatic battle

Despite Street Fighter Alpha’s short development cycle, the team at Capcom was able to include a number of bonus features, ranging from secret characters like Dan and Akuma to a hidden Dramatic Battle mode — a two-on-one fight where players controlled Ryu and Ken in a confrontation against M. Bison, mirroring the battle at the end of 1994’s Street Fighter 2: The Animated Movie. As it turns out, the Dramatic Battle mode came about in part because of a song.

Noritaka Funamizu
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

It all started because there was a Street Fighter anime in Japan that had a theme song sung by a famous Japanese idol. I think she's pretty famous now; her name is Ryoko Shinohara. In the movie, there's a scene where Ryu and Ken face off against M. Bison towards the end, and this song plays over that fight. I really wanted to put that fight into the game, so I went to Okada and said, "Go make it so players can play two-versus-one in the game."

Seiji Okada
(Street Fighter Alpha lead programmer, Capcom Japan)

Yeah, then I said, "I could do it, but I won't," right? [laughs] But I told Funamizu, "If you put Ryoko Shinohara's ending theme in the game, I'll do it."

Noritaka Funamizu
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

What we had to do was, we had to put JASRAC's seal with the song's registered number on the arcade board, and there were hardcore users who looked at the arcade board, found that JASRAC number and then looked it up, and discovered it referred to that particular song.

[Ed. note: JASRAC is a collective management organization that oversees copyrights for musicians in Japan.]

Noritaka Funamizu
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

The big breakthrough was figuring out how to have a character both receive and deal damage at the same time. To see that in action with multiple characters simultaneously ... that [worked out very well].

Seiji Okada
(Street Fighter Alpha lead programmer, Capcom Japan)

It wasn't so difficult, actually. I think it took a week or two. Maybe one week. I mean, I had the concept in my head already, and so I got the most important things down on the first day. Then it just took about a week or two to kind of get that running. I don't think it was terribly difficult.

Noritaka Funamizu
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

Yeah, I don't think it was hard to actually do it. And I told him, "Well, this is a hidden mode, so even if it's glitchy, it's not a problem."

Six screenshots show scenes from Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Street Fighter Alpha 3
To this day, a debate continues between players over which of Capcom’s sequels is better: Alpha 2 or Alpha 3.

Meeting demand

After Capcom released Alpha, the audience was split. While some thought the game felt too simplified and unrefined, Alpha appealed to an audience that wanted a new version of the game that wasn’t overly demanding to play and brought back familiar elements from previous games. The peak days of Street Fighter 2 were behind Capcom, but Alpha kept the pipeline flowing and helped Capcom clear out its hardware.

Stephen Frost
(Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection producer, Digital Eclipse)

I think for those of us who had been playing since Street Fighter 2 and just playing it religiously and were on our Super Nintendos playing Super over and over again, which is what I did, we were getting a little burnt out of Street Fighter a bit. And I think when Alpha hit, it was sort of a breath of fresh air, and it sort of rejiggered a bit of excitement and joy again.

Seth Killian
(Street Fighter 4 special combat advisor, Capcom USA)

I do think Alpha was ambitious on a systems level, but the new mechanics undercut two essentials that had made Street Fighter 2 so enduring: delicate positioning, and a tight risk/reward relationship. The strength of the easy chain combo system made the characters feel flat, and downplayed the unique character nuances that had made the Street Fighter series such a global sensation.

I was also personally feeling frustrated because it seemed like the Alpha systems had been designed as a direct response to a simplistic description of what had frustrated players in Street Fighter 2. "Combos are too hard," so we got chain combos with loose timing. "I don't like feeling trapped by fireball/uppercut patterns," so we got the ability to roll on the ground and block in mid-air. Both air-block and chain-combo systems were done well in later games, but Alpha 1's versions felt under-baked, and threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Ken Williams
(assistant editor, Electronic Gaming Monthly)

It was a new way of seeing the game. [...] And if you go into the console [versions], the console games were some of the best games they ever put out, with the different modes and so forth. So it was one of the first games that really — it translated well to consoles. Like, really well.

Chris Kramer
(Street Fighter Alpha public relations associate, Capcom USA)

It was the first Street Fighter game to get on the new console cycle, right? So it was the first Street Fighter game for PlayStation, and Alpha was on there pretty early in the PlayStation life cycle, too. So it definitely felt like a win because it was a newer game. It was on the brand-new console that everybody was super excited about. There was just so much hype around the PlayStation at that point in time. So I think the first Alpha did really well because it was early in the console cycle.

Hideaki Itsuno
(Street Fighter Alpha planner, Capcom Japan)

Of course, Funamizu was responsible for the success of the game, but one of the things Funamizu said at the time is, "Young people need to taste success in order to grow." And for me, having just worked really hard on the title and it getting all that positive reception afterwards, it was a great feeling. It was nice to be able to put in all that effort and then get that positive reinforcement back. And having been able to experience that very early on in the industry definitely helped in solidifying that hard work pays off. It was a great moment. [...]

As far as I can recall, we were successful in getting rid of all the arcade boards, especially the CPS-2 boards. With the success of Alpha 2 and Darkstalkers. I think we even had to reorder more CPS-2 boards to meet the demand.

[Ed. note: Capcom eventually brought the Alpha series to Super Nintendo with a port of Street Fighter Alpha 2 in late 1996, but ended up ordering more cartridges than it could sell, leaving it — once again — with leftover product piling up in a warehouse. It was one of a few Super Nintendo games that put a financial strain on the company.]

Justin Berenbaum
(customer service manager, Capcom USA)

I was involved with finding third parties to take the games that were sitting in the warehouse off our hands, because at that time the cost of goods on a Super Nintendo game — especially because these games required so much memory — was anywhere between 25 and 40 bucks a cartridge. So if you overmanufactured by a hundred thousand cartridges, you're sitting on $4 million to $5 million in inventory cost. And I do remember the warehouse, because the shipping warehouse was right next to the Capcom offices. And I remember the warehouse was just being loaded with pallets and pallets of the game. [...]

I remember dealing with some companies that we would ship them to, and then they would guarantee to ship them out of the country so they didn't get resold back into retail. That was a really common practice back then. [...] This was, like, a legitimized gray market to sell off stock without destroying the retail market in the U.S. [...] They would sell it to distributors who promised to take it south of the border. And back then, it was all gray market south of the border, for the most part, but they needed content. So we sold at a loss, but they were contractually obligated — if those units came back into the U.S., they would be fined. That's one of those dirty secrets that nobody really talked about. [...]

We cut these deals for a pallet full or two pallets full for these companies. And they were good deals because they were cash in advance, so we didn't ship until the [wire transfers] would come through. And then literally, they would show up with a box truck, and we'd load the pallets onto the box truck and they'd drive them off.

[Ed. note: Capcom followed Alpha with two numbered sequels, as well as numerous home ports and upgraded versions, with follow-ups piling on characters and bonus features. By the time Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max hit Sony’s PlayStation Portable in 2006, Capcom had built the game’s roster to almost 40 characters, and had turned a franchise that was invented out of convenience into a series popular around the world.]

Seth Killian
(Street Fighter 4 special combat advisor, Capcom USA)

SFA1, 2, and 3 are very different games, but as a series I think the Alpha games are best understood as Street Fighter's R&D division. A lot of experimental new mechanics got introduced, and though the results were mixed, it seemed like the teams were learning a lot. This led up to SFA3, which was an oddball masterpiece that showed Capcom's ability to synthesize signature mechanics from Street Fighter's history alongside cool new stuff like the Guard Meter. SFA3 also introduced the mostly-forgotten "blue blocking" mechanic, which served as a trial run of the system that would come to define Street Fighter's next numbered iteration: SF3's infamous parry.

Shinichi Ueyama
(Street Fighter series programmer, Capcom Japan)

With Street Fighter Alpha, remember [Okada and Funamizu] were talking about the two-versus-one system? That went into the first game, and then we thought about a new system for Street Fighter Alpha 2. And I think that's where we came up with the Custom Combo system, where you could press buttons however you wanted to make your own combos. Though in Street Fighter Alpha 2, we didn't really use that system to its potential. It wasn't until Street Fighter Alpha 3 where I feel like we were able to go all the way with the concept.

Stephen Frost
(Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection producer, Digital Eclipse)

I thought [Alpha] 3 was amazing. The World Tour mode [was fantastic]. Especially the home version of Alpha 3 was incredible with how much content that they had packed in for at-home people, and it was one of the few times — or one of the earliest times — that companies started [saying], "OK, the home version of this game, we need to pack with additional content and different things to keep them playing. It's not OK just to port it over and that's it, or have some simple versus mode and things like that." And I felt that Alpha 3 really, really did that.

Matt Atwood
(Street Fighter Alpha 3 public relations manager, Capcom USA)

In my mind, Alpha 3 was the perfection of Street Fighter. The response time and the movement was so smooth. I could play, and then I realized how bad I was fairly quickly. Watching people play became like ... Alpha 3 was cool.

There was a tournament that I put on for Capcom, and it was the North American champion Alex Valle against Daigo [Umehara] from Japan. We flew him out, and watching those two play was really interesting to see because Daigo, he was the Japanese champion, and he looked like he was almost typing because his movement was so crisp and so emotionless. And then you had Alex Valle, who was very animated. You know, the crowd was crazy and he was very much into that. So he played with a little more emotion.

So I think in the end, Alpha 3 [...] it's definitely my favorite, even [including] the originals. The originals, of course, have nostalgia, but I think Alpha 3 was a huge accomplishment for the dev team. It was perfect.

We have changed certain game titles and character names throughout this series to reflect their English versions and reduce confusion. Job titles reflect past roles relevant to the topics discussed.

Japanese interview interpretation: Alex Aniel

Post-interview retranslation: Alex Highsmith