Street Fighter 2 is well known for being an average conversion and very easy game on the C64 when it was eventually released. With so many people let down by the conversion, recent years have seen homebrew attempts to try and improve on U.S. Gold’s original effort.
It seems that typical of U.S. Gold, Street Fighter 2 went through a similar path of being rushed out to market. Early on, the game was looking quite different.
Previewed in Commodore Format, the game had screenshots shown which looked very different to the horrible digitized ones we got in the final release. The jet fighter level shown was zoomed in and had finer details, implying that there would be some multi-directional scrolling as you moved around.
We’ve constructed what the jet would have looked like in whole form, and you can see the size of the level when to scale next to the main characters we’ve left in – check it out in the gallery.
The sprites were still as muddled as they were in the final game, and were clearly ported quickly at the time (possibly to be tidied up at a later date).
When the final game was released, the same sprites pretty much remained – but the backgrounds became simplified and single screen based (with slight scroll up and down as you jumped). They were rough digitized ports from the Amiga version, and the gameplay didn’t help things any further.
So what happened to the promising earlier version with larger backgrounds and scrolling? Developer James Macdonald got in touch with GTW64 in 2013 and explained more.
Firstly there was the usual stupidly tight deadline and decisions which meant rushing the game out quickly to get the last drop of money out of the C64, which by this point was on its last legs commercially.
Secondly – the graphics were contracted to be designed by an external graphic artist and done from scratch (with no port in sight). The early beginnings of these we can see in the early preview screenshots. The sprites were extracted from the PC version initially just as temporary sprites, until new improved versions were received from the artist.
About three quarters of the way through development, there was a management change and it was decided to ditch the contracted artist and employ someone else to do the work. The new artist was instructed to completely re-do the graphics that had already been done so far.
The new graphics were awful according to James, but by now the game had already been delayed for so long that James had no choice but get to the duplicators to prepare the game for release as is. The game was not even fully finished at this stage, so James would be trying to finish things at the duplicators as well.
Whilst working hard at the duplicators, James was thankfully sent through a completely new set of graphics for the game. However, these were just quick ports from the PC version (very low res versions), but they were better than what was already in place and were added to the game there and then as a result. The game was then mastered a few hours later and mass produced to become the mess it would be better known as.
Had the original artist been kept on, and with new sprites produced – it is quite possible that the final result would have been so much better … at least visually! There were still major challenges with trying to squeeze a multi-button next gen fighter onto the humble C64, and its likely it wouldn’t have played much better we feel. Though perhaps the larger playfield and scrolling could have given some improvement?
So what of this alternate version once seen in the pages of Commodore Format? Well, James offered hope that he may still have something of it, but over the years he’s been unable to find anything. We still hold out hope, and that we may get to see this interesting early prototype.
Contributions: Stephen Stuttard, James Macdonald
James Macdonald speaks about work on Street Fighter 2:
“First off thanks for even taking the time to keep all this stuff alive, my games may not have been the best out there but those days were by far some of the best of my life. Everything from conventions to sleeping on floor of duplicators waiting for the run of SFII to be begin spitting out of the machines….
As far as SF II is concerned I got the project by word of mouth from someone who worked at company that had rights to Hell for Leather (see below on that). There was a lot of political stuff going on with the rights to this and the conversion was sub-contracted to a sub-contractor to another sub-contractor and somehow ended up with me.
I had no influence on the game graphics at all. Originally they contracted a graphic artist to re-do them for 8-bit, which are the ones you show tagged as original screen shots. In these the backgrounds where much crisper and cleaner.
The sprites were extracted from PC version and were always meant to be temp until I got custom versions. About three quarters of the way through development there was a management change and they (I don’t know who) decided that he didn’t like the graphics and had employed another artist to completely re-do them.
This other guys sent stuff that was pretty bad and had delayed so long that the game was actually at the duplicators (I had driven down from Glasgow to do on the spot changes if required) when they sent through a completely new set of graphics which were scrapes of the PC version (essentially very low res versions) and had to add them there and then. Couple hours later it was being mass produced and packaged.”
28/04/22 – Major tidy up of the text. Hopefully reads a lot better than the horrible mess it was. Also added better higher res screenshots from Mort’s scans.