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Street Fighter 2 was designed with a heavy focus on what 'feels good' to the player, Akira Nishitani shares development insight

A peek into the mind of the legendary game creator

Posted by Steven 'Dreamking23' Chavez • December 28, 2017 at 10:19 a.m. PST • Comments: 25

Not long ago, legendary game designer Akira Nishitani sat down for an interview with Denfami Nico Gamer that was conducted, in part, by chief producer of the Tekken series, Katsuhiro Harada.

For those unfamiliar, Nishitani is the president of fighting game company Arika. Today, fans know him for his work on Fighting EX Layer, however, veterans in the fighting game community recognize Nishitani best for designing Street Fighter 2 alongside Akiman.

The interview was published entirely in Japanese, but thanks to the hard work of prominent FGC member Jiyuna, we have a full English translation. Last time, we delved into Nishitani's mindset when developing FEXL's Gougi System and how he aims to change the standard flow of fighting games with it.

With this piece, we're going back to the past to take a closer look at the initial development process of Street Fighter 2.

In an arcade era populated by action and shooter games, Capcom was looking to create something that brought players in and kept them coming back. When it came to Street Fighter 2, Nishitani notes that the design team focused on answering this question: “How do we take the original Street Fighter and modernize it?”

Using the experience they gained from creating Final Fight, the company began development on what would become the most influential fighting game ever made.

"This may sound a little rude, but games at that time had a lot of things about them that were 'not properly made,'" Nishitani explained, laughing. Focus was put into identifying what those things were and figuring out ways to make them better.

Hit boxes and how they functioned are one of the facets that Capcom aimed to improve. Back then, action games used attack hit boxes that disappeared after one enemy was struck, which made it easier for the game to process, but created stressful situations for players trying to hit multiple enemies at once.

In Final Fight, the development team made it so that the game would remember which opponents had been hit, allowing the player to combat several foes simultaneously.

"We also wanted players to be able to hit the same enemy multiple times [in Final Fight], so we designed a system specifically for that," Nishitani states. "And although this wasn’t what we ended up using in SF2, we fixed the lazy attack input timing found in other games and made it precise."

Today, balance in a fighting game is one of, if not, the most important aspect of any competitive title. What's interesting, though, is that Nishitani seemed to put a larger emphasis on what "felt good" for players when working on Street Fighter 2.

He notes that many games at the time were created simply based on an idea, which resulted in them feeling stiff and not functioning quite as well as they could.

"The most important thing certainly is whether or not something feels good," Nishitani said. "I feel like I am more of a theoretical type, but since I tend to get too caught up in my theories and ideas, I am constantly scolding myself.

"If you make a game with just your ideas, then the end product will be stiff. Therefore, as much as possible, I place priority on sensations like 'fun' and 'feeling' when making games."

As an example, Nishitani cites the implementation of Street Fighter 2's back jumps. In that game, back jumps were actually longer than forward jumps -- an idea put into place due to its success in Final Fight.

"If you make a game with just your ideas, then the end product will be stiff. Therefore, as much as possible, I place priority on sensations like 'fun' and 'feeling' when making games."
— Akira Nishitani

The designer felt that the extended length of back jumps helped bring out the individuality of the characters in Final Fight, so he wanted to do the same for Street Fighter 2. When asked if he had experimented with the system in Street Fighter 2 before putting it into place, Nishitani had this to say.

"No, I stubbornly thought that no matter what, I wanted to put what we used in Final Fight to 'draw out personality' into SF2. I thought that if you’re using a back jump to run away, wouldn’t you want to be able to run away as fast as possible? I didn’t care about the game system, I focused on the player’s feelings. I wanted to add in what I thought players would be feeling."

This focus on making the game feel good was, largely in part, due to Capcom having nothing to compare the game to when developing Street Fighter 2. The head-to-head fighting title established the genre, and being the first of its kind, the team was able to create freely.

"When we made SF2, the energy of the staff was really good -- there were a lot of designers and programmers who thought, 'I’ll do anything to make this game fun!'" Nishitani explained. "Of course, I also said 'Let’s do this, let’s do that,' but since everyone was so full of excitement and energy, I felt like it was up to me to toil away on my own and balance the game. But in the end it all worked out."

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