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Yoshinori Ono says Capcom was 99.9 percent against making Street Fighter 4 while enthusiastic Onimusha fans helped inspire the project to push forward

From dropping quarters in cabinets to reviving Street Fighter, Ono's probably seen it all at this point

Posted by Dakota 'DarkHorse' Hills • October 20, 2019 at 11:30 a.m. PDT • Comments: 62

Yoshinori Ono's legacy at Capcom dates back over 25 years now though he's most well known for kickstarting Street Fighter's revival a decade ago and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon — even if Blanka is tired of being left on planes.

The European Regional Finals may have just wrapped up at EGX 2019 in the United Kingdom, but there was even more for Street Fighter fans to look forward to at the event with Eurogamer's Martin Robinson sitting down to talk with Ono for almost an hour discussing everything from his start as a musician and love for Final Fight to how Capcom was initially 99.9 percent against making Street Fighter 4.

Ono says he first interviewed with Capcom back in 1991 or 1992 for a game composer / sound designer position after having aspirations to become a professional musician. The now producer jokes that he switched over from playing piano to guitar because he wanted to be front and center on a stage to grab everyone's attention.

On top of that, he was also a huge fan of Final Fight and wanted to work for the company that made his game — partially to earn back some of the money he spent putting into the arcade machines.

"I was always into fighting games," said Ono in the interview. "I wasn't at Capcom when the first Street Fighter came out, but Final Fight was a game I really loved. It was one of the things that really inspired me to try and work for the company that made the game. I put so many 100 yen coins into Final Fight that when I went for my interview at Capcom, I said 'it's time for you guys to pay me back all this money, okay.' They really liked that approach and attitude, so that was one of the reasons they hired me."

"I put so many 100 yen coins into Final Fight that when I went for my interview at Capcom, I said 'it's time for you guys to pay me back all this money, okay.' They really liked that approach and attitude, so that was one of the reasons they hired me"

Robinson then went on to ask if Capcom had realized just how big of a phenomenon Street Fighter 2 was becoming around the world to which Ono replied it surprised him just how popular it was outside of Japan.

"To be honest, this was before social media and the internet," said Ono. "It was difficult to get a feeling of how big it was around the world. Of course being in Japan, we got a direct sense from Japanese fans in how big of a hit it was. It wasn't until I worked on other things like Onimusha later that it became the time when I could see the global phenomenon the series had become."

Ono reveals that when he was touring around for Onimusha's previews in the early 2000's, no one was asking him questions about the game and were instead wondering when they were going to make a new Street Fighter. That was the first time he says he realized fans around the world really wanted a new title.

"It was that kind of thing that led me to think 'I need to go Capcom Japan and tell them look the world is ready for a new Street Fighter game,'" Ono reminisced. "Part of the reason for getting Street Fighter 4 off of the ground might have been the fact that Onimusha fans were focusing on asking me Street Fighter questions back then."

Despite that enthusiasm, Ono expresses it was still really difficult to convince the higher-ups at Capcom to green light a new SF title because the company had moved on from making fighting games at that point after the unimpressive commercial performance of projects like Street Fighter 3: Third Strike and Capcom vs. SNK. He noted that the company was originally 99.9 percent against the idea.

Luckily, the now executive producer of the series convinced his boss at the time, Keiji Inafune, and the president of Capcom to get a new project off of the ground. He joked that he's glad SF4 turned out so well otherwise he might have been fired or made to go work on smaller titles.

The initial skepticism of Capcom at the time pushed Ono and his team to learn and grow to try and overcome the challenges facing a new Street Fighter from outside the company and within.

Yoshinori Ono on the Popularity and Audience of Fighting Games

"Fighting games have always been popular, and there's always been an audience for them. But it's always been a mixture of more casual players who like to jump in, try the game out and have fun, and then you have up to your professional level of fanatics who really dig deep in the systems. They want more systems. They want more complexity and be able to min-max it. I think that the gap between the larger audience and the very specific core audience just got bigger and bigger to the point where after Third Strike, it's was almost like we brought it to the furthest place we could. This in turn made the overall audience more limited."

Ever since SF4 released, Ono says they've been trying to keep both sets of fans in mind with the ultimate goal of having a wider door of opportunity for new players to jump in who can then proceed down the path of really digging into a fighting game's system and depth.

Of course, Street Fighter 5 and its particularly rocky start became a subject of discussion where Ono actually opened up that even he had his doubts as to the game's future initially while expressing his gratitude to fans for sticking with them as the team continued to work on the title further.

"Four or five years ago with Street Fighter 5, I didn't think it was going to turn out as well as it did," said Ono. "There were some bumpy parts of the road we say. I think thanks to the fans' support and dedication and also to you guys in the media who of course reported on the bad times, but I think everyone kept an eye on the game. Whenever it turned around, got better and more accepted, they were willing to re-examine it with articles saying 'take a look at it again. It's getting better.' Over the years that support from the fans and the media got us to where we are today."

Ono also revealed he will be sticking around to work on the Street Fighter franchise "a while longer" hoping to grow the fighting game scene further in terms of both its playerbase and how many spectators enjoy watching it as a sport even if they don't pick up a controller themselves.

On the subject of Street Fighter 5's future, Ono reiterated that while he doesn't have anything to show just yet, Capcom will be revealing new characters in November and December.

There's plenty more stories and information found within the full interview which you can check out on EGX's Twitch page like Ono's tale of trying to be a musician so girls would like him more plus an audience Q-and-A section at the end.

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