Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Am Street Fighter: A Documentary – Review, Thoughts, and Recollections

I Am Street Fighter is a new documentary from Capcom. For the time being, it is only available as part of a large150 dollar Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Collector’s Set. Said set was released for both the 360 and the PS3; both versions include the documentary on a Bluray disc. The use of Bluray will be something that 360 users will need to consider, as the 360 cannot play Bluray Discs. Thankfully, standalone Bluray players have gone down in price and are now fairly affordable. 

The documentary, which clocks in at 72 minutes, was created specifically for Street Fighter’s 25th Anniversary. It is not, as one might expect, a straight documentary about the series’ history. Instead, it takes the history of Street Fighter and mixes it with fan interaction, nostalgia, and expression. Though the documentary tends to drag in places, and has some questionable soundtrack moments, it is, on the whole, a completely fantastic documentary that completely gets and appreciates its target audience. Make no mistake; if you are a Street Fighter fan, this documentary is a great big “thank you” from Capcom. Fans, you owe it to yourselves to watch this film.
A big part of this documentary is the showcasing of the variety of ways in which fans have chosen to interact with Street Fighter. The first of these ways to be discussed is through collecting. Considering that this documentary is available only in a Collector’s Set, it is a smart and obvious place to start. During this introduction, there is a young man talking about his Street Fighter collection. He is in his “Street Fighter” room while speaking and there are close up cuts to parts of his collection peppered in. He even gets a chance to show off a few of his favorites. It’s during this tour of the room that I noticed something in the background that forced me to get out my camera and take a picture of my screen. In his room, on top of a cheap wireframe storage tower, there was a Nubytech Street Fighter 15th Anniversary Arcade Stick. It’s the same stick that I have on top of my cheap wireframe storage tower. From that moment on, the documentary had its talons securely hooked into me. I’m betting that for any Street Fighter fan, a similar moment will occur while watching the Doc. I know this, because that Arcade Stick moment was not the only moment where I felt a sense of comradery through shared nostalgia, experience, or obsession. 

His Room and Arcade Stick
No foolin', my room

Collecting is only one of the ways that the documentary addresses the fan response to Street Fighter. In further scenes with the collector, we get a glimpse into his experiences as a Guy/Ryu cosplayer. We also get to see how fans have incorporated Street Fighter in their art. There is a great scene in the documentary where a musician (a DJ) is describing a song of his where he has sampled sound effects from Street Fighter that then cuts, rather abruptly, to an interview with the woman who was responsible for originally creating those same sound effects. There is another musician who is also spoken to at great lengths. His placement in the documentary seems be less about his work as a musician (though still quite important) and more about his ability to speak incredibly well in regards to his past experiences with Street Fighter. He and Seth Killian really provide the best voices of nostalgia for the documentary.
Nostalgia is a big big part of this film. More specifically, a nostalgia for the arcades and for those early days of Street Fighter when no one knew what they were doing and the game’s systems were completely new and mysterious. It’s, of course, a sad nostalgia. This is very much due to the almost complete death of the American Arcade scene. Still, it’s nice to relive the moment by hearing about how other fans experienced a parallel version of my past. 

Who else remembers, "having next?"

            Many of the people who fondly remember Street Fighter, as should be expected, work in the game industry. The documentary has interviews with past and present Street Fighter developers, it has interviews with developers of other fighting games like Tekken and Virtua Fighter, and, of course, interviews with Fan-turned-(recently ex) Capcom-employee Seth Killian. Hearing their stories and thoughts is a real treat for fans of the series. It’s great to hear Virtua Fighter’s creator talk about the physical similarities between Virtua Fighter’s Akira and Street Fighter’s Ryu. It’s great to learn that Street Fighter II’s sound designer started her compositions by looking at the stage designs to try and figure out what the songs should sound like. It’s even better knowing that that same person is the one who did all the other sound effects for the game, and is responsible for the elephant sounds in Dhalsim’s stage.
            Other notable interviews are with a few of the Udon guys. Udon is the company responsible for the current run of Street Fighter comics being released. They are also responsible for publishing a great run of Capcom art collections and for creating all of the artwork for the HD Remix done for Super Street Fighter II Turbo. In refrence to the HD Remix, the Udon interviewees give some great insight in regards to their work on the project. For example, getting to hear about how they were able to make Bison keep his modern bulky look while still retaining his thinner hitbox is great.
            The last real leg of the documentary is in the tournament scene. In all honesty, this is where the documentary started to drag for me. This may have to do with my lack of involvement in the tournament scene or it may just be that it was starting to get late and I was getting tired. Regardless, the tournament part of the documentary is still very well done and a great inclusion. Almost the entire section on the tournament scene is told through the experiences of Seth Killian, Justin Wong, and the infamous Daigo Umehara. If I could have picked only three people to listen to about the subject, it easily would have been those three. Having them tell the history of the now hugely popular tournament scene really personalizes it. It’s nice knowing that these industry greats started out just like the rest of us. They just took their passion in a different direction than the countless other people included in the documentary.
            It’s almost ironic that in a documentary that covers the fans’ responses to a love of Street Fighter, that the last response to be explored is in the actual playing of the game. To its credit, the documentary spends a good deal of time discussing the professional side of gaming, but it’s amazing that the tournament scene is only a small part of a much larger whole. I said, early on, that I Am Street Fighter was a thank you from Capcom to the fans. It is. And it is a wholly effective thank you because it never pretends that there is one kind of Street Fighter fan. It knows that Street Fighter fandom shows and has shown itself in many different ways and has, as a result, permeated our culture. In watching I Am Street Fighter, I knew, at once, that I was watching a film that was not only for me, but also about me, and about a part of my culture that has never been given a proper level of credence from the larger culture I am also a part of.
            This documentary gets me. And if you are a fan, it’ll get you too. After watching, you will know, proudly, that there is a part of you, large or small or medium, that is crying out I Am Street Fighter. And you will know that you are not the only one doing so. From a long time Street Fighter to Capcom. You are welcome. And Thank You.

4/5 Stars


Anonymous said...

Please upload it for those of us who don't want to spend $150 on a documentary

Jonathan Ruiz said...

I'm sorry, but I do not engage in illegal activities.

Warren Peace said...

Buy the set. Quit bootlegging/begging for bootlegs. If it's too expensive, get a job. Gamestop dropped the set down to $99. Its an absolute steal at that price.

Thanks for the review of the documentary, and of the set as a whole .