Street Fighter II: The Movie (UK - BD RB)
Shouryuuken! Chris goes old school in this review of the beat 'em up anime...
Shadowlaw: an underground organization bent on world domination through drug smuggling, illegal weapons distribution and terrorism. Led by the evil M. Bison (Vega in the Japanese version), Shadowlaw hopes to increase their power by recruiting the world's greatest street fighters. Their main target: Ryu, a master of Shotokan Karate who roams all over the world to test his skills against other fighters. As a means to lure the elusive Ryu, Bison abducts his best friend, former martial arts champion Ken Masters, and uses him as bait. Interpol agent Chun-Li and U.S. Air Force pilot Guile team up to get to Ryu before Bison does and continues his reign of terror. (Taken from the PR.)
When I was a kid, before the popularity of the Internet, I used to get my gaming fix by way of Japanese 'grey import' consoles like the Megadrive and the Super Famicom. Yes they cost an arm and a leg even by today's standards, but back then PC (Windows) gaming wasn't what it is today and the dedicated consoles provided a much better experience than general purpose computers like the Amiga or ST (not that I didn't love those as well). My favourite console was undoubtedly my Super Famicom (AKA Super NES), largely for the quality of its bundled launch title (the astounding Super Mario World) and extensive third-party support from arcade giants of the time. Chief among these were Capcom, whose own port of Final Fight was one of the three titles I received with my machine and a damn fine game in its own right.
A few months later the various games mags began previewing screens from Capcom's 16-bit port of their phenomenally popular Street Fighter II arcade beat 'em up and I knew I had to own it. As the first 16Mb (that's megabit) cartridge on the system it didn't come cheap - around £75 if I remember rightly - but I had it months in advance of the UK release and the game itself was a revelation. I now find it amusing to think that many people labelled it 'arcade perfect' at the time, because a fair bit of content was removed or altered, but it was the closest gamers in 1992 had ever seen. I distinctly remember the morning the game arrived (a Saturday) and the almost superhuman speed with which my friend managed to get from his house to mine so that we could play the verses mode. Over the following weeks I played that game damn near to death, determined to improve my skill and see the finishing screen for every character. Of course it didn't end there, because Capcom very shrewdly held back the ability to play as the boss characters for the Turbo edition of the game, which cost even more (almost £100 at the time), then went on to release Super Street Fighter II with an expanded roster of characters, some of whom appear in the animated movie.
Now let's talk about said movie ('finally!', I hear you cry). Well it's pretty standard 'bad guy wants to take over the world because he's bad' stuff, but the way that the street fighting action has been woven into the plot is quite novel (if not entirely logical). The idea of Ryu travelling the world to challenge various fighters makes sense within the Street Fighter universe and allows for some very nicely choreographed sequences. That Vega wants to use him and other fighters as assassins seems a little nonsensical to me. Why put all the time and effort into brainwashing street fighters? Why not just shoot your targets? Anyway, it's a contrived plot device but I guess they had to come up with something beyond the basic tournament framework of the games, and it's still far more logical than the plot of the live action version with Jean-Claude Van Damme. I just wish that some of the dangling plot threads had been resolved, such as why Sagat just disappears on an errand never to be seen again, or how Ken, who is apparently equal to Ryu in terms of fighting potential, somehow goes unnoticed when he is actively competing in martial arts tournaments. That would have saved them an arm and a leg on Monitor cyborgs for a start. Also, why does it take three years to brainwash Cammy, but about five minutes to do the same to Ken. Why spend most of the film trying to recruit Ryu only to have Ken attempt to kill him at the first opportunity? However, perhaps most importantly, the issue of how Chun-Li is able to stand up - let alone perform the 'spinning bird kick' - with proportions like like that is never addressed.
There are other niggles too. While the addition of the characters from the ' Super' version of the game (Fei Long, Thunder Hawk, Cammy, Dee Jay) is welcome, the marginalisation of some of the original characters, particularly Zangief and Blanka, is not. The pair barely have any screen time at all; hell, Ken's girlfriend Eliza gets more action! Guile, one of the best characters in the game, also suffers from being a largely redundant presence in the film. He spends most of his time frantically chasing around, arriving at events when they're all over bar the shouting, before finally having his arse handed to him by Vega. Talk about inauspicious. Of course all of this is really just silly nit-picking at what is, essentially, a brainless action film centred around a video game phenomenon aimed at teenage boys with a love of blood-letting and boobs (so all of them then). Yes it's silly, but it's still (sadly) one of the better game-to-movie adaptations and more enjoyable than most of the live-action genre efforts.
The 1.85:1 (1080/24p AVC) image is surprisingly good for a property such as this. I don't mean that to sound condescending, but it's not like the film was a mainstream hit and anime series/features from twenty years ago don't always look their best in high-definition. Thankfully the image is generally very clean and sable, with only the odd film artefact and some minor (but noticeable) telecine wobble at the beginning springing immediately to mind as cause for concern. Colour reproduction is much better than any version I've previously viewed, with hues appearing richer and more natural, while the compression improvements help massively with things like bleeding. Another major advantage to watching the film on BD is that it is progressive. The DVD, or at least the one I own, suffers from some very obvious interlacing/ghosting issues (and if memory serves it's not even 16:9 enhanced). The level of detail also undergoes a corresponding leap, with the whole image having a very appealing, film-like quality thanks to the retention of the grain. This increased clarity really did highlight thinks I'd missed before, including the almost 'blink and you'll miss him' cameo by Gouki/Akuma. It's true that the source itself isn't the sharpest, prettiest thing you'll ever see, but this Blu-ray definitely delivers the best looking home version of the film to date.
Well it's 'no-frills' territory here with a few LPCM 2.0 Stereo tracks, including both the original Japanese audio and the English dub (and a French track). This marked the first time I'd heard the film in its original language, and is usually the case I much preferred the voice acting. It's not that the English voice actors are all that bad, just that the Japanese ones are better. Far too much of the dialogue in the dub track is dumbed down or altered to better fit the characters' facial animation for my liking. As for said dialogue, it's always intelligible regardless of which language you opt for, but beyond that there's really not much to say. There's very little in the way of stereo panning, with only a couple of moments springing immediately to mind as I write this, and of course there is no surround activity of any kind (unless you use processing in your receiver). Bass is also fairly limited, not to mention patchy, with a number of the fight sequences lacking the sort of weight you'd hope for given the sort of kicks and punches being traded. Still, this is about what one would expect from almost twenty year old anime and it's perfectly functional. What I did find surprising about the original language track was the music, because it's almost universally incongruous with the on-screen action. Seriously, most scenes are accompanied by what sounds like fully realised orchestrations of 16-bit game music, just not a fighting game! In fact, I was at times reminded more of something like Pilot Wings than Street Fighter II. The Chun-Li/Balrog encounter is particularly shocking, playing out against an aural canvas of bad J-pop and the sort of generic music you'll find playing over the end credits of any number of forgettable 90s video-games. If the intention was to have a score that sounded like that, job done, but it doesn't really suit the action at all. For the technically minded, the bitrate/depth of the Japanese track is slightly higher than the dubs, weighing in at 2304Kbps/24-bit as opposed to 1536Kbps/16-bit.
The dub will most probably be more familiar to those of you who, like me, first saw the movie on TV years ago. Obvious language differences aside, it is the soundtrack that really sets the dub apart from the original Japanese track. Gone is the rather ill-fitting, twee music, to be replaced by more raucous tunes from the likes of Alice in Chains and Korn. On the whole the heavier, rockier soundtrack actually fits the combat sequences better than the 'elevator music' of the Japanese track, particularly during Chun-Li and Balrog's fight. Unfortunately the 'uncensored' tag attached to this release doesn't extend to the dub, as the content makers have used the 'PG-13' version that removes profanity and a couple of other lines. It's not a complete disaster, but it is sure to disappoint those used to those elements.
The English subtitles are fine for the most part, although there are occasional grammatical errors, some suspect positioning, and they sometimes flash by a little too quickly. They also translate the name of Vega's evil empire as Shadowlaw, rather than Shadaloo, but I believe there's always been some debate about which is correct (for what it's worth, the English text on various screens and documents in the film says Shadowlaw).
Um, none. Not even character bios. That deserves a hadoken to the face.
Street Fighter II isn't a great film, but neither is it a bad one. It's definitely a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, and brings back very fond memories of my youth (although I'd rather be having nostalgic feelings for a game called 'Super Sex Haver II', because I'd be looking back on my teens with greater fondness). The inclusion of both versions of the film on this Blu-ray is major bonus for me, as one of the things that endears me to the original Japanese version is that it uses the correct names for the 'boss' characters. Because I cut my SFII teeth on the import cart I grew up fighting M. Bison, Balrog, Sagat and Vega, in that order. It wasn't until I got to Super Street Fighter II - which was a US import rather than a Japanese one - that I had to suffer the mixed-up names, and it bugged the hell out of me. I mean come on, it's not like M. Bison is a subtle reference to a certain boxer or anything. Anyway, the Blu-ray is a mixed affair, offering decent video and adequate audio, but nothing in the way of bonus material. It's unlikely to convert many to the cause, but if you're an existing fan this is the version to get.
There, I went the entire review without making some sort of lame joke about Psycho Power and ex-girlfriends. Oh dammit! So close!
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 13th May 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Stereo Japanese, LPCM 2.0 Stereo English, LPCM 2.0 Stereo French
Subtitles: English, French
Easter Egg: No
Director: Gisaburô Sugii
Cast: Kôjiro Shimizu, Kenji Haga, Miki Fujitani, Masane Tsukayama, Takeshi Kusaka, Hank Smith, Ted Richards, Mary Briscoe, Donald Lee, Phil Matthews
Genre: Action and Animation
Length: 101 minutes
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