Disclaimer: Time Extension's Damien McFerran was interviewed for this film prior to this site's launch.
Street Fighter II was a pivotal moment in gaming history. Capcom's tremendously successful arcade cash cow was one of the main contributors to fighting games going mainstream throughout the early-to-mid '90s and resulted in an explosion of sequels, console ports, merchandise, and adaptations.
Now, director Oliver Harper (In Search of the Last Action Heroes) and his company Harper Film Productions have set out to explore the game's incredible impact on pop culture and the multiple facets of the Street Fighting craze in a brand new documentary film called Here Comes A New Challenger.
It tells the story of Street Fighter II through animated graphics, new and historical footage, and a series of in-depth interviews with talking heads. The filmmakers sat down with Capcom personnel (Yoshiki Okamoto, Yoko Shimomura, Jeff Walker, and James Goddard), journalists and YouTubers (Julian "Jaz" Rignall, John Linneman, and Stuart "Ashens" Ashen), competitive fighters (Ryan Hart), and even Hollywood directors (Stephen E. de Souza), with each figure contributing their insights into the pop culture phenomenon.
But who will exactly benefit from the documentary specifically? That is what was going through our mind upon watching the film for a second time. You see, the documentary's greatest strength is also possibly its biggest weakness. The film is incredibly dense, spanning a wide range of topics and running a total of 2 hours and 21 minutes.
It covers the birth of Street Fighter, the development of Capcom's middle-child Final Fight (or Street Fighter '89 as it was called during development), and the initial success of Street Fighter II, before going on to explore everything from Street Fighter II's impact on arcades, competitive gaming tournaments, the 16-bit console wars, and the magazine publishing industry.
That's even without mentioning the sections dedicated to Street Fighter II's various home computer and console ports, Hasbro's 1993 toy line, fan-hacked versions of the game, and the Hollywood and anime adaptations.
There's almost no stone left unturned here, and, as a fan of Street Fighter, it's incredible to see these topics have all been covered in exhaustive detail and with proper insight from the appropriate talking heads who experienced these points in history firsthand (not long after recording his interview, Street Fighter II cover artist Mick McGinty passed away, which makes a project like this even more important, as these stories won't be around forever).
Harper, and the other editors Christopher Stratton and Robert James, have done a tremendous job wrestling all these different topics together into something both coherent and entertaining. However, with that being said, we can definitely see the sheer amount of ground being covered might make this a difficult viewing for people starting from only a face-value understanding of the series.
There's easily enough material here for a series of short documentaries, which would have perhaps made this slightly more digestible for casual viewers. Nevertheless, if you're already a Street Fighter fan, you'll likely get a lot out of the experience of watching; Here Comes A New Challenger represents a towering achievement when you consider how much ground is covered, and we certainly can't see any future documentary on the subject topping this.
If you want to check out the film itself, it is available on Blu-Ray for £34.99 from the film's website.