A Glance at Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game

… but only a glance, for staring too long at it may permanently damage your retinas.

No, seriously. As I stated a month ago, I wanted to give this game a good look, and tell you how I felt… But dear god, it’s hard to get past my initial impressions, which were, as you may recall, “Hahaha, oh wow.”

It’s been hard to find the words for something this unbelievable. You would think that a perfect storm of So Bad It’s Good/So Bad It’s Horrible/Bile Fascination would provide unlimited opportunities for laugh-out-loud funny snarking.

You would be wrong. I envy guys like Spoony, Linkara and the Nostalgia Critic, who live and breathe making fun of the cosmic turds of the universe. Me? I have trouble with that. It’s the same reason I never finished that YouTube review of Attack of the Super Monsters: While it’s easy enough to point out THAT something is amazingly bad, it is far harder to make clear WHY it is so bad. Or, indeed, to endure it at all.

But I figure I might as well try, before my muse flees me once again.

Set the Wayback Machine to 1994. Arcades were thriving, and one company ruled the roost: Capcom. Yes, Capcom, whose sleepy 1980s successes were dwarfed by their breakaway smash hit, Street Fighter II. This was the game that started the whole “fighting game” craze that, ultimately, did not end before the lights went out on arcades. Indeed, the craze Capcom had created, the one that legitimized arcades, was the one that ultimately helped kill them as well.

But long before all that happened, Street Fighter was rampantly popular. There was merchandise, there were toys, there was a movie, there was a cartoon, there were several anime (some of which weren’t as good as the cartoon…), but you probably know most of this already.

However, something a lot of people did not know is that, in the year 1994, Capcom apparently licenced the Street Fighter name, concepts, and characters to White Wolf Publishing. Founded in 1991, White Wolf apparently gave new meaning to “screaming out of the womb,” making games that centered on playing creatures such as vampires and werewolves in a modern, urban fantasy setting.

So… What were they doing on a god damned Street Fighter RPG? I do not know, and part of me is not sure it wants to find out, either. The reasoning could be Lovecraftian in its revelations. Or, we could find out that the center of the universe is not Azatoth, but O Mighty Dolla. I’m not sure which I’d be more afraid of.

Anyway… Upon opening the cover, no, upon gazing at the cover, you see that this is truly the hallmark of early White Wolf: Bad art, and, as you will see in moments, horrible layouts and worse organization.

The table of contents alone is a nightmare, listing eleven sections to the book, the text of each line printed in white but framed in a different color, a literal rainbow of pain. Reading onwards, like some ill-fated scholar in a Mythos story, you find another White Wolf staple: Pointless fiction. I never liked these, they always struck me as meandering filler, but at least they’ve gotten better about it. As if they could get any worse; The title and splash of the opening fiction take up nine-tenths of the first page of it. More hideous, vaguely Japanese-styled art litters the next few pages, again taking up as much as a third or more of the page. The fiction itself is fairly standard and boring. Like much of White Wolf’s works of the day, I by and large ignored it.

Actually, I described a lot of the technical presentaiton right there, except you need to throw in “tables printed at 45-degree angles.” I wish i were joking about this, but some of the tables do indeed appear on a tilt. So much so that I wish I wasnt reading this via PDF, so I could actually tilt the damn book and read the tables properly. Also, the hues used are hideous throughout. Okay, the mastheads and borders are passable, but the tables and any other colors are nothing short of painful. Between the colors, and everything sliding around the page like the book was late to the press and the layout artist was piss drunk, we are entering real eye rape territory. If I told you that there was not one single page that didn’t make you want to tear out your own visual organs, I’d be understating the issue.

From there… The way the chapters are divided, it requires tons of flipping through the book to figure out what you’re supposed to do next in character generation. I suppose I’m spoiled on D&D, which does not use derived values to do ANYTHING regarding ability selection (except in 3e when Intelligence determined starting Skill Points, but even THIS was dead easy). Here? Everything is related to everything else, and until you’re familiar with the system? You’re out of luck.

As such, I couldn’t tell you how the game plays, or even how character generation works, as it’s all a damn mess. I have read in various places that the game is a “lost classic,” and I have my doubts about that.

As for the Storyteller data? Oh god. Anyone who knows anything about Street Fighter will know that, for about ten years, North America was left out in the cold as far as canon information went. Not that the story mattered worth a damn, but some people DO care about that, and thus, such things exist… Though Capcom’s official canon is a nightmare of sequels, prequels, and retcons… At any rate, this game was written in 1994, by a North American understanding of Street Fighter. This is the same level of understanding that would gift us with both, the movie and the cartoon. Yeah. Get used to the phrase “Bison must be stopped. That much is certain” because you’ll be seeing it A LOT.

Yeah, Bison is the main villain, and Shadoloo is taking over the world WITH CRIME and… Oy… The less said about THIS, the better, but I would like to point out one thing: While the supplements make the story even more of a mess, throwing in not only mutants and cyborgs, but also aliens, what really made me lose it was the inclusion of a team of Lovecraftian horrors that don’t even try to HIDE it. Ugh. Dear sweet God…

There’s really not much else to say: Ugly art, ugly writing, ugly story, and early Storyteller System, which is probably ugly too. Again, I don’t know what White Wolf was on when they made this, and I don’t want to know.

… And one more thing: I know, at some point, now, or in the future, actual fans of this lovely artifact of mid-90s kitsch will find this rant and they might not be happy with me. Well… To you, I apologise, as I mean you no insult. Just that this game hurt my eyes, and hurt my brain. If you think I’m missing something, tell me what it is! Also, this game is less painful than Legend of Chun Li, so yeah. I said one nice thing about it…

In the meantime, happy gaming. And stay out of street fights.

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5 Responses to “A Glance at Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game”

  1. TerminusEst13 Says:

    I am a fan FROM THE FUTURE. I have come into the past’s blog posts, in order to disapprove!

    And actually, this is really pretty fun to play. I won’t lie, it IS visually ugly and an organizer’s worst nightmare, but it’s a really interesting system to play–there’s not a whole lot of martial arts/kung fu RPG systems out there, so this scratches that niche nicely.
    I’d highly suggest considering it the equivalent of a brainless action flick, and wrangling up a couple people to give it a shot for a few sessions.

    • underthepale Says:

      Well, I’d more or less need to find a physical copy to run the effing thing, and it’s more likely I’d try to run Maid RPG for my group… But I knew well in advance that my dislike of this thing is based, at least in part, on not having played it.

      As such, most of my critiques were offered for the fluff (only a bad idea in retrospect) and the layouts (always a bad idea. Sometimes I wonder how WW became a big boy…). I imagine it’s a pain to run, but I can’t imagine how it plays. Almost everyone I’ve seen speak on it say it’s a blast.

      And as such, I hoped someone would clue me in. You didn’t reveal much I didn’t already know, but at least I know there are people who still care.

      … Really, though, I can’t get over the layouts, oy…

      Also, how’d you find me? Jusst curious.

      • TerminusEst13 Says:

        I could send it to you via e-mail if you’d like to give it a shot. And I found you via Google search, looking for reviews for the Street Fighter RPG. You were probably the first negative one that came up! You are special. :D

  2. John Says:

    Hi it’s John…

    and I ROFLMAO’d pretty hard reading your review. I have many dear and fond memories of cruising the RPG aisles of Barnes &Nobles, and one time I actually found the Steet Fighter game! I know, barf. Don’t ask me to find it now though…sadly it may just be in a New Jersey landfill at the moment.

    I was a noob to RPGs so couldn’t compare it to anything else, but I admit the character creation process is unnecessarily complicated. And since I have an official degree in fine arts I can say, yes…the artwork was pretty lame overall. White Wolf hires their artists by the bushel and must pay them in gummy bears, they were really not even trying.

    Aside from it being a kind of silly game, and uttely raping SF canon, I didnt mind the corny storytelling aspect of it. Sometimes I just like a goofy story, even if it involves psychic spies and ninja cyborgs.

    One good thing about the game is that it introduced me to the dark dark world of White Wolf.

    • underthepale Says:

      Well, see, as I’ve said several times, the key is having fun, and I expect it can be cheesy, goofy fun. I just… had a hard time getting past the art and design, though I’m sure it’s a good enough game. Surely a lot of people play, it even now…

      But as first RPGs go, there’s far worse to come into than Storyteller, yeah.

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