The Best And Worst Of JCVD

Since doing my retrospective on The Karate Kid a while back, I’ve been on a bit of a martial arts film kick (pun fully intended). I grew up watching this stuff, as far back as I can remember, I watched the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Biao Yuen, Chuck Norris, Benny Urquidez and Cynthia Rothrock to name a handful. Then in the 80s, I was introduced to The Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme and became a bit of a fan.

He had a screen presence that no one else at the time could match. He was good looking with a chiseled body that was hard to ignore (am I starting to sound a little gay here?). He couldn’t act well at first yet he would hold a film together nicely. His on screen fights were in a different league as there was a brutality to them, yet they seemed so elegant at the same time and his splits soon became a trademark. Van Damme was a martial arts actor at a time when the genre was beginning to wane slightly. The 70s were the pinnacle of martial arts cinema largely thanks to Bruce Lee who made the genre massively popular in his heyday. In Asia, the genre had always been popular, but it was Lee who spread that love worldwide and when he died, so did a big chunk of martial arts film in general. While they still remained popular in Asia, the rest of the word began to distance themselves from “chop-socky flicks”. But for me, that love for the films never died.

Bruce Lee

I still remember my brother Rob renting out low budget and often badly made martial arts VHS tapes from a local shop, little gems that the bigger VHS stores just didn’t stock. I was introduced to Jackie Chan long before he became an international star. New Fist of FurySnake in the Eagle’s ShadowMaster with Cracked Fingers – these were the type of films I grew up watching thanks to my older brother. One day, Rob came home with a new film, one that featured a strange plot about Bruce Lee returning from the dead and that was the day I was first introduced to Jean-Claude Van Damme, it fast became one of my favourite films and still is to this day.

Right here, I’d like to celebrate JCVD and take a look at some of his best and worst films, a fun trip though my childhood, and even adulthood. I’m not going to cover every JCVD film as he’s done a fuck load over the years and the article would go on for weeks (it already going to be a long one). I’ll just select some of the best and worst…maybe do a few honorable mentions throughout too.

Very Early Appearances

Jean-Claude Van Damme began competing in full-contact karate tournaments in Belgium through 1977 – 1982 where we was hugely successful and managed an impressive record of 18 victories (all knockouts) and only 1 defeat. Along the way, Van Damme landed an uncredited role in a Belgian/French co-produced film called Woman Between Wolf and Dog starring Rutger Hauer from 1979. After retiring from competition in 1982, Van Damme moved to America in hope of carving a movie career for himself.

Young JCVD

His first American film appearance was in the break dancing film (yes we had those in the 80s) Breakin’ from 1984. He was hired as an extra and can be seen dancing in the background in one scene wearing a very tight, black spandex leotard. While in America, Van Damme struck up a friendship with future internet meme legend that is Chuck Norris and even worked as a bouncer for a while at a bar Norris owned. That friendship also landed him a stuntman role in the Chuck Norris classic Missing in Action. Then in 1986, JCVD secured his biggest (but still small) role yet in that film I mentioned earlier about Bruce Lee returning from the dead.

No Retreat No Surrender.jpg

No Retreat, No Surrender. Oh how I love this film. Okay so the plot is about Jason Stillwell (Kurt McKinney) who is an avid Bruce Lee fan and martial arts student studying at his father’s dojo. When the dojo is threatened by a local crime syndicate, Jason’s father is attacked leaving him with a broken leg thanks to the Russian henchman Ivan Kraschinsky (Jean-Claude Van Damme). The Stillwell family move away from New York to Seattle to get away from the crime syndicate.

After being harassed and beat up by martial artist Dean Ramsay (Dale Jacoby), Jason goes to the grave of Bruce Lee and asks for help. Later that night he gets that help in the shape of Bruce’s ghost who agrees to train Jason to make him a better martial artist. Long story short, Jason attends a local full-contact martial arts tournament where the Seattle team are set to square off against a New York team. Only before the tournament can start the crime syndicate appears and state that they will put up just one man against the entire Seattle team and will win too. That one man, this awesome machine of annihilation is of course the Russian Ivan. After Ivan kicks the asses of the entire team, Jason gets in the ring to fight Ivan.

JCVD No Retreat No Surrender

This film is terribly low budget with some awful acting and cringe-worthy scenes and yet I can’t help but love this film so damn much. Its basically a rip off of The Karate Kid (which is a rip off of Rocky) as about 90% of the film’s plot is taken directly from The Karate Kid – you have the young kid moving to a new city, the mentor training him, there’s a love story involving a jealous ex and of course everything comes to a head at a tournament. Van Damme’s role is minuscule as he only appears in the opening for a few minutes and then again at the end for the big fight, plus I think he only has about three small lines in the entire film. As tiny as the role is, its still a damn enjoyable and memorable one that shows a lot of promise. There’s some great fight scenes in the film too from lead actor Kurt McKinney and of course Jean-Claude Van Damme himself.

No Retreat, No Surrender hardly made JCVD a major star and the film is mostly forgotten about now (but check it out if you can find a copy…preferably uncut. Its awesome!). But it did at least showcase his talents and very slowly opened a few doors. In 1987 Van Damme did manage to land himself a role in a genuine, big budget blockbuster with the biggest action star in the world at the time. He got himself a part in Predator alongside that other mound of muscle Arnold Schwarzenegger. Die hard Predator fans will already know this story, but for those now scratching their heads while reaching for their Predator Blu-rays to try and find JCVD in the film…you won’t find him.

JCVD Preadator.jpg

See, he was hired to play the titular alien in full costume and everything, he did shoot some of the film too. But the alien design was later changed and the new suit didn’t fit Van Damme so he was replaced with Kevin Peter Hall. Plus there was the fact that JCVD hated the role and via some misunderstanding, he didn’t know he would be stuck in an alien suit for the whole film. It has been said that Jean-Claude Van Damme could very well still be in the film somewhere as some of the shots may have been left in but I don’t know how true that is – plus he would’ve been in costume and most probably doing that cloaking thing too so you wouldn’t recognise him anyway.

His Breakthrough

If there is one film that began to put Van Damme on the map and get him recognised, then it has to be 1988’s Bloodsport. Said to be based on the true story of real life martial artist Frank Dux (that’s a whole other article in itself). The film follows Frank (Jean-Claude Van Damme) as he takes part in a no holes barred, underground, full-contact kumite tournament in Hong Kong.

JCVD Bloodsport

Bloodsport is a cracking flick and Van Damme is brilliant in it too. The film has loads of great fights showcasing numerous fighting styles from around the world and of course the final fight is a belter too. Outside of all the fighting, the film still has some memorable scenes such as Frank and Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb) playing the arcade classic Karate Champ or when the mighty Bolo Yeung playing the main villain Chong Li says the line “Brick not hit back” to JCVD in which he is paraphrasing a line Bruce Lee said to him in Enter the DragonBloodsport was a big hit and put people began to notice Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Just as a quick aside. You know how they’ve made several films based on and inspired by the game Street Fighter II? Am I the only one who thinks Bloodsport is a better SF II film than any of the real ones?

Anyway, Van Damme was now a bona fide martial arts/action star. Yeah he was still only appearing in low budget flicks, but he was being recognised. Through the rest of the 80s he began to appear in more films in starring roles including Cyborg from 1988, which is pretty poor to be honest and best to avoid. The much better Kickboxer from 1989 is a film worth checking out though and one JCVD wrote the story for too.

JCVD Kickboxer

Telling to story of American kickboxing champ Eric Sloane (Dennis Alexio) who travels to Bangkok to face the best fighter they have. Eric takes his younger brother, Kurt (Jean-Claude Van Damme) along for support and as his cornerman. Its during a fight against the Thai champ Tong Po (Michel Qissi) when Eric is badly beaten and Tong Po deliverers a particularly vicious elbow to Eric’s back which ends up leaving him in a wheelchair. Kurt swears revenge for his brother and demands to fight Tong Po, yet no one will train him out of fear he will get killed. Until Kurt meets Xian Chow (Dennis Chan) an old expert in Muay Thai who agrees to train Kurt for his big fight against Tong Po.

Kickboxer is perhaps JCVD’s most famous film up to this point. Its good, but I think it lacked the punch (pun still intended) that Bloodsport had.

As the 90s began, Van Damme had a busy and full work schedule for the next few years starting with Death Warrant from 1990. A pretty bog-standard action romp that is not really bad nor good, its okay. Oh and the film is also the first writing credit for David S. Goyer who would go on to pen some of the biggest superhero movies much later like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Also from 1990 was Lionheart where JCVD played French Legionnaire Leon Gaultier who goes A.W.O.L (an alternate title for the film) from his duties after receiving a letter about his seriously injured brother. Finding himself in Los Angeles, Leon enters the world of underground fighting to raise money for his extended family. Its worth noting that this film also features Michel Qissi from Kickboxer.

Jean Claude Van Damme

I quite like Lionheart or Wrong Bet or A.W.O.L.: Absent Without Leave or Leon or Full Contact…yes this film has that many alternate titles depending on where you are from and when it was released in your country. Its a fairly decent flick with some solid action and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s acting is actually pretty damn good as if he’s finally getting the hang of this acting thing.

Double Impact was released in 1991 and JCVD plays two roles. The twin brothers Chad & Alex Wagner who are made orphans as babies by the Triads. The twins are separated and raised differently, one is a gruff, cigar smoking bad-ass and the other is softer and more gentle…but still able to kick some ass. Years later and they learn of their past, team up to track down and get revenge on those who killed their parents. Double Impact is pretty damn good fun and its interesting to see Van Damme in the dual role playing two sides of the same coin. Oh yeah and man mountain, Bolo Yeung is in the film as the main bad guy which he plays with great relish. This one is worth watching.

His Even Bigger Breakthrough

Its only 1992 and Jean-Claude Van Damme is knocking out films faster than he was opponents in Bloodsport. Next up is his biggest and most successful film up to this point – Universal Soldier.

JCVD Universal Soldier

Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is an army vet along with Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren). While on a mission in Vietnam, 1969 where Luc and Andrew as tasked with clearing out a small village, Andrew snaps and kills two innocent civilians. A shocked Luc turns his gun on Andrew just as he reciprocates and the two end up killing each other. Their bodies are recovered and cryogenically preserved. Decades later and the two corpses are reanimated as super advanced “UniSols” who are genetically enhanced with cybernetics giving them super strength and self-healing abilities while their memories are erased.

These UniSols are used for counter terrorism work and its while on a mission at Hoover Dam to save some hostages when the flashbacks to their previous lives begin and things start to unravel. Luc escapes his creators with the help of TV journalist, Veronica Roberts (Ally Walker) and Andrew Scott is sent out to bring him back…only Andrew’s mind is still stuck in Vietnam, 1969 and he thinks the war is still going on. Things get bloody and brutal as Luc just wants to go home to his parents while Andrew wants to kill any and everything in his way.

Oh man, I love this film. Its got just the right blend of sci-fi, martial arts and all out action. Van Damme is fantastic as the slightly confused and lost Luc Deveraux and gets a chance to show a rage of acting skills including some great comic timing. Ally Walker as the TV reporter is even better, a little ballsy mixed with a damsel in distress kind of thing. But the person who steals this film has to be Dolph Lundgren as the utterly psychotic Andrew Scott, perhaps one of my favourite action villains ever? If you get a chance, watch this one its a blast. The chemistry between Van Damme and Lundgren is pure gold.

JCVD Universal Soldier 2.jpg

Universal Soldier was a huge box office hit and catapulted Jean-Claude Van Damme to stardom after several (mostly) modest hits in low budget films.

After making a fun cameo in the massively underrated and clever satire of action films that was Last Action Hero, JCVD starred in 1993’s Nowhere To Run a rather shallow and bland film not really worth bothering with. And followed that up with the far, far better Hard Target also from 93. In this one Chance Boudreaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is a  Cajun merchant seaman looking for work. He helps Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler) who is being attacked by a bunch of thugs and she hires him to help find her missing father. But when they discover Natasha’s father is dead, this leads Chance into a very dangerous game.

JCVD Hard Target

Hard Target is thoroughly entertaining even if the plot is one used a ton of times in the past. But what lifts it above most other action flicks of the time is the man behind the camera. This was the first American film directed by legendary Hong Kong action film maker, John Woo. Woo’s blending of American and Chinese cinema is masterful and makes for some great action well worth checking out. Oh and JCVD punches a snake.

Rising Star

By 1994, Jean-Claude Van Damme could be counted among other big action stars of the day such as Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis. More starring roles were on the horizon too. Timecop was a sci-fi/action picture with a silly plot that’s actually a damn good watch and entertaining from start to finish. Still in 94, Van Damme landed the lead in Street Fighter based on the hugely popular game series…and its awful. Though its worth checking out just for Raúl Juliá in his final film performance as Bison before his death. Honestly as bad as the film is Juliá is amazing in it.

JCVD Street Fighter

95’s Sudden Death was one of those countless Die Hard rip offs that were becoming increasingly more popular at time. You know the kind, a bunch of terrorists show up and take control of a building (in this case a sports stadium) and only one man can save the day. Its okay, above average, one of the better Die Hard rip offs but there are far better films of its ilk out there…like Die Hard. In 1996, Jean-Claude Van Damme not only starred in but also wrote the story for and even directed The Quest. Not a great film at all, in fact its pretty awful – but a lot can be said for the cinematography that showcases the beautiful locales and the wide range of various martial arts on show. Its a lot like his previous flick Bloodsport only not as charming or as 80s.

The Decline

JCVD’s stardom began to dim in the latter part of the 90s, after The Quest he had a couple of below average films followed up with some absolute stinkers and his career would never reach the highs of that early/mid 90s era. Double Team from 1997 was his first real box office bomb. I mean, its a film where he teams up with basketball player Dennis Rodman. That’s like mixing Jack Daniels with orange juice a terrible combo. This was followed up with 98’s Knock Off where his co-star was Rob Schneider…seriously, what the fuck happened Van Damme? You were riding high and then thought doing films with a basketball player and a crap, unfunny comedian would be a good idea? Both Double Team and Knock Off were and still are atrocious.

Oh but he wasn’t done with the bad decisions yet as next up Jean-Claude Van Damme made Legionnaire, a (wait for it) period costume action movie set in the 1920s. Its not very good.

JCVD Legionnaire

In 1999, he made a sequel to one of his most successful film with Universal Soldier: The Return. Set seven years after the events of the first film, Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is no longer a UniSol, he’s now human after having his implants removed. Luc now works as a technical expert for the government to help create more advanced UniSols. The program is overseen by S.E.T.H. an artificially intelligent computer. But when S.E.T.H. learns the UniSol program is being shut down, it attempts to protect itself by unleashing a horde of the advanced UniSols as a defense.

The first flick was brilliant, still is. This sequel is trash and boring that lacks everything that made the original so damn great.

Through the 2000s, JCVD had a steady stream of direct to DVD films or films that saw a minimal theatrical release in countries like Spain, Mexico, etc. Films such as; The OrderIn HellThe Hard Corps and Until Death to name a few, made little to no impact and are mostly forgotten about if they were even known to exist in the first place. His career was dying out fast and the name Jean-Claude Van Damme no longer drew in the audience it used to in the 90s.


Then in 2008, JCVD starred in the film JCVD. An interesting Belgian drama in which Van Damme plays a semi-fictional version of himself caught up in a robbery at a post office where his is taken hostage. I don’t want to say too much about this one other than to express how fucking good it is. Its a film one should watch and experience for yourself. Its not an all action, high kicking kung fu flick that you’d normally associate with Jean-Claude Van Damme. This is something very different, a tense drama that’s highly unique with a mesmerising and engrossing performance from JCVD which shows that he really can act well when needed. Perhaps the most notable scene in the film is when Van Damme breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the audience in a one shot, six minute monologue. Some critics at the time even suggested that Jean-Claude Van Damme should’ve been nominated for an Oscar for his performance…and you know what, he should’ve. Brilliant film.

2009 saw him return to one of his biggest hits once more with Universal Soldier: Regeneration. Okay, so this one ignores the previous and awful Universal Soldier: The Return and works as a direct sequel to the original film. Reuniting Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his arch nemesis Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren).

JCVD Universal Soldier Regeneration

Luc Deveraux is in Switzerland undergoing rehabilitation therapy from his UniSol days in an attempt to reinsert him into society. However, he is used by the government to take part in a mission involving a group of terrorists who’ve taken over the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and are holding hostages. The terrorists threaten to detonate a bomb if their comrades are not freed. When the prime minister gives into the demands of the terrorists, Dr. Colin (Kerry Shale) of the UniSol program is not impressed and sends in a cloned and upgraded version of Andrew Scott who’s severely mentaly unstable and reactivates the terrorist’s bomb. Enter Luc Deveraux to clean up the mess and face his adversary once more.

You know what? This ain’t half bad, in fact it pretty damn good. Its pure low budget b-movie stuff, but its bloody entertaining none the less. The showdown between Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren being a particular highlight. If you liked the original flick, then check this one out too.

From 2010 Onward

Jean-Claude Van Damme’s direct to DVD film career continued through the 2010s with a few more notable highlights. He wrote, produced, edited, directed and even starred in Full Love from 2010. The film was screened at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival but its not yet been released, though it has been given a 2019 release date along with some more recently shot footage. I have no idea what the film is about, but I hope its something different like JCVD that will showcase his acting a bit more. I’ll certainly be looking out for it next year. Van Damme provided the voice for Master Croc in Kung Fu Panda 2 and its sequel.

Then in 2011, JCVD also took part in his own reality TV show Jean-Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors.

JCVD Coors Light

Since 2012, JCVD been seen in ads for Coors Light. Also in 2012 Van Damme played Jean Vilain in the ensemble action romp The Expendables 2 where he rubbed shoulders with classic and much revered action stars like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Plus his old friends Dolph Lundgren and Chuck Norris. Still in 2012 and Van Damme slid back into his role of Luc Deveraux for Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning where he once more crosses paths with Dolph Lundgren’s Andrew Scott, and this one is also pretty good too and a great way to end the trilogy.

JCVD Universal Soldier Day of Reckoning

Several more direct to DVD films followed but nothing really worth mentioning. Until 2016 when JCVD was part of a remake of one of his much loved films with Kickboxer: Vengeance. But instead of playing the main hero, he plays the teacher role as Master Durand. Kurt Sloane is played by Alain Moussi this time around with villain Tong Po played by Dave Bautista. Then in 2018, JCVD returned for the sequel, Kickboxer: Retaliation with several of the cast also coming back. I’ve been writing this article just after watching the the two films and have to say how much I enjoyed them. Van Damme still looks great and has that magnetic personality and charm, acts very well and even gets to kick some bad guys in the face too. Its great to still see him doing what he does best and doing it so well.

Then production is said to start this year is the third film, Kickboxer: Armageddon. Its not been confirmed whether Jean-Claude Van Damme will be in the film or not, but I strongly suspect so (I hope so anyway). It also seems like we may be seeing JCVD return as Leon Gaultier in a sequel to Lionheart, which is also said to begin production this year.

JCVD Lionheart 2

Well that’s pretty much yer lot. As I said at the start, I’ve not covered every film of JCVD’s career…but I think I’ve got most of them here and certainly the ones well worth watching if you get chance.

You know, I really do genuinely like this guy and I’d love to see him in bigger and more mainstream films. Whenever I’ve seen him in interviews, Jean-Claude Van Damme always comes across as very likable, charming and humble. I know he’s had a few demons in the past involving drugs and money issues and I sincerely hope JCVD is over the worst of it all. He may not be an Oscar worthy actor but can still really surprise with just how good he can be at times (see JCVD for proof). I’d love to see him as a celebrated action star as he was in the 90s.

Some of his early flicks are stone cold classics. The likes of Bloodsport, KickboxerLionheartUniversal Soldier and of course the utterly awesome No Retreat, No Surrender are still damn fine films and ones I love to watch every now and then.

I really did grow up watching Van Damme films and have a lot of happy memories surrounding them too. Thanks for all the entertainment JCVD.


Believe me – I’ve done very good stuff and very crazy stuff, and I don’t regret the crazy stuff.

Jean-Claude Van Damme

The Street Fighter legacy, part IV

Ryu evlution

Street Fighter certainly has evolved over the years. From the simple but great ground work of the original from 1987, the revolutionary Street Fighter II in 1991 to the Marvel vs Capcom sub-series in the 2000s, right up to today with the latest editions of the Street Fighter franchise. Speaking of which…

SF IV start

Street Fighter IV: The next title in the official Street Fighter series and also the return of original creator Takashi Nishiyama. As Nishiyama left Capcom after the release of the original game to join SNK where he helped create Street Fighter rival games such as; Fatal Fury and King of Fighters.
The arcade version was released in 2008 with PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 ports in 2009.

While the fourth numbered game in the franchise, chronologically this is set somewhere between the Street Fighter II and Street Fighter III. This game was a welcome return to form after Street Fighter III. It was more streamlined, refined and accessible. A real sequel to Street Fighter II if you will. The home ports offered more playable characters than the arcade version with a total of 25 in all. The game’s style was more like the Street Fighter EX series, with the use of 3D polygon characters and backgrounds but still fighting on a 2D plane. Only the graphics where much more smother and detailed.

Classic, fan favourites like; Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, E. Honda, Blanka, Zangief, Guile, Dhalsim, Balrog, Vega, Sagat, M. Bison and Akuma all return with the inclusion of Dan, Fei Long, Sakura, Cammy, Gen, and Rose. The game also introduced new characters; Abel, Crimson Viper, Rufus, El Fuerte, Seth and Gouken.

SF IV screen

Street Fighter IV received universal critical acclaim with many people claiming it to be the best in the franchise since Street Fighter II. Now with such high praise and acclaim, of course Capcom milked the game for all it could. As with previous games in the franchise, Street Fighter IV had various revisions and updates.
Super Street Fighter IV (2010) added new stages and even more characters; T. Hawk and Dee Jay return from Street Fighter II. Guy and Cody from Final Fight make an appearance. Then there was the inclusion of; Adon, Ibuki, Makoto, Dudley, Juri and Hakan. Then Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition (2010) was released which was a version of the previous Super Street Fighter IV for arcades (hence the title) and brought with it a few more enhancements and more characters. This version was later released as both a standalone game and as a downloadable update for the home market. Not done yet as; Ultra Street Fighter IV (2014) was released for arcade, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. This one added a few more new stages, new characters (now a total of 44) as well as a few new game mechanics.

SF IV characters

There were also versions of the game for iOS and Android devices as well as a version for the Nintendo 3DS called; Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition.

Is that enough Street Fighter IV now? Time to take a look at the latest in the franchise.

SF V start

Street Fighter V: Wait, straight into the next in the franchise, no new sub-series, no Street Fighter: Alpha Mega EX Ultra Edition? Okay then. Yes, after the success of Street Fighter IV, Capcom got the next proper sequel out with little to no fuss. This time only relased for PC and PlayStation 4 this year, just a few weeks ago.

While Street Fighter IV was a runaway success and met with great praise…not the same could be said about this one. Street Fighter V was rushed out to coincide with the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) an annual esports event that focuses exclusively on fighting games. Due to this rushing out, the game was released unfinished. Okay, so the basic and much loved Street Fighter formula was in tact but most of the game itself was just “missing”. Aside from some minor bugs and glitches, the game was relased with no arcade mode (a staple in the series from the very start), no story mode, as well as missing almost every basic feature you’s expect a game of this type to have. Capcom stated they plan to release all the missing content later via DLC, but most fans were just not happy paying full retail price for a game that was clearly rushed out and missing so much content.

Only a total of 16 characters this time around (I can’t be bothered to do another list, the usuals are here) with more characters being added via DLC later.

SF V screen

What with Street Fighter IV actually being set between Street Fighter II and III, where do you think this one is set? Well its not a sequel to IV but actually set between III and IV. So Street Fighter IV is really a sequel to II and prequel to III, while V is a sequel to III prequel to IV…I think. Rocket science is easier to follow than the chronology of the Street Fighter franchise.

Street Fighter V plays well enough, but again, its just not a full game. Yet it did receive positive reviews anyway.

So there you have it the (almost) entire Street Fighter franchise though (almost) 30 years. But there are still more Street Fighter games which I’ll quickly highlight some of now.

In 1994, Capcom teamed up with Universal Pictures to make a live action film based on Street Fighter II.

SF  movie

This film is bad. How bad? Well it stars Jean-Claude Van Damme playing all American Guile…yes with that accent, we are supposed to believe he is all American. Plus one of its stars, the great Raul Julia, died before this film was released. This film killed Raul Julia.
Anyway, why did I bring this terrible, terrible film up? Well Capcom had the idea of making a game based on the film…

SF moviegame

Street Fighter: The Movie: Yes, Street Fighter the game, based on the movie…that is based on the game. Released for the Arcades, PlayStation and Sega Saturn in 1995. This one uses digitized images of the film’s cast playing their characters from the film, except for Raul Julia who died before he could start work on this.

SF moviegame screen

This was a slow, clunky mess. While the basic gameplay mechanic of the Street Fighter franchise was there, it just did not work.



Capcom vs. SNK: Similar to the previous Marvel vs Capcom series, this was yet another series running within the Street Fighter franchise. This time featuring characters from various SNK games against various Capcom famous characters including some from the Street Fighter series.

SNK screen

This vs series featured a total of six standard fighting games and even spawned yet another sub-series within this series of card collection games called; SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters with four games in that series.



Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Yes, another vs series. This time its various famous Japanese anime series/characters going up against some of Capcom’s finest.

TvCap screen

Same old schtick. This vs series only managed two games with; Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars.



Street Fighter × Tekken: This one is quite interesting as its a crossover game that uses the infamous Street Fighter formula, but includes Namco’s Tekken series, putting their fighters into the world and style of Street Fighter. Think Street Fighter IV’s style and gameplay with Tekken characters thrown in.

SFxTek screen

So far, there is only one game in this rather unique concept. However, it has been said that Namco are developing their own game where it will be Tekken x Street Fighter. So a Tekken game with its style and gameplay that features Street Fighter characters. But that was first announced in 2010 and it may never happen, though Namco say they are still working on it…


Next…actually, no more. Not that there are no more Street Fighter related games/series for me to take a look at (Street Fighter X All Capcom, Capcom Fighting Jam, Super Puzzle Fighter, Super Gem Fighter Mini-Mix/Pocket Fighter, Namco × Capcom, Street Fighter: Puzzle Spirits, Street Fighter Online: Mouse Generation and others too). I’m just a little Street Fightered out now.

I just wanted to cover the main games in the franchise as well as take a look at some of the more interesting series within the franchise…and I think I have done that, plus this retrospective is long enough already.

Street Fighter is a king among fighting games. Sure, it has had its ups and downs over the almost 30 year history of the franchise. It has spawned other notable franchises and crossovers (Final Fight). Even after all this time, Street Fighter II is regarded as one of the very best (if not THE best) of the one on one/tournament fighters out there. Street Fighter II changed the gaming world when it was released and is still just as playable now as it was back in 1991…no matter which of the dozens of different versions you play.

The game franchise grew to much more than just games too. Movies (some terrible, some pretty good), board games, toys, clothing, soundtracks, collectable coins, artwork. There is even a Street Fighter Monopoly…

SF mono

When you have your own Monopoly, you know you are a successful franchise.

Street Fighter II was my teenage years as it was for so many others.
Happy fighting people.

SF art


The Street Fighter legacy, part III


The Street Fighter franchise just kept on growing and growing through the 90s. From the early original game with its 2 character beginnings, Street Fighter II which added more characters and the Alpha/Zero series where the character count was in the dozens. So many versions, updates and now even separate series running within the main franchise.

What was next for the franchise, will we get the next official game in the franchise with Street Fighter III? No, but how about a pseudo 3D Street Fighter instead…

SF EX start

Street Fighter EX: Originally released into arcades in 1996. This is yet another new series that ran within the Street Fighter franchise that included Street Fighter EX Plus with a PlayStation port called Street Fighter EX Plus α in 1997.

The first Street Fighter game to feature 3D polygon styled graphics, though you still fought on a 2D plane. The basic gameplay still maintained that familiar Street Fighter style, so if you had played any of the previous games, you were well at home with this one. It just looked vastly different due to the inclusion of the updated 3D characters.

Back are Street Fighter II favourites; Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Guile and Zangief. But the game added several all new characters too including; Hokuto, Doctrine Dark, Pullum Purna, Cracker Jack, Skullomani as well as hidden characters; Allen Snider, Blair Dame, Kairi, Darun Mister. Then if that was not enough, the Street Fighter EX Plus update added; Evil Ryu, Bloody Hokuto, Cycloid-β, Cycloid-γ. But it still does not end there as the Playstation port; Street Fighter EX Plus α brought with it Street Fighter II classic; Dhalsim and a new character called; Sakura. With all versions of the game coming complete with boss characters; Akuma, Garuda and M. Bison.
This all added up to the largest count of original characters in a Street Fighter game to date.

SF EX screen

The new styled 3D graphics for the characters made the game look a little ‘clunky’, especially if you were used to the hand drawn art style of the previous games. Yet this is where fighting games were heading around this time with other fighters like SEGA’s Virtua Fighter and Namco’s Tekken series all offering competition for Street Fighter in the 90s. Yet even with the all new graphical aesthetic, the game still fundamentally felt very much like classic Street Fighter.

When released, the game received very positive reviews all round and sold so well in fact that more games were eventually made in the series; Street Fighter EX2 (1998) and an update; Street Fighter EX2 Plus (1999) were both released into arcades while Street Fighter EX3 was released exclusively for the PlayStation 2 (2000). These sequels all added some old favourite characters as well as a few all new ones too.

But we still had no Street Fighter III yet and we were not going to get it next either. Capcom decided to create yet another new series and put their Street Fighter characters up against a few other well knowns in this crossover series.

Now there are a lot of these crossover games, so I’m going to handle these a little differently otherwise I’d be here for hours going through each one. So I’m just going to highlight some of the more notable crossovers in this series.

SF v Xmen

X-Men vs. Street Fighter: Released in 1996 for the arcade with Sega Saturn and PlayStation ports coming soon afterwards. This was the first in a long line of crossovers where Capcom and Marvel teamed up. Playing similar in style to classic Street Fighter and back to that hand drawn art we were used to instead of 3D polygons.

SF v Xmen screen

Pitting favourite Street Fighter characters against the X-Men, this game went on to open the doors to more and more crossovers.

SF v Marvel SH

Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter: This one was released in 1997 for arcades and Sega Saturn and PlayStation ports in 1998 and 1999 respectively.

SF v Marvel SH screen

Considered a sequel to X-Men vs. Street Fighter, this game upped the character count for both camps and included even more classic Street Fighter members as well as opening up to more then just the X-Men by adding Marvel favourites like Spider-Man, Captain America and The Hulk.

Even more games were added to the series, but the Street Fighter name was dropped as Capcom started to add more characters from some of their other IPs outside of Street Fighter as the games became known as Marvel vs Capcom.

Marvel vs Capcom

We had; Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes (1998), Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (2000), Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (2011), Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (2011) and finally; Marvel vs. Capcom Origins (2012).

This long running series kept adding more and more characters from both camps.
Capcom had characters like; Ryu, Ken Chun-Li, Guile, Captain Commando, Mike Haggar and Strider Hiryu. In total, across the entire Vs series, Capcom featured 46 characters over several of their known franchises like; Street Fighter, Ghosts N’ Goblins, Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Dead Rising as well as others.

Marvel brought; Deadpool, Iron Man, Sabretooth, Thanos, Wolverine, Doctor Strange and Cable. With a total of 45 characters using established series like; Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Avengers, Daredevil and various others too.

Marvel vs Capcom characters

The Vs series of fighting games are huge fan favourites and great fun to play. Plenty of characters and gameplay additions/refinements to keep the series fresh and interesting.

Well there you have it. Another series running within the Street Fighter franchise. I can’t think of any other game franchise that has so many spin offs and other series within the same franchise as Street Fighter has.
Yet we are finally at the next “proper” sequel to Street Fighter II.

SF III start

Street Fighter III: New Generation: Well it has been a long journey, but we now have Street Fighter III. Released to arcades in 1997 and then ported to the Dreamcast in 1999. There were updates made for this game (of course there were) with; Street Fighter III 2nd Impact (1997) and Street Fighter III 3rd Strike (1999).

Set after the events of Street Fighter II, this game is a direct sequel. A few new game mechanics were added like; dash/retreat, leap attacks, a quick standing option after being knocked down as well as an all new parry to defect an attack. Also included was a Super Arts gauge similar to super combos from Alpha/Zero series.

Previous Street Fighter stalwarts; Ryu and Ken are back. However, they take a back seat to the main star of the game; Alex who is the front man of Street Fighter III. A disappointing aspect from a lot of fans was that Ryu and Ken were the only Street Fighter II characters to return. A whole new character selection was added; Dudley, Elena, Ibuki, Necro, Sommers, Oro, Sean, Yun & Yang and Gill.

SF III screen

Street Fighter III met with good reviews at the time, though many noted the lack of familiar characters, some of the latter updates added Chun-Li and Akuma. Not as well received as the classic Street Fighter II but it was still a worthy entry to the franchise.

Well that is all for part III. In part IV I take a look at the latest entries into the franchise as well as take a quick look at a few Street Fighter based/inspired games that I’ve not covered yet.


The Street Fighter legacy, part II


So three games in. The original, one unofficial sequel and one official sequel that ended up becoming a separate franchise and yet still no Street Fighter II.
Capcom next release a new Street Fighter game that is set in the future…well it was the future when it was originally released, now its the past.

SF2010 start

Street Fighter 2010: Released for the NES in 1990, developed and published by Capcom. This “sequel” was another attempt at doing something different with Street Fighter, unlike the previous Street Fighter 89/Final Fight…this one was not as successful.

The game was known as Street Fighter 2010 in Japan but named Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight (may as well make two tenuous links to other Capcom games for the price of one) for the American and European release. This one really has pretty much nothing to do with the Street Fighter franchise at all and opts for a scrolling/action/platform style more akin to Strider over the beat em’ up, one on one fighting games Street Fighter is known for. Even more so, the English translation changed the name of the main character to Ken and even adapted his back story to attempt to tie this all into the Street Fighter series, where as the original Japanese release had the main character named Kevin.

You play as Ken supposedly from the original Street Fighter game who has since retired from his martial arts career after winning the tournament and has become a scientist…because, why not? Ken has developed a new substance called “Cyboplasm” which provides superhuman strength to any living organism. Ken’s lab partner, Troy is murdered and the Cyboplasm is stolen. Ken sets out to bring Troy’s killer to justice and to get back his Cyboplasm.
Yes that really is the plot to a Street Fighter game.

The objective is to defeat a designated target on each level, sometimes more than one target per level, before you can move onto the next stage. Ken can jump, climb walls, back flip as well as shoot his energy projectile weapon which can be upgraded by finding power ups in the levels…and yes, this is still a Street Fighter game we are talking about here.

SF2010 screen

The game is a pretty average action/platformer…but it really has nothing to do with Street Fighter. Even if we forget about the English localisation tenuous links to try to tie this into the existing Street Fighter series. The original Japanese version is still titled; Street Fighter 2010, so Capcom clearly wanted it to be considered a bona fide Street Fighter game anyway…and its really not.

Well after all of that mess, can we finally get a genuine and authentic sequel to Street Fighter?

SF II start

Street Fighter II: The World Warrior: Eventually, in 1991, Capcom did release the REAL sequel to Street Fighter into arcades. Though most people just call it Street Fighter II, its full official title is; Street Fighter II: The World Warrior.

This one was much more like the original game, but with a whole lot on new features thrown in. Instead of only having old rivals Ryu or Ken as playable characters, Street Fighter II added a total of eight playable characters. Back are the original Ryu and Ken but joining them on this world tour of fighting was; sumo wrestler E. Honda (Japan), beast-like mutant Blanka (Brazil), former USAF special forces operative Guile (USA), Interpol officer Chun-Li (China), pro wrestler Zangief (Russia) and finally yoga master Dhalsim (India). Other updates and iterations added more characters later.

What was amazing about this game and elevated above everything else in the arcades at the time was the fact each character was unique with their own back stories, move sets and special moves. Each of the eight fighters had their own personal reasons for taking part in this fighting tournament and all eight had their own endings to the game too.

But there was more then just the playable eight fighters as the game also had four boss fights, though you could only fight against these bosses and not actually play as them…yet. We had; professional boxer Balrog (USA), bullfighter Vega (Spain), kick boxer and original boss from the first game Sagat (Thailand) and mysterious evil dictator M. Bison (???).

I suppose now would be a good time to bring up the name changes. In the original Japanese version, the bosses names are different. M. Bison was called Vega, Vega was originally Balrog and Balrog was named M. Bison. Part of the reason for the name change was due to the fact that the American boxer looked VERY much like Mike Tyson and having him called M. Bison (the M even stood for Mike) was thought a possible legal issue. So they swapped the names around for the English versions.

SF II screen

Street Fighter II exploded and rightly became a worldwide smash hit. It revolutionised the tournament fighter genre of gaming forever and its influence is still found in any one on one beat em’ up today. The game was ported to pretty much every home machine between 1992 up to today. Every home computer/console from the Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 to the Super Nintendo, Mega Drive, even the Game Boy right up to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 had some version of Street Fighter II made available. This game was everywhere and still much loved today.

But Capcom didn’t follow up Street Fighter II’s success with an immediate sequel, oh no. Instead they churned out updates and alterations on the main game with; Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers, Super Street Fighter II Turbo and finally Hyper Street Fighter II and I’m pretty sure I’m still missing a few other versions thee too. These updates offered various new gameplay options such as new special moves, new costume colours, increased speed, the ability to play as the four bosses, new battle modes and even all new playable characters.

SF II characters

Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers added four all new characters to join the original 12 (the eight standard and the four bosses), the new characters were; indigenous warrior T Hawk (Mexico), special forces agent Cammy (England), Hong Kong movie star Fei Long (China) and kick boxing musician Dee Jay (Jamaica). Just as with the previous characters, they each had their own moves, back stories and endings.

But those new versions up there ^^^ were only the officially relased ones by Capcom as there was a slew of unofficial/bootleg ROM chip upgrades made by fans that also found their way into the arcades…but I’m not going to cover all of those here. Just how many official and unofficial versions of Street Fighter II there are, I’m not 100% sure on, but its a lot.

Oh, by the way. Let it be known here that this trend of releasing multiple updates and alternate versions of the same game becomes a running trend with Street Fighter from this point on.

Street Fighter II is also where the crossovers to Final Fight began. Interesting titbit coming up…

SF II punch

That image is from the introduction to the original Street Fighter II arcade. Recognise the blonde fella?


Its actually Cody from Final Fight.
But that is not all as Zangief’s wresting moves and even build as a character is very similar to Mike Hagar from Final fight. In fact, part of Zangief’s history is said to be connected to Hagar’s as they were old friends and former wrestling partners.

But I could sit here and yak on about Street Fighter II all day (did you know a bug discovered in early game testing resulting in developing a combo system which is now common place in these games?), I could probably even write its own separate in depth article. But I have a lot of games to cover and need to move on.

So as we leave Street Fighter II behind, Capcom must have Street Fighter III next…right? Nah of course not, this is Capcom we are talking about here.

SF Alpha start

Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams: Also known as; Street Fighter: Zero. This is the start of a whole new series within the Street Fighter franchise. Developed and published by Capcom, released into arcades in 1995. Street Fighter Alpha/Zero is set after the original Street Fighter but before the events of Street Fighter II. So I guess its a sequel and prequel?

Maintaining the style perfected by Street Fighter II and throwing in a load of new features along the way. Adding a three level super combo system, counter attacking technique, air blocking and chain combos along with various other refinements. Characters include Street Fighter staples; Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Sagat and M. Bison but new to the roster are; Birdie, Guy (from Final Fight), Sodom (also from Final Fight), Charlie and Rose. Then there is the addition of Akuma and Dan as hidden characters that can be accessed by meeting certain requirements while playing or imputing a specific code.

SF Alpha screen

Just as with Street Fighter II previously, Alpha/Zero was ported to various home machines at the time; Game Boy Colour, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Sega Saturn and Windows all had their versions. Alpha/Zero also spawned its own franchise (within an already existing franchise) and had two sequels. These sequels added more refinements and even more characters including some Street Fighter II and Final Fight favourites taking the count to over 40 characters in total.

SF Alpha characters

I feel its time to move on and end part II right here. But there is a lot more Street Fighter action coming up in part III where we may actually get to see Street Fighter III…after a few more other games series within the same series…


The Street Fighter legacy, part I

SF logo 1

If you was a teenage gamer around 1991, then you’d most definitely would have been a fan of Street Fighter II. A game released by Capcom that changed the tournament fighter sub-genre of gaming for years and is still relevant even today with the latest in the series (Street Fighter V) released just a few weeks ago.

Street Fighter II became a worldwide phenomenon with spin offs, sequels, movies, animations, crossovers, comics, board games and many other forms of media. So much so even a simple image can spark off countless memories of growing up in the 90s…

Ryu DP

But before all of that came about, it all started with a lesser known and not as well remembered game. Here, I’d like to take a look at the Street Fighter legacy and cover most of the main games in the series (but not every slight alteration/re release of some of the titles) and even look at some of the more interesting spin-offs, unofficial sequels and maybe even reveal a few lesser known titbits about this much loved franchise.

But first, we need to go back almost 30 years ago to 1987…

SF start

Street Fighter: The first game in this long running series was released in the arcade by Capcom in 1987 and designed by Takashi Nishiyama.

With you playing as martial artist Ryu (or Ken depending on which control stick you use) you have to do battle over 5 countries and fight against 10 different opponents. The basic gameplay mechanic of the best of three rounds wins the match, each round lasting a set time (usually 30 seconds). Win the match and move onto the next opponent until you make your way through all 10. The game featured various punch and kick attacks as well as introducing special moves like the Hadouken, Shoryuken, and Tatsumaki Senpukyaku. These special moves could be trigged via some simple joystick movement and button presses.

SF screen

Earlier game cabinets featured only two pads to pull off the variety of moves, one pad for punch and the other for kick. However, a unique system was used as the pads were pressure sensitive so if you wanted to do a light attack you would lightly tap the button, a medium attack hit the button slightly harder and for the strong attacks you would have to smash the buttons. This two pad system was designed and created by Atari.

SF pads

This two pad system proved to be problematic after a while as people would hit the pads too hard and end up damaging the pads. There were even reports of players damaging themselves with bruised fingers over hitting the pads too hard. The two pads were eventually dropped due to the damage and increasing costs in constant repairs, they were replaced with the more common and now instantly recognisable six button configuration with a separate button for each light, medium and heavy attacks for both punches and kicks.

Street Fighter was a commercial success in arcades. Eventual home ports arrived in 1988 with Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, DOS, Amiga and Atari ST all getting a version of the game. These home ports were developed by English company Tiertex. Then there was the PC Engine CD ROM/TurboGrafx-CD version where the title was slightly altered to; Fighting Street.

Next up is the first “sequel” to Street Fighter…but its not Street Fighter II.

HKM start

Human Killing Machine: More commonly known as HKM was an unofficial sequel developed by Tiertex (who did the home computer ports of the original game). The story goes that Tiertex just couldn’t be bothered to wait for Capcom to release their proper sequel so decided to make their own. They were not allowed to use the Street Fighter name or any of the characters, so this became an unofficial sequel. Released for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Amiga and Atari ST in 1989.

With you now playing as Korean martial artist, Kwon. Using the same basic system implemented with the original game of having to defeat various opponents from around the world…only not as good.

HKM screen

Human Killing Machine received average to poor reviews at best a the time depending on which version was being reviewed. The Amiga and Atari ST versions were known for their numerous bugs and poor development with plenty of graphical glitches and other problems. The game is also noted for playing up to stereotypes with some of the opponents including terrorists from Beirut and a German guy called Hans all decked out in lederhosen. Oh, and you could beat up prostitutes in the red light district of Amsterdam…classy.

Capcom get back in the ring with their first attempt at an official sequel to Street Fighter…but its still not Street Fighter II, in fact its a completely different franchise all together.

SF 89 poster

Street Fighter 89: Okay so I’m kind of cheating with this one, but its an interesting entry that while it did start out as the proper sequel to Street Fighter it became something else entirely. You would probably be more familiar with this game under its “real” name of; Final Fight. Developed and published by Capcom, released in the arcades in 1989.

After early play tests of Street Fighter 89, it was noted that is was too different from the original game to really be considered a true sequel to Street Fighter. Instead of the classic one on one tournament fighter, best of three rounds beat em’ up Street Fighter was known for, Street Fighter 89 went for a scrolling beat em’ up style instead more like Double Dragon with multiple enemies on screen at once and scrolling levels. Beat the crap out of a group of enemies and move onto the next group, rinse and repeat until you get to the end of level boss and then beat the crap out of them to move onto the next level.

As the game was so radically different, Capcom decided to rename the game to Final Fight and launch it as its own IP.

FF screen

Final Fight did become its own franchise, and successfully so too with its own two main sequels and even a fun parody called; Mighty Final Fight. It also had its own spin offs with; Final Fight Revenge and Final Fight: Streetwise.
Street Fighter and Final Fight even co-exist in the same universe with characters from both franchises appearing in each other’s games along with other fun references to find too that carry on today.

Street Fighter 89/Final Fight was very well received at the time is is still often cited as one of the best games in the genre. It also had various home ports made to pretty much every popular home computer/console at the time.

That’s enough for part I, coming up in part II we will get to the big one; Street Fighter II…eventually.