The first on a string of import gaming book reviews to come. If you are or ever were an SF whore, this is the book for you; it's not just an artbook, it's a history book!
I squeaked when my older brother dropped what looked like an Encyclopaedia my desk. He was unpacking other various things (toys) from yet another one of his business trips to Japan. Business! Right.
Being someone who had sold his soul to Capcom at a time when Paula Abdul was known for something other than American Idol, he had surely heard of this book. It's one of the various things released by Capcom to celebrate (milk) the franchise's 15 year anniversary. The main attraction of this book is pictures, which is a very smart move on Capcom's part. There is a huge market inside Japan and out for "just the pictures". In my opinion, they just make great coffee table books for the new millennium's grown-up gamer. These days image really is everything.
Every Street Fighter game ever released by Capcom is covered here with a fine tooth comb, this is far better than the older and less complete Capcom Design Works book. The changes between endings are described and pictured, the changes and additions with each game are also highlighted in their own respective sections. With that there is quite a lot of art that any SF fan doesn't care to see again, but so much more which they probably would never see elsewhere. It evens out the "ugh, that old SSF2 pic where Chun's shoulders were massive" and "ooh that's new" ratio.
"Ooh that's new" indeed. I have an unhealthy interest of sorts in art where the characters are depicted in everyday situations with non-game attire. Thankfully this book has most of the characters depicted in such scenes at least once. Image illustrations like this bring out the artist and character's personality far more than simple poses in the same old costumes. I think that's why people had so much interest in the endings, some of them had characters being shown in a completely different setting than in the game.
I remember oogling at most of this art on North American gaming magazines when I was 12, while collecting toys, cards and posters with the more detailed artworks or rough sketches. It was great to finally know who drew what after all this time. Seeing it gave a slight nostalgic feeling to days before the internet, when information about games were something word of mouth and chances of seeing artwork outside the game were highly rare.
The massive 270 page book contains illustrations that were even posted on the artist's homepages. There's galleries filled with rough sketches of poses, scenes and endings. It's hard to get tired of seeing each incarnation of character art when it's all lined up together. You also start to notice that each of the artists kept certain details, such as muscular structure, to keep things consistent between their styles.
To top off the coverage are full staff interviews with anyone who has made an impact (no SF pun intended) on the SF series. It's not surprising to see that many of the team had worked on other Capcom games. The section with designer interviews is larger and separate, including full profiles on the big names of SF's design team: Shoei, Akiman, Kinu Nishimura, and Ikeno. These aren't the only artists whose work is featured in the book, mind you. There is plenty to be seen including illusts by Edayan, Hideki and Bengus, whose art influenced the look of the later games.
This artbook published never before known details to fans, making it all the more a complete and desireable collectible to the SF anal at heart. There are full details of character origins, stories, and plotlines. The amount of story related character relations is enough to warrant two pages of a trademark mook-like "relations chart". I was raising my eyebrows at there being a connection between Honda and Zangief, minute as it was.
When it comes to fighting games, I rarely ever did give a second glance to the outlandish storylines. Yet, when it came to such a huge franchise which permeated my pitiful arcade existence for more than ten years, I was bound to grow a curiosity over the little inconsistencies and wonder why.
There are explanations on why certain plotlines between the games, comics, and animes mirrored each other the way they did. I remember a time when random thoughts such as "Why is Sakura suddenly their age?" surfaced while trying to suspend my beliefs just enough to enjoy watching an SF related anime.
By the time I reached the end of the book, as though to remind me it indeed has everything, there was a page with all the SF logos ever and even images of the differing game packaging. The image of North American SNES packaging on an EGM cover screamed "REMEMBER ME?" and I suddenly was in braces and glasses, feeling awkward about renting the game from the local Video99 for the twentieth time.
This is the part where Wayne and Garth zoomed by, "diddie, liddle la, diddle liddle la, diddle liddle la" and I realized it was just a dream. Just a dream.
In the midst of all the columns and plugging of merchandise, this book was the first source to confirm an Anniversary SF game which eventually was released as Hyper Street Fighter II: Anniversary Edition. I originally planned to review the game, which, much like this book contained all the 2D SF games mashed into one. Unlike this book however, it was devoid of easter eggs and well, anything new. With the hot commodity that is the new SF comics, Street Fighter: Eternal Challenge was a great side dish and I highly recommend it.
Title: Street Fighter Eternal Challenge
Publisher: Capcom and Futobasha
Street Fighter Eternal Challenge