For years now, Yoshinori Ono has been the public face of Street Fighter. And Street Fighter’s defined his life – having fallen in love with Final Fight, Ono made a beeline for Capcom and found himself working there soon after Street Fighter 2’s release and through the series’ glory years. He became a household name, though, for helping bring Street Fighter back from the wilderness.
“This was before social media, before the internet, before Facebook,” Ono told me during an on-stage interview at last month’s EGX. “It wasn’t until I was working on Onimusha that I could see what a phenomenon it had become. I was going around with Inafune, but people would always be asking me about Street Fighter. So I went back to Capcom and said the world was ready for more Street Fighter.”
Bringing back Street Fighter wouldn’t be simple, though. “It was tough. As a company, Capcom were past making fighting games in general. It was 99.99 per cent decided that fighting games were done and dusted and we were moving on to other things. But I managed to convince [Keiji] Inafune and the then-chairman – they were like, okay we’ll give it a shot. That’s all it took for me to flip those percentages. If it hadn’t gone as well as it did, I might have been fired… I’m glad Street Fighter 4 did as well as it did.”
The series has flourished ever since – even if it hasn’t been without its struggles. Street Fighter 5 saw through a rough launch period and is now an assured fighter with one of the strongest communities around it – at EGX, the Capcom Pro Tour stage was one of the most vibrant, well-attended of the whole show. And next year it’s becoming part of the Intel World Open, a tournament that welcomes all-comers through its early online rounds before the grand finals take place alongside next year’s Olympics in Tokyo, with a $250,000 prize pot up for grabs.