Arcade / Gaming

Street Fighter bootlegs: where imitation was more than flattery for the franchise

For VG247, Dan Maher looked back at some of the Street Fighter bootlegs from the 90s and examined why they benefited rather than hampered the franchise:

One year — let’s call it 199X — I thought I had struck gold. This was the era of Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition, where our dreams of playing as the four bosses (Punchy, Slashy, Eyepatch McScar and Magic Communist) were finally a reality. And here it was, nestled in the back corner of Wilson’s Crazy Casino*.

At least I thought it was.

From the moment I dropped my first 20p something was clearly amiss. The colours of the Street Fighter logo, switched up to a fetching green-to-blue gradation for Champion Edition, were instead a garish, seemingly corrupted mess.

It just got weirder from there. Within seconds of my first bout, my Ryu had dished out mid-air homing Hadoukens, turbo-charged hurricane kicks and dragon punches that covered the entire width of the arena. Meanwhile, my CPU opponent decided they’d had enough of being a fireball-spewing E. Honda and, mid-fight, transformed into Blanka instead. Actually, Dhalsim. No, Ken. Chun-Li, then. The indecisive AI eventually settled on a vicious Guile and I, still dumbfounded by what was unfolding, was promptly crushed by an endless torrent of Sonic Booms.

It all happened so quickly, too. It was less “time flies when you’re being pummelled,” more, “you got Benny Hill in my Street Fighter”. Just comically fast.

The bootleg in question was Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition, a hacked version of Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, developed and published by Hung Hsi Enterprise Taiwan. They were a hacking group that made the game by swapping out the original chips with reprogrammed ones. According to Eurogamer, it messed up the game’s balancing but accidentally improved it too:

“I saw an old Rainbow Edition in my laundromat a while ago, it’s weird how it spread around,” says Patrick Miller, columnist at “Fireballs coming out of the Dragon Punch was always the craziest thing to me, but there was some interesting stuff with Guile’s fast-and-slow Sonic Booms.”
It looks like Street Fighter 2 – but upon further inspection, it definitely doesn’t play like Street Fighter 2.

Other changes include charge time being ignored, most special moves being available mid-jump, and multiple projectiles being possible. Slow hadokens home in on the other character, fierce ones come out almost too fast to see, and moves like the Hurricane Kick and Dragon Punches cover the entire screen. Zangief, already regarded as top-tier by elite players, becomes borderline unstoppable, able to screen-leap upwards until he’s invincible to attacks, but still able to pull off his spinning piledriver.

I still remember a fighting game that I played on holiday in Tunisia in 1999 that was very similar to Street Fighter. I can’t remember if it was a bootleg or heavy inspiration but it was fun and I wish I knew what it was called as I’d love to play it again. I arguably played more of that than any Street Fighter game.

Anyway, check out this video on Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition.

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