Video games are a tough medium to adapt. While many games tell sprawling epics hidden beneath their digital veneer, it’s a combination of the story and gameplay that makes them so endearing. Though nearly every game tells a story, it seems to be those of the fighting genre that seem to make the leap to live action the most. Tekken, Dead or Alive, Mortal Kombat, and even Street Fighter have seen one, if not multiple entries outside of their digital incarnations. Sadly, 1995’s Mortal Kombat is still considered one of the best video game movies (though I’d make a case for DOA). With Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist, that has changed.
A proof of concept film featuring Ken and Ryu (Jon Foo) in live action form entitled Street Fighter: Legacy, was released on Youtube in 2010. It was co-directed and choreographed by Joey Ansah (Akuma), with help from Christian Howard (Ken Masters). The film became so popular they received official blessing from Capcom to continue with the series. Four years later, the first season of Assassin’s Fist released on Machinima’s Youtube page , across 12, 13 minutes episodes.
The story followed Ken (Howard) and Ryu (Mike Moh, replacing Foo) as they neared the end of their training in Ansatsuken under their sensei, Gouken (Akira Koieyama). There is a bit of inherent goofiness with the aesthetics, but it’s one that’s fully embraced, lending a bit of authenticity to production. As a martial artist, I couldn’t help but role my eyes seeing the characters in sleeveless gis, though this is their normal appearance. The oddities were easily accepted after a few episodes. Many of the designs were well done, including the sets and scenery. Bulgaria was a perfect fill-in for Japan. The only thing I couldn’t accept was Ken’s hair. It was a constant annoyance.
Elements from all the Street Fighter games were used, though they only focused on Ryu, Ken, Gouken, and Akuma (Joey Ansah). This felt like an old school martial arts movie, particularly with the heavy utilization of Japanese. The main three switched between English and Japanese, while all the flashbacks (taking nearly half the running time), featuring Gouken’s training, with only Japanese spoken. Small details like that dramatically improved the storytelling. One fun scene featured a cameo from series creator Yoshinori Ono. That scene in particular though, was poorly constructed as it took place at a bar, with nearly all the patrons obviously being non-Japanese. The cliffhanger was a bit of hard stop, with Akuma’s impending return. Then again, the impactful ending is a testament to the story’s strength.
The special effects were well done. The Hadoken looked impressive, particularly thanks to the actors selling the effect. The Shoryuken looked goofy no matter what they did, though the fire effects with Ken’s version helped. Akuma though, looking menacing throughout, with his battle against Goutetsu Sensei being a highlight. The 80’s setting, though seen briefly, was a smart addition. This not only removed modern technology, but going by the character’s creation date, would be when they were training. Plus, we got to see Ryu and Ken geek out over Mega Man 2.
This, along side Mortal Kombat: Legacy, is some of the best translations of any game outside the medium. While there was a bit of unavoidable pitfalls, Ansah and Howard did a wonderful job not only paying homage to the property, but crafting an engrossing tale. Considering the low entry fee, free, I can’t recommend this enough. If you have any affinity for Street Fighter, video games, or some martial arts action, give this a go.
How awesome was Akuma? Was this or MK: Legacy better? Comment below!
Legend of Chun-Li, eat your heart out.