Throwback Thursday - The Original Street Fighter II Toy Line
Last week in my review for Super7's fantastic Street Fighter ReAction Figures, I mentioned the original Street Fighter line from G.I. Joe. Today, in ongoing celebration of the 30th anniversary of the fighting classic, I thought I would give some further thoughts on those near-vintage action figures. While it's true that I think Super7 offers some better figures than those given to fans back in the 1990's, I would be remiss if I did not pay more tribute to those old school toys.
To be honest, I don't know the behind the scenes workings that allowed Capcom and Hasbro to come together for this line. Frankly, I wish I did, because I would imagine it's a pretty good story. My guess is that Capcom saw the current landscape and adoration for Street Fighter and wanted an established and popular toy representation of their crown jewel property. Hasbro, on the other hand, needed a bit of boost to the "Real American hero" toy that had dwindled after the patriotism-infused 80's of Reagan's America and the tenure of George H. W. Bush thereafter. I would imagine Hasbro was looking for new ways to sell G.I. Joe figures to kids moving away from figures and toward video games; Capcom just needed the toys to be good. It seem like a real win-win for these two companies to come together, but I feel like the real winners were the children like me---kids who loved action figures for years but could not resist the pull of 16-bit video games.
Granted the line was imperfect, but we weren't nearly as picky about toys then as we are now. The first wave gave us retooled figures from both the standard Joe line as well as the Joe's Ninja Force subtheme. I believe the first wave included: Ryu, Ken, Guile, Chun-li, Blanka, and Bison---all built from existing kitbashed Joe sculpts with newly sculpted heads. The follow-up line, which was much harder to find, featured not only new head sculpts but some bodies as well, and gave us the back-half of the original 12 World Warriors: Dhalsim, Honda, Zangief, Sagat, Balrog, and Vega. The line also included vehicles and a base, each of which included at least one and sometimes two, figures in player-2 paint schemes, which is pretty awesome.
But wait, there's more!!! When the Jean Claude Van Damme movie hit, yet another wave of Street Fighter / Joe hybrids was released, with even more unique sculpts put into the mix.
Over the course of the entire Hasbro run with the brand, fans were offered several versions of Bison, Guile, Ken, Ryu, Chun-li, and Blanka, as well as at least two versions of every other character in the original 12 line-up. I've pulled and included as many pics of these official Hasbro figures as I could find from my personal archives (and you can see that it's a doozy of a run). The figures were a blast and probably kept a handful of youngsters into Joes for a year or two more than they planned. Over the years, some of the figures have come to fetch a premium buck on the secondary market.
Oh, and for good measure. Hasbro also released several 12-inch figures with soft-goods outfits; I spent many hours adventuring with my Guile figure in this scale.
Bottom line: Whatever the origin that united Hasbro and Capcom, the end result is a happy ending for kids of the era as well as today's collectors. The toys were a high-quality cross-sell that worked for everyone---or at least all my fellow 12 year-old buddies who still liked action figures at that time. And hey, that's the audience that mattered right? As someone who seems to always catch a ticket aboard the hype train, I find myself more enthusiastic about the Street Fighter Property this year than I have been in at least a decade.
How bout you?
PS - I have a great story about how I acquired some of the most rare figures in the original line as a child. I was sick one day and my mother made a trip to our local mall for something, and she asked if I would like anything special because of the way I was feeling. I told her very specifically I wanted Vega, Zangief, and Honda Street Fighter G.I. Joe's. She couldn't find the Honda but the other two were delivered to a very happy child on the mend. I still have my orginal Vega standing proudly on one of my shelves. Thanks, mom.
Check out the slideshow of figures from my collection below: