Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ansatsuken -- 暗殺拳 -- Ànshāquán

So, ansatsuken -- Ryu, Ken, and "Akuma's" martial art style -- isn't really a reference to a specific martial art.

I used to be confused about this, back when I first started reading... well, let's face it, studying, the Japanese Street Fighter books I was picking up in 1999-2000 when I lived in Niigata, Japan. The "Book Off" stores in Shibata, Murakami, and Niigata City were treasure hoards to me at the time, carrying gamest mooks, "All Abouts," other strategy guides, and manga that I could never have even known had existed before coming to Japan.

In those primitive, ignorant times before the internet became what it is today, we had few ways to even know these kinds of things were out there. We had to trust in Capcom USA and a pirated, fansubbed copies of the Street Fighter II movie, and yes, God Help Us, even in the story related material in licensed Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game products from White Wolf. And Capcom USA told us that Ryu and Ken studied Shotokan Karate.

So first, we had Shotokan.

And then, Japanese strategy guides told me something different. These guides and my limited Japanese told me that Ryu and Ken studied 暗殺拳. Ansatsuken. Assassination Fist martial arts. And that was a revelation.

It was also wrong. Not because the books didn't say that, in some sense, but because they didn't mean it the way I thought they did. We know better now. See, those same sources also tell us that Gen, the dying assassin in search of a death match, is a practitioner of 暗殺拳. Ànshāquán. Asassination Fist. But of course, Gen's fighting style looks nothing like Ryu and Ken's.

There's a good reason for that, of course. Because what the strategy guides were saying was this: that these fighters studied martial arts designed for the field of battle, not for sport. "Combatives," to use some contemporary US Army lingo. Ansatsuken isn't a martial art. It's more like another word for martial art, though with a particular connotation. Battlefield hand-to-hand. Unarmed killing techniques. Old style martial arts, with an emphasis on martial.

Indeed, Gouken's innovation was to transform Goutetsu's ansatsuken a martial art designed for battle to the death into an art of fighting that doesn't mean killing. In a sense, Gouken does for Goutetsu's unnamed killing techniques what real-life figures like Kano Jigoro and Funakoshi Gichin did for jujutsu and Okinawan te respectively. Transform them into modern sporting systems (judo, shotokan karate).

Now, this isn't really news. It's in version 4.9 of the Street Fighter Canon Plot Guide (and may have been in some of the earlier iterations), and even Udon's recent World Warrior Encyclopedia may be hinting at it. But I thought I'd set it down in a blog post anyway, in the interest of laying the groundwork for developing RPG styles, and as a brief explanation of some of the thought behind the tables I posted earlier.

Street Fighter Martial Arts Styles

One of the joys of Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game is selecting your character's martial arts style, but after playing the game for a while, the list of styles offered in the core rules starts to feel a little slim. This is made worse if you're much of a street fighter canon fan by the fact that the RPG gets so much wrong about the characters and their martial arts. A lot more information is more readily available about the game characters now than it used to be, and the game itself has been expanded quite a lot since the early to mid-nineties, when the RPG was published.

Over the years of playing the RPG, we've added a lot of martial arts styles to fill these gaps. Now I'm thinking about embarking on a redevelopment of our styles, and I thought I'd share the process on this blog.

My first stop will be the street fighter video game series, which will give me a core list of martial arts styles to include. Later I'll fill out the list with major styles that are missing, or just with cool styles I'd like to see available in the game.

Below, I've listed all the characters from the street fighter series of games, along with my notes about their martial arts styles. These notes probably don't line up perfectly with any particular list out there, but they're pretty close. There's a certain amount of room for interpretation in the canon, and these are my current thoughts. I've gleaned this list from strategy guides and artbooks (both U.S. and Japanese), manga, the Street Fighter canon plot guide, and Udon's recent offerings, like the very cool Street Fighter World Warrior Encyclopedia.

I'll talk more about my thinking process on some of these in the comments or in a future post.

Abel: Martial Arts, Judo
Adon: Muay Thai
Alex: Pro Wrestling, Special Forces Training
Balrog (Claw): Ninjutsu, Bullfighting
Birdie: Street Fighting
Blanka: Self-Taught Amazon Jungle Fighting
C. Viper: Secret Agent Training, Gadgeteer
Cammy: Shadoloo Assassin Training, Delta Red Special Forces Training
Chun Li: Kung Fu (aka 中国拳法), Taiqi, Police Training, Acrobat
Cody: Street Fighting
Dan: Saikyo-ryu, claims to teach Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do
Dee Jay: Kickboxing, Sonic
Dhalsim: Yoga
Dudley: Boxing
E. Honda: Sumo
Eagle: Stick Fighting
El Fuerte: Lucha Libre
Elena: Capoeira
Fei Long: Soaring Heavens Kung Fu (Fei Tin Kuen 飛天拳)
Geki: Ninjutsu
Gen: Crane Kung Fu, Mantis Kung Fu, Ànshāquán (暗殺拳)
Gill: Illuminati Martial Arts
Gouken: Karate, Ansatsuken (暗殺拳)
Gouki: Karate, Ansatsuken (暗殺拳)
Guile: Martial Arts, Special Forces Training, Sonic
Guy: Bushin-ryu Ninjutsu, Street Fighting
Hakan: Turkish Oil Wrestling (Yagh Gures)
Hugo: Pro Wrestling
Ibuki: Ninjutsu
Ingrid: The spiritual or psychic energy that is purportedly the true source of Psycho Power/Soul Power
Joe: Street Fighting
Juli: Shadoloo Assassin Training, Psycho Power
Juni: Shadoloo Assassin Training, Psycho Power
Juri: Tae Kwon Do, Feng Shui Engine Power
Karin: Kanzuki-ryu Kakutojutsu, Judo, Sambo, Eight Direction Fist (Bājíquán八極拳) all confirmed specifically, also purported to know all martial arts (as noted in Ganbaru Sakura)
Ken: Karate, Ansatsuken (暗殺拳)
Lee: Kung Fu
Maki: Bushin-ryu Ninjutsu
Makoto: Rindokan Karate
Mike: Boxing
Mike Bison (Boxer): Boxing
Nash (Charlie): Martial Arts, Special Forces Training, Sonic
Necro: Biocyber
Oro: Senjutsu
Q: ?
R. Mika: Pro Wrestling
Remy: Martial Arts, (possibly Savate)
Retsu: Shorinji Kempo
Rolento: Red Beret Special Forces Training
Rose: Soul Power
Rufus: Kung Fu, Snake Kung Fu, (Self Taught)
Ryu: Karate, Ansatsuken (暗殺拳), Judo, Tae Kwon Do
Sagat: Muay Thai
Sakura: Karate, Self-Taught, imitation of Ryu’s Ansatsuken (暗殺拳) techniques
Sean: Karate, imitation of Ken’s Ansatsuken (暗殺拳) techniques
Seth: Feng Shui Engine Power
Sodom: Self-Taught Japanese Martial Arts (Sumo, Kendo, Iaido, Kobudo, Judo, Karate, Ninjutsu, etc.)
T. Hawk: Folkstyle Wrestling (Thunderfoot Wrestling)
Twelve: Biocyber
Urien: Illuminati Martial Arts
Vega (Dictator): Psycho Power
Yang: Kung Fu
Yun: Kung Fu
Zangief: Pro Wrestling

A pdf copy of this list is available here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giant Attack

The importance of action denial in Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game means that the game can be pretty friendly to fast (high Dex) grapplers. It is much less kind to slow grapplers, like Zangief and Hugo, who are at decided disadvantage if they rely on their grab game in a fight. In the video game, characters like this tend to have decent range on grabs and throws: enough that they can get their hits in. In the RPG, not so much: the requirement to be in-hex to hit with any grab limits their ability to ever hit with a grab against even a basically savvy opponent. The original SF:tSG rules make a slight nod to this in the rules for "Spinning Piledriver," by giving it a Movement of two rather than the usual one that typifies grabs. Its value is very restricted, however, as only this particular maneuver has it as a feature.

Goutetsu has been thinking about this issue for a while now, and he's suggested the addition of a special maneuver to make up for this. Here's a draft version.

Giant Attack
Prerequisites: Athletics 1, Strength 5
Power Points: Sambo 3, NA Wrestling 3, Any 5 (In our house game, I would also give this to Professional Wrestling and other house styles, but these styles aren't part of the core rules.)
Giants walk the earth. From the patriotic world warrior Zangief, to the violent man child Hugo, and even to the Mayor of Metro City and the King of Muay Thai, giant fighters have often found a home, of sorts, in the street fighter circuit. Fighters are wary not to let these giants get too close... because once they grab you, it's already too late.
System: This maneuver may be used to modify any other maneuver that does not already cost Willpower. The card must be played alongside the modified maneuver. A Fierce Punch becomes a "Giant Fierce Punch," a Throw becomes a "Giant Throw," a Suplex a "Giant Suplex," and so on. The speed, damage, and movement of the modified maneuvers stay the same, but the maneuver gains +1 to its reach. This means that a Giant Attack applied to a Punch or Kick can hit an opponent one hex away from the fighter, and a Giant Attack applied to a Grab can catch opponents in an adjacent hex.
Cost: 1 Willpower
Speed: (+0)
Damage: (+0)
Move: (+0)