Why Zangief was so weak in Street Fighter II

Jul 14 2020 2 min read

Zangief was often considered a weak character in Street Fighter II, and the story why might be even more shallow than you think.

Every gamer wonders about the decisions that went into creating their favorite games and the characters in them. Renowned Japanese video game producer Yoshiki Okamoto recently shared some behind-the-scenes stories about the development of three characters in Street Fighter II.

Zangief was often considered a weak character in the game, and that was the result of numerous tweaks and adjustments he received from location testing at a nearby arcade called Chateau EX. The irony is, he was made so weak because of how strong he was in the hands of a local player that was known as The Zangief Expert.

Capcom would have members of staff “stakeout” this arcade to observe players with the intent of finding balance issues in the game. However, after every change, the legendary player would continue to dominate the competition. At one point, he achieved an 85 game win streak. Determined to confirm just how strong Zangief was, Capcom sent three players to take on The Zangief Expert, and they lost.

The developer continued to make adjustments to the character, using this player’s proficiency with Zangief as their yardstick until he was much weaker and easier to defeat. By making the wrestler harder to win with, Capcom turned Zangief into a character that requires a high skill level to play. Chun-Li suffered from a similar situation, but unlike Zangief, she wasn’t particularly strong from the start. As a well-liked and easy to use character, the first lady of fighting games also received nerfs because of the results players were getting with her. 

Additionally, Okamoto addressed a question that’s been asked with every edition of Street Fighter, “who’s the strongest, Ryu or Ken.” While canon points the finger at Ryu, in Street Fighter II, it was Ken due to a canceled mechanic that wasn’t completely removed from the final product. Watch Okamoto’s video below to learn how Ryu became slightly weaker than his palette swap in-game.

During his long career, Yoshiki Okamoto produced several popular Capcom and Konami games. He even contributed to the development of Resident Evil and Red Dead Revolver. Okamoto now focuses his talents on the creation of mobile games.


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