There’s a running joke in the fighting game community that Final Fantasy XIV, the very successful massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), is a retirement home for former players of fighting games.
As it turns out, the director and producer for this game, Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi-P), once got Zangief nerfed in the Street Fighter EX series due to a 57-game win streak, where he also throttled the developers of the game in that process.
Fighting game roots run deep, and Yoshida relayed the story back in 2018, in an interview with 4Gamer via Reddit / Twitter. Yoshi-P was at an Amusement Machine Operators’ Union (AOU) show, which is now known as the Japan Amusement Expo (JAEPO), which is a long-running convention where video game developers showcase their arcade games.
The story gets a little murky here, as the exact game and date aren’t clarified during the interview, but based on what we know about this timeline, it was likely around 1997 or 1998, and Arika was holding a location test (loctest) at the AOU convention, likely for Street Fighter EX 2.
Back in the day, it was common for fighting game developers to hold tests before a game was released to help tweak the balance and get a feel for how it would be played by the general public.
The person who would become Final Fantasy XIV’s producer and director went on a 57-game win streak at the event — and even took on — and defeated, three of the developers from Arika. Yoshida said that he destroyed them.
This lead to Zangief being heavily nerfed in the release version of Street Fighter EX 2. Zangief was generally considered to be among the best characters in Street Fighter EX back in 1996, but was thought to be much weaker in its sequel that hit in 1998. According to Yoshida, this had everything to do with him.
Zangief tends to be one of the most polarizing characters in the entire Street Fighter universe in regards to his balance, as this isn’t the first time a player went on a huge win streak with him at a location test, and caused the developers to nerf him because of it, as that actually happened in Street Fighter 2 as well.
The fact that history repeated itself a handful of years later in a different game with Zangief in it is rather hilarious.
Zangief’s style of play can lead to amazing runs from players if they figure out how to navigate around his numerous disadvantages, as his okizeme and pressure abilities are often best in class, or close to it, once he closes ground on the other player.
There are many video game developers who have made highly successful titles that can trace parts of their history back to Capcom’s Street Fighter 2 and the fighting game revolution that took place after its release in 1991. We can now add Final Fantasy XIV’s director and producer, Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi-P), to that list.