With Balrog finally shown off and announced for release this Friday in Street Fighter V, the game’s antagonists who are part of an evil organization known as Shadaloo, have all been assembled. This is important because the story mode is also set for release on Friday, and according to previous interviews, the story will be about the fall of Shadaloo, bridging the gap between Street Fighter 4 and Street Fighter 3 (the series has an odd chronology). The story will place a huge emphasis on Shadaloo and its operatives and their varying goals, and I bet that its quality will live or die on what it does with them alone. Essentially, M. Bison, F.A.N.G, Vega, and Balrog are who the fate of this game’s story hinge on. Based on the prologues and the story previews we have seen so far, all these characters have arcs with personal stakes, but most importantly, they’re fun and interesting to watch. Before the story mode is actually released, I thought it’d be fun if I gave a bit of a run down on who these men are and what sort of role they can play in the story.
M. Bison is your quintessential bad guy that wants to take over the world, and as the leader of Shadaloo, he’s been that way for years, but as of Street Fighter V he’s embraced a bit of a Darwinistic edge that may explain his outlook on life. He’s obsessed with power sure, but he also respects those who have it and the process of it itself. In a way he reminds me of Megatron from Beast Wars. As the leader of the Predacons, Megatron was frequently the target of coups led by one of his subordinates, and while they always failed in the end, he never seriously reprimanded those that attempted to depose him. In his view, if he were to be usurped by a lower ranking member, then he was no longer fit, that role would then belong to the machine that was strong enough to depose him. I think it was referred to as “The Predacon Way”, and I believe that is the philosophy that drives Shadaloo. In a direct contrast to F.A.N.G, M. Bison doesn’t seem to be at all concerned with protocol or hierarchy, his only interest is in strength and weakness. It’ll be interesting to see how that philosophy will manifest itself in his ultimate plan to take over the world.
F.A.N.G is M. Bison’s self-proclaimed number 2 man. I’ve written about him at length before so I’ll keep this section short, but his role in Shadaloo and this game’s narrative is an integral one. On top of being the mad scientist behind many of Shadaloo’s more fiendish experiments, he’s the taskmaster of the organization, the person who actually handles the bureaucracy of evil, and his personality reflects that. He’s the only major member of Shadaloo with a real sense of loyalty to M. Bison, but he’s also a character whose motivations and mindset are rooted in his upbringing and character story. I’ve said before that he’s the most well crafted fighting game character to appear in years, and I stand by that assessment. On top of that, the voice work behind him particularly in the English version is incredible.
Vega is gaming’s premier preening narcissist. He’s a vain assassin that’s obsessed with his own reflection and the concept of beauty. He’s also an insane person that kills things simply for being too ugly, and thinks a beautiful woman’s death throes are the very height of beauty “when the time is right”. He’s at once petty, bad ass, and deeply disturbing, and the fandom loves him for it. His role in the narrative seems to point towards his continued quest towards achieving eternal youth through the mysterious process Bison uses to pass his consciousness between bodies (naturally, the concept of aging disgusts Vega), and his opposition to Shadaloo’s “Dolls” program. Shadaloo kidnaps young women and brainwashes them into being assassins, a program F.A.N.G is proud of (which makes sense considering he had a similar upbringing save for the brainwashing), but one Vega is disgusted by. Not because of any moral reasons, but because the idea of brainwashing conflicts with his concept of beauty, which involves women being driven to emotional responses through natural means; and if that means terrifying them into a crumpled state of despair, Vega would be more than OK with that. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of role he will play in the conclusion of the Dolls story arc.
Balrog is one of Street Fighter‘s most stereotypical characters. He’s a black boxer that loves women and cash, but hates math. He’s so obsessed with money especially, that when he loses he famously screams “MY FIGHT MONEY!”. As Shadaloo’s top enforcer he isn’t exactly the most elegant of characters, but he makes up for that with raw strength (a single punch from him is enough to kill an elephant), and the audacity to refuse to throw a kick in a fight (although he isn’t above stomping on someone’s feet, in or out of the ring). Balrog has always been a simple player in the world of Street Fighter, a character with clearly defined strengths and weaknesses, but it seems as of Street Fighter V, he’s about to get a lot more complex. In his arcade ending in Street Fighter IV, Balrog rescued a small child from a Shadaloo facility, hoping he could make some quick cash off the fact that the kid was likely biologically enhanced. As of Street Fighter V however, that same child is still around and seems to be of personal importance to Balrog in particular. Whether or not he’s been assigned to babysit the kid or not we don’t know quite yet, but it seems our greedy, cheating, bastard of a boxer may have found something in the world besides money to actually care about, and in its own way, that’s kind of sweet. It also allows for some much needed development on a character no one thought would be anything more than a self-serving thug, and I’m grateful for that.
The key to the success of these four characters in the story however, is how they interact with each other, and based on the above cutscene, their chemistry seems impeccable. From F.A.N.G instigating conflict with his elitism, to Bison actually being receptive to the idea of his subordinates fighting each other to the death, these characters are just a whole lot of fun to watch. When the story is released this Friday and I experience it in its entirety, it’ll be interesting to see how it matched up to my speculations about where its true strength lies. I can’t wait to write about it when that time comes. In the meantime, please enjoy seeing these four dynamic characters in action.