`Ssfii': New Warriors Have Entered The Ring

What do a Chinese master of kung fu, an attractive female British intelligence officer, a towering Native American warrior and a partying Jamaican kickboxer have in common? They're new competitors in the World Warrior Tournament, the video slug fest made famous by the game "Street Fighter II."

Capcom U.S.A.'s "Super Street Fighter II," released this summer for both the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis systems, still has the original 12 combatants made famous in the original and Turbo editions of "Street Fighter II." Four new warriors have joined the tournament, adding to the fun and challenge.

"Street Fighter II," the earlier game, is Super Nintendo's most popular cartridge. It featured masters of karate, sumo, Thai boxing, kung fu and other styles of fighting. While all of the fighters had unrealistic super moves, much of their techniques looked accurate. The Sumo wrestler swaggered like the real thing. The Thai boxer used the foot jabs, skip knees and elbow hits that are signature moves in Thai boxing.

A year after "SFII," Capcom released a "turbo" edition with a few new moves for each of the fighters, but it was a poor excuse for a sequel.

Now "Super Street Fighter II," the third game in the series, offers many improvements. Along with the new warriors, it has improved graphics and new tournament modes that add challenges to the game. The Super Nintendo version is a 32-megabit game, the largest game ever created for the system. The Sega Genesis version has 40 megabits and should be played only with a six-button controller.

The new warriors are the big news. Dee Jay, the Jamaican kickboxer, throws fireballs and has hyper punches and kicks. The powerful Thunder Hawk has darting jumps and powerful flips. Cammy, the British intelligence officer, has special kicks and a drilling dive attack. Fei Long, who looks like Bruce Lee, is the deadliest of the crew. Faster and smaller than the others, he has a dragon kick that's hard to master and impossible to survive.

Parents, if you are unfamiliar with these games, wake up and listen to the cash registers. These are the entertainment phenomenon of the decade. "Street Fighter II" made more money in video game arcades than "Jurassic Park" made in movie theaters - over a half-billion dollars.

Several qualities have contributed to the success of the "Street Fighter" games. The characters are original, elegantly animated and fun to watch. They include such personalities as a sumo wrestler, two masters of karate, an Indian mystic and a wild man from the Amazon.

Unlike previous fighting games, the "Street Fighter" games require strategy. There are dozens of special moves. Some of these moves are easily learned; others require practice. To win at these games you need strategy and timing.

While they are certainly violent, the "Street Fighter" games are less controversial than "Mortal Kombat" and "Lethal Enforcer" because the characters look like cartoons and the fights do not end with maiming or decapitation.