Zangief is a character from Capcom's Street Fighter series of fighting games. Zangief, also known as the Red Cyclone, is a national Russian hero who is always seen fighting for the glory of his country.
Zangief is a massive fighter, weighing 254 lbs. and standing slightly over 7 feet tall, placing him among the tallest characters in the entire Street Fighter roster. Since his debut in Street Fighter II: The World Warrior in 1991, Zangief has been portrayed with a beard and a mohawk, along with a uniquely-shaped formation of chest hair on his torso and on his shins. His massive frame is almost entirely covered in scars from his bouts with brown bears in the barren and remote area of Siberia.
As a note of interest, Zangief has some of the least amount of clothing of any Street Fighter character, with his wardrobe consisting of simple red wrestling trunks with a gold belt, along with red and gold wristbands and his red wrestling boots. Zangief actually wore a vest in all his Street Fighter II portraits, except in Turbo Revival and Turbo HD Remix. Starting with Street Fighter Alpha 2, Zangief was adorned with a red cloak that he would remove before starting his matches. The cloak became an accepted fixture of his image, and he was shown with it in the 1994 Street Fighter II animated movie. Although modern 3D interpretations of Zangief have not shown him with his cloak, he is still depicted as wearing it before matches in his ending movie from Super Street Fighter IV.
Born and raised in the Soviet Union, Zangief is an incredibly patriotic character who has been motivated in some way to fight for his Motherland in every single game he has ever been in. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior depicted that Zangief was from the U.S.S.R. when the game was released in 1991. The Soviet Union ceased to exist by the end of 1991, but due to the heavy use of Soviet iconography in and around Zangief's character, including his homestage (where an iron plant complete with a giant hammer and sickle logo imprinted on the floor), Zangief was depicted as being from the U.S.S.R. as late as 1998, when Street Fighter Alpha 3 was released (though justifiably, the Alpha series takes place between the first and second games, meaning the U.S.S.R. still existed as of then). Street Fighter IV was the first time Zangief was depicted as being from the Russian Federation in 2008.
Zangief's personality has varied from one media source to another, but he's mostly been portrayed as a very fearless and tactiful fighter who's prone to quick temperments, and is always very competitive. Zangief is a man who is immensely proud of his physique, and constantly belittles his opponent's smaller muscular build and blaming their losses on their smaller physique. Despite his short temper, Zangief has shown himself to be rather gentle-natured with a good sense of humor at times, once entering a tournament partly to win the admiration of a group of school children. According to the instruction manual of Street Fighter II: Special Championship Edition for the Sega Genesis/Mega-Drive, Zangief is described as being "good natured, with a great sense of humor, and totally fearless."
Zangief can be easily misled by his overwhelming sense of patriotism for his home country. In Street Fighter Alpha 2, it was revealed that Gorbachev's intentions for Zangief is only for political gain, although Zangief fails to realize this and continues to fight for the glory and honor of Russia, no matter what the reason may be.
While not fighting, Zangief enjoys cossack dancing, vodka, and borscht. Some of the things which he doesn't like includes young women (because he views them as a distraction), bears that don't know how to wrestle properly, and (according to the manual for Super Street Fighter II Turbo for the 3DO) Tiger Shots, Hadoukens, and Yoga Fires.
In the Alpha series, Zangief is a national Russian hero nicknamed the "Red Cyclone" who becomes acquainted with the General Secretary of the CPSU, and Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev (who is never identified explicitly by name, but bears more than a passing resemblence to the real life former Soviet President) at the end of Alpha 2, The President promised the country's full support in exchange for traveling around the world and showing off the might of the Soviet Union (and to improve his image abroad, an objective which Zangief wasn't made aware of). After meeting the President, Zangief is sent to train in remote Siberia (albeit with a limited budget).
Under orders from Gorbachev, Zangief is sent to combat the forces of Shadaloo, which is beginning to spread its corruption into Russia. Zangief encounters many fighters along the way, befriending some such as E. Honda and R. Mika. It is believed that he lost to Blanka before he could accomplish his final objective of destroying the Psycho Drive; however in his ending, he and Honda team up to destroy it (the canonicity of this ending is dubious). In R. Mika´s ending, she followed Zangief as he destroyed the Psycho Drive, and Zangief protected her from the falling apart base. It appears his story is a mix of the two. Nevertheless, the Psycho Drive gets destroyed by someone, at least, and Zangief returns to Russia satisfied.
He then participates in the second World Warrior Tournament, hosted by Shadaloo, at the behest of Gorbachev. He loses to either Ken or Ryu (commenting in Street Fighter IV that fireballs are a "pain in the neck" and that "Dragon Punches suck too", suggesting that he has lost to someone who uses them - whether it was Ken or Ryu is unclear, as he tells Ryu "glad you haven't lost it" in his SFIV win quote, but if he loses to Ken in SFIV, Ken tells him "Looks like you're still no match for my Dragon Punch, eh?"). In any case, after the tournament, Zangief - dissatisfied with the outcome - returns to training in the Russian wilderness, wrestling bears. Eventually, he is approached by the largest wrestling organization in the world with an eye to signing the "Red Cyclone" to their promotion. Zangief at first refuses, saying that he is less interested in money than he is in bringing honor to Russia by demonstrating Russian strength. He is promised a stage to better showcase his skills, with his matches watched by millions. Due to the obvious help this will bring to his will to show Russian strength, Zangief gladly accepts.
Zangief enters the World Tournament held by S.I.N. to prove to his young fans (some of whom are beginning to claim that martial artists are better) that he's still got it. After the tournament, Zangief frantically realizes that he hasn't gotten a souvenir, and says "I didn't even understand what the last guy was saying before I beat him". He then has an idea and takes a photograph holding the beaten Seth (main boss and host of the tournament) in a headlock, which is then viewed by the admiring young fans who recognize Seth as the "bad guy from the TV".
Zangief has appeared in some games of the Marvel vs. Capcom series, he has also appeared in the Capcom vs. SNK games and also the Street Fighter EX games.
Zangief also appears in Street Fighter Alpha: The Animation; Zangief appears very briefly during a brutal battle against Blanka to entertain an audience of crime bosses. He is last seen being electrocuted by him. In this portrayal, Zangief never utters a word and growls like a beast instead, showing little to no humanity.
He was played by Andrew Bryniarski in the Street Fighter live-action movie. Here, he was a lackey of Bison's and served as comic relief in the movie, uttering silly lines at inappropriate times (for example, after seeing televised feed of a truck loaded with explosives about to crash into the villains' camp, he yells out "Quick! Change the channel!"). He also had a long fight with E. Honda and one "hero moment" near the end of the movie. Zangief was also a loyalist to Bison until Dee Jay explained Bison was the "bad guy." Zangief then learned that Bison promised Dee Jay that he would be paid, while he himself was not.
Zangief makes a cameo appearance in the 2012 Disney film, Wreck-It Ralph as part of a villains support group, even though he is not a villain within the main Street Fighter storyline. According to the screenwriter, Phil Johnston, Zangief was a source of frustration for him when playing Street Fighter in his childhood. Of note is that Zangief has played the role of villain in a few spin-off appearances, including the movies mentioned above.
Zangief's signature fighting style is close-range wrestling, with devastating throws and powerful base moves. This makes him tough up close, though often has trouble with foes with projectiles. Many of his moves are more complicated to pull off, due to the 360 motions input required to perform the moves, making him a character for advanced players. This, along with the fact that several of his moves incorporate spins, is likely the basis for his wrestling moniker "Red Cyclone". Zangief is one of the slowest of all characters in the Street Fighter games, and presents a large target, yet is widely considered high-tier. He has several means to bypass projectile attacks, such as Double Lariat and Banishing Flat, the ability to walk unphased into a hit during his Flying Power Bomb, and the ability of his Spinning Piledriver to grab opponents out of most ground-based moves.
His Spinning Piledriver was the single most damaging special move in the original Street Fighter II series until the introduction of T. Hawk, and is capable of "sucking in" opponents from a surprising distance. Zangief's Flying Stomach block attack is the only standard move capable of dizzying a character in one hit in the Street Fighter II series. In most incarnations, Zangief is extremely dangerous against floored opponents, as he is able to force them to block regular attacks so that he can pin them in place to deliver a powerful throw or hold. From Super Street Fighter II Turbo onwards, Zangief became capable of performing a dynamic rushdown with the addition of his Banishing Flat.
In Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Mech-Zangief is introduced. This is an even slower version of Zangief who can't block; however, he takes reduced damage from everything, excluding beam-style attacks. He also can't be stopped, taking only a slight slowdown when hit by almost anything, and picks up a Yoga Blast-like attack, the Siberian Breath.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes brought Zangief back in. This time, he could transform into Mech-Zangief, much to the dismay of people who chronically picked speedy characters (such as Wolverine and Spider-Man) as a team. He keeps this ability in the second sequel.
In the first two crossover games, he had a unique team super move: the Double Final Atomic Buster. He would rumble towards his enemy similarly to his Flying Powerbomb. Should he reach, his partner shows up from the other side, and both leap up past the top of the arena. The two come crashing down with the unfortunate payload in a single non-spinning piledriver. The move does not reappear in Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
- Zangief is similar to the original 1987 version of Birdie, as both characters are depicted as very large men with mohawk haircuts. Zangief is also similar in terms of build and fighting style to Mike Haggar from Capcom's Final Fight series, whose spinning clothesline move he emulates, not to mention that Zangief's alternate costume in Street Fighter IV is a nod to Mike Haggar's costume. There is a theory supported by Saturday Night Slam Masters on the Super Nintendo that Mike Haggar and Zangief know each other as former wrestling partners before Mike became the mayor of Metro City.
- In Super Street Fighter IV, Zangief's other alternate costume is Mech-Zangief.
- According to his win quote against Dee Jay in Super Street Fighter IV, Zangief listens to Tchaikovsky.
- To date, Pocket Fighter is the only game in which Zangief uses a Cossack dance-based Super Combo.
For more images of this character, see their Gallery.