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Nov 7th

Street Fighter II Was Fighting Game Perfection


Fighting games have always been in a class of their own, free from any of the impurities we see with the hybridisation of other genres. The formula – although somewhat evolved – remains simple:

Step 1 – Choose a character

Step 2 – Learn the combos and special moves

Step 3 – Kick some ass

Born on the coin operated machines of yore, fighting games were the epicentre of the arcades.

Born on the coin operated machines of yore, fighting games were the epicentre of the arcades. You could stand there playing solo and train yourself against the AI or, if it was during the peak period between the hours of after school and dinner time, be challenged by anyone who thought they could topple your reign. Fighting games were the ultimate multiplayer experience of the arcade age.

And when I say fighting games, I’m talking about Street Fighter II.

There have been countless clones, imitators and derivatives of this fabled sequel, released in 1991. When Mortal Kombat came out about a year later, the extreme gore and ludicrousness of the Fatality became the latest craze in the schoolyard, and Street Fighter II‘s relatively innocent characters were suddenly cast to the way side. But not for long.

I got into the hype of Mortal Kombat as much the next kid, it was hard not too. Skills had been honed from hundreds of play hours on SFII so everyone hit the ground running on the learning curve. The special moves were more colourful and bloody, the characters more badass, but there was something missing. It just didn’t have that smoothness, that seamless balance that SFII had executed to perfection.

Street Fighter II

An iconic scene.

The 3D derivatives like Virtua Fighter and Tekken all made their mark on the genre, the spinning camera angles and fancy finishing moves, all an attempt to unseat the Street Fighter as the one fighting game franchise to rule them all. But after dozens of iterations, still nothing compares to the simplicity and beauty of duking it out with a friend controlling 2D collision models.

Console Me

My own experience of Street Fighter franchise started with the arcade, but I was not a wizard of the joystick and its adjoining array of buttons. My challenges of other kids were usually met with embarrassing knockouts, and I still couldn’t do a dragon punch. Where it all came together was on the Super Nintendo, the D-Pad and six buttons on the controller made much more sense to my thumbs rather than my wrists. I also had unlimited continues, which helped me save my lunch money for lunch, rather than burning through it all for another round against Sagat.

As fighting games began their steady decline into the late ’90s, I too moved on to greener pastures. Arcades had updated their boxes to versions like Turbo and Alpha, but the glut of fighting games was met with interest that was rapidly dwindling. Console gamers were being wooed by Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Halo was just around the corner. The only fighting game that seemed to hold its own as an original effort was Super Smash Brothers, but just as anything Nintendo, it was only for Nintendo owners.

For the next 10 years I barely played a fighting game, convinced that nothing could ever compare to the glory days of SFII. Then I watched Capcom’s 25th Anniversary documentary I Am Streetfighter, which delves into the culture of players that this game has formed around the world. The scenes that cover the Evolution Championship Series (‘Evo’ for short) tournament in Las Vegas alone makes the 72 minute documentary worth watching.

Inspired after seeing the world’s best players throw down, it was time to try my hand again.

Inspired after seeing the world’s best players throw down, it was time to try my hand again. Picking up Super Street Fighter IV on a Steam sale for about $8, I jumped back into the franchise and restarted my quest of once again becoming the ultimate ass kicker. Though there are plenty of 3D animations for the super and ultra combos in SSF4, the gameplay remains in the classic 2D space with all the original special moves. I was a bit rusty, but with a thumb stick on my gamepad I could execute dragon punches at will and soon learned the devastating ultra combos. I’m playing random matchups with players from Japan and the US sometimes, and while I rarely win, I never go down without a fight.

With all other great games around these days it’s too early to tell if Super Street Fighter IV will take anywhere near the amount of my time that my old SNES cartridge of SFII did. But regardless of the excellent blend of nostalgia and gameplay I have experienced in the new version, Street Fighter II will always be the original and the best fighting game. Everything else is just pretending to be.

If you ever got into the king of fighting games, you’ll want to put your feet up and check out I Am Streetfighter below. Capcom had it originally only as part of the 25 Anniversary box set but released it to the public a couple months back.

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