For the Love Of: Street Fighter

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chris-littlechild - August 16, 2016


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Now, as we all know, the Mario vs Sonic wars of the Nineties were a vicious business indeed. At recess in the schoolyards of the world, nothing is taboo. There’s no Geneva Convention. Morals, ethics and human decency? Nuts to all of them. If your mama had a weight problem, these bastards would comment on it. They’d go for below-the-belt kicks, tell the girls that you were ogling their undercrackers while they were practising handstands so they’d tell the teacher on you, even pick up that dogshit they found on the field with a stick and chase you around the yard with it. It was a terrible, terrible time.

A little later, a conflict came around which was much more low key. This one wasn’t much of an issue in some places, but I remember it well. Street Fighter vs Tekken, which side are you on?

These are, natch, two ol’ stalwarts of the genre. Nobody wants too much wordtastic fired into their eyeballs this early on a Monday morning, though, so I’ll just focus on one of the two. I’ll leave your keen Ego-minds to deduce from the title which one it is.

Now, what we’re going for with this one is a 25th anniversary salute sort of deal. Sure, the original Street Fighter hit in 1987, which make it a ‘lil older than that, but who’s counting? The first game, after all, was a teeny rabbit-dump in the ocean compared to the impact of the second. But we’ll take a quick ogle at it anyway, just to be generous.

This late-eighties arcade title saw you playing as just one character, the iconic Ryu. A second player could join in as US Ryu wannabee Ken, but that was as far as your options went. You had your three punches and three kicks, your three special moves (fireball, dragon punch and spinny-kick-thing)… it was limited as hell, but you could see the framework for something great being laid down right here.

A couple years later, in 1991, the real star of the show hit. Street Fighter II. If you’ve never seen a pure phenomenon in arcade/chunky cartridge form before, this is what one looks like. Hold on to your butts and we’ll dive in.

What was it about the second game? Why did it have a Doom or Mario Kart-like imitators-amundo effect? There’s a lot of factors in that, but the biggest would be its expanded cast. This was the title that introduced the whole idea of a range of playable options, each with their own fancy-ass special moves. Flash Kicks, Shoryukens, Tiger Knees, Hundred-Hand Slaps, Vega’s patented jump-off-the-walls-of-the-stage-like-a-crazy-mothereffer-while-yodelling-like-a-freshly-castrated-chihuahua move… it all started here.

The whole goal of the single player was to become the world’s best warrior. The way to do this, natch, is to travel the world and beat the shit out of everyone else. Arcade mode, then, is a series of bouts against the other fighters, each representing a different nation. From the Brazilian electric man-beast that is Blanka, to the Indian firebreathing yoga master Dhalsim, it’s a true ensemble cast, each as memorable, iconic and nostalgic as the next.

That’s a key part of the appeal. Like a lot of you Ego-gamers, I have fond memories of playing the hell out of this one after school with a buddy or two. This has engrained everything from the music to the button inputs into my mind for life, no doubt taking up memory space for something useful like my pin number or how to bake macaroons. Even today, Street Fighter II gets a regular airing, and it gives me the same happy feeling in my pants-parts that it always did. 

Why do they still say Guile’s Theme Goes with Everything? Because it freaking does, that’s why. Pop culture icon all round, right here.

As is usually the case, though, Capcom never quite hit the same heights. After the many –freaking many—versions of II came the Street Fighter Alpha series, from 1995 to 1998. Along with the expected new stages and fighters, these ones added all kinds of fancy nuances to the system, with spangly new super combos, super meters and suchlike.

These titles ran in tandem with the Street Fighter EX series, as well as the kick-off of all the Capcom crossovers the company has such a boner for. Marvel vs Capcom, SNK vs Capcom, Street Fighter x Tekken, we’ve seen all kinds of variations of these over the years. 

The latest addition to the franchise, Street Fighter V, was pretty darn controversial. On its release back in February, there was mass bitching among Street Fighter fans. Which was reasonable enough, as Capcom had thrust it though the game-o-matic machine completely unfinished. The game’s in much better shape now, even if it did take a few months to get a little meat on its bones. Story mode and such agogo.

Street Fighter has been to some crazy places over the years. Puzzler spin-offs, all kinds of cameos and cross-overs. The mechanics have been tinkered with, updated and screwed up along the way, but the core of the series remains the same as ever, and popular on the tournament scene.  I think I speak for a lot of us when I say, I’d be up for another couple decades of defeating Ryu’s dragon punch to stand a chance.   


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