Guest Blog by Todd McDonnell @TheTopLoader
As I type I can hear a lot of loud noise coming through the internet. Have I forgotten something? I take a moments break to see what all the commotion is about. Street fighter II turned 25 and everybody's celebrating as though they were aboard one of Ken's party boats. I sit and think - has it been that long since it was 1991 - well I've done the math and apparently math doesn't lie. Should I stop typing.. as everything that needs to be said about this game has been said. I don't need to tell you again how great it is, that would be an obvious statement. Then it hits me, and no it wasn't one of Sagats Tiger Uppercuts .. again - I realize that everybody is talking about this game because, everybody - from my generation at least - has a Street Fighter story, and guess what so do I.
Street Fighter 2 ? For me it Begs the question: If this is the second game then where in the world map was the first? I had always heard of the myths surrounding the original Street Fighter - was it even real? I had never seen or heard of it before. Later on in life i did find out that it did in fact exist as I finally got a chance to play it, and how this game got a second game made based on the original is beyond belief. How do you go from a laggy, unbalanced un-fun waste of time to arguably one of the best and most important fighting games in the history of video games? This time however, Capcom lined up its quarters ready to play again and won because this new challenger certainly got it - Perfect.
We didn't have a local arcade near us growing up, we had a corner take away shop that had an arcade machine. The first time I heard of Street Fighter 2 was through an echoing sonic boom passing through the room. I was waiting in line to be served when I turned my head to notice the new arcade game installed into the machine next to me. My curiosity got the better of me and I had to take a look even if it meant losing my spot in line. As I slowly walked forward I could feel the warm glow illuminating off the CRT monitor or maybe it just was the heat illuminating from the kitchen. Either way, what I saw that day changed my life forever. Smooth animations, a kickin' soundtrack and Sounds effects that felt so real that I could feel every punch, kick and what-ever-he-just said in Japanese - Hurricane kick. Wait, what? Special moves? Quarter circle what to where? This was ground breaking in a way Donkey Kong would be proud. The whole fighting mechanics was new to everybody, pulling off combos not even knowing they were combos, hey if Capcom didn't know what they were how was I supposed to know. They turned out to be errors in the coding that they thought nobody would notice, except everybody noticed - best mistake ever?
The original World Warrior only had 8 characters to choose from, which is an upgrade from the first game that only gave you two, but admittedly the best 2, Ken and Ryu. The most famous interchangeable glorified palette swap duo in gaming history, turned out to be face of Street Fighter even to this day. It's who I wanted to play as the most when I first got my chance to play because being able to pull off a Dragon Punch would instantly give you street cred in the school ground. However, as I struggled with their move set I was forced to move on to Chun Lee, since she seemed to have he easiest moves - pressing one button fast is something I can do. With her lighting fast kicks and bouncing off the wall agility, she was a beginners delight and If I couldn't hit them I could at the very least avoid them. A great defence is an excellent offensive right?
The selection of characters may seem small by todays standards but in its defence they were all tightly balanced with stages that spread across the world. Guile and his over the top golden spikey hair could easily claim the best Street Fighter soundtrack for a stage, ever. Some characters in the line up were fast but some were slow - Dhalsim and Zangief. These days I now realize my 50Hz Snes Pal version was slow, but this was on a whole other level. I'm sure there are people in the world that can dominate with these two, but really I could never get them to click on that D-pad for me. I'm still not convinced the art of meditation is as powerful as Dhalsim claims it is now one Johnny Cage's special below the belt punches - that could do some damage. Apparently the Snes version was much slower in comparison to the arcade, but I didn't know, or care because I was finally playing Street Fighter 2 at home. I didn't spend too much time with arcade machines because I could never afford to spare many coins, all of my spare change went into saving up for those very expensive Super Nintendo games, and Ironically now in 2016 I have a decent paying job and I still have to save up to buy those very expensive Snes games. If there is a god I imagine him laughing at me the same way Sagat would after beating me down to the ground with the word "Tiger" pounded into my brain.
Choosing between a Mega Drive and a Super Nintendo was such an important choice for an 11 year old because whatever you chose would be your console of choice for many years to come. So when I first heard that Street Fighter 2 was going to be a, not for long, exclusive to Nintendo , that cemented my decision then and there of what console I had to own. It was a done deal. Signed and sealed with Nintendo's quality on the box. No regular kid could ever convince their parents to buy two consoles in those days, that's what caused so much rivalry back then because unlike today with arguments over resolutions, both consoles we had to choose from were so vastly different. Fighting games were nothing new to me growing up. Kung Fu master, International Karate , Bruce Lee, I even swung a sword with the ultimate finishing move of decapitation in Barbarian I & II - even before the likes Sub Zero got his cold hands on that mantle. But Capcom's polished fighter was different to the rest and didn't have a true rival until Mortal Kombat entered the arena to test its might - and they fought head to head in a game of Arcade supremacy.
Mortal Kombat was out for blood - which was the new style at the time - but struggled to get its flawless victory, in fact by the time the match timed out it looked more like a Double K.O. with no clear winner. I will admit though when Mortal Kombat 2 came out it did have a slight lead.. but looking back now Street Fighter 2 truly was the king of fighters. I mean it had to be, with all those different editions and turbos Capcom kept adding. The home consoles weren't left out of the fight and were brought into the ring for their own bout. In the left corner the SNES came out swinging when it landed the original SF2 first, but then in the right corner Sega's Mega Drive countered with Championship edition, but not to be out done the Snes got its own version of Hyper Edition in the form of SF2 Turbo, but as each side put up a good fight they both threw in the towel and eventually settled on Super Sf2, but with no handshake as neither could compete with the final Super Turbo blow the arcade version landed.
Can't we all play nice, I never liked picking sides anyway. It's worse than picking a side of the bed with my wife, but that's a battle I will never win. When it comes to Street Fighter lets face it, most people like to play naturally on the left . It would be comparable to left in a platforming game, so we always would fight over which side we would start on. I always struggled to do my Dragon Punches when i was stuck on the right side. These were the days when playing with friends was done in the same room, I don't care what anybody says - trash talking somebody to their face is much more enjoyable than through a microphone.. because they can't see you fist pump or do a little victory dance through a microphone now can they. Plus, if it wasn't for my brother and his old wise friends who were in their gaming prime - that's 15 in Gamer's Years - I would have struggled much more trying to learn those special moves. I watched alot of Street Fighter when they all came over as I was stuck in the "little brother rotation" .. you know .. their rotation of five goes to maybe one for me. However, if I did get on their right side they would teach me a thing or two. They would teach me the importance of the fighter you chose along with the surprisingly deep mechanics of the game as knowing when to block and how to space yourself was a must. Capcom must have taken the same advice as they certainly knew how space itself from the original Street Fighter which brings us to the -
BONUS ROUND - Did you know:
Capcom's Final fight was supposed to be named Street Fighter 89? Maybe the prequel Alpha/Zero series should have got that name since they merged a lot of the original cast from Street Fighter and Final Fight.
It would've made for a great throw back, but apparently throwing is not allowed in Street Fighter games.. just ask any professional player. Well at least I can take out my frustrations on a ton of bricks instead, because that's what you do in a Bonus Round. Who makes up these rules anyway - not me - as I never follow the rules or read instruction booklets.
The screen fades to a blank - Then M.Bison appears.. oops I mean Balrog how could I get that mixed up. Well it seems someone thought the Mike Tyson look-a-like was a little too look-alike for the international versions. I remember this moment like it happened yesterday, but how is it i can remember the exact moment i first faced Balrog yet i can never find my keys? As tough as Balrog was initially with his quick straight forward lunging punches (a little too quick to be believed Capcom), it became clear early on that he had an obvious weakness - ironically - his quick straight forward lunging punchest was his biggest weakness as you could predict his movements easily as he never kicked or jumped. The fireball was now in my court as he took it in his stride, literally, because that's what it took to take him and his shirt ripping animations down. Try that on for size, it looks better on you.
My fondest memories of me playing this game come from my frustrations of fighting Vega, which are also my most telling. His movements seemed random. He could fly through the air with a single bounce (and he wasn't even superman), jump off walls, climb cages, perform a roll and stab with those over reaching arms - accompanied by the longest legs I had ever seen. Does he have a weakness? Yes, in fact.. his weakness was my weakness - the Dragon Punch. While I could pull it off most times, I still struggled.. sometimes. I can tell you nothing is more scary than watching Vega slowly climb that cage, .as he just sits there and waits .. I move into position, which side will he drop to? I'm nervous. Will he go to the left .. or my dreaded right .. it's up in the air, literally. Suddenly he dives down .. my timing is off and he hits me square on the head.. damn he got me. Sure you could uppercut, but the Dragon punch really knocks him off his perch. As the fight raged on and I finally had him against the ropes, or the cage in this case.. and the moment where I finally, knocked off his claw ! - was symbolic for me as it showed me how far I had come with the game. Just remember Vega, you must defeat my Dragon Punch to stand a chance.
Sagat and M.Bison would follow, but honestly they never gave me nearly as much trouble as Vega did. Sure, they were hard at first too, but like Balrog before they were much more predictable. You always knew that Sagat would over use his powerful "Tiger" moves and M.Bison would always fly at you from across the screen giving you plenty of time to turn your reaction into action.
For me - Vega - is the true the final boss of the game. Ironically, playing the Japanese version of the game truly does have Vega as the final boss of the game.. wait, what? Let me work this out: So our version of M.Bison is actually Vega - who's name was then used internationally for the Japanese version of Balrog.. Wait so Vega isn't Vega? What are we plaiyng Spy vs Spy here. Confused? I sure am. So basically everything I learned growing up is all back to front. Great. No wonder I could never do a Dragon punch on the right, I was doing it back to front. Just try not to think about it too much, I don't. Which then of corse leaves Sagat with his own name by default, poor guy I wonder if he feels left out of the wolf pack now.
Street Fighter 2 is as iconic as they come. What Mario did for platforming this game did for the fighting genre. Spanning many generations this franchise has had its prequels .. and sequels - that seemingly took forever to see the number three - with endless editions and turbos all over the place, it even rubbed shoulders with the Marvel Universe from time to time. But it's the original sequel with its Perfect gameplay that won me over. It gave me lessons to learn and memories that I will never forget - which is why I can accurately write about it 25 years later - and as I finish this story I can't help but remember back to finishing the game for the first time - as Ryu walked off into the distance.. and now that the anniversary is now over, I can hear the chants of the internet crowd die down. I hear the whispers of the admirers ask ..what's next? I pause
Ha-can I do-this again? I'm sure-ryu-can!
Guest Blog By Todd McDonnell @ TheTopLoader
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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