I am getting old. No, no grey hairs, beer gut, or a wrinkley face — nothing so apparent is clueing me in to the unstoppable tsunami of the aging process that envelops me like an obese, old, horny woman trying to make love to her skinny-as-a-stringbean husband... Only with a little more natural lube. No, it's Street Fighter IV that's showing me that time has not been gentle with me... At least not in regards to my reaction time and dexterity.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
It all started back in the Spring of 1991. I was on Spring Break from my sophomore year at Hell High (aka DeSmet Jesuit all boys school in St. Louis), and was going to spend that week with my father who was working at his new job in Georgia, and house hunting for the family in his free time. I came down with my mother and sister and was then left to fend for myself in the 5 days that followed after those two went back to Missouri and when my dad was at his office. The first Monday alone I tried watching TV all day, but the shitty extended-stay hotel (which was miles away from anywhere) only had the main three networks and HBO on the dial... And HBO only played CRAP during the day back then. I was bored shitless. So that night my dad took me to a Waldenbooks a 10 minute drive away, and let me pick out something that would hold my attention for the week. I chose the newest copy of EGM and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion.... Because I am retarded. I think I made it about 15 pages into Tolkien's tome that Tuesday before I realized that it wasn't at all written like his other book I had previously read a few years before — the fun and adventurous The Hobbit (With Bilbo [Bilbo!] Bilbo Baggins, only three feet tall, and the bravest little hobbit of them all). The Silmarillion was tedious as fuck, and read like stereo instructions... No, it read like Biblical stereo instructions. Needless to say I knew that EGM issue backwards and forwards by the end of that Tuesday.
After complaining like a crack baby who's out of crack and smack over dinner that night, I got the old man to finally agree to drop me off at the mall during his early lunch the following day. So at 10AM that Wednesday, with two twenties in my wallet I made a bee-line to my favorite place in any mall at the time: The arcade. The arcade at the Perimeter Mall in Atlanta, GA was okay, I remember, but it was dead at the time and it seemed to just have the same old games that the ones back home had that I was used to. It had TMNT, The Simpsons, lots of shooters and pinball machines... But in the back there was a brand new and very different cabinet set up, the likes of which I had never seen before.
STREET FIGHTER 2
The machine had a strange controller configuration: Two joysticks, SIX buttons for each, and each controller unit was angled out from the screen so that the two people playing it were at almost 45-degree angles from the display instead of looking at it head on. And there were tons of instructions written on the actual panel above the joysticks and buttons describing circular-motions and button combinations that you could use in the game for "special moves". The game itself appeared to be a one-on-one fighting game (not new to the scene in and of itself, but the SIZE and the animation of the fighters you could control were simply breathtaking!) and you could choose from a total of 8 (fucking EIGHT) colorful characters to beat the shit out of opponents with! One of them was a Soviet bear wrestler, one a hot Chinese high-kicker, and one a Brazilian mutant! It was a sight and a sense of awe that I will never forget.
I spent the first five minutes of my new life with Street Fighter 2 in it (what the game was called, you cock knocker) watching some fat, smelly fuck try his best to make some dude in a white karate gi do some kind of special punch against the Chinese chick with the nice legs. He failed and lost two fights in a row. As he put in another quarter (yeah, it was only one quarter back then, iirc) I asked if he wouldn't mind if I fought him. He said "*Snort* Uhhh, sure... Fine, whatever," and so I jumped in with my quarter and picked the Chinese chick for myself... And I've been in love with Chun-Li ever since, but I digress. Our on-screen avatars flipped around the screen throwing three different types of punches and kicks at each other for two whole rounds (me winning one, and he winning one) before something awesome happened: I was just about to be knocked the fuck out when somehow my chick just started kicking like a goddamn madwoman, a flurry of feet blurring the air in front of her and right in the face of fatty's Ryu character, just as he was rushing in for the finishing blow. Ryu hit the ground instead, and our mouths were open in wonder and "holy fuckness."
Fatty turned to me and spit "How the hell did you do that?!" I said, "Uhhhhhhhh...." and looked down at the printed instructions on the counter in front of me. "Apparently she can do that if you hit the kick button really fast." Then we started studying the moves like religious texts... Well, like actual INSTRUCTIVE religious texts. Within an hour we could each perform fireballs, electric shocks, spinning bird kicks, and dragon punches like pros. We were so fucking into that game that we didn't notice that the once empty arcade had about a dozen people (mostly kids) hovering around us, trying to see what the cool new machine was. In fact, at around 1 o'clock that day the manager of the place had to come out in order to tell us to keep our profanity down or else he'd call security. Fatty had just delivered a finishing "hundred rending kicks" to my poor Blanka's face, so I had time to look at the disgusted manager and say, "We've been pumping tons of fucking quarters into this game since you fucking opened today, and we even gathered all these other people who will probably start playing soon themselves.... Why don't you go back to your Cheetos and Days of Our Fucking Lives in the back room and let us big boys have some goddamn fun, asshole." We then started our next game (I think I was Dhalsim, and Fatty was Chun-Li) and I quickly fell into calling the attacking woman a "whore," "bitch," and "fucking slut." I still do to this day, but the point was that Mr. Manager lowered his head and retreated back into his office like a good little puppy. THAT was the power of Street Fighter.
Soon after that Fatty and I needed a break, so we let others give it a try and we discussed strategies for attacks and defenses. I was seriously blown away at how complicated this simple fighting game was... And we never even got to one of the 4 final bosses in the thing yet; we had just been playing against each other the whole time. It was a glorious afternoon.
I went back again the following day with more money. Fatty soon arrived thereafter, and we proceeded to kick the profane shit out of each other until early afternoon when he left to go whack-off in a corner, or work, or whatever he had to do. That's when I first ran into the giant American boxer, the gay, clawed Spaniard, and the hulking Thai warrior... I never made it to M. Bison/Vega that day.
Anyway, I became a Street Fighter 2 fanatic after that. When I went back to St. Louis after my break I had to wait about 2 weeks before the local arcade got a unit in. And when it did I blew everybody the fuck away with my mad skills that first weekend it arrived. Oh, I was king, and it was good. Soon though others were up to speed with the revolutionary new controls, and the Street Fighter craze swept the country. But like everybody else, I didn't even question that if this was Street Fighter TWO, when the hell did Street Fighter ONE get released? How'd we miss that? Meh, we didn't really care as long as there were "yoga flames" and "sonic booms" to dish out.
Anyway, flash forward a year. It's April of '92, the Soviet Union was gone, I was in my junior year of high school, and I was taking out Just Kidding on our first actual date (to the Mountasia putt-putt golf course). We had just had a great time playing two rounds of golf (after we refused to putt our balls down the final "disappearing" hole in the first round in order to try out the second course for freebies), when we found ourselves passing through the snack bar/mini arcade inside the Mountasia clubhouse. I stopped... I had heard rumors that it was going to happen, but I had not seen it with my own eyes yet... There, in the corner of the place was a brand new Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition arcade unit! I talked Just Kidding into checking it out with me, and into actually reluctantly playing me for a round. I let her choose Chun-Li for herself (because they both had bitchin' legs), and I picked the now choosable boss character of M. Bison/Vega.... Then I lost my gentlemanly composer and KICKED the LIVING SHIT out of her in two fights in a row... Then I ripped all the way through the game in single player mode until I made it to M. Bison's ending. Then I took a deep and satisfied breath and turned around. Just Kidding was just staring at me in the same kind of wonder that a person looks at another who just insanely stuck his dick into a hole in the fence without any idea what was on the other side. I was all sweaty from the exertion (I really get into fighting games), and she had a look in her eye that pretty much said "If you didn't drive me here I'd have left you about ten minutes ago." I apologized and treated her to a DQ, but damn, that was an awesome first date... And she eventually forgave me.
After Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition had come out, Capcom started getting reeeeeeeally greedy with their SF2 property. And lazy. Very lazy. Street Fighter 2: Hyper Fighting Edition, SUPER Street Fighter 2 (they actually did throw in some new characters with this one at least), and then Super Street Fighter 2: Turbo. It was about this time (after all those arcade releases, and all the home versions for the Genesis and SNES) that I started falling out of love with everything Street Fighter. I never got into Mortal Kombat, Toshinden, or Virtua Fighter, so fuck them, but I was at the point where I pretty much said "Fuck Street Fighter" too.
Honestly, they weren't doing anything more with the property other than adding new uniform colors for fighters to choose, and tossing into the fray a giant Native American and a cute British agent in pigtails... Where the fuck was something NEW? Where was Street Fighter 3?! Well, in defiance to everybody's wishes, Capcom did release a new Street Fighter game after their two dozen SF2 releases: Street Fighter Alpha... And it was exactly like a Street Fighter 2 — well, at least it was like its prequel.
Street Fighter Alpha just never did it for me. It was essentially the exact same game as the many iterations of SF2 (mechanics and main character-wise), but with more complicated combos, more hard-to-pull-off counters, a bunch of new, bland characters, and a boring new storyline (does anybody give a shit about the story behind a bunch of thugs who travel the world beating the shit out of each other?). But I was more into the SF2 clone, Darkstalkers at the time than Alpha (which was also made by Capcom, who were just DOMINATING the fighting genre... and over saturating the SHIT out of it at the same time). At least that series was fresh with new (get this) INTERESTING characters, a new look, and the same easy to learn controls of the game that started it all (Street Fighter 2, you mentalist you). SFA, and SFA2, and even SFA3 just kept moving more and more towards the HARD CORE gamer — one had to know how to throw a perfect 3-in-a-row dragon punch after blocking two major attacks while masturbating with one's left hand in order to stand a chance against the average 12 year-old asshole who was then ruling the SF game cabinets in the arcades at the time.
The Alpha games were just frustrating for casual gamers. You had to be truly dedicated to the craft in order to not only make it to the end of the single player mode, but in order to ever play more than one round with one quarter in two player mode.... Or maybe I was just starting to feel my slower reflexes at the time. Nah, I was still rocking at Darkstalkers with my main babe, Lilith, so that can't have been the case. Seriously, fuck you, Alpha.
Anyway, after waiting YEARS for it, Capcom finally abandoned its Street Fighter Alpha line and got busy on the looooooong anticipated REAL sequel to Street Fighter 2.
SUPER PUZZLE FIGHTER 2 TURBO
Ooooooh fuck yes! Screw Tetris, THIS puzzle game is what it was all about! I'm goddamn serious here. I loved this game all the way up until the computer cheated on me that one time and caused a gem-landslide that completely killed me just 1 second before I could do the same to it... That cost me my old Playstation when I forgot that real world fighting mechanics (aka "punching") don't work well against video games or video game hardware. Anyway, it was still a fun game, and it led to the creation of Pocket Fighter, which wins the award of "Cutest Fighting Game EVER" hands down. Chibi makes everything better.
THEN, after waiting six years since the original SF2 came out, Capcom finally graced us with the official, official follow up to what was originally thought to be the be-all end-all one-on-one combat arcade system.
STREET FIGHTER 3
In 1997 we all got our first look at Street Fighter 3.... And then we got bored. Well, at least I did. True, there were new "super arts," and lots more countering and parrying involved in the gameplay, but at this point the whole thing was just, well, stale (and I never even bothered to learn how to do those hyper extended moves myself). After 7+ versions of the Street Fighter dynamic since the original SF2 first destroyed the scene in '91, the whole series was in need of a new take or a well earned rest, and SF3 was not what the good doctor ordered. I think I played the original SF3 5 times. Total. I never touched either one of its "upgrades" when they came out in order to milk the scene even more than Super Street Fighter 2: Turbo 7th Time's The Charm - Suck My Balls Edition just a few scant years before. Jesus, seriously... I think that there was a SF3: 2nd Impact (way to rip off Gainax, Capcom... Douchebags) and a SF3: 3rd Strike. I could not even tell you the additions to either of those except to guess that they made it impossible to connect with even one hit unless you had 4 arms and mental control over electronics... Or you physically KILLED your live opponent standing next to you during the battle.
Anyway, the fabled two-on-two (or one-on-three) fighting system that people were hoping for in SF3 was proven to just be a tasty rumor with no real merit to it (that is until Super Smash Bros. came out on the N64), oh, and they originally left CHUN-LI out of the line up! How fucking retarded is that? Capcom gave their most popular character the fucking pink slip and a UFIA the size of one of the 'Gief's fingers until 3rd Strike!
But let me back up a bit, because right before SF3 was released Capcom had planted the seed for what would soon become the GREATEST FIGHTING GAME SERIES EVER MADE.
MARVEL VERSUS CAPCOM
Go back a year before the lackluster Street Fighter 3 first exploded onto the scene like the green apple splatters, and if you were lucky enough you got to play a strange fighting game that seemed to defy all logic: X-Men Vs Street Fighter. The World Warriors faced off against the Mighty Marvel Muties in tag team matches where all laws of physics and logic were tossed to the four winds. While it was a good (and much needed) twist on the existing engine, it still wasn't there. They tried again with Marvel Super Heroes Vs Street Fighter, but that one was close but no cigar too... But that's alright because very soon after that latest attempt we got the uber-fantastique brawler known (officially) as Marvel Vs Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes. And all was right with the world.
MvC was a dream game of mine. I always loved the Marvel comics universe, and I loved both Street Fighter (2), Darkstalkers, and most of Capcom's other famous characters from their vast gaming library — like Mega Man and Strider Hiryu — and FUCK ME, you could make them all kick the shit out of each other in this game! And a third "assist character" could do attacks even though he/she/it wasn't a selectable fighter, AND you could do double-up attacks if you had the chance too. It was fast, it was challenging, and yet above all it was FUN. But the funnest was yet to come.
Marvel Vs Capcom 2 came out to fantastic fanfare... Well, by me at least. I creamed my jeans when I first saw it in the arcade. 56 goddamn possible playable characters! 3-member tag teams! Giant, screen-filling assists and combos!... I was in heaven. To me, they (meaning anybody ever again) will never top MvC2.
Yes, people who live by these fucking games (*Cough* the Chief) lament the use of only 4 fighting buttons (two now used for assists), and the cheapness of a few characters that some asshole arcade-rats over-abuse (*Cough* Cable), but if you get past those easy to overlook downsides you get a gi-fucking-gantic game with pretty much every Marvel hero and villain AND every Capcom character ever made in a knock-down drag-out fracas of fisticuffs that will blow your fucking mind.
Honestly though, I CANNOT play MvC2 against somebody who's learned every cheap shot and block and counter to every character within (and who knows how to whip them out on a moment's notice and nail 100% of the time). It's at the time that MvC2 was released that I realized that I wasn't the Grand Pubah of gaming that I used to be. Yeah, I could still pull off all the half-circle and zig-zag motions needed to make most characters do their thing, but some of the hyper shit that the arcade groupies were able to perform in order to counter my shit in a fraction of an instant like a circus seal giving blow-jobs to 10 guys in a row just piss me off. Mastering a game is one thing, but when these turds wait to see who I choose (usually just random fighters in every fight just to have fun and try something new) and then they pick either all anti-air fighters, or Cable, or some shit just to crap all over my parade... Well, that's when it stops being entertainment and just becomes ASSutainment. Shit, tactics in a fighting game is just too damn much, foo'!
Anyway, my only question about MvC2 is: What the goddamn fuck is that cactus guy from?! Is he a reject from the retarded DC Universe?
Yes, before MvC2 there were a few other Street Fighter games released, but they don't even count. Seriously, those 3D SF games were all about the 3D gimmick. They just didn't look or feel like real Street Fighter games to me... If I remember correctly those "EX" games were slow, clunky, and kind of cheap looking in a very uninspired way. I don't count them as "real" Street Fighter games mostly because they suck. Oh, and there's all those ill-thought-out movies and anime series under the Street Fighter banner that have been produced over the years... They all suck — don't bother checking any of them out. My only point here is that after MvC2 it had seemed that all the goodness in the Capcom Street Fighter universe had been drained. True, I was glad that it went out on a high note, but sad that crap like Mortal Kombat, and all those strategy fighters were the only ones that kept churning out crappy sequel after crappy sequel after SF's apparent final bow... It was indeed a long drought until February 2009.
STREET FIGHTER 4
When SF4 was actually announced to come out for the PS3 and the X-Box 360 (no more arcades in America... So sad) half the world couldn't believe it. The other half couldn't believe their luck that not only were the early shots absolutely beautiful to behold, but 2D fighting was still intact, and the whole thing just looked old school SF2 (in a good way)!
Well, SF4 eventually came out and proved to be everything that everybody had hoped for — most importantly, it was fucking goddamn FUN! It featured all of the classic SF2 characters (thankfully ignoring that rastafarian Jamaican douche and the 'Gief-wannabe Indian warrior from Super Street Fighter 2: Suck Your Dad), had all the same old moves in place, and it was global (meaning online with the fights and the trash-talking). Did I mention that it's absolutely gorgeous to just watch in motion?
My only gripe with SF4 (and this is a big one) is that I'm now too old to play it. No, I don't mean that it's aimed at toddlers or anything, but that my reaction time and my button-pressing abilities are only a shadow of their former glory. I am but a shell of a once great Street Fighting man (see, I finally paid off the opening paragraph)... I am like Rocky Balboa at the start of Rocky Balboa. I had my fun in the ring, I had my glory, now it's time to just rest with my laurels and remember the good times. I get my ass HANDED to me online if I play anybody with any skill whatsoever... I know what I WANT to be able to do with my chosen warrior in any given match, but I'm too slow to pull anything off. And holy fuck, how in God's name does everybody know how to do all those hyper-super-extended-ballsout attacks like that? It's like every other move is one that can completely wipe me out even if I have a full energy bar.......... It's sad really... I used to be the greatest SF2 player in St. Louis (for a weekend)... Now I'm reduced to playing the computer on easy, or against my nephews... Well, at least until they get the hang of it and learn all the super-duper combo hyper moves. Goddammit.
Oh hell yeah! I LOVED this game! Street Fighter 2 was the greatest game ever... Even better than Donkey Kong! Even better than Bubble Bobble! I could always kick the Rossman's ass at it no matter who I chose. I'd just mash all the buttons and swivel the joystick around like a retard in a blender and I'd pull off the most amazing shit with my character! I swear, one time I hurricane kicked the Rossman to the side, then fireball'd and Ho-Ryu-Ken'd him to the ground, and then my guy actually took his pants off and shat all over him. I promise you I am not making that up... I doubt that anybody's ever hit that exact button combination again, but it's in the game somewhere.
Okay, this Street Fighter game is actually one of the only fun video games that I ever remember playing. My brother would beg me to play him in this back in high school when it came out on the Nintendo Genesis. He would let me pick the girl in blue every time, but no matter who he chose he'd still kick my ass on screen. After 3 or 4 rounds of that harsh treatment I'd always get up to leave, wherein the Rossman would beg me to play just one more round. I'd always just barely knock him out, and then he'd have me for another 3 to 4 rounds..... Hmmmmm, it may have taken me over 15 years to figure out, but I think I see what was going on back then: My brother really wasn't a very good player back then. I don't know if he's improved any since then, but I don't want to get caught up in any more street fights with him to find out.