Listening to the latest Retro Asylum podcast which is totally dedicated to Street Fighter 2 has made me realise how much of an effect the game had on me.
There's a brilliant appearance from @retroric on the podcast that brought it all back home to me.
After listening to the podcast I felt compelled to write a Street Fighter 2 article to get these memories off of my chest.
The World Warrior Is Born
At the time of the Street Fighter 2 phenomenon I was at Secondary School and would have been around 10 or 11 years old.
My friend Zeshan was my best buddy at the time and he had become super skilled at the Street Fighter 2 arcade machines around where his mum and dad owned in a shop in London, Islington.
We would often spend hours playing the video games of the day on his Mega Drive and SEGA Master System but when Street Fighter 2 fever hit and the SNES came out everything changed.
Zesh first introduced me to Street Fighter in the form of the original Street Fighter Arcade machine that was languishing at the back of the old newsagents down my road.
We went in there for Tangy Toms and a Slush Puppy one day and didn’t come out until our pocket money was chewed up by this strange looking one vs. one arcade fighting game.
Street Fighter (the original) was not very good. In fact it was a pain to play with the special moves being almost impossible to execute. But the thing with Street Fighter the original was the fact that it felt different to anything that was out there at the time.
There was untapped potential in the format and little did we know that Capcom were about to unleash an ‘Hadouken’ of potential on a video games public.
My next encounter with Street Fighter was in another newsagents down my road which was only two doors away from the Street Fighter Original arcade shop.
Zesh had been honing his skills on Street Fighter 2 in the mean streets of Islington and now my local newsagent had the Street Fighter 2 arcade machine proudly in its shop. 20p a go was the price to witness an awesome spectacle of beat ‘em up beauty. I leant on the machine as I watched Zesh go to work on the CPU controlled array of amazing characters.
I couldn’t believe the complexity of it all. The controls were like learning another language. I was blown away! 8 characters to choose from, 6 buttons to contend with, combos, special moves, speech, perfects, 4 mystical bosses.
I thought my head was going to explode. My memory of this first encounter were like opening a door to another world. It was like nothing I’d ever witnessed in the video games world.
Zesh was very proficient with Ken and he kept pulling out the Hadouken almost effortlessly and every now and again the hurricane kick followed by a Dragon Punch. I was mesmerised. Then it came to my turn. I froze like a rabbit in the headlights. I attempted to play as Ryu and from memory I got whooped by Blanka. It was something that became a challenge from then on.
I wanted to become as good as Zesh from that moment onwards. I had fallen for Street Fighter 2 big time and Zesh and I would spend many more 20p’s with Zesh in that Newsagent.
Here Comes New Challenger
The thing that springs to mind about this game was the competitive nature and the atmosphere that surrounded this game.
People would come along and drop a 20p into the machine and the immortal words were uttered............”HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER”
Such a simple concept but one which made the game even more amazing. The idea that you could play a 1 player game and then be challenged to a 2 player game mid match was awesome. Win the 2 player game and you got to continue your merry way through the CPU opponents, lose and you lost your go. Maybe you would put in another 20p to challenge back or maybe you’d just trudge off home swearing that you would get revenge for the loss.........
The atmosphere around a Street Fighter 2 machine were electric when you had a crowd watching and jostling for their go. It was as raw as arcade experiences could get and at the time I couldn’t get enough of it. Sometimes it was actually a bit scary in the various shops that had become mini arcades!
You had your Newsagents, Cab Offices, Video Rental Shops, Chip Shops, Kebab Houses and even local Chinese Takeaways getting in on the action and as the crowds were a mix of kids ranging from 10 to 18 things got rowdy! Sometimes real fisticuffs would break out. Cries of “Why are you cheating!?” after a repeated overuse of 100 hand slap, Blanka’s Electric Charge or Chun Li’s lightning kick could end up scuffs and stand up arguments but on the main there was just a lot of banter flying around the shop as everyone enjoyed the show. It was a great time to be a kid who loved video games.
During the Retro Asylum Podcast I was reminded of the so called ‘Rainbow Editions’ of the arcade machines that were hacked/modded to play in a totally funky way. In these games almost anything was possible! Mid Air Hurricane Kicks, Triple Hadoukens, Change into any character, speeded up game play and even flamin’ dragon punches! It was a mish mash of a game but was fun for a while until you realised it was actually completely broken!
Nintendo’s Very Own Perfect
Amidst all the arcade hype and fun that I was having there came the release of the almighty SNES. The SNES and the release of Street Fighter 2 on the SNES would prove to be the most pivotal time of my video games playing life.
Even though I had played a lot of Arcade Street Fighter 2 I still wasn’t that great. Zesh would often thrash me. It was only the release of the SNES version that would give me enough time to master this amazing game.
The release of this game and my purchase of it are it ingrained in my memory as one of the most exciting times in my childhood. I had been reading previews in Mean Machines and I was fit to burst with excitement. The only stumbling block for me was the price.....
The PAL version was an eye popping £65! My monthly pocket money was £20 and I was saving like a Trojan to afford this game. I needed this game.
I was up to £40 in my savings and the game had been out since mid December. I was desperate to get it and then Christmas came along. I didn’t really expect to get it because I had said I wanted to save the money for it. But lo and behold my mum and dad had bought it as my main Christmas present. I was blown away.
This ‘arcade perfect’ conversion was mine. I wanted to sit down with it and master every move, combo and character. I had the move sets on a wall poster in my room and I studied each of them thoroughly in order that they became second nature.
Originally I started out with Ryu and then moved onto Ken as my fave character (very predictable I know!). Ultimately though I moved to Guile as my go to character. His double sweep kick was a cause of frustration for everyone I played against.
From this moment on I fell deep in love with the SNES version and conditioned my thumbs to be able to use the joy pad to produce all the moves in all the fighters’ repertoires. That was every move apart from The Spinning-Piledriver! 360 degrees on a d pad followed by a heavy punch was just a step too far for me....
The problem I had is that because of my prolonged joy pad usage I became utterly useless when I went back to the arcade and used the joystick. I basically had to settle for being a good player on the SNES and a mediocre player on the arcade.
I could now give Zesh a game without getting schooled every time.........
A lot of the beauty of the SNES version was due to the fact that the Joy pad felt like it was made to play Street Fighter 2.
6 Buttons perfectly arranged and a pad that always felt comfortable was a perfect combination for such a great game.
You Must Defeat Sheng Long
Everyone in my school seemed to own Street Fighter 2 on the SNES apart from those poor souls who only had a Mega Drive.
Those poor SEGA boys had to put up with us SNES owners lauding over them with our ‘perfect’ conversion and our endless SF2 related conversation.
The playground conversation spawned its own mythology as everyone delved deeper into the game and looked for secrets. The classic myth that was mentioned by the Retro Asylum guys was the Sheng Long myth........
“You Must Defeat Sheng Long to Stand a Chance” was Ryu’s victory statement that would send shockwaves through the SF2 playing community.
Who is this Sheng Long? How do I get to play him? Can I play AS him?
The SF2 was alight with this talk as Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine also ran an April fools which claimed to have found a way to play as Sheng Long!
The thing is, the reference to Sheng Long wasn’t a reference to a name of a fighter, it was actually a reference to Ryu’s Dragon Punch! It was a translation error in the regionalisation that had led to this brilliant urban myth.
It was this kind of video games gold that made this game special. It was a special time for gamers as the Street Fighter 2 mania gripped the games playing nation. The fact that 25 years later we still talk so fondly about this game is the biggest test of any video game.
Back In The Day
I write this as a proud player of Street Fighter 2 from back in the day.
Nowadays things have moved on significantly from the original version. I bought Super Street Fighter IV on the XBOX 360 a couple of years ago and I enjoyed it but I was useless at it. Maybe all the meters and spectacular moves detracted from the original core of the game in my eyes but being a retro gamer at heart I will always prefer the SNES version of SF2................
...........although saying that I’ve been peeking at Street Fighter V and could be tempted to get involved again................
HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER?
Hopefully this has whet your appetite for the awesome Retro Asylum SF2 Podcast?
Head Over To www.retroasylum.com to get a full dose of Street Fighter goodness.