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What Street Fighter Means To Me

Posted 04-29-2010 at 01:49 AM by BigBPlaya

With the Shotgun Podcast devoted almost entirely to talk of Street Fighter IV and the fact that I haven't played this much Street Fighter since I was in junior high, I have started to feel a bit nostalgic, and it has brought back some memories.

My first experience with Street Fighter was in the lobby of a movie theater. After you bought your tickets at the box office window(which was more likely to be outside in those days), you would walk through the main doors and straight across the lobby was the entrance to the theater rooms. To the left and right were lines of video games across each wall. When I saw the cabinet, I just had to play it. What is funny is that even to this day I can't really describe what made me want to play it so bad. The graphics were quite sharp for that era: the detailed character sprites and fluid animation were a cut above the Mario Bros' pixelation. Perhaps it was the concept of being able to pull off such unique moves(not to mention seeing a cabinet with six action buttons instead of two or three). It makes me think that fighting game fans have it written in their DNA. You either like them or you don't. No scientific explanation required.

This was not the original Street Fighter II-it was Street Fighter II Champion Edition. Somehow I remember my first match. I picked Guile, mostly because I thought he looked cool and somewhat resembled me with his blond spiky hair(except he had more muscles than my gangly figure). I fought against Zangief, and I was excited when I realized I could pull off a Suplex throw relatively easily. I don't remember for sure whether or not I won the match, I just know that the throw was working for me. Little did I know I was playing chicken with a Spinning Pile Driver and just happened to be lucky enough to come out on top. Luckily this was before Zangief's pile driver gained super-human reach in Turbo and all the future iterations.

Each time my family went back to the movies I would beg my mom for a quarter before we went in to see the movie, and I always hoped that there would be no one playing when I got there so I could get a game in before the movie. It became a running joke because my family would always be waiting for me to finish playing as I progressed through the matches(no, I never made it to the end-and I don't believe I've ever played all the way through on an SFII machine).

These were the days when Walmarts weren't Super, and they usually had a couple of video games just inside the store doors. I remember the one my mom shopped at had the Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting edition. I learned a hard lesson that day, as I dropped in the quarter to find that the left-side joystick and a few of the buttons were broken. I couldn't move right, ended up having to select Chun Li, and consequently was destroyed by the CPU in under a minute flat. My mother refused to give me another quarter, and for awhile after that I cautiously tried to aim for the right-side joystick when playing arcade games(although doing that made pulling off special moves extra difficult for me).

I remember the year we were surprised with a Super Nintendo on Christmas. I was shocked, and my brother, sister and I each got our own game. I got Street Fighter II Turbo. When I first learned how to perform quarter circle motions on the directional pad I felt proud, just as I did when I found the code to increase the Turbo speed to 10(was it Up, Down, Left Right, L, B...ah, I don't remember). The game was an excellent port(and probably one of the best console fighting games ever), but I know that the character sprites just didn't look the same. They needed to be slightly bigger for that arcade effect.

I remember going to Six Flags Great America when I was younger. Admittedly I didn't ride the roller coasters when I was younger because I was scared, so when I got the chance to go in the video arcade I could stay there all day(which I of course didn't understand then but that would defeat the purpose of paying the large admission price). The video arcade had six Street Fighter II Champion Edition cabinets in the center of the one room. Six!

These were the days when Pizza Hut still had those table top video games. Anybody remember those? They were in a red cabinet and low so you could sit in a chair and play them. They had Donkey Kong(I think) and don't quite remember what else(thinking Dr. Mario but that doesn't quite sound right). It was also almost guaranteed that every Pizza Hut had a Neo Geo. Through the SNK machine I became familiar with Fatal Fury, Samurai Showdown, and The Art of Fighting. I never thought The Art of Fighting was really great, but the huge character sprites were impressive, and made quite an impression on me when I was younger.

Of course this was around the same time Mortal Kombat was introduced. We used to have a Ben Franklin just down the street from my house growing up. There was an arcade down the back stairs of the store, but I was younger and not allowed to hang out there(plus there was an old man for "security" to make sure no one loitered if they had no money). I usually could go down and look but never got to play. Anyhow, when the Mortal Kombat II machine arrived there, look out! It was the talk of the school, and there would be small lines forming waiting to play it. It wasn't long after that the arcade closed up-it never got to see the first generation of polygon fighters like Virtua Fighter.

At this time Aladdin's Castle arcades were big in all the malls. I remember that they would always showcase a game on a larger screen("larger" would be considered small these days but it was the first time a game was outside of the cabinet). I think often times it was a Neo-Geo, but I do recall seeing Primal Rage on the larger screen at one point.

Speaking of Primal Rage, the increasing popularity of Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat made fighting games a dominant staple in the arcades. Those games paved the way for Killer Instinct, Primal Rage, and 3D fighters like Tekken and Virtua Fighter. Those games then saw sequels, and Capcom expanded into Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel vs. Capcom, and X-Men vs. Street Fighter. You could walk into an arcade and have a great mix of different fighters to choose from.

Slowly but surely things started to change. The arcade in Ben Franklin disappeared. Aladdin's Castle locations started closing down. Walmart took out the video games in the front of their stores. Home video game systems became more technologically advanced, and so did other types of arcade games. New technology for racing games made the genre gain popularity, and the bigger arcade machines meant other games had to go. Shooters like Virtua Cop and Time Crisis picked up where the Terminator(who doesn't remember the Terminator 2 arcade game?) left off, but with guns that could be held away from the unit.

As technology advanced, simulation games became more popular and companies also realized they could charge a higher price for them. They released everything from skiing to skateboarding to rafting to motorcycle riding at 75 cents to a dollar a pop and people would pay it. This led the way to some arcade outlets accepting cards instead of coins or tokens, meaning people would be able to spend more money a lot easier.

Looking back at my first experience with Street Fighter just shines a brighter light on how video arcades have changed since I was young. I'm not even sure if an "arcade" exists in the classic sense anymore(Gameworks and Dave and Buster's are more than just video games). Well, there is Nickel Alley in the Chicagoland area. Their games take nickels and they have quite a selection of free-to-play arcade games(including greats like The Simpsons arcade game-now they just need to find the X-Men arcade cabinet with all six controllers-who remembers that?). Sometimes you are hard-pressed to walk into a "family entertainment center" these days and find a fighting game. I remember going to the bowling alley in Algonquin when I was a kid and they had SO many different video games packed in the room. Now it's mostly ticket games and a DDR machine. Someone attempted to open an arcade in a strip mall near my house. The place lasted just under a month and closed(I feel bad because I meant to stop in but never did).

And the point isn't to say that arcades were better when I was a kid-I'm just merely pointing out the differences. Just to illustrate my point-to this day I have never seen a Street Fighter IV arcade cabinet in the wild. Where are they hiding them? What does Street Fighter mean to me? It's a reminder of how things have changed in the arcade industry, and at the same time it reminds me of why I fell in love with gaming in the first place.
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  1. Old Comment
    pwnophobia's Avatar
    I never played Street Fighter as a kid and by the time I got around to trying it most of the arcades were closed.

    I play Street Fighter because I love competition and I love researching. I used to spend hours and hours playing WoW's Arena and researching what was best and how I can maximum everything. Now I do the same with SSFIV.
    Posted 04-29-2010 at 12:27 PM by pwnophobia pwnophobia is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Thanks for reading, pwn. I thought of something else but forgot to include it in my original post. When I was younger my magazine of choice was GamePro, and they used to devote at least a few pages to arcade games. Heck, they even included strategy guides for arcade games! I remember when I used to get codes from the magazine to unlock characters in games like Tekken 2. I couldn't wait to until I got at another cabinet to try them out.
    Posted 04-29-2010 at 01:35 PM by BigBPlaya BigBPlaya is offline
  3. Old Comment
    pwnophobia's Avatar
    Going way back...the only magazines I got into were Nintendo Power (who wasn't?) and the Official Playstation Magazine. Shoot I didn't start Tekken till 3 on the PSOne.

    When I try to compare myself to other gamers I quickly come to the realization that I didn't play that many games as a kid. Any games I got I beat the piss out of, even if they were just terrible. Now I get a $60 game, play for 6 hours and trade it in to get another. Funny how times have changed..
    Posted 04-29-2010 at 04:42 PM by pwnophobia pwnophobia is offline

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