My first experience playing Street Fighter 2 wasn’t on the SNES, or in the arcades. No, it was on the Mega Drive (the Champion Edition). For a solid year after its release on the SNES I never played it. Twas a thing of wonder, especially being a Master System owner and avid reader of Sega Power.
The advert was amazing, I still have this image of a recoiling Blanka in my mind which still brings a smile to my face (his mum wouldn’t be impressed…). I watched it being played in the arcades (wasn’t allowed to go in) and on TV shows like Gamesmaster. I couldn’t believe that such a thing could be owned at home that wasn’t inexplicably overpriced (like the Neo Geo). Sega Power initially reported that the Mega Drive couldn’t handle SF2. It took a 24 Megabit cartridge and the invention of a Mega Drive six-button joypad for it to be realised, but my oh my was it worth the wait! A friend of mine from primary school got it and I was immediately round there to check it out. Even lumbered with a normal control pad and having to press select to switch between punch and kick, it was unbelievable. I think I spent the whole day there, my friend’s brother getting us some Fruit Tella for sustenance.
The evolution of SF2 is a strange and wonderful thing. I’ve never known a solitary game (forget the sequels) to have so many incarnations and such a following. Thousands still download it on the Microsoft and Nintendo networks for play on next gen consoles. I reckon I’ve been exposed to around ten versions of it and bar the NES version, they’ve all been great. That’s including the Master System version!
The original incarnation in the arcades was “The World Warrior” and was credited with kickstarting a plethora of titles of the same genre – I can name Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting and Virtua Fighter just off the top of my head. Just as the title was going to the SNES and various home computers, Capcom then released the Champion Edition, allowing you to play as the four bosses. Woof. I’ve waxed lyrical about the SNES version but one which I didn’t expect to be any good was the Amiga version which runs on an A500+ (that’s 1MB of ram) and without the tack-ons that are possible with a cartridge, but it’s great! Given it’s a lot less colourful than the SNES version and you only have one kick and one punch button (possibly more with using the keyboard? I forget…) but it’s just as fluid and playable. Capcom’s versatility across the platforms cannot be understated and although certain third parties have assisted (TecToy and er, Yoko Soft) SF2’s integrity remains intact.
By the time the Champion Edition arrived on the Mega Drive, Capcom had already released the Hyper Edition (Champion plus extra speeds) for the SNES which turned out to be so popular it actually came as a bundled title with the console for a while. Capcom then packaged the “Hyper” section on the same Mega Drive cart, genius! So MD owners were able to enjoy a port of the original Champ edition and the quicker (set your own speed) Hyper Edition, phwooaaaar. The release of Fatal Fury on the MD should have been a much celebrated thing (I think it’s great) but SF2 and the hype surrounding it, ruled.
And then there was Super Street Fighter 2, which I didn’t embrace myself but was a solid extension to the SF2 license in the arcades and on the 16-bit.
What made SF2 so special? There’s a whole load of things but for me, the cheer pickupability (yes I’ve just made that word up) of it made it difficult to put away. Button mashers and more calculated gamers alike were able to pick it up, enjoy it for a while, then put it back down. Then pick it up again. With the Hyper Edition, that’s twelve different approaches and twelve different ways you can win the game – choosing different characters when you saw fit. You might not get on with Guile one day, so why not try smashing it (quite literally) with E Honda the next? This subtle variation in the special moves pandered to different types of gamers also. With Ryu and Ken, players can be more reactive as their moves can be pulled off quickly and effortlessly. Whereas with Guile and Blanka, you’d need to think a few moves ahead (more like a chess player) as their moves (mostly) need charging for a few seconds. For the button mashers, Vega or Chun Li are perfect, many a time I’ve wanted to throttle a friend who beat me simply by bouncing around as fast as they can and doing annoying sliding moves. The more I think about it, the more obvious SF2’s allure becomes. And I haven’t even mentioned the bonus stages yet, don’t think I’ll ever get fed up of smashing that car.
Ryu and Ken are cool, end of story. Memories of a graphic novel, possibly a comic vaguely come to mind, but despite that, these two characters are the epitome of cool. Ken in his garish Ferrari red-esque red Gi and Ryu in his classic understated white – muscles rippling with a death stare. Too. Cool. For. School. I think Capcom ruined it in the later SF4, their tiny heads on ridiculous bodies make them look like the goombas from the Super Mario film. Ryu or Ken? Ken for me, mainly because I like Ferrari red. I’ve never known a game to make two identical character sets (bar the difference in their strong throws, they’re identical) work so well as two different characters. Although Midway have tried it in the Mortal Kombat series with varying degrees of success (camp robot anyone?). There are myths that Ken is quicker and that Ryu hits harder but we’ve run extensive tests here at AA (we love a good test we do) and they’re the same. I can’t account for the Ryu myth but the Ken quickness could be explained by the brighter colours and less detail of the Gi which creates an optical illusion of sorts. Anyway, like every boy at school has a favourite football team, every boy (or girl) also has his/her favourite character. Which brings me nicely to…
Cosplay. Street Fighter 2 is also great as it traverses the sexes. Even though the girls at high school didn’t say it out loud (aloud?), there’s guaranteed to be a few female SF2 fans there. On a recent trip to Tokyo (which you can read about here) I saw a few magazines/posters advertising Cosplay events. Boys, we all wanted to meet Chun Li in the 90s yes? Google “Street Fighter 2 cosplay” and thank me later, as there were clearly girls in the 90s who wanted to be Chun Li. My, did she kick some of the proverbial. Scores of Japanese girls still play SF2 and its derivatives, when you can find them in amongst all the RPG and rhythm games.
Capcom discovered gold and they (justifiably) rinsed it for all it was worth. You can still find the original arcade machines now. I found an interesting version of the Champion edition earlier this year, whereby you could only play as the character’s third (I think) colour. It was a treat to control brown Guile (oo er) with the original left-hand joystick and right-hand buttons combo, although I think I made it to fight three before I ran out of 50p coins. What I wouldn’t give to have one of those machines! Er, replicas are going for £1400 and originals upwards of £5000 if anyone wants to get us an early Christmas present…
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