1991 Greats #01 – STREET FIGHTER II

Year: 1991
Platform: Arcade  (and a billion ports)
Developer: Capcom Co.
Genre: Fighting vs.

It’s one of the most important games in Videogame history.  It’s 1991 and arcade’s have been facing steady decline for years.  The whiz-bang newness of the early 80’s is long-gone, and arcade games face stiff competition from computer games, home consoles and more.  The rise of Nintendo meant the slow death of the arcade scene.  Until its savior arrived in the form of a multi-button bonanza of fighting styles and distinct characters – Street Fighter II.

SF2-screen2Some people had actually played the original Street Fighter, so the “II” in the title wasn’t a complete shocker.  But the gimmicky first game (with large buttons you actually slammed harder in order to hit harder) had flawed play mechanics, and never really caught on.  But Street Fighter II was a fine-tuned machine, with well-balanced gameplay, great sound effects & music.  You might just make a case for it as one of the best sequels of all time!

Street Fighter 2 is an undisputed heavyweight in gaming history, percolating throughout the culture and entrenching itself firmly into our collective consciousness.  The various characters have become mainstays… featured in movies, sketches, cartoon shows, and many sequels and spinoffs.  In fact, I’d be downright shocked if you (reading this) didn’t have some knowledge, history or personal stories about Street Fighter 2.

So much has been written over the years about Street Fighter 2 and its many sequels, so I won’t go into great depth. But each character in the game had their own story, identity, fighting style, and special moves.  They also had their own game ending to discover which was no easy task going up against the diabolical final four boss characters.  SF2 all but established the genre of vs. Fighting games… with the best 2 out of 3 match style, head-to-head competition, the energy bar, combo possibilities, and the array of fighting styles, attacks, throws, and multi-button/joystick special moves.

SF2-screen3I was never more confused in the arcade when first trying to do a half-circle forward punch to throw Ryu’s fireball in the midst of chaotic combat — and yet, once learned it was these very complex moves that became the basis for almost every fighting game since.  It’s these special moves and split-second timing that allows skill level to be a true factor in winning matches.

One of the absolute genius elements of Street Fighter 2 was the “join anytime” head-to-head mode,  I remember the feeling of terror trying to learn the SF2 moves and some dude walks up, pops in his quarter, and up flashes the “NEW CHALLENGER” arrival message.  No! It’s do-or-die time!  See ya quarter!

My skills as an SF2 player grew rapidly when we brought home a “Super Gun” from Hong Kong, and an SF2 motherboard.  I learned all eight characters equally well, and even learned the special Guile glitches – although I don’t recommend the Guile Blackout in the arcade, where you both lose your quarters instantly!  After all that training… I once played for over 30 minutes with Dhalsim – defeating challenger after challenger in a local college hangout.  They were none to happy.

The April Fool’s “Sheng Long” joke is all but legendary in the video game world, and I was one of the many who attempted the impossible.  Luckily my pockets were not deep, or they might have been emptied on this hoax.

So because of these stories and many more like it… for the inspiration of a new genre, and a new reason to go to arcades… for setting the bar so high in playability, replay value, story, timing, sound, and fun…   Street Fighter II is undoubtedly a Videogame Great.  Perhaps even my most favorite game of all time.

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