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StreetFighter 2 by cyke Written on 13th September 2001

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Ken demonstrates the Dragon Punch
One day, StreetFighter 2 arrived. No wait, that doesn't do it justice.

One day, Streetfighter exploded on the scene, gutted and destroyed other arcade machines, then stood tall upon their burnt out shells while screaming " Fuck y'all, who's the man ?" while grabbing it's crotch.


Arcades owners everywhere saw their profits skyrocket overnight, and us gamers were guaranteed a twenty minute wait to get your sweaty palms on the bloody thing. Even then it was only likely to be in a 2 player battle. In fact, there was a good 9 month period when it was so popular that on weekends and after school there would be constant two player battles, winner stays on. There would be a steady flow of credits feeding the machine, and skilled players could stay on for a dozen or so battles before a loss would force them off. At the going rate of 20p a credit and defeated challengers lasting under 2 minutes it was an expensive habit for most teenagers, and the war of attrition against your pocket money was lost quickly by many.

Cries of encouragement would be shouted at players battling to get a win and advice and opinion would flow thick and fast. Losers would check they had money ready and stand prepared to jump on again at the earliest opportunity, all the while analysing what they did wrong and formulating new strategies and watching the current players techniques intently. The game was all that mattered. Everyone knew their place in the queue and no-one would have dared attempt to get on before their fair opportunity.

Make no mistake about it, Streetfighter 2 changed everything. For example, never before had we had to do the unusual joystick & button combinations to perform moves like the Dragon Punch and Whirlwind Kick. These occassionally complicated motions are everywhere now, but then...sheesh. Could we do the damned things ? No. In fact , we couldn't even work them out !

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Oh no it's the Electric Shock attack, stay clear Chun Li !
It was like forbidden knowledge. This is hard to believe folks, but we used to watch the chosen few who could do the moves and still couldn't work out how the hell they did the Dragon Punch. After all , it's a quick circular motion, practically quicker than the human eye can catch. It was staggerring to watch as someone did a dozen Dragon Punches in a row as you watched their controller handwork and still not have a damned clue as to what they were doing. You felt ignorant before a master craftsman at work. Any idiot could press the kick button to kick, and we did, but we all aspired to be skilled in the forbidden knowledge.

It was literally months before we, the blind majority, learnt how to perform these now-legendary moves. American gaming magazines like C&VG would bring out entire special edition best selling magazines detailing the characters, their bios, moves, best combinations etc. Plainly stated, mastery of the Dragon Punch was as impressive a skill to have as being able to pull women at that age. It meant you were a tier above the rest of your combatants, you stood out and could expect people to bother you asking for advice.

You were the local "Top Gun", and the one people would run to when a new kid entered the arcade and bragged he could take on all comers and win. It was gun slinging and duels at sunrise, 20th century style.

The plot of the game by modern standards is fairly cliched stuff. A group of elite warriors battle to see who is the greatest. They all have their own motivations and reasons for battling, and their own array of fighting styles and special moves.

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Bonus round, spank that car
Some of the characters were carried on from the original Street Fighter game, which was a fairly sub-average beat em up. In the original the controls were bad, the gameplay a little shoddy. You couldn't have guessed it would be worth Capcom's while even making a sequel, let alone the runaway success it became. But Ryu and Ken were born there, with their "Dragon Ball" abilities. Sagat too (Ryu's nemesis), only in the sequel he was carrying a large scar on his chest from Ryu's Dragon Punch.

Looking back, I ask myself, "Why did StreetFighter change the face of arcade gaming forever?"

Well, there was something pure about the game. You went in there and tried to beat the other guy into a quivering mess. No powerups, movies, apologies or doubts about it. You were there for only one reason.

Also, the learning curve. It took time to learn a fighters strengths and weaknesses, his special moves, how best to attack and defend, how to adapt your moves to your opponents style, and be able to use your character to his best. And then you had to learn the many other characters you could play. Most people had about 3 fighters they were very strong with, and would choose to play the one which suited their mood best, or perhaps to surprise a challenger. Fighting an agile opponent like Vega would be vastly different to fighting Eddie Honda, and no generic attack pattern or assault could work on all foes.

StreetFighter 2 also had a fighter to suit all skill levels. Newcomers would likely use Eddie Honda, Blanka or perhaps Chun Li. Their special moves were executed by simply rapidly pressing one button, like Eddies 100 hand slap. Being able to do damage with these moves was a confidence builder, and by taking on one trickier move at a time you could slowly build up confidence in your arsenal of moves . Fighters like Ryu, Vega and Sagat had harder to execute moves but the related raise in esteem in the eyes of your peers made the time and practive invested in their attainment worthwhile.

Certainly, the characters were people you could care about. Each fighter was a well-rounded thought out person. There were no shallow lightweight characters thrown into make up the numbers. Ryu for example was a lone figure, a man who lived for the fight itself and has no interest in acclaim or prizes. Zangief was a russian who wrestled with bears to build strength and wanted to represent the power and might of Russia to the world. Even the beast Blanka was fighting as a means to search the world and find out who he was. It's a testiment to the characters that they have endured so strongly to date and have appeared in many formats including movies, comic books, action figures etc.

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The sacred altar
But we might well ask, "What was StreetFighter 2's lasting impact?"

Endless sequels by Capcom. Unfortunately. For two solid years after SF2, we begged and demanded for a SF3. It just never happened. Capcom themselves seemed to have been caught sleeping by the success of SF2 and were initially reluctant to release anything that might spoil the glory. Slowly at first, they found the nerve to create slight variants, a few extra fighters, the ability to block in mid-air, combo moves, super special moves etc etc. Bit by bit they did the minimum required to keep up with the growing amount of clone fighting games being made by their competitiors. Sadly it got badly out of control and there are now more variants for more formats than I could care about. None matched the original for impact or originality. Frankly, Capcom have got one of the most recogniseable video game brands in the world with Street Fighter but they seem unable or unwilling to actually live up to it's legacy.

We eventually got a SF3 sometime around 2000. The fact I can't be bothered looking up the date tells you how much I care. It was at least 6 years too late. It was the cowards way out by Capcom, seemingly so scared by the sucess of SF2 that they eternally seemed to feel that it was wiser to release glorified polishes than to even attempt to take things to the next stage. The franchise continues to be milked for every possible bit of worth.

But, now fighting games were here to stay. So many beat-em-ups, on so many formats owe SF2 a debt of gratitude. All the programmers, artists, designers of all the fighting games need to acknowledge that SF2 made video game fighting into an artform and made sure pixelated violence would always have a place in the hearts of gamers. Fighting games weren't a cornerstone genre for gamers everywhere until SF2 made it so.

From time to time I'll see the latest SF game on the shelves and have a look out of fond memory, but it seems nothing will ever recreate the impact of the original.

In closing, I'd like to say that if your life truly does flash before your eyes immediately prior to death I actually look forward to reliving the SF2 era. A central game in my own personal golden era of gaming and in literally millions I suspect, worldwide.


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