Hadouken! Sonic Boom! Yoga Flame! Perfect!
When I was a tadpole, I was the king of the arcades. There is nothing quite like a large dimly lit room with some fat dude behind the counter, a change machine that converted your dollar bills into quarters or sometimes tokens, and columns and rows of video game cabinets. The dark seedy atmosphere, the arcade groupie chicks, and the smell of prepubescent testosterone filling the arid, dank, and heavy air — nothing like that smell! The smell of fear.
One arcade game blew the doors off of the video game experience and didn’t let us down when it translated to the home gaming console.
Street Fighter 2: The World Champions.
Street Fighter 2 (SF2) is gaming software giant Capcom’s megahit. Capcom boasts between arcade cabinets and video game cartridges they sold around 30 million units.
SF2 was and still is worth the hype that surrounded the game. It broke ground on so many levels as to what a two-person competitive fighting game should be and has had so many copycats.
Firstly, this was the first fighting game that actually was good.
You had eight playable characters to choose from. The fighters all came from different countries and all had a distinctive fighting style, barring Ken and Ryu who had identical moves. In fact, not only did every character have distinctive fighting styles, but they also had unique “special moves” that varied from Chun Li’s rapid fire kicks, E Honda’s barrage of thunderous rapid-fire punches, Blanka’s ability to be surrounded by electricity, and Dhalsm’s ability to shoot fire from his mouth.
Then there was the actual graphics engine that surrounded the game. At the time of the 16 bit video game in the early ’90s, Capcom delivered a vibrant video game with sharp looking characters and fighting areas. The graphics were on point. The battle stages were interesting and certainly appropriate for each of the the video game characters. For example, Guile was an American military guy and he fought on the deck of a battleship air carrier. You saw part of the control tower of the ship and fighter jets, and you even saw part of the ship’s crew cheer on the fight between the two game characters.
Next was the gaming music and sound effects for SF2 that were just memorable in every way. I could hum just about any of the game stage music themes for you. I could also recognize the difference between the sound effect for a light punch, heavy punch, medium kick, or roundhouse kick. Just about any move a character made had a different sound effect that made the game much more enticing and interesting. Characters yelled. Characters made special sounds or uttered phrases when doing special movies. For example, Guile had a special projectile attack and would yell SONIC BOOM every time he performed that move.
At the time, the challenge SF2 brought was staggering. You had to beat seven other characters and then you had to beat four bosses to finally complete the game. Those four bosses, at the time, were not playable, so that was four unique characters with different moves you had to try to overcome with your chosen character. I can still remember the anxiety and nervousness of trying to beat one of the four bosses Sagat the first few times. He is the tallest character in the game and was a huge pain in the ass to beat. He eventually went down, with the help of some quarters out of my pocket. That punk had to go down! Why? Every time Sagat beat you, he would stand over you laugh at you. Those were the days where kids were taught to stand up to bullies.
Lastly, the best part about SF2 was that it was a two-person game. You could play the game by yourself and the opponents were controlled by the computer. If a kid stood next to you, he could put his quarter into the machine and directly challenge you! This is the heart of hardcore gaming! Shit talking and beating your opponent. You have no idea how much shit people would talk to me when playing those games. If you lost, you had more smack talked to you. If there wasn’t a line of people waiting to play, you could try beating that same guy again. If there is a line, you literally had to put your quarter or token up on the video game glass. Think of it like when you get your ticket number in order to wait for the deli guy to serve you.
I put my quarters up, picked Chun Li as my character, and basically whipped the floor with anyone. On occasion I’d lose. But with that little Asian sensation Chun Li, victory was always possible. She was a human wrecking ball on that game and continued to be a beloved character in other Street Fighter incarnations.
Perfect — if you beat someone in a round and took no damage, the computer would say Perfect in a loud booming voice. To be beaten by someone with a Perfect was a huge insult, much akin to someone scoring a Flawless Victory on you in Mortal Kombat. The difference is in Mortal Kombat, a character could rip your character’s spine out in front of you.
Ah, Street Fighter 2! That game made boys, even a few girls, into walking and breathing legends!
Put your quarters up!