Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
Article by Andy Keener | September 29, 2009
I'm not even sure if my most beloved Street Fighter II memory (and one of my best gaming memories) even happened like I think it did. It was the fall of 1992 or '93, and my family was getting ready to move from Las Cruces, New Mexico, to Colville, Washington. I was in elementary school at the time, and my school was participating in a Pizza Hut-sponsored event that promised kids who read a certain amount of books a free pizza. It was our last day in New Mexico and our entire kitchen was packed up, so my mom ordered some pizza, and I wanted to go with her. When we arrived, our pizzas weren't ready, so we sat and waited. No more than four feet from the bench where we were sitting was a Street Fighter II arcade machine, and I wanted to play so very badly. There was a line of people on one side and one lone gamer on the other side. So I asked my mom for two quarters and got in line. When I made it up to the machine, I could barely reach the buttons, but I played anyway. And I won. In fact, I kept winning. People kept lining up and one after the other, I beat them. Eventually, our pizza was done and my mom whisked me out of there. I told her how awesome I was and how I kept beating all those older guys at Street Fighter; I was beaming with pride.
Several months after this episode, I obtained a copy of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior for Super NES, and believe me, I played the hell out of it. I know I'm not alone. Anybody I've talked to who's played games for more than a decade has very fond memories of spending time with Street Fighter II at some point in their life, either at an arcade or at home. There's a very good reason for that: Street Fighter II is the single most influential (and top selling!) fighting game of all time. An intricate game, it featured six buttons to attack, scores of special moves, and player-versus-player action; the biggest, most important thing about Street Fighter II, though, was its cast of characters. Up until that point, fighting games had featured palette-swapped characters with identical skills. Here was a game in which each character was an individual, outside of Ken and Ryu, with a unique look, a unique story, and most importantly, unique play styles tailored to each character. Again, Ken and Ryu notwithstanding -- but even their similarities are explained in a way that makes sense. Each character had strengths and weaknesses, and the variety in those original eight was so carefully developed that no character was useless. Literally every single character was worthwhile, and in the hands of the right player, could defeat anybody. People very quickly grew fiercely loyal to their character of choice, be it the hairy Russian Zangeif, the spunky Chinese girl Chun-Li, or the American military man Guile. Personally, I played exclusively as Ken because we looked alike... and he's also the best character by far.
Maybe even more important than the choice of characters was the deceptive simplicity of the game, and how easy the action was to remember. Even though it features six attacking buttons and eight directions of motion input, the same few special move inputs would keep popping up. The most popular was, of course, the quarter-circle forward, used for Ryu's hadouken projectile. I stopped playing the game for a decade, yet still I remembered how to fire off a hadouken after all that time.
Through the years, Capcom iterated upon Street Fighter II many, many times. All in all, there are six versions of Street Fighter II -- seven if you count Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix -- and each version has several noticeable differences from the version before it. New characters, faster gameplay, additional super moves, characters that have bee balanced and rebalanced and rebalanced again... and yet, the soul of Street Fighter II has remained intact throughout all those games, 18 years after its original appearance on the scene.
A year ago, I found an original Street Fighter II machine at a run-down arcade, and I had to throw a few quarters in and play a few rounds. I thought back to that day so many years ago in that Pizza Hut, ready to kick some ass. I picked my favorite character and set out to become a world warrior again. Unfortunately, the world did not want me to win, as Chun-Li kicked my ass over and over. It was then that I started wondering how I managed to win so many games against the older guys. I still don't know if I was really winning, or if I kept losing, or if I was actually just pressing buttons while the computer was playing, but I'm not sure it really matters anymore. Street Fighter had its hooks in me, and it would never let go.