I distinctly remember the first time I stood in front of a Super Street Fighter 2 arcade machine in Dubai. I remember Ryu walking towards me from the darkness, he and his karate outfit bobbing up and down at different steps, flashes of lightning and thunder bringing him out of the darkness, currents rippling over his arms. He’d pull his hands back and tiny balls of electricity would gather in his palms and he’d push the azure energy towards me. Up until that moment I had only read about the game in magazines, so I happily watched that intro over and over again.
My fondest memories of the Street Fighter series is in arcades, and it all started with Super Street Fighter 2. My brother Sharad and I loved our visits to Dubai because it meant going to the arcades with our cousins Jaideep and Priya. In the car on the way back from playing Super Street Fighter 2 we’d argue about the “New Challengers”, probably boring whichever parent was saddled with picking us up that evening. Priya liked DeeJay’s machine gun punch. Jaideep liked T. Hawk’s size and reach, and Sharad and I were surprised that they didn’t immediately throw their support behind Fei-Long, the unabashed Bruce Lee clone. None of us had much to say about Cammy, the “other” Street Fighter girl.
Sharad and I eventually got Super Street Fighter 2 on the Genesis, and our video game rivalry took off. We rarely played against each other at the arcades. We were both dealing with a limited number of coins, so the only times we slipped some money in and pressed start to challenge each other was when one of us was about to lose a bout. We didn’t have to worry about that when we got the game ourselves.
We found we were both most effective with the title character Ryu. I had more fun playing with Ken, but against Sharad, Ken’s fancy combos and fiery special effects were no use against Ryu’s raw power. When we played elimination mode against each other, we experimented with the other characters. Sharad relished in Chun Li’s Kung Fu, and I learnt how to beat every character he dared use against me with M. Bison (well; every character except Ryu that is). The game also had a tournament mode where eight players could fight their way to the top. It was the perfect thing to sit around and play when four or more other kids came over.
Super Street Fighter 2 was the only Street Fighter game we owned at home, so when Street Fighter Alpha came out, Sharad and I were back at the Arcade. He continued to perfect Ryu by mastering the double joystick motion needed for super moves. I experimented with Akuma so I could do air fireballs and the QP, QP, F, QK, FP, just showing off Demon Rage move.
Then came the crossover series with Marvel which blew away all my childhood expectations of pop culture. Gambit and Ken in the same game? And you could play with both of them against Sabretooth and Zangief! – It was a dream I never had – come true! I hope to never find out how much money I spent with Rogue as one of my characters just so I could steal Akuma’s power with a kiss, mess around till my power bar was at max, and then do his own demon move against him. Sharad left for college right around this time so my journey with this new crossover series was more solitary, though we did play against each other when he visited and we went to Arcades. I stuck with the series until well after I left for college two years after he did. I beat down Cyber Akuma from Marvel vs. Street Fighter, and found my rhythm against Marvel vs. Capcom’s Onslaught, who is my all-time favorite boss to fight against in any fighting game series.
When Marvel vs. Capcom 2 came out I was starting to feel like this was no longer my game. It was fun to play as Cable, but the 3 on 3 gameplay, pop in special moves, and colorful extra special moves against colorful backgrounds became too much for me. I still bought Marvel vs. Capcom 3 when I got an Xbox 360, though I no longer own it. It was fun enough, but I truly resented the excessive amount of flashing lights that required the game to start with a safety warning. There is something absolutely ridiculous about a game that needs to start with a warning for sufferers of epilepsy.
I now own and play Super Street Fighter 4 Ultra edition. It’s mostly the same game with a lot more anime-style action special effects. I certainly miss the elimination and tournament modes and don’t understand why they are not a part of this game. I wonder if the newer and younger generation of Street Fighter players enjoy the added visual features and sound effect’s which I’ve outgrown. Ultimately, it is one of those game series that was more special to grow up with.
Street Fighter got away with a lot more back then, too. If an Indian character was introduced in a game nowadays with shrunken skulls around his neck, breathing fire because of all the curry he eats, and being Mr. Fantastic because he practiced Yoga; he would be the poster child of ignorance and racism. But what Indian didn’t have a soft spot for Dhalsim back in the day? Few people in my game circles played with him, but he was still an Indian who could hold his own against the other champions of the world. Part of the charm of the Street Fighter series was its global cast of characters, a phenomenon which has become a staple of all fighting video games. If you happened to be from Brazil, India, Britain or Russia – it was nice to see yourself represented, especially when you were too young to care that that representation was through someone, monstrous, freakish, slutty or brutish. As an adult, the shoddy and repetitive storytelling motif is best ignored and it’s hard for me not to resent the series when every new woman added is sluttier than the last.
Having said all that; I’m still always curious to see what the next game in the series will look like. I will always want to challenge my brother to a match, and I will never forget what the hadoken stance looks like.