This year, Capcom is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the most iconic fighting game series of all time, Street Fighter. It’s odd realizing that the game series is as old as I am, but looking back on my history with franchise, it makes complete sense. I have been playing a Street Fighter game throughout my entire gaming career, and it is undoubtedly one of the most influential gaming series in my life. And yes, that also includes Street Fighter: The Movie.
My first experience with Street Fighter was when I was around seven years old. Every summer, my family would go down to Wildwood Crest, New Jersey for vacation. While my parents and sister looked forward to the beach and pool, I looked forward to two things: the game room of the community we stayed at, and the arcades on the boardwalk. While I loved playing the NES at home, going to an arcade was an exciting time to try new games with these crazy realistic 16 bit graphics. The game room had a cabinet of Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, and as far as I was concerned after playing it the first time, nothing else. I would spend quarter after quarter at that machine, mashing away trying to beat the CPU opponents, and never getting farther than three fights in before having to put in another $.50. There were even times when I was so immersed in the game, I wouldn’t even notice my parents yelling at me that they were leaving. I was hooked. Eventually, I even started to look for machines at the boardwalk arcades. Of course, kids who actually knew how to play monopolized those machines, and whenever I played against someone else, I would tend to lose. It was a frustrating experience, but I always came back for more.
When I first started playing, I mostly stuck with Ryu and Ken. According to my seven-year-old logic, they were clearly the coolest characters because they looked like they did karate (which at the time I was taking as well). Of course, since Ken’s Hurricane Kick hit more times that Ryu’s, he was the better character. Moreover, Ken had that awesome looking rolling throw, so he was clearly stronger. It’s funny to look back at how naive I was; especially now that I’m very interested in the competitive side of the series, but back then I completely thought they were valid arguments. My friends and I would constantly talk about Street Fighter at school, and whenever I went over to a friend’s house, that was all we played. By that point Street Fighter II Turbo had come out for the SNES, so we would crank up the turbo option, and see the world go by in super speed. Matches would get competitive and fierce, as far as two kids randomly mashing buttons could get, but we always had a blast. Sadly, by the time Super Street Fighter II came out, most of my friends had moved on to other games, so I didn’t have many opportunities to play other human opponents. I mostly played the SNES port of Super on my own against the CPU, and oddly enough, never became bored of it. Even with the new characters, I mostly stuck with Ryu and Ken (Ryu had gotten the red fireball, so he was awesome again), and I never thought about trying anyone new. That mindset changed from the most unlikely source: Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game.
Being that I was a stupid kid, I thought Street Fighter: The Movie was the greatest film of all time. I first saw it on television when I was around nine, and watched it over and over since I recorded it. That summer at Wildwood Crest, I was at the boardwalk with one of my cousins. While there, I found a cabinet of Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game, and totally had to play it. I ended up playing as Ryu, while my cousin randomly picked a character and ended up with Cammy. After several games, I couldn’t beat him even once. I was honestly shocked, because I was sure I could have beaten him. Since it couldn’t be me that was at fault, I naturally began to think that Cammy was just a really amazing character. I mean, she must be really good if I couldn’t beat her even once, right? I then started playing as her in the Super series, the Alpha series, and any of the other crossover games she was in. Eighteen years later, she is still the main character I play as. So thank you, Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game. You were undoubtedly the worst game in the entire franchise, but you were also the most important to me.
Since that fateful day, I actually started to take playing more seriously. I researched how to do special moves, figured out what the hell a “combo” was, and became generally more interested in the game beyond “who looked like they could kick ass.” Probably like many others, my first exposure to the competitive scene was with the famous “Daigo Parry” video from EVO 2007 during the Street Fighter III: Third Strike finals, which showed me how exciting top level play can be. In college, my friend Esteban, creator of the Hold Back to Block blog and YouTube series, gave me my proper introduction to tournament play by beating me ten times in a row in Street Fighter IV. This continued throughout college and even up to now, yet despite defeat after crushing defeat, I still haven’t given up, and I can easily say I’ve become a better player. But most importantly, I still have fun grabbing a controller or fight stick and duking it out with friends or even complete strangers. Countless hours have been spent practicing and playing Super Street Fighter IV: AE 2012, and I’m always on the edge of my seat watching top players compete in major tournaments. I’ve expanded my fighting game tastes to other series such as Soul Calibur, Tekken, Marvel vs. Capcom, and most recently Persona 4: Arena, but Street Fighter is still my go-to game. It’s been a great journey; let’s make it 25 years more.