Cross Poster II: EX Alpha Plus Gold ~ Dash Turbo ~

You didn’t know it at the time — neither did I! — but the week of December 14, 1987 was quite possibly the single greatest display of creativity the industry has ever witnessed. Not one but three franchises launched that week in Japan, three franchises that would endure two decades and go on to be some of the most beloved series ever made.

In the space of three days, Japanese gamers were introduced to Rockman (aka Mega Man), Final Fantasy and finally Phantasy Star. Sure, we saw some colossal release dates this past autumn, but most of those were sequels (even BioShock, really). But that fateful week 20 years ago was packed with completely new ideas — one a platform/shooter hybrid with an innovative power-up system and a clever chain of enemy weaknesses, one a Japanese take on RPGs offering a more western approach to design than Dragon Quest (thanks in large part to its heavy lifting of elements from CRPGs and Dungeons & Dragons), one a more narrative take on role-playing with a strong female lead.

So this week, we’ve been focusing on the history of… Street Fighter? Yeah, well, we’re awesome like that. Besides, we’ve already done the whole Mega Man thing. And the Final Fantasy thing. And our Phantasy Star retrospective is written, but we’re holding it back a few weeks to help keep you warm in the bitter cold of early January.

And anyway, Street Fighter is timely, what with the whole Street Fighter IV dust-up currently dividing the Internet. Nadia’s done a fine job with parts one and two of her series retrospective, and an amusing look at the best and worst (mostly worst) of the licensed goods the franchise has inspired. I pooled together the bulk of the office’s serious fighting game talent for a very good episode of Retronauts (featuring the best closing theme ever). And then there’s the WTFiction!? article in which I try, perhaps with some degree of futility, to dissect and distill the series’ plotline. I actually did more research for this one than I did for the Resident Evil WTFiction!? — and I’ve never played more than an hour or two of Resident Evil, so I had to work from scratch for that one. But no, I pored over the obvious sources (GameFAQs guides and Wikipedia), studied every last character ending from every game at VG Museum, and then spent a ton of time digging up conversations at places like Shoryuken, MM Cafe and other forums. I figure this article is about as precise as it gets with Capcom explicitly laying out the facts. And concise, too — I left out most of the characters who have no real impact on the story… no slight to the vast-but-irrelevant cast of 3rd Strike intended.

Epic thanks to Gary Lu for making it all Flash-y. I normally hate Flash, but with something like this it’s pretty necessary.

For me, Street Fighter is very specifically Street Fighter II. Yeah, I’ve played them all, but only SF2 was a genuine phenomenon — and its timing coincided perfectly with my high school career. My friends and I spent ridiculous amounts of time hanging out at arcades and pizza parlors refining our fighting techniques; our high school let seniors leave at noon for the final week or two of the school year, and every single day a bunch of us would end up at the Copper Caboose (a local sports bar that doubled as a kid-friendly no-booze arcade during the day) hanging around the Street Fighter cabinets. And, of course, we had the inevitable debates about whether or not Mortal Kombat was superior to SF2; opinions varied, but of course the correct answer was “Ha, not even!”

As the only one in my peer group nerdy enough to have actually paid for a Super NES at launch — my friends didn’t want to shell out, but they were happy to freeload — I officially became the hero of the city in the summer of 1992 when SF2’s home version arrived. This was back in the days of cartridge shortages (it used to be Nintendo games that were impossible to find, not the systems), and SF2 was a bear to track down. And when I did find it, Toys ‘R Us wanted an unbelievable $75 for it. In 2007 money, that is $110. I was lucky enough to have a job that paid $8/hour, twice the minimum wage, but that was still more than a day’s wage.

But I paid it, and definitely got more than my money’s worth if you want to consider how many quarters I would have dropped for the equivalent amount of arcade time. Simply beating the game with Zangief on maximum difficulty (with all the Bison cheesiness that implies) was probably $75 of continues. And if you want to count all the times my freeloading friends would come over to my house to play while I was at work, why, it was a tremendous value! Jerks.

Considering how much the Super NES version cost, though, I felt pretty burned by all the incremental not-quite-a-sequel releases that followed. In fact, by the time the Genesis version arrived I felt I had sort of played the game to death as it was. When Capcom churned out Super Street Fighter II — effectively the same exact game with a handful of new characters — I gave Fei Long and Cammy a try, found them lacking, and called it a day.

Although the legendary Fight of the Fei Longs that I mentioned in the podcast almost made me reconsider my interest in the game.

But no, it wasn’t until the Super NES was on its last legs that Street Fighter rekindled my interest. I had blown off Street Fighter Alpha because at first glance all I saw was Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Sagat and a dude who was basically Guile in orange. The sheer variety of the Alpha 2 roster drew me in, however, and for the last month of my first senior semester in college my roommates and I would spend hours trying to defeat one another with unfamiliar characters. It was right around this time of year, too, so the lull before Christmas often reminds me of those good times. (As good as times can be when you’re renting a crappy house in a Texas winter cold enough that you could walk into the unheated, uninsulated living room in the morning and see your breath in a massive puff of vapor, anyway.)

We never got the hang of Rose or Gen, but I found Sakura startlingly effective — her incorrect mimickry of Ryu’s ansatsuken style made for a fairly unpredictable fighter, since her attacks constantly subverted all your expectations from years of beating up Ken and Ryu. And one my roommates was a deft hand with Adon. In retrospect, sure, the Super NES version dropped frames of animation and suffered, bizarrely, from loading times (presumably because the data had to be crammed onto the cartridge and decompressed before each match). But we didn’t care! We’d ignored the arcade version, we didn’t own a next-gen machine, so it was good enough. We had a crazy good time.

Then my roommate bought Donkey Kong Country 3 and I never spoke to him again.

Naw, just kidding, but his obsession with what looked like the most boring platformer imaginable effectively killed our Street Fighter sessions.

Unfortunately, I never really caught the Street Fighter bug again — I tried getting into Alpha 3 (to the point where I bought all sorts of bizarre controller attachments to turn the D-pad into a hadouken-friendly thumbstick), but my roommates had moved along. And without anyone to compete again, Street Fighter just isn’t as fun. My last girlfriend (hi, Pamela) was ferocious with Chun-Li to the point where I never had a chance of winning… which isn’t much fun for entirely different reasons. Besides, it was always much more entertaining to step back and watch her tear up the Capcom Vs. SNK machine, especially when some cocky college kid would drop in a quarter confident in his ability to beat some stupid girl — only to have his character’s teeth handed to him in a little baggie after two quick rounds.

Once I discovered 3rd Strike, I really started to regret letting my fighting skills lapse — it’s a beautifully animated game with great characters. But then I watched that video of the dude parrying Chun-Li’s blazzilion-kick combo and realized that I will never ever have the dedication necessary to be a competitive fighting game player. Or any game, really. I want a breadth of gaming experiences, not focused mastery of a single title. That jack of all trades thing really crimps my chances of being a tournament contender.

Still, I hope that SF4 works for people like me — casual fans with fond nostalgia for hanging out in arcades 15 years gone by — as well as for the more dedicated players like Richard and Greg. If any fighting game can get me to dust off that arcade stick, it’ll be this one. We’ll see, I suppose. But at least I’ll always have my memories, right? (Until I go senile, anyway.)

9 thoughts on “Cross Poster II: EX Alpha Plus Gold ~ Dash Turbo ~

  1. That video of that parry madness was absolutely insane. And to think, I can’t reliably pull out a parry, at all. And I love SF3… wtf?

  2. For me, Street Fighter is very specifically Street Fighter II.

    This is the right answer, people.

    I also caught the Street Fighter bug. I even got into the various lesser fighters also rising during the early 90s (Virtua Fighter, MK and Neo-Geo something-or-other), but not as much. I remember the exact moment I would sware off fighters forever: I was playing some SFII spin-off, initially irked because this had been like the 10th game with Street Fighter II in its title to that point. As derivative as the names were, I’ve seen glaciers that moved around more than the gameplay. I didn’t see any significant difference in gameplay since 1991, and hell, I still can’t tell the difference, but that’s most probably because I don’t care. It was at that point I decided fighters weren’t for me (that and the fact I kinda suck at ’em), so I stayed away. Until Smash Bros. (sorry Mr. Parish)

  3. “…so I stayed away. Until Smash Bros. (sorry Mr. Parish)”

    Sorry Mr. Parish? No…sorry Baby Jesus.

  4. <Fanboy disclaimer: former arcade regular in college (1999-2003) and lurker.>

    First, a little trivia: Ryu/Ken are considered in the bottom half of characters in the original Street Fighter 2, but both are considered in the top half in Street Fighter 2 Turbo: Hyper Fighting (many consider Ryu #1). M. Bison (final boss dictator guy, for those of you using the Japanese names) was considered #1 in Champion Edition, but a candidate for last place in Turbo: Hyper Fighting. I’ll note that the reasons for this are probably only relevant if you’re a true fighting game junkie.


    The real question I wanted to ask is this: how many of you play(ed) with the no-throwing house rule? I know back in the days of original Street Fighter 2, it seemed like nobody really threw, but as time went by, it wasn’t taboo anymore (in arcades). I’m wondering if this is a function of people warming up to throws enough that they didn’t label them as cheap, or a function of the arcade population being culled of the non-hardcore. As a rule, if I’m at a house or apartment and we decide to pop in some version of Street Fighter, and some of the guys there I’ve never played fighting games with before, I either ask up front if throwing is OK or try to not use throws until I get thrown first. Is no-throwing still alive and well among the casual fighting game crowd?

  5. As a rule, I happily threw the computer at every opportunity, but always tried not to do it to human opponents (although that was difficult at times with Chun-Li in the original SFII, since the controls seemed almost rigged to make you throw, sometimes even in the air). The exception: if someone was totally stomping me, I had no remorse about taking advantage of any opening. I subscribe to the Anything-Goes School of Martial Arts.

  6. Being my older brother’s whipping boy on the SNES version of II, I never had much say in the matter of “house rules”. Since he could always just slap the controller out of my hand when he was losing, he never saw fit to forbid anything in particular. By the time I got to play real human beings, the conflict was over.

  7. Nice long one here. I liked it. And I consider a Phantasy Star feature something to get excited about!

    I remember when I was about six years old, I’d go over to my neighbor’s house with my brother and watch them play SF2. I don’t remember it much at all, and I never got to play, but that was the only contact I had with the game at the time. I definitely didn’t realize how big it was until much, much later. I played it for the first time just a couple years ago, trying to introduce myself to the genre.

    “I will never ever have the dedication necessary to be a competitive fighting game player. Or any game, really. I want a breadth of gaming experiences, not focused mastery of a single title. That jack of all trades thing really crimps my chances of being a tournament contender.”
    is something I have long since realized about myself as well. But I think all it takes to enjoy a good fighting game is someone close to your level who you can have fun trading blows with. I’ve logged well over a hundred hours on Senko no Ronde, both learning the game (and I’m counting internet matches with strangers in this) and playing against a friend of mine who is only a little better than me on average.

    Essentially, I think that for SF4 to become another strong point for casual fighters may be a bit of a Catch-22. Even with a simplified system, it can only hope to appeal to casual players for a relatively long term if they can get their friends into it. But that’s exactly why if anyone can do it, Capcom can with Street Fighter. It’s a familiar name to a lot of people.

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