Street Fighter 2 Champion Edition is the most important game that ever existed. How is that for a start to a blog post?
To tell you why I have reached this conclusion I need to set the scene a little. I come from a dead coastal town in North East England. The sky is grey, the beaches are pockmarked with decaying industry. I always think of the classic Morrissey song ‘Everyday is like Sunday’ to sum it up perfectly.
Trudging slowly over wet sand
Back to the bench where your clothes were stolen
This is the coastal town
That they forgot to close down
Armageddon, come Armageddon!
Now that is not to say these places do not have appeal. In fact, they ooze character for the same reasons they are vilified. One reason they were so appealing as a child was the seafront arcades. Huge multicoloured lounges with glimmers of falling coins, chiming bells and CRT screens spewing forth colour. All paisley carpets indented with cigarette burns and chewing gum.
The Street Fighter Arcade Cabinet
It was in one of these places I got my first taste of Street Fighter II. I can even remember walking in and seeing it, perched on an angle next to WWF Wrestlefest. It was glorious. Technicolour world warriors on backdrops that looked like places I had only seen in my encyclopaedias. Indian Yogi’s in front of Buddhist statues. An American G.I. getting beat up by a tiny Chinese girl in front of a casino. It was everything I imagined the world to be.
And so it started. My allocated spend from my Dad stopped going on the Grand National horse racing game and was pushed into this grey flecked arcade cabinet. I could usually get two plays on it and then I would have to stand and watch others. I enjoyed it just as much as playing myself.
The Obsession with Street Fighter
I became so obsessed I had to beg my parents to take us on days off, which were few and far between. I came to be pretty good with the masked guy who had a claw and I really liked how he bounded around off walls and the side of the screen. His arrogant comments made me think he was a true villain and endeared me to him a lot.
The next step in my addiction was finding a Street Fighter comic in the local newsagent. It was a British company reprinting the Japanese strips and this fuelled my insatiable appetite even further. Having a backstory to the characters just made the whole thing worse.
It was inevitable that a home console version was a must have. Christmas was on the way, I had my list written out. I was sure that it was bound to come.
It didn’t. My parents were excellent and if we wanted something at Christmas they would usually work super hard to get us that item. We were not spoilt and my parents were far from rich, in fact they were pretty penniless but that was because they never wanted us to go without. So I have no idea why Street Fighter did not arrive that year. It is possible the shops may have sold out, I don’t know. But I knew I had to have it at all costs.
What I did get was a radio that allowed you to listen to emergency service frequencies. It was really cool, letting you listen to police, aircraft and such forth. However, it was not functioning fully. So my parents took it back and I had a choice. Either a refund or wait for another to come in.
I feel really bad about this because it was a present my parents obviously thought I would love and adore, which I would have done had I not got Street Fighter fog over my eyes. The gift was refunded and with the money I had got from family, Street Fighter 2 Champion Edition was purchased. My parents looked really disappointed and I can still remember their faces. But Street Fighter 2 Champion Edition was mine.
And so I never stopped playing. It was rather annoying when my friend turned up six months later with four extra characters on his version. But I only really liked Cammy anyway so it did not matter that much. I had a three button Mega Drive controller, so had to flip start buttons to change to kick. My Dad could pull off yoga teleports and spinning pile drivers, but only by chance. After a few months I was pretty unbeatable.
Handsome Fighters Never Lose Battles
Much later, in my university years, I was out with my brother in a club. I was drunk. Very drunk. In the corner was a Street Fighter machine. People had lined up and one bloke had been on for ages, doing Ryu combos and probably claiming a few pints for it. I waddled up to the machine, barely able to see and pushed my way to the front. “He is pretty good” my brother said to the guy. He laughed. I won by a perfect.
As an adult, I still play this game on an almost daily basis. Me and friend get a crate of beer, drink it and play Street Fighter until our thumbs are blistered and we are so drunk we can not see the screen anymore. It is how I unwind. My Vega days are over and for some reason I am better with Ryu. I like to think it is me becoming a more rounded individual.
It still remains the most important game that ever existed. No game will ever have that influence over me again. Yes, others are crucial and I enjoy them. Golden axe is pretty high on the list, as is GTA Vice City, but none of them have stuck with me my whole life. I was playing this game at 8 years old and I am still playing it now. As games like Red Dead unwind and become uncontrollably big, the simplicity of 2D beat em ups is something that should be treasured. That is why Street Fighter 2 Champion Edition is the most important game that ever existed.