Street Fighter II Still Eludes Me 30 Years On

Street Fighter II Still Eludes Me 30 Years On

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Richard Walker

As Street Fighter II turned the ripe old age of 30 on 6th February, a thousand memories have recently come flooding back. Smoke-filled snooker clubs where my dad would furnish me with stacks of coins to pump into the grimy SF II machine. Playground excitement at the prospect of the new Super Street Fighter II with its four new characters (Fei Long! Cammy! T. Hawk! Dee Jay!). Desperately wanting to own a copy of the game to play at home, any time I please. And it was this latter dream that seemed upsettingly out of reach for a very long time.

In primary school, I can remember being the only kid who didn't own a games console or a computer of any kind. This meant that any visit to a beachside arcade was a priceless few minutes snatched during a family holiday – one painful memory involves being physically torn away from a Final Fight arcade cabinet by my dad, while in the middle of the Sodom boss fight. That was a tragically lost 20 pence that seemed so much more valuable at the time. During my misspent youth in amusement arcades, finding one with a Street Fighter II cabinet was the holy grail, especially an official Capcom one, as illegal versions of the game were rife.

Street Fighter II: Black Belt Edition was a commonly-found version that nonetheless granted me access to Capcom's seminal, genre-defining fighting game, normally at around 10 pence a pop, and often, I'd fall afoul of E. Honda's moving hundred-hand slap or Blanka's electric thunder that he could also perform while strolling forward. It was interesting to discover that some of these moves included in the illegal version of SF II would eventually turn up in subsequent editions of the game, like Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, which also increased the game's speed after a Capcom employee played the Black Belt Edition (aka the Rainbow Edition).

Thankfully, moves like Ryu's double fireball didn't make the cut, and Ken’s wild forward dragon punch was massively toned down, but the illegal Black Belt Edition nonetheless holds a special place in my heart, by virtue of being a bare-faced rip-off with silly additional moves, if nothing else. Without it, some family getaways would have been utterly unbearable, too. Street Fighter II offered an escape from gloomy rain-soaked shorelines, frothing with sewage; and a respite from horrible seaside entertainment like club singers – the kind endlessly lampooned in comedy films and TV shows. Were it not for the power of the hadouken, spinning bird kick, or the psycho crusher, miserable UK holidays I had as a child would have driven me to despair.

Naturally, this resulted in a desperate desire to own a home version of Street Fighter II, which at the time was confined to the stylish light grey carcass of the Super Nintendo (the SNES/Super Famicom version debuted in June 1992). As a SEGA Mega Drive owner unable to afford a SNES, a few precious minutes at a friend's house were all I could get, before Capcom announced a Mega Drive port of the Champion Edition, which would fail to materialise in its recognisable guise. Instead, SEGA owners ended up with the unique Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition, which folded in elements of SF II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, with a plethora of options – it was sublime, even taking the inferior audio into account.

It was also bloody expensive, meaning I had to wait to buy it pre-owned, trading in Mickey & Donald in The World of Illusion to whittle the cost down from £60 to a slightly more palatable £30. Of course, it was all worth it, despite the Mega Drive's three-button controller requiring you to hit the start (pause) button to toggle between punches and kicks. (The six-button controller that eventually released ended up heaping on even more expense – I ended up settling for a cheap knock-off ‘six botton’ controller called a ‘Fighting Putt’, as I strived to get as close to the arcade experience as I could). Over the months and years, my obsession with Street Fighter II grew to monstrous proportions that had me doodling characters on school books, writing 'Street Figter II on my pencil case, before I noticed the typo and got upset that I'd ruined it.

To this day, a quarter-roll of a d-pad or the zig-zag motion required to pull off a dragon punch remains embedded in my very being, coiled into my DNA. Few games continue to hold such a high level of emotional sway or have managed to weather bad films, like the 1994 Van Damme misfire, Street Fighter: The Movie. Eight-year-old me had been playing Street Fighter II in its various guises for years before I could enjoy the Special Champion Edition in 1993, at which point I'd turned eleven. It was a long, long wait, but ultimately it proved worthwhile, informing my ongoing relationship with Street Fighter II and the genre it popularised and came to define. Thirty years on, I no longer need to look for Street Fighter II in an arcade - I own it a dozen times over now - but, at heart, I’ll always be a kid searching for that elusive cabinet. One day, I tell myself, I’ll go home and be a family man.

Comments
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  • I have tons of pieces like this. Reminiscing on the zeitgeist of the day and how you somehow fell through the cracks.
  • I remember the weekend I was suppose to get a 6-button Sega Controller. I rented Street Fighter, had it all setup in a hotel room. Ready and Waiting. Then my constant disappointment of a mother spent all her money on alcohol instead of my birthday present.
  • Great article. Happy 30th SF II.

    I wouldn't say the game still eludes me, more that
    I get in & out of fascination with it over the decades.

    SF V not appearing on the Xbox means I haven't opened
    my PS4 disc. Maybe this month's the time...
  • Lol, the article, Rich.

    Still remember my first Street Fighter II arcade machine match. Still remember selling my NES to put the money towards a SNES Street Fighter II bundle.

    It's a shame more people don't give fighting games a proper chance. You're not going to learn how to play one in a day but you'll find a character you like and become familiar with their basic attacks and specials in a week.

    Not much hope that Street Fighter VI will come to Xbox but you never know.
  • Sigh..

    "Lol, nice article, Rich." was what I meant to say.
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