Tag Archives: Street Fighter II

Street Fighter II

Reflecting on Street Fighter II and arcade ass-kickings

Every summer, as warm weather settles over New York City, newscasters report that violence and crime escalate as the mercury rises. One doctor is likely to state that the high heat indexes are the direct cause of the unruliness; another equally qualified physician is likely to contradict that statement by explaining that people are simply outdoors longer in the summer, thus upping the chance of a confrontation. Regardless, if you were in the New York City arcade scene between 1991 and 1999, you either witnessed, dished out, or received an ass-kicking. As a frequent visitor of nearly every major arcade in New York City during those years, I experienced all three aspects of the phenomena. And Street Fighter II was very often the cause of those ass-kickings almost every  time.

Street Fighter II‘s very premise encourages rising tensions. You control a fighter, and have to beat up the competition to keep your quarter alive.  No matter if you lasted one minute or rattled of 10+ victories in a row, there was always something to boast about. If you got served, you could always boast to your “cheeser”  opponent that your six-hit combo was better than anything that he would’ve dreamed of doing.  If you bodied your opponent, well, that speaks for itself. The typical arcade rat didn’t pose any danger during those mouth-off moments, but if you were playing one of the arcade goons (every game room had at least two), you probably got a knuckle massage against your will.

I remember my first arcade beat down—unfortunately,  I was on the receiving end. I had just finished waxing some cigarette-inhaling punk using Guile’s infamous Jumping Fierce > Standing Fierce > Sonic Boom> Backfist mega-combo in the original Street Fighter II.  The leather-clad bastard got pissed and blew smoke in my face, as he couldn’t handle such a devastating defeat. I, naturally, told the scrub to step off and awaited the next challenger.

What came next was a thunder-clap of pain so severe that I hadn’t felt anything comparable until I ripped my pec in a freak martial arts accident years later. My jaw felt as though it was struck by Mjolnir itself, and my ears rang with as one with tinnitus. It’s hard to say exactly when I recovered from the Fist from Hell, but my most immediate memory was of my homie Abe wiping blood from my lip with a handful of tissue. Was this the price to pay for kicking ass in Street Fighter II?

Yes, apparently. I still get ribbed by the boys for catching such a bad one, but I wear my beat down with pride. Not only did I whip my opponent in-game, but I mentally pushed him to the point of a physical altercation. I owned him.

Kids these day don’t risk a punch in the face with the Xbox Lives and PlayStation Networks providing safe haven for all manner of smack-talkers. But back in the 1990s, mouthing off and Street Fighter II just didn’t mix. Especially during the dog days of summer.

Image courtesy of Capcom.

Madonna Live to Tell

How Madonna improved my Street Fighter II skills

Madonna’s The Immaculate Collection is the singer’s first greatest hits compilation. Released in November 1990, the album culled The Material Girl’s most-popular tracks from 1983-1990.

Capcom’s Street Fighter II is the game that put one-on-one versus fighting on the map and staved the arcade’s inevitable death by nearly a decade. Released months after The Immaculate Collection in March 1991, Street Fighter II forever changed the video game industry.

Oddly, I discovered both the record and the game in the same place: Coney Island’s legendary Faber’s Fascination arcade.

I grew up in the shadow of the world-famous Cyclone, as a poor kid from one of Coney Island’s dense New York City housing projects. Free time and loose change were spent in Faber’s Fascination (known among the C.I. denizens simply as “the arcade”) playing Lifeforce, Punch-Out!!, pinball machines, and other quarter-eating staples.

One particular summer, summer 1991, I entered Faber’s Fascination through its back entrance and discovered the establishment’s Street Fighter II machine–no one played it at the time. I now realize that I discovered Street Fighter II before the 2D fighting game craze descended on my area of Brooklyn.

Street Fighter II

Street Fighter II immediately caught my eye because I pumped a lot of allowance money into the original Street Fighter, an all around atrocious title. After eyeballing the attract mode, I ponied up a quarter, picked Chun-Li, and placed my fingertips on the punch and kick buttons.

The computer properly served me.

A few days later,  I returned to the arcade with a bevy of buds and pockets full of quarters. I popped coins into the machine, as did my friends, and started up. But as I exchanged fists, feet, and fireballs with friends, I noticed a series of Madonna songs blaring over Faber’s loudspeakers.

Now, I’d always been a Madonna fan; I was a child of the ’80s, after all. But hearing her pop sensibilities in the arcade–the grimy playthings of urbanites–was truly out-of-place. It felt wrong. Guile’s Jumping Fierce > Standing Fierce > Sonic Boom > Backfist shouldn’t be backed by “Lucky Star.”

I was getting my ass completely handed to me by a long-haired rocker type until Madonna’s “Live To Tell” crept into my ears. I was vaguely familiar with the song, but hadn’t actually taken time to listen to the lyrics or arrangements. It didn’t matter;  the slow, melancholy track moved something within. My hands’ frantic movements slowed to match the speed of the track as I hummed the melody–and it helped my game! Instead of attempting to rapidly fire off combos and specials, my fighting became more deliberate and timed.

I honestly don’t remember if I won that contest (chances are pretty slim), but it was the turning point in my fighting game play style. I learned that I didn’t need to mash; a more calculated approach led to me eating far less Dragon Punches and Flash Kicks.

The Madonna Effect isn’t very surprising, really. Music tinkers with something in my brain. When notes, melodies, and hooks latch in, I excel. It’s one of the reasons why I run roughshod through games like Dracula X: Rondo of Blood–its soundtrack pulls me into the game world and establishes a foe-wrecking flow.

Still, the Madge-Street Fighter II combination is a special one as it not only puts me in the zone, but carries the weight of nostalgia. ‘Til this day I fire up the Immaculate Collection, pop in Ultra Street Fighter IV, and drift away in a hazy dream of combos and counters where summertime discovery, laughs, and freedom last forever.