new challenger

I make games. I also play them. I talk about both activities here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Here Comes an Old Challenger - GOTY Edition


I knew I hated Street Fighter IV the first time I played it.

It was 2008 and I was in Japan. Street Fighter IV wasn't actually even released yet; the version I was playing was just an arcade test. I don't even remember if I was there for Street Fighter IV at all - there's a good chance I just stumbled on the test while intending to play Virtua Fighter 5. I remember I selected Blanka to play first, whom I've chosen as a main character on and off since Street Fighter II. While I've never gotten to a competition level of play in Street Fighter, I've always been able to eke out a measure of local success with my Blanka in almost any game in which he's on the roster.

My success with Blanka in SF4 during that first play session can be calculated simply: I had none. But what bothered me more than anything was that I just didn't like the way Street Fighter IV played. It had a weird feel to it. I'm not sure what I was expecting - Super Turbo, perhaps, based on the way the producer went on about it - but what I ended up playing felt nothing like Street Fighter to me.

Still, I felt in my heart that Street Fighter IV was an important game that warranted my attention. You see, 2009 was dubbed "The Year of the Fighting Game" primarily based on Street Fighter's return. Yes, there was also a new King of Fighters, a new Tekken, the debut of an all-new fighting game called BlazBlue, and a host of other lesser games, but Street Fighter is, and probably always will be the fighting game that defines the genre; without it, fighting games might as well not exist.

So, at the next opportunity - E3 2008 - I decided to give Street Fighter IV another chance. My next character choice was the character I always go back to, the character that I actually selected the first time I ever played Street Fighter II - Ryu. Ryu is my favorite fighting game character of all time. That he keeps showing up in basically every fighting game ever made is a testament to the impact he's had within the genre. I haven't ever really been good with Ryu, though; despite his being billed as a middle-of-the-road character, I feel that he's actually quite a difficult character to really be proficient with in most Street Fighters, and I've never really clicked with him (I've never learned how not to throw that third fireball...).

At E3, I was equally fruitless with Ryu in Street Fighter IV. And I still didn't really care for the game, either.

What bothered me most was the way the characters stood up. It was just so freaking slow. I complained to Seth Killian about this. He mentioned aloofly (he was not being rude, but at E3 2008 Street Fighter IV was a big star and it was making Seth a big star too) that there was a command input to get up quicker. I didn't have a chance to test this out, though, as the day was drawing to a close and I wanted to hang out with some friends from out of town.

Eventually, Street Fighter IV was released in Japanese arcades, and again I set about trying to play it. For this attempt, I ended up choosing Abel, mostly because I thought it would be amusingly ironic to do so. You see, Abel is Street Fighter IV's "MMA fighter." That he doesn't seem to have anything even remotely resembling a move that I would associate with an MMA fighter apparently didn't dissuade Capcom from giving him this designation anyway.

I should mention here that my arcade of choice in Osaka is something of a hardcore fighting game hotspot. As is typical in Japanese arcades, there is an entire floor dedicated to fighting games. On weekends, it's not unusual for my arcade to host a tournament for Super Turbo or VOOT, despite their advanced age. The Street Fighter IV machines (only 4 of them - apparently my arcade recently has trended more towards VF and Tekken) were placed in a prominent position on the floor, with a large space around them for spectators. Stepping up to the machines to play is an anxiety-filled endeavor; lots of opportunity for people to see you perform, and perform badly. Being a 188-centimeter tall foreigner only heightens my conspicuousness.

So I bet you figure this is where I finally get to have my shining moment. Surely now, with the right character and the right opportunity, I was finally able to find some success in the game, which solidified my love for it, enough so to compel me to proclaim it my game of the year some 24 months after first playing it, right?

Wrong. I was knocked around like a flimsy rag doll. It was almost like someone was just reaching in my pockets and taking all the money out, that's how quickly the matches would go. I was thoroughly embarrassed by my poor play time and time again.

And I loved every minute of it.

I purchased Street Fighter IV for the Xbox 360 in February of 2009. It is the only Xbox 360 game I have played since.

Thanks for reading.