I’m not the kind to brag about my video game accomplishments. Mostly because I’m very casual and don’t play games to “be the best.” But I can say, quite unabashedly, I’m good at Street Fighter II in all its iterations.
It comes from having no life outside my Sega Genesis as an adolescent and really only being able to afford one game at a time. I played Street Fighter II and Super Street Fighter II for years literally.
Since that time I’ve had every edition of Capcom’s imitable fighting franchise save for the wierdo 3-D one and the first incarnation of Street Fighter III.
I haven’t been as good at the rest of the series (except for the Street Fighter Alpha sub-franchise) mostly due to all the random over-complexity cluttering what I felt was a marvelously simple interface, but I still loved them and played them.
The announcement of Street Fighter V got me pretty excited. I was awful at Street Fighter IV for the reasons mentioned above, but I still loved the game and playing the best 2-D fighting series on my PS4 was a thrilling concept. Then the news broke: it’s online only; no tournament mode; no arcade mode!
Right now it stands to be the first main Street Fighter I’m choosing not to buy. At least not in it’s current state. The release, which Jim Sterling has brilliantly dubbed “Early AAAccess,” is severely disappointing and majorly off-putting. While fighting games certainly lend themselves to be online, to me Street Fighter was an exercise in zen. Like old-school beat em ups, you turn on the console, pick a character, and hit combos of buttons unleashing brutal combos on hapless foes. Just turn your mind off to release some stress.
Even better was having a friend over, either to beat each other up or take turns at the AI. My best friend for 20 years plus, Mike, and I bonded over games like this. Beating up a CPU is harmless chill out fun.
Now Street Fighter has become competitive only, except for a lame-ass story mode. It’s especially disheartening to me because, even in an arcade cabinet, the competition was almost always friendly. You laugh when you screw up, opponents curse their failures, it’s all good fun. Mostly because you’re all right there, looking each other in the eye. While I’m sure somewhere there were epic arcade brawls, they never occurred in my skating rinks…
Online competitive gaming, at least in my experience, is almost never “all in good fun.” The anonymity of the remote multiplayer makes it easy for assholes to be worse and even decent people to let their prick side protrude. Essentially it’s the opposite of relaxing.
So like many other old school fans…I’m skipping Street Fighter V. At least for now. And it especially tragic because it’s beautiful. Maybe when it gets a real release where we can play it the way we’ve been playing since the beginning. It speaks to the changing nature of the industry that a game once the standard of excellent in home console fighting now embodies everything wrong with the AAA game business now.
Until then, at least I know Super Street Fighter II on my Sega Genesis is still playable, no servers or random online MLG wannabes necessary. Just me, my controller, and maybe a friend or two. It’s all it needs. And all Street Fighter ever really should need.