Street Fightin' Man

Street Fighter IV - GamersWithJobs.com

"Never take your eyes off your opponent... even when you bow." - Bruce Lee, Enter The Dragon

It's not as crowded as I remember.

The arcades of my youth were claustrophobic spaces of beeps and boops, pitch black except for the glow of the monitors. Filled with that warm silicon smell you only get when you cram a room wall to wall with electronics running full speed for hours at a time. The aisles at GameWorks, in contrast, are wide enough for groups of small children racing to their parents or the zig-zag pattern one of my peers would follow after enjoying the bar's $5 margarita special.

Even the games are different, bigger, grouped around specific themes. One room on the second floor houses eight different varieties of rail-shooter, a constant symphony of gunfire and undead groans. The far wall on the first floor is dedicated to an immense Indy 500 simulation, complete with moving cars and a live, chronically bored announcer.

I am not here for those.

Cloistered behind a row of Japanese drum and keyboard simulators is the section I seek. Past ancient towers of fighting games yellowed from neglect, ignored by the rest of the patrons. There, two Street Fighter IV cabinets are shoved together with a row of stools behind them, occupied by a small group of average looking guys. Everyone stares intently at the screens in front of the two current combatants. The machine lets loose a digitized shout of "Hadouken!" and I follow their gaze.

The current king of the cabinets, a twenty-something dude with braces in a black zip-up, has been using one of the SF4's new characters, Abel, to demolish the competition. Abel's not very flashy, but Zip-Up's mastery of at least a few of the moves has kept him on the same credit for at least five matches. I keep expecting each defeated challenger to slam down on the buttons or throw their soda, some sudden outburst of nerd rage. Instead, everyone is all smiles. Why isn't anyone upset that they've lost?

Zip-Up is finally dethroned by a tall guy with a scruffy beard and infinite amounts of cool. I knew a guy in college just like this, the James Dean of gaming dorks, that should have been out getting heroic amounts of tail but would rather hang out in the computer lab and play Unreal Tournament with us. Zip-Up leaves to get another soda, while a chunky Asian kid with a neon grin takes his place. Everyone on the stools shifts to the right, like musical chairs.

Our little group is diverse. Some of the kids waiting to play appear just out of high school, the ones who probably know all the right combos. What binds us is something more primal than excitement for a flashy new video game. What pre-teen boy didn't want to suddenly commando roll through the halls of his elementary school, tossing shuriken three at a time at would-be kidnappers and assassins? It's this same impulse that made me take exactly two karate classes in my life, want to wear a pair of Chuck Norris Action Jeans and stand in line at the arcade for a chance to play Street Fighter II. My competition - my compatriots - are no different.

Chunky Neon picks Sagat as his weapon of choice. He cracks his neck like a tough guy, then turns back to his friends for encouragement. James Dean stays cool, calm, like water. Bruce Lee would be proud. He's playing as M. Bison and only knows a few moves, namely the high flying punch attack and charged Scissor Kick, but he's got them down. Chunky Neon holds out for a while, throwing numerous Tiger fireballs both low and high, and even connecting with a few Tiger Uppercuts, but eventually can't keep up. He crumbles in a 3 - 1 match. I'm up.

I swipe my play card - even the quarters of old have been replaced - and choose Ken. I'm normally a Ryu guy, but these other players are obviously pros and I don't want to look completely noobish in front of them. James Dean nods at me and smiles while the arena loads, a stereotypical American drive-in. Chunky Neon whoops in the background, letting the excitement overtake him. Zip-Up takes a long slurp of his soda.

I take a deep breath and think about dragon punches.

I launch into a series of flying kicks that James Dean's Bison successfully blocks. A tornado kick does a little damage, but leaves me open for Bison to pummel me with quick 5-hit combos and throws. The animation is so fluid that I'm almost more interested in getting hit than throwing punches. Which works, since I'm taking punches like a pro.

Suddenly the camera angle changes and James Dean launches me into the air in a burst of Bison's psycho energy, then stomps me back down into the ground while his character mocks my pathetic skills. The crowd behind us cries out its approval. It's brutal and humiliating and the perfect way to lose a round. I'm not at all angry, and now I understand.

I don't win even a round and I don't care.

It hits me as I give up my spot at the cabinet to the next challenger, as vicious as that uber-combo: When I buy SF4, I will almost assuredly play it alone. Long gone are the days of inviting people over to stage round-robin tournaments, while the console version's online play will quickly prove too competitive for my meek level of talent. My experience with Street Fighter IV will be solitary, and these games are no fun alone.

Like films in a crowded theater, they have their intended environment.

There will be more characters and content in the home versions of Street Fighter IV when it launches on February 17th. Online play will connect players across the country whenever they want to pummel each other, while DLC will add expandability and new modes. I don't care about that. As I walk away from my glorious defeat to catch a bus home, I realize that the fights that matter aren't waged on comfortable couches or plasma screens. The true World Warriors are sitting in the ruins of the arcades of old, sodas in hand, waiting for their turns to be kings of the cabinet.

Comments

Do you think you'll be satisfied playing SFIV alone? Or will it be a purchase that's done 'because you have to'?

I share the same situation. Street Fighter (or any other fighting game) is a lot of fun for me, but I'm no where near a competent enough player to compete against others. It will definitely be a single-player experience for me (probably on "easy" mode). Great article!

I do hope the game has a good match-making feature so that those of "meek skills" (to which I aspire) can not just get crushed unrelentingly. Because I think the "solitary experience" observation is the keenest insight in an excellent article.

Spicy fresh article. Who goes to arcades anymore? This guy, that's who.

I found the ending a little bittersweet. If, as you suggest, local multiplayer fosters a sense of camaraderie rather than testosterone-fueled competition, why abandon it for a single player experience that you figure will be "no fun"?

While I've never been a fighting-game guy, your experience of the arcade (obviously) hits all my nostalgia buttons. The images of the archetypal cabinet kings ring very true. Bravo.

I loved, loved, LOVED playing street fighter 2 in the arcade. My brother and I were pretty good .. we were able to stay on the cabinet for a decent amount of time. When it came out for SNES, I played the computer and my brother about the same amount of times. The computer gave a great challenge without being super cheap. Hopefully this is the same issue with SFIV.

Nowadays though, if I happen to wander into an arcade and see some wiz rocking Marvel Vs Capcom or something else, I don't even approach them. I know that I don't have the time to get that good at a game anymore.

I'll end up buying the home version (if it comes out for PC) and playing mostly against the computer.

"As I walk away from my glorious defeat to catch a bus home, I realize that the fights that matter aren't waged on comfortable couches or plasma screens. The true World Warriors are sitting in the ruins of the arcades of old, sodas in hand, waiting for their turns to be kings of the cabinet."

Glorious line, dude...

I honestly wasn't a huge arcade guy, as I couldn't get enough quarters from Mom and Dad to make it worth it, but I would go into the arcade and watch others crowd around the cabinets, hearing cheers on and off from across the room. I remember the Mortal Kombat series being a bit more popular where I lived, but Street Fighter is always the one I preferred.

I actually never owned one of the games until Street Fighter II Turbo Hyperfighting came out for the Wii's Virtual Console, and later the HD Remix version on the PS3. I suck at both, but as the article says, "I don't care." Something about those games makes you have fun, even when you're losing, probably because there's more of a sense of "damn, I almost had you that time and maybe next time...

...one...more...quarter...

My fighter experience is polarized between beating the snot out of my brother in SNES games like Street Fighter II Turbo and ClayFighter, and having the snot hastily expelled from me in DOA 3 by my best friend. Strangely enough I was more furious the few times my brother beat me than the million times my best friend beat me. And the few times I did manage to beat my friend were true victories.

Nice words Demi; summoned up memories of Space Invaders, Galaxians and Defender, rows of quarters (ok, 10 pence coins, but I'm trying to adapt to the colonies) and way too many Saturdays spent doing little else than standing around, pockets full of the remains of our paper round wages, spilling soda and chips (crisps, but most here wouldn't understand me) with friends as we all fought over who's three letter tag would be sitting on the magic top line at the end of the day.

Dude, yes. ... Just ... yes.

For me, growing up in Chicago, it was often the local video store, greasy spoon, or pool hall for a Street Fighter fix (often, um, upgraded to allow mid-air fireballs or no-charge Sonic Booms). Occasionally we'd make a run after school or hop a train to Belmont and stop into Denis' Place for Games for some Vendetta or similarly-generic beat'em-up, but really it was all about getting a ride out to Lincolnwood and getting dropped off with my friends at Diversions... Oh man. The place reeked of sweat and cheap cologne, there were the punk-@$$ savant kids and the early twenty-something office workers who would go there to cash their checks and crack some hidden moves with their seemingly limitless funds—for us it meant hitting up our parents for $10 or breaking the allowance bank for a few hours of escapism in the noisy dark... there were the beta cabinets for the various new SF iterations and of course the early builds of the Chicago-based, Midway-built Mortal Kombat games. First glimpse of Baraka after hearing about the rumors on the playgrounds was EPIC.

I was never top dog when it came to the fighting games, that was my friend, and there was that feeling of pride knowing that you were walking in with the guy who was going to own the machine in a cool and calculated way, standing to his left or right and just watching him demolish the competition. Then hearing the stories on the drive home after our ride got there to pick us up.

Man, the memories: taking a break from the fighters to go play some classic Run 'n' Gun basketball on the two-screen cabinet and throwing three-quarter-court windmill alley-oops, clogging up the X-Men three-screen arcade cabinet, or heading back to the fighters to wail out an Ultra Combo with Orchid or Sabrewulf...

Playing online will never rival that feeling of glorious success or brutal frustration: "No throws!"

Those days really are gone, and with them, unfortunately, are the Western arcades.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I'm always up for reminiscing about the arcade.

It also makes me think back to when EGM was published in Illinois and when the Quartermann rumors often pertained directly to what might be coming up at Diversions... man, those were good times. Waiting a month for new rumors made them that much juicier. A whole generation born into the Internet Age will never be able to understand it.

I was always really, really bad at fighting games, but I pumped a lot of money into the Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat cabinets at the various arcades around town. I don't know that I ever won a single match that wasn't against the computer, but I always held out hope that one of these times, perhaps with a new game, I'd put in my quarters and discover some awesome, prodigious talent hidden deep within me. It never happened, but I did manage to crack the top spot on a number of light gun games.

I wile away many hours in college waiting my turn on the Tekken Tag Tournament or Soul Calibur machine, with a brief foray into Gauntlet Legends where I took my jackal to level 99.

The Soul Calibur machine AI had learned so much from us that it was impenetrable to newcomers. I saw high school kids who thought they could play SC get hammered by the AI.

I rarely beat anyone in the student union (we had one guy who could do King's 100% throw combo at will, and another who could do Ivy's 80% one-hit throw), but off campus I was like a fallen god. I didn't even have to use the cheeseball characters like Mitsurugi (Motto: I dare you to lose while playing as me.) to mop the arena with pretty much anybody.

I never really got into the Capcom 2d fighters, though. I couldn't make my dumb fingers feather six attack buttons in the proper order. The four-button Namco games were more my speed.

adam.greenbrier wrote:

I was always really, really bad at fighting games, but I pumped a lot of money into the Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat cabinets at the various arcades around town.

Seconded.

adam.greenbrier wrote:

but I always held out hope that one of these times, perhaps with a new game, I'd put in my quarters and discover some awesome, prodigious talent hidden deep within me.

Still hoping for.

Fear not, the Goodjer army will be there to aid you in your quest of fun (as usual). There will be plenty of us playing who have no chance in hell of surviving in the online world.

Great read! I look forward to that nostalgia!! Bravo!!!

Clemenstation wrote:

Spicy fresh article. Who goes to arcades anymore? This guy, that's who.

I found the ending a little bittersweet. If, as you suggest, local multiplayer fosters a sense of camaraderie rather than testosterone-fueled competition, why abandon it for a single player experience that you figure will be "no fun"?

I like the way the article ends because, if I ever find the arcade somewhere around these places, I'll face the same thing: a 10-year reunion with people I've never met.

I look forward to going to the very back of the arcade and find a brand new game surrounded by cabinets 10 years older. People that didn't "stay true to the genre", but that can go back and enjoy a game that knew to upgrade visuals and keep the gameplay (mostly) intact.

As someone who grew up on Fighting games at the Arcade in college and then the NeoGeo system at home right after college I'm actually looking forward to SF IV. I pre-ordered the Mad Catz tournament SF fightsticks in hope that some of the early 90's magic can be recaptured online. Through the magic of Facebook I've refound some of my college buddies who I used to regularly play fighting games with and most of them are still playing videogames and such so I'm eager to give the online fighting a try.

The true World Warriors are sitting in the ruins of the arcades of old, sodas in hand, waiting for their turns to be kings of the cabinet.

That is neat =)

One of my friends is just waiting for this game to come out, and I anticipate many nostalgia-driven reunions with a bunch of guys around the game. I don't think there are even any arcades left nearby, and I doubt they will purchase this machine. . .

I'm with you. If I had housemates, the game would be a no-questions-asked-purchase.

As it is though, who's going to stay up with me until 4am in a first-one-to-a-hundred-wins marathon session? Certainly not the missus.

I never spent much time on the fighters. That was my ex and the gang. But that Hogan's Alley machine on the other side of the always-broken Galaga was MINE.

I'll be getting Street Fighter IV but I have built-in opponents. I'm going to get beat like I stol'd sumptin', but I'll have a big smile on my face the whole time.

Okay, maybe not right after the match. But definately once we're back to the character selection screen and the sting fades a bit.

Someone enterprising at my college figured out that, if you unscrewed the back of the Mortal Kombat arcade machine, you could stick your hand and find the switch that allowed you to get free goes.

Until they bolted the back.

Very interesting article. I can't really relate, so I won't offer any thoughts.

What I will say, however, is this: Be on the podcast more.

They key to getting good at Street Fighter lies in 2 things:

1. Stop telling yourself you'll never be good. That's complete crap.
2. It's not an action game, the sooner you stop treating it as a twitchy action game but a horizontal strategy game, the sooner you'll start improving.

Spot on, Cory.

If anyone out there grew up in Phx, AZ- Video Round Up, baby. I remember playing the original SF with the huge rubber buttons you would mash as hard as you could for a more powerful attack. I remember the sweet feeling you got owning the SF2 machine (Blanka), and getting owned by so many more people you would only ever interact with through that great game. The smell of old arcades. The lighting.
Classic article.

Great article! I was pretty darn good at SF once upon a time and have been considering picking up a copy of SF4, but I have the same reservations. Sure it would be fun to play, but it's just not the same without a steady stream of live opponents.

Hey this is a no sh*t question: You swipe cards at arcades now?

Jesus I'm old.

Good article! A tangent: Gametap used to start up with the sounds of an arcade in it's prime. You could hear snippets of defender, pacman, robotron and quite a few others. It used to prick up the hairs on the back of my neck when I would hear it. That was the sound of my teenage years. I canceled my Gametap subscription when they got rid of that opening sound.

The_Replacement wrote:

Hey this is a no sh*t question: You swipe cards at arcades now?

Jesus I'm old.

Gameworks is probably at the level that a Dave and Busters or a Jillians is at: more of a complex than just an arcade. It's fun and spectacle, with food thrown in.

Anyway, places like these prefer the cards because:
* They charge you for the damned things sometimes, especially since people lose the damned things anyway
* They can bundle in "rewards" - SPEND 3000 CREDITS AND JOIN OUR ELITE SQUAD/ Buy $20, GET $2 FREE! Buy $50, GET $20 FREE! / Buy a $15 Dinner, get a $5 GAMECARD on US!
* "swipes" are some arcane moon-money that makes MS Points seem like a priori knowledge by comparison. OH sweet, Time Crisis 7 is only 2.34 points a game!
* They're not beholden to an outside entity for maintenance, purchasing and revenue-sharing
* No worries about running out of quarters for the charge machines

It's somewhat of a convenience, but nothing beats the sound of a quarter sliding its way down the token chute.

Spaz wrote:
The_Replacement wrote:

Hey this is a no sh*t question: You swipe cards at arcades now?

Jesus I'm old.

Gameworks is probably at the level that a Dave and Busters or a Jillians is at: more of a complex than just an arcade. It's fun and spectacle, with food thrown in.

Anyway, places like these prefer the cards because:
* They charge you for the damned things sometimes, especially since people lose the damned things anyway
* They can bundle in "rewards" - SPEND 3000 CREDITS AND JOIN OUR ELITE SQUAD/ Buy $20, GET $2 FREE! Buy $50, GET $20 FREE! / Buy a $15 Dinner, get a $5 GAMECARD on US!
* "swipes" are some arcane moon-money that makes MS Points seem like a priori knowledge by comparison. OH sweet, Time Crisis 7 is only 2.34 points a game!
* They're not beholden to an outside entity for maintenance, purchasing and revenue-sharing
* No worries about running out of quarters for the charge machines

It's somewhat of a convenience, but nothing beats the sound of a quarter sliding its way down the token chute.

Wow that's corporate.

The_Replacement wrote:
Spaz wrote:
The_Replacement wrote:

Hey this is a no sh*t question: You swipe cards at arcades now?

Jesus I'm old.

Gameworks is probably at the level that a Dave and Busters or a Jillians is at: more of a complex than just an arcade. It's fun and spectacle, with food thrown in.

Anyway, places like these prefer the cards because:
* They charge you for the damned things sometimes, especially since people lose the damned things anyway
* They can bundle in "rewards" - SPEND 3000 CREDITS AND JOIN OUR ELITE SQUAD/ Buy $20, GET $2 FREE! Buy $50, GET $20 FREE! / Buy a $15 Dinner, get a $5 GAMECARD on US!
* "swipes" are some arcane moon-money that makes MS Points seem like a priori knowledge by comparison. OH sweet, Time Crisis 7 is only 2.34 points a game!
* They're not beholden to an outside entity for maintenance, purchasing and revenue-sharing
* No worries about running out of quarters for the charge machines

It's somewhat of a convenience, but nothing beats the sound of a quarter sliding its way down the token chute.

Wow that's corporate.

It is, but as someone who worked at an arcade when they used to use tokens the idea of never dealing with a coin jam sounds awesome. On a floor with 120 machines averaging between 5 and 15 years old we used to have maybe 50 jams on a busy shift, and customers would ALWAYS try con you into over refunding.