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

MrDeVil909 wrote:
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.

I'm not going to get all misty eyed about pockets bulging with quarters and the first time I doubled-up my spaceship on Galaga. Clearly there's utility to it. Still, I guess I now know how Frank Sinatra must have felt when Howard Hughes bought the mob out of Vegas.

The_Replacement wrote:

I'm not going to get all misty eyed about pockets bulging with quarters and the first time I doubled-up my spaceship on Galaga. Clearly there's utility to it. Still, I guess I now know how Frank Sinatra must have felt when Howard Hughes bought the mob out of Vegas.

There is definitely a lack of drama with the way things are now. It's sad but inevitable I guess.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

customers would ALWAYS try con you into over refunding.

Ah, my first meta-game.

Any one have $2,250 burning a hole in their pocket to drop for one of these puppies to really get into fighting form?

Damn that's a great article. Nostalgia trip + great writing + extrapolation.

I didn't really get into the beat'emup scene (platformers & shmups were more my thing), but it still resonated with my long lost arcade experiences.

Andor wrote:

Very interesting article...Be on the podcast more.

Sorry to mince what you wrote, Andor, but these two points I agree with wholeheartedly. Much love for the Cory.

The other part about not relating I felt the need to remove, because reading this article brought back other memories that accompanied the ones he illustrated so adeptly that I couldn't justly (in my mind) quote your whole comment; the sound of bowling balls cracking pins, the smell of cigarette smoke, the running back and forth between games, food counters, and coin machines. That patient anticipation!

It's been over a decade, but I may have been inspired to visit again.
Thanks for the article.

I played a very great deal of Street Fighter II on the SNES. It was an awesome translation. That game had AMAZING depth. You could play it for months and just keep getting better and better and better. Sometimes it got pretty damn frustrating, but we spent many, many evenings with the local gang assembled, playing round-robin with the controllers. It felt a bit chess-like, in some ways; once you got the point of knowing every single move that both you and your opponent could make, it became a very mental game, too. Techniques were in your fingers, but strategy was in your mind, and it was an amazing rush to fool someone into doing the wrong thing and then clean their clock.

I'm also reminded of the old saying: "In chess, the winner is he who makes the next-to-last mistake". SF2 was like that.

The translation was so perfect that if it were possible to use SNES controllers in the arcade, we'd have kicked ass there too, but remapping what we'd spent so many months training was too painful, and we mostly didn't play in the arcade. But on the SNES, man, we were good.

But SF4 doesn't hold much interest for me, because I don't know anyone else in the area who would want to play it, and SF4 is totally about other players. The AI was very good in SF2, and fun to play against, but the thing that kept me coming back was the people. Not, like Cory talks about, the people in the arcade, but good friends at home, playing the same game, obsessively, for more than a year.

If you've never seen it, this video of "Justin vs Daigo", from the 2004 tournament, gets freakishly incredible at the end.

That last round is incredible. Now I really want to get SF4 :p

I haven't been competitive with fighting games since I was a kid. My best friend Amy broke my controller when I beat her when we were eight or so...that was funny. I still enjoy them, but I mostly play against the computer now, since I don't play them that often.

I used to be very big into Street Fighter, Tekken, and Killer Instinct. There were about a dozen people that were really into fighting games and we would play every chance we got. One of the guys built a double arcade stick for the PS1 for playing fighters (mostly Tekken). We had some very good players. Alas, the local arcades have dried up now and online play is about all there is left here. Occasionally I'll stop at an arcade in another city and I always find the latest Street Fighter or Tekken game. I still do fairly well but just don't know the details. I'm excited for some online play but it's just not the same as playing with a group.

I was at Best Buy over the weekend and was told that Best Buy as a company had severely underestimated the demand for the PS3 Collector's Edition. You can't even Pre-Order it from their Website (although you can with the 360 version). I have a gift card and some coupons that I plan to use for SFIV so this all came as some very frustrating news.

I went across the street to the GameStop and they didn't have any news for the CE either. Strictly postings for the standard version.

Even Amazon is selling the CE through a third party for high prices. 360 is selling through Amazon.

Anyone else encounter anything like this?

I think you're going to see a surprising following for this game on the PS3. I'm at a loss to explain why, but fighting fans stick with Sony.

Demiurge wrote:

I think you're going to see a surprising following for this game on the PS3. I'm at a loss to explain why, but fighting fans stick with Sony.

Tekken has only been available on Sony systems and is probably the first or second biggest fighting game series around. Dating all the way back to the PS1 the only way to get Tekken has been the Play Station. I bought a PSX for Tekken. I bought a PS2 for Tekken Tag Tournament. I bought a PS3 in part for Tekken: DR (and assumed the next version would be PS3 only).

I'm not surprised by the trend toward the PS3 for this game, the controller preference has been well documented, not to mention the strength of library for fighting game fans on Sony systems in the past (only SEGA consoles rival it)... I'm surprised at the seeming lack of support or understanding from retailers (+Capcom?) in regards to making the PS3 CE widely available in time for launch. Of course, we still have a day or two to find out, but it seems like a lot of money might be left on the table.

It's a CE, honestly who cares?

Erm... I do. I've got the gift card to use, so it won't cost me a dime. I wanna the stuff. >Hooray for clutter<

Sinatar wrote:

It's a CE, honestly who cares?

I do. I lust after that Ryu figure. Behold, for I am a consumer whore!

EvilHomer3k wrote:

Tekken has only been available on Sony systems and is probably the first or second biggest fighting game series around. Dating all the way back to the PS1 the only way to get Tekken has been the Play Station. I bought a PSX for Tekken. I bought a PS2 for Tekken Tag Tournament. I bought a PS3 in part for Tekken: DR (and assumed the next version would be PS3 only).

Tekken isn't taken very seriously by the community. I think its eventual release on the 360 is more a move from Namco to get the game in front of a more casual audience, where that franchise belongs. I also think there's bad blood between certain sections of Sony and Namco for the poor performance of SoulCalibur III.

The figurines are tiny, the included anime is just all the tiny cutscenes from the game strung together into one long eyebleedingly awful string and... uh I don't think it actually comes with anything else.

Sinatar wrote:

The figurines are tiny, the included anime is just all the tiny cutscenes from the game strung together into one long eyebleedingly awful string and... uh I don't think it actually comes with anything else.

That's interesting info about the movie. I think there's also some promised DLC included with it. Any word on that Sinatar?

Mister Magnus wrote:
Sinatar wrote:

The figurines are tiny, the included anime is just all the tiny cutscenes from the game strung together into one long eyebleedingly awful string and... uh I don't think it actually comes with anything else.

That's interesting info about the movie. I think there's also some promised DLC included with it. Any word on that Sinatar?

I just checked, yea there is a code for the "Brawler Pack" which has alternate costumes for Zangeif, E.Honda, Rufus, El Furete, and Abel. Also some kind of guide book, reportedly 15 pages in length.

Found this pic on another forum, gives you an idea of how big the figurines are.

IMAGE(http://i43.tinypic.com/fu9dme.jpg)

Demiurge wrote:
Sinatar wrote:

It's a CE, honestly who cares?

I do. I lust after that Ryu figure. Behold, for I am a consumer whore!

EvilHomer3k wrote:

Tekken has only been available on Sony systems and is probably the first or second biggest fighting game series around. Dating all the way back to the PS1 the only way to get Tekken has been the Play Station. I bought a PSX for Tekken. I bought a PS2 for Tekken Tag Tournament. I bought a PS3 in part for Tekken: DR (and assumed the next version would be PS3 only).

Tekken isn't taken very seriously by the community. I think its eventual release on the 360 is more a move from Namco to get the game in front of a more casual audience, where that franchise belongs. I also think there's bad blood between certain sections of Sony and Namco for the poor performance of SoulCalibur III.

Not sure what you mean by "isn't taken very serious by the community. If you mean it isn't considered a deep fighting game or that the Tekken community isn't very serious you are mistaken. I'm sure the guys at http://www.tekkenzaibatsu.com/ would tell you that Tekken is a very serious fighting game. I would agree with them.

EvilHomer3k wrote:

Not sure what you mean by "isn't taken very serious by the community. If you mean it isn't considered a deep fighting game or that the Tekken community isn't very serious you are mistaken. I'm sure the guys at http://www.tekkenzaibatsu.com/ would tell you that Tekken is a very serious fighting game. I would agree with them.

Then we agree to disagree, which is what the Internet is for. My friends in the hardcore tournament scene scoff at the whole series.

And don't get me wrong, I love Tekken. It's got nice variety in the moves and is perfectly paced for 20 minute chunks while being universal enough to play with a group of drinking friends. It's just not really hardcore. That's not a slight against the series.

This game looks awesome, but I'm about as good at Street Fighter games as a chimpanzee is as good at handling xanax and being domesticated.

Although I was pretty good as a kid, this is one game I don't mind losing at. It's fun either way. I actually prefer solo play when I'm learning (or re-learning) a fighting game. I'm looking forward to giving this one a try...if I can pry it out of Demi's hands.

Sinatar wrote:

Found this pic on another forum, gives you an idea of how big the figurines are.

How big the figurines are?

Demiurge wrote:
EvilHomer3k wrote:

Not sure what you mean by "isn't taken very serious by the community. If you mean it isn't considered a deep fighting game or that the Tekken community isn't very serious you are mistaken. I'm sure the guys at http://www.tekkenzaibatsu.com/ would tell you that Tekken is a very serious fighting game. I would agree with them.

Then we agree to disagree, which is what the Internet is for. My friends in the hardcore tournament scene scoff at the whole series.

And don't get me wrong, I love Tekken. It's got nice variety in the moves and is perfectly paced for 20 minute chunks while being universal enough to play with a group of drinking friends. It's just not really hardcore. That's not a slight against the series.

That's the thing about fighting games (and most games, I guess). Every fighting game has people who play in tournaments and believe all other fighting games are inferior. I played in a lot of Tekken tournaments and, although it didn't come up often, the people in those tournaments felt all other fighters were inferior. I think the only fighting game that doesn't have people who feel it is the best fighting game ever is Shaq-Fu.

Shaq-Fu is the best fighting game ever.

EvilHomer3k wrote:

That's the thing about fighting games (and most games, I guess). Every fighting game has people who play in tournaments and believe all other fighting games are inferior. I played in a lot of Tekken tournaments and, although it didn't come up often, the people in those tournaments felt all other fighters were inferior. I think the only fighting game that doesn't have people who feel it is the best fighting game ever is Shaq-Fu.

Everything is inferior to Eternal Champions.

Eternal Champions and Shaq-Fu share a similar... hmmm... fluidity.

However, many a fun hour was spent with EC in my youth. I also had it for the SEGA CD.