Visiting an arcade (if you can find one) is a sad affair. Expect a dirty cove of dust-covered light guns, rusty 2p machines, and of course, the token crowd of chavs. We can assure you, it wasn't always like this. Well, not quite.
Arcades in the late 80s and early 90s, well... you had to be there. For most, these memories are surrounded by a glowing vignette that recalls happier times. This may sound ridiculous, but playing Street Fighter II justifies these memories and then some - it wasn't just a fighting game; it was a revolution.
By revolution, we mean this was a title that literally transcended genre. Suddenly, everyone was a beat 'em up fan. We still remember 'Jaz' Rignall's hyperbolic first review of the coin op back in CVG - it read like the guy was about to explode with excitement. Two decades later, the fire still burns.
The original Street Fighter was rubber button pants, but SFII thrust fighting games into the spotlight. Besides the fact Capcom's opus looked amazing for its time, it also offered a generous dollop of content. Plus character design from gaming heaven. Ryu: instant icon. Chun Li: instant icon. Guile: instant icon. From wanking Chinamen and goose choking in the luscious backgrounds to *those* hummable stage ditties, SFII's audio and visual design knocked it outta the park.
Gamers who had no interest in fighting games would play Street Fighter II. Whether to just hone skills, or show them off to friends, Street Fighter II plundered that rare formula of global saturation - especially for a 2D fighter. Capcom responded with mass-release - for almost every home console at the time. In 1993, Street Fighter II pulled a gross revenue of over $1.5 billion dollars. Let us say that again. One point five BILLION. That's a whole lot of Hadoukens.
While most of us learn from our mistakes, Street Fighter II pioneered with theirs. First encountered as a gameplay glitch, one accidental feature created the most complex aspects of modern fighting games - the cancel combo. By imputing certain commands, players could feint attack then cancel - both confusing and annihilating opponents. The Street Fighter II tournament scene was born, and it's still raging strong today.
Legendary moments have been forged in the wake of Street Fighter II, like the stunning counter combo at Evo 2004 by Daigo Umehara (check it out here). Nowadays the focus lies on Street Fighter IV, which raided the very best aspects of the series, bolstered the content and graphics - all while oozing the retro appeal of II.
It came as little surprise when Street Fighter II scooped the Golden Joystick award for Game of the Year in '92. Even now - a crazy 20 years later - the gameplay is fresh, a rare feat indeed. So while we may lament the loss of arcade action, Street Fighter II is a kind reminder to the past. Who, though, could have guessed that it would have such an impact on the future...
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