Today marks the 20th anniversary of one of my all time favorite games, Street Fighter 2: The World Warriors. This is a game that completely changed my life. I was so blown away by it, it helped fuel an obsession that you stay with me for almost the whole 20 years.
I had only played a little of the first Street Fighter, in the arcade with those giant rubber buttons you had to beat on to do the punched and kicks and on the Turbo-CD when it was known as Fighting Street. It was a clunky mess and really hard to play on either platform but for the first fighting I had ever played I still put a few quarters in it at the arcade and then I'd fire it up at home on occasion after I owned it. In the end it was just one of those two player games you keep around if you have a friend over and they want to play with you.
So a little while later I ended up going with my dad to Pittsburgh on a business trip. While he was in meetings all day I was free to explore the wonderful outskirts of Pittsburgh and yeah it was as great as it sounds. The only thing near the hotel was a really crappy mall. You know how in most places there's the nice mall with all the stores and food courts and all that jazz, then there's the other mall that you only go to if you need a cheap haircut or knockoff cupcakes or something? Well this was the second kind and it was a pretty bad mall but it did have an arcade. I wandered around the arcade a bit and ended up spending some money on the Simpsons arcade game. After that I went further in and there it was like it was calling out to me, Street Fighter 2.
I instantly recognized the name and I couldn't believe a game that mediocre had a sequel. Watching the demo I saw all these new fighters and they all looked interesting and it looked so smooth in the the way it played. I dropped my quarters in and that's when it all started. I played Blanka the first time I tried it out because he was a monster and I thought he looked cool. I ended up going through all the characters and decided that Guile would be the one I played as. When I went back to the hotel to have dinner with my dad it was all I could talk about surely boring the crap out of him but I was just so into it. The next day couldn't come fast enough so I could go back over there and play some more.
That was the first time I played Street Fighter 2 eventually there was an arcade close enough to me where I could go play it. I would go to the mall early on Sundays so I could have the SF2 machine to myself to practice and practice I did I eventually became pretty good at it.
Then came the greatest thing ever for me at that time, SF2 was coming to the SNES! I think I nearly crapped when I heard that news. That took the obsession to a whole new level, it allowed me as I'm sure it allowed others to get even better at the game without having to blow through quarters. Being able to spend more time with the characters I ended up moving away from Guile and I started using Ken. I liked that Ken didn't need to charge his moves and I just found him easiest for me to use.
Then of course we had the Championship Edition in the arcade which added the ability to play as the four bosses of SF2. Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M Bison and this added a whole new level to the game as you had real people using these guys. Even though I was still playing SF2 at home I spent a ton of time in the arcades playing CE as M Bison.
Next up was Hyper Fighting and then Super Street Fight 2. SSF2 added four more characters, T Hawk, Fei Long, Cammy and Dee Jay while tweaking and adding some stuff to the others. This is the version of SF2 I spent the most time playing as it was in the arcades and on the SNES. I would literally play this for hours upon hours. I knew every character, all their moves and I could win with any of them. It's also around the time I shifted my focus from Ken to Ryu. Since SSF2 I've used Ryu in any Capcom fighting game that has him and I've never looked back.
As with Hyper Fighting before it we saw the release of Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo. With this came one new character in the form of the hidden boss Akuma and again some more character tweaks. A super meter was also added in that when filled it allowed you to do a super version of one of the basic special moves. This is the version of SF2 I spent the least amount of time with. I only played it in the arcade a couple times as none of them near me had any machines and the only home version to come out was for the 3DO. I was going to get the 3DO version but the system's controller was so bad for fighters I didn't really care.
With the success of SF2 we saw tons of 2D fighters come out and I pretty much played them all. If it was an obscure 2D fighter on the SNES or the Genesis I played it. If I heard an arcade 50 miles away had some new fighter before the one near me I went to play the new game there. Sitting here writing this now I'm flooded with memories of all the crappy fighters I've played. Even though none of them held a candle to SF2 I still searched for them and spent some time with each one. At the time the only other 2D fighter to hold my interest was Mortal Kombat.
Street Fighter 2 for me was the best set of fighting games to ever come out and nothing that's come out since has been able to hold up. Even Street Fighter 4 which is a throwback to SF2, I just couldn't get into it. I'll remember all the time I spent playing SF2 very fondly, it was and still is just simply awesome.