There are games that are popular, and there are ones that need little to no introduction. And then there is Street Fighter 2.
If you are a person that grew up in the late ‘90s who played video games either at home or at the arcades, chances are that you and your parents knew what Street Fighter 2 was. A game that was almost singlehandedly responsible for the rise of fighting games as a genre. And one that made and broke friendships in our childhood days. Let’s take a trip down memory lane with Street Fighter 2.
Released in the early ‘90s, Street Fighter 2 was the successor to a not-so-popular fighting game at the time. Looking back at the original Street Fighter today just shows how much of a step-up Street Fighter 2 was from its predecessor.
Right from the visuals, which were some the best of its time, to the improved fighting mechanics like the implementation of combos and special abilities, the game was something arcade dwellers had never experienced before.
And that made Street Fighter 2 instantly gratifying. But it wasn’t until the mid to late ‘90s that the game crashed the scene here in India. Once the game started showing up, it had the same reception even in the makeshift arcade machines run by Ramu Kaka in the streets of Delhi.
Balancing Diversity and Stereotypes
Part of what made the game so appealing was the line up of characters, each representing a different country. The characters were exaggerated stereotypes, yet charming, which was something that was possible only in the ‘90s.
Accompanying the characters were the stages in which the fights were set. And a musical score to match the theme. Dhalsim, for example, is a Yoga practicing, flame blowing priest from India whose backdrop is a temple complete with Elephants and a musical score that mimics the tunes of a Sitar. Chun Li is a Chinese fighter whose backdrop is a crowded Chinese market street. And Guile is a U.S Navy seal, who fights in the Hangar where his fighter planes are parked. All of this was delightfully ‘90s and it all came together perfectly.
But It wasn’t just about stereotypes and over the top character design. While the move set for all characters ranged between a combination of arrows and the same Light and Heavy Kick and Punch buttons, the characters themselves were distinct from one another in the way they played. Characters like Zangief and Blanka were slow yet powerful, while Chun li and Cammy were fast and nimble, and then there were the more balanced fighters like Ken and Guile. There was a character for any type of player and all of them were balanced in a way that they could counter an attack from a player of a different style.
Hadooken and Shoryuken
Despite the balance, the most prominent and popular characters turned out to be Ken and Ryu, who also happened to be normal in appearance. Both shared a similar set of moves, yet one was slightly faster while the other slightly more powerful. Part of the reason for their popularity was that their move set was synonymous across all players. Others’ move sets had to be discovered through experiment. And with the limited amount of coins in hand, experimenting was rarely an option.
I remember a time when passing by an arcade will always mean that you hear a Hadooken or two. Street Fighter 2 was an arcade dweller’s staple. One where friendships blossomed by sharing move sets, and fights broke when the scene got too competitive.
The game was available on the SNES and Sega Megadrive, but SNES version was the choice to incorporate in the handmade arcade machines at the time. Even though I had a SNES at home, I would go to the shop to play this on the arcade as nothing beats the experience of pulling a Shoryuken using the arcade stick.
Rockstar of Fighting Games
The immense popularity of the game made way for multiple releases, each time with different tweaks and that made the game better with each release. The success of Street Fighter 2 World warrior gave birth to SF 2: Champions edition, then perhaps the most popular of them all, SF 2: Turbo, Hyper fighting, and then my personal favourite SF2:
The New Challengers, which brought in new characters to the game. The game was nothing short of a phenomenon and remains one of the most loved fighting games to this day. This is one of those games that has not aged a bit and that robust fighting system still holds up today. Street Fighter 2 was one gem of a game, one that was appreciated with open arms all over the world, and yet deserves more.