Street Fighter II celebrates its 20th anniversary this month

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Join me as I celebrate the game that created and defined a genre.

I can’t remember where I saw the game for the first time, but my brother and I were with our parents eating somewhere out of town, most likely Round Table Pizza. I must have been eleven or twelve at the time, my brother would have been fourteen or fifteen. We walked up and were curious about some new game called Street Fighter II. We watched the attract screen and saw two guys getting ready to deliver a beat-down to each other, surrounded by a crowd of people. The guy on the left got knocked out and the screen panned up to reveal the Street Fighter II logo. We were intrigued. We plunked a couple of quarters in and tried the game out. It was definitely unique and had the most awesome characters we had ever seen in a game at that point in time, but we didn’t quite understand it fully… yet. We played until it we heard the beckoning of pizza-offering parents, but something happened that day. We began our love affair with the Street Fighter series which has continued to this very day.

After that first experience with Street Fighter, we did everything we could to find it in different arcades in our area. We only got the chance to play it on rare occasions when we’d visit family out of town, but then one day we hit the jackpot. We were just getting done filling up our Slurpees and picking up some sugary snacks at the 7-11 down the road from our house on one of our random walking adventures. We spotted a new arcade cabinet in the corner as we were walking out the door. Much to our delight, it just so happened to be a Street Fighter II machine. We fished around in our pockets for whatever change we had left from our impulse purchases and took turns playing against the CPU. It was a good day and it was then that we had discovered how deep the rabbit hole of Street Fighter II actually goes. We discovered special moves through experimentation and just kept practicing and practicing. We eventually got to Vega, Balrog, Sagat, and M. Bison and we were blown away. We had no idea these characters existed. They weren’t on the character select screen, and this one dude has a mask and a claw and can climb the cage in his level! They have boss stages like they do in a platforming game or like Final Fight? Awesome. We were hooked.

Time went on, we played on the unit at 7-11 whenever we could and then the unimaginable happened. We had always wished for a way to just play Street Fighter II at home whenever we wanted, and our wish was granted in the form of a SNES game. The day we got Street Fighter II, we played for hours. We learned everyone’s moves, sparring all day and that’s when our decades long rivalry between my brother’s Ken and my Ryu began.

It’s a funny thing really. Some people might think it’s a little weird, but Street Fighter II brought my brother and I together. I was always his little brother he could pick on and give a hard time, but when we played Street Fighter II, all bets were off. We came to grow a form of mutual respect for each other from a game that provided us with a form of friendly competition. When those moments came where we were staring each other down, both with a sliver of health left, we cheered and cursed at the outcome with smiles on our faces. There were times when we took on the CPU together as well, switching off when one of us lost, and tacking on one more star of difficulty each time we beat it. We were becoming masters, taking on the task of beating the game on the highest difficulty without losing a round. We discovered just how complex Street Fighter II really was.

We got older and experienced all of the different iterations of the series. We used the code on the SNES version of SFII to get the Champion Edition colors, we sought out each new version of the game in arcades, and we even experimented with our Game Genie to get weird doppelgangers of the boss characters in our SNES game. Luckily Capcom released SF II Turbo for the SNES so we could be legit. Time went on and we perfected our techniques, still practicing with each other, still learning and growing. Other games came and went, but we always came back to Street Fighter.

We still play from time to time these days. We played our fair share of SFIV and SSFIV when they came out, but sometimes adult life can get the best of you. Though we may not play like we did before, the spirit of those times is still there when we do. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Capcom for providing 20 years of Street Fighter fun to everyone. I hope there are others out there that experienced something similar and I encourage any new gamers these days to try to get into the Street Fighter series. It is definitely one of a kind and is, in my opinion, one of the finest game series of all time.

Here’s to you, Street Fighter II!

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