The greatest genre you’re not playing
Episode I - Button Bashing Roots.
When I was growing up my first exposure to fighting games was Street Fighter II’ Turbo - Hyper Fighting on Super Nintendo. I didn’t actually own the game myself, but I played a lot of it at a friends house. This was back when I was about 7 or 8.
Having served my years with the NES I had seen my share of games where the objective was to kick ass...but Street Fighter II was different. It was 1 vs 1, I could either walk towards or away, crouch or jump, and every button initiated a punch or kick of varying strength. This was my first true taste of a “Fighting Game”.
Basically you had 2 ways to play... either against a friend, or we could choose a character and then try and complete the arcade mode with them. Although both ways of playing were essentially a mess, not because of Capcom (who made this great game) ...but because in “Arcade mode”, we would get our ‘n00b’ asses handed to us by the computer, and in “VS mode” neither of us had any real grasp of our characters, and thus the natural human instinct of “button mashing” kicked in. Although because of that, any wins (via button bashing) never really felt like wins.
Still, regardless of the frustrations and the complex difficulty the game threw at me...my fondness for the Street Fighter series was born with my very first hands-on with it.
I credit that to a mix of the following; the characters stood out, it was my first taste of a true fighting game, and although I sucked at it...it was rewarding when I managed to learn something, whether it was remembering 1 of a characters ‘specials’ or simply a tactic that would work against the computer (M. Bison’s Slide for instance, [cr.hk]).
There was also a sense of unique-ness to every fight too. Sure I’d taken Little Mac to as far as I could memorise attack patterns for in “Punch-Out” [NES], but that was more about timing than fighting...
I’d also fought my way through random henchmen a plenty in “Turtles” on the NES, Final Fight on SNES, or Streets of Rage/ Cyborg Justice/ Golden Axe, etc on the Megadrive, but your movesets in these games were always quite limited...
However with Street Fighter... as well as Mortal Kombat, Clayfighter, Killer Instinct, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, and other crazy fighting games I played as a kid. It felt more like what a fight should feel like...even with the addition of fireballs and many other crazy shenanigans.
Fast Forwarding to my teenage years... I still had respect and nostalgic love for Street Fighter II, backed up by the fact I usually had a copy of SFII on each and every system I had (except my N64...because the once rumoured Street Fighter 64 never got made).
Still though. Even during my teenage years, and closing in on hitting twenty, I had never really “up’d my game” in terms of making any real improvements at the fighting games I would occasionally pull out from time to time. At the most I would go as far as to perhaps look up a characters move list on the internet or someplace, and try to mash those moves out as much as I could in hopes it would get me the win...and sure it would work against much less experienced friends, and perhaps get me through the first 3-4 matches of the 1 player Arcade mode, but this never was enough to motivate me into putting that many hours into whichever games in question.
It was a trend between many of my friends too. Everyone I knew had at some point or another owned a fighting game, but in comparison to the rest of the games they owned, they barely got that much play time. Nor did I know anyone who was actually truly impressive at any of these fighting games.
I didn’t really give it any extra thought though. I just presumed fighting games were just destined to not really last you that long, that they pretty much where the kind of games you would whip out every other month...perhaps to see if you would randomly be any better at the game now... or maybe you had some friends round and wanted to mix up your multi-player gaming sessions with something violent and different to whatever else you’d be playing...
...and that was that. I remained oblivious to the true depth, the true reward, that lay within fighting games. That was until...February 2009, but I'll fill you in on the rest in Episode II.