Bow down to me, for I have not lost a single fight in my career


Street Fighter II: Turbo (1993)

I’ve talked an awful lot before about schoolyard fights, and how they all tend to suffer from the same fate as heavyweight boxing these days: full of complete mismatches, too much grabbing and sweat and not enough wild swinging haymakers, and usually stopped way too early before any real punishment can be meted out.

But I wanted to tell you of my own record in juvenile scrapping. And it doesn’t make for decent reading, I’m afraid: I can’t remember how many brouhahas I got myself involved in over the years but most, in fact all of them ended in stoppages or draws.

I’ve thrown punches, but having hand speed as slow as a pensioned off sloth ensured that probably only 10% of the clubbers I threw even landed on my opponent’s outstretched defending arm. I don’t think I ever rapped anyone’s jaw, and I’d only fall on my swanny if I tried to bring kicks into my repertoire. I’m unlikely to follow in my countryman Conor McGregor’s footsteps, if I can put it that way.

In fact, about the only thing I know about scrapping is that you shouldn’t keep your thumb in your hand when you throw hurtin’ bombs, in case you smash it to pieces. You can smash your fists to pieces anyway if you throw your punches with full welly, so it pays to hold back in a bare knuckle rammy. And apparently the ideal way to throw jabs is to throw ‘em like you’re thwacking a rolled up towel at the fatty’s bumcrack as he changes for PE (sorry, “gym class”). Although I have no idea if any of this is true, so maybe proven pugilists out there could offer a correction.

Actually any amateur street fight I’ve spectated seems to feature two men trying to take each other’s clothes off. No, really, I’m even guilty of it myself. Nobody ever assumes smart fighting stances or even looks to throw a clean punch; it just evolves from insults and threats to pushing and shoving, and finally becomes a grabbing match. And because you’re there grabbing anywhere you can, you’ll usually just end up grabbing a fistful of woolly jumper and pulling it towards you as if you were a drowning man desperately clinging on for dear life.

This may very well be the reason that many of the World Warriors in Street Fighter II: Turbo are naked. Disappointingly, leggy kung fu gal Chun Li isn’t, and even more disappointingly, voluminous sumo wrestler E. Honda is.

Still, if you’ve got your hard-earned cash on me to win a fight for you, and there’s no stripping, headbutts, spitting, eye-gouging or urinating allowed, then you’ll be waiting an awful long time for my maiden victory. If I want to win a fight, it’s gonna have to be through virtual means – not bragging, but I am Ali, Tyson and Popinski combined on the Fight Night games.

I can throw 50 Scorpion harpoons a second in Mortal Kombat. And did you ever see that competitive Street Fighter III video where the lad on the right throws out all those frame-perfect blocks then takes victory in front of literally zillions of screaming fans? That was me that was. So make no mistake about it, fighting games are this champion’s domain.

But let’s get back to step one. Or perhaps step two, because nobody ever seems to talk about Street Fighter 1 or remember it fondly – but that’s with good reason, let me tell you. Whatever about that, in what must be one of the most improved and successful sequels in any medium, money-hungry Capcom came back with a belter in Street Fighter II, and we’re still paying for it decades later with sequels up the wazoo.

Street Fighter II is one thing. Super Street Fighter II is quite another. But Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, released in 2017… that’s when even the game cover-art and logo designers have to take a stand and say enough’s enough.

The initial arcade release of Street Fighter II was so ball-blisteringly popular that home ports were inevitable, and it was Nintendo who got the jump on everyone else with a hugely impressive, pretty accurate representation. On a new deluxe 16 Megabit cartridge, no less!

But obviously it didn’t stop there – the ever trusty Wikipedia informs me that you can pick yourself up Street Fighter II or its barely-updated-iterations on every one of these systems: Super NES, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, DOS, Game Boy, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, PlayStation Portable, iOS, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Java ME, Wii, Xbox 360 Arcade, PC Engine, Sharp X68000 (no, me neither), Master System, Mega Drive/Genesis, Nintendo Switch…

Why, just last night I played the Game Boy version, and I almost had to take a day off work the frame-rate was so choppy. But it was there and available for any person mad enough to want a black and white and green Street Fighter II on the go – and they probably did, at the time.

Really, there’s only one question that needs to be answered here: who is the strongest World Warrior? I know it isn’t me, given that there’s twelve behemoths to take down here and I don’t tend to stand a chance once their difficulty level goes beyond four stars.

I tried bulking up before, you know, for fighting purposes. But I seem to have misread the instructions and I became fat instead. What do those arrogant gym rats know anyway, when they spout this kind of rubbish online and angrily cast down upon anyone who disagrees? They told me that chicken was good and full of protein, but when I added it to all my pizzas, suddenly my waistline didn’t want to know. What’s all that about?

Anyway, to wit: you’ve got Ryu and Ken, who specialise in Shotokan karate. I remember having a teacher in school who was all into Shotokan karate. Sounds great, but he never produced any Hadouken fireballs when I asked him to.

There’s the Incredible Hulk lookalike Blanka, who crash-landed in Brazil as a young boy until the favela air turned him into a monster. Not quite PC social commentary, is it? But after all, this game was released back in the doomed days of the USSR, where the almost-immobile, useless bear wrestler Zangief hails from.

When I say Guile, you should automatically think of paintbrush hair, an all American hero and that theme. Street Fighter 2 vets will probably think of him as terribly overpowered and glitchy as well, if the tier lists can be believed. Well, I prefer to rate the fighters on how far they fly across the screen and how easy it is to pull off their special moves, but that’s just me.

E. Honda flies across the screen beautifully, in spite of his frame, and he fulfils the role of sumo wrestler. This prompts the question as to whether there was a sumo wrestler position that needed filling, but anyway. You’ll write him off until he slaps you a hundred times in 4 seconds, beating even my girlfriend’s record when she’s been on the turps.

Next, Chun Li. Finally, a bit of crumpet! Yes, I know we’ve already discussed Guile. Well, Chunners moves like the wind… though if she gets those thighs around your gullet, you can forget about wind of any kind passing through there. Make no mistake, those tree trunks will leave you crying ‘Why couldn’t it have been me instead?’

And there’s the stretchy-armed Indian as well.

After that you’ve got the four bosses, now playable for the first time. Though because some cheeky sod at Capcom decided to name the obviously malevolent and frightfully ugly boxer Mike Bison, they ran into some problems when it came time to localise the game in territories where a lispy, powerful nutter might just have resided.

So we talk about Claw (the Spanish creepy narcissist), Boxer (the aforementioned boxing golem who has forgotten how to kick) and Dictator (known to us as M. Bison). What does this M stand for? Michael? Murderous? Maddeningly Cheap? And we can’t forget Grand Canyon chested Sagat. Tiger! Tiger!

So that’s the World Warriors, and they fight each other again and again, and that’s it. Nothing to unlock, not much progression… each character does have their own ending if you suffer through the game on a sufficiently hard enough difficulty, but that’s that.

But that’s only it for single player. Obviously the real juice of the game is beating your mates with a hand tied behind your back, but even that gets old for me pretty fast. You can only have your head weaved into the canvas so many times, and these days there are much more stylish and elegant ways of having your face kicked in. Respect this one for its influence, but otherwise, leave it on skid row.

09 April 2018

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