Once again I’m late to the party, but this weekend I hope to finally be playing Street Fighter 4 online…on the PC. Yes I know I’m nearly a month late to the PC release, but I had been focusing on the console versions since launch. I’ve been watching match videos on youtube, perusing multiple forums, and just absorbing information about the game in general. For someone who has yet to play the actual game, I’ve spent a remarkable amount of time just reading about it, and vicariously experiencing it through forum discussions and match videos.
Unfortunately, my current financial situation prevents me from purchasing an Xbox 360, SF4 and a fighting stick. It was only recently that a light bulb lit up in my head when I realized that my gaming PC is beefy enough to run SF4. So I can snag the game and a decent fighting stick for less than $100.
This is not my first exposure to Street Fighter. I grew up in Asia about the time Street Fighter 2 and Fatal Fury first hit arcades. I still fondly remember my dog-eared copy of EGM that had photos and descriptions of each fighter’s special moves, as well as a short bio on each character. I recall acting out the special moves of every character for my oldest nephew, and describing each fighter to him. Sadly, in those days I was pretty young and was not good at understanding the finer details of fighting games
. I wanted to be good at Ryu, but I didn’t have the skill to do fireballs or shoryukens properly. I would often jump accidentally when trying special moves. I settled for learning Guile, because his charge moves came easier to me. And I got pretty decent against the computer, but was still a scrub against better players. I rarely won versus another player, unless he was inexperienced like me. I also played other stuff like Fatal Fury, but I would play every version of SF that came out. Still, I was never more than a mediocre player.
I would return to Street Fighter when Capcom released New Challengers and Super Turbo. I quickly discovered that I sucked with Cammy, Fei Long and T Hawk. After King of Fighters debuted in 1994, I gravitated to it. I played significantly more KOF for a while and started to learn proper move execution. About the time KOF 95′ came out, I knew how to perform most special moves on demand. Still, my game relied on using mainly the strongest normals and special moves. I didn’t use pokes, footsies, or jab strings. I was basically a player who used Hard Punch and Hard Kick for everything. I also played Street Fighter Alpha, and its sequels during their arcade release, but I was playing more KOF than SF at this point, and it wasn’t until Street Fighter 3 that I finally “understood” the game. I got pretty good at SF3, nothing amazing, but I did pretty well in my local scene.
Unfortunately, some time after SF3 3rd Strike was released, I fell out of the fighting game scene for many years.
And so, more than eighteen years after Street Fighter 2 came out, I’m returning to Street Fighter, and to Ryu. Ryu has always been an iconic character, his ending in the original SF2 really affected me. I remember it to this day. He’s the solid, well-balanced “basic” fighter archetype that has spawned countless imitations across the fighting game genre. Strangely, I haven’t really tried to use him since the New Challengers. Even in the Versus series, like Capcom Vs SNK and Marvel Vs Capcom, I intentionally avoided using Ryu. I sort of had a mental block about using him, since all my attempts at “mastering” Ryu had met with failure. Also, he’s always been a well-rounded popular character that gets picked by many players. And so in nearly every game I would use a character that was “different”. I used Guy in the Alpha series, and Yun and Makoto in SF3.
This time however, I’m gonna pick Ryu. I’m a better player now, with a better understanding of the game, the fighters and the engine. I think that now that I’ve gotten all this experience under my belt, I’m finally ready to use him. It’s kind of a cool feeling, to come back to a character that I had originally wanted to play, but for one reason or another I passed over. I also have a different mindset now. I’m going to approach this as a learning experience, not as a way to show my “skills”. I must credit David Sirlin for writing a series of articles collectively called “Playing to Win“, that taught me many things. Not just about fighting games in general, but also about the mental barriers that a mediocre or “scrubby” player has to overcome in his head to succeed. Hopefully, the next time I play against someone with Ryu, I’ll be playing to win, and to learn.