Street Fighter: II Why We Play It, and How To Play It – Mechanics

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Why Do We Say Street Fighter II is so fun?

So after Part 1 of this series, you know WHAT Street Fighter II is, and you know HOW to play it today.

Maybe because you played it back in the day. Or because Street Fighter IV gave you your first taste of competitive fighting games, you’re . Or you play Super Smash Bros. competitively, and have always wondered what the heck playing “traditional” fighting games is like.

It’s simple. Street Fighter II is a timeless, perfectly imperfect video game that challenges you in an incredibly fun way, and the result of talented development and (much like Super Smash Bros. Melee) unintended glitches that bring about depth no programmer could envision.

Super Street Fighter II Turbo (“ST”, as we call it) is the fifth rendition of SF2, and the game we still play competitively, offline and online. It challenges you in ways that most video games — even today’s newest fighting games — don’t.

YOU are the comeback mechanic

You can’t ever relax or turn your brain off to succeed in ST. With its high speed and high damage, making a single really dumb mistake can lose you a match. No lead is safe. It’s incredibly empowering to know that even if you’ve been losing the whole match, all you need is one opening and you can score a hit or knockdown, changing the momentum, and attempt a comeback.

ST doesn’t need a comeback mechanic that gives the losing player a secret weapon every round. YOU are your own comeback mechanic, and always have the tools at your disposal, and that makes the game all the more satisfying and fun to play.

Want to learn it? Just Play It!

Additionally, ST is more about refinement and simply playing the game than rote memorization or “training mode” combos. In many of today’s fighting games, the game essentially goes into one-player mode when a player initiates a long, guaranteed combo, and the opponent just has to sit and watch for anywhere from 5-30 seconds.

Today’s game companies want to push the wow factor of their games and give players a feeling of accomplishment by making their game engine flexible enough to allow long, guaranteed, easy-to-perform combos.

The by-product of this is players end up relying much less on decision making and strategy and more on “I just need to land this one combo”. I’ve seen it over and over through the years since Street Fighter IV brought a new generation of fans to fighting games.

There’s almost nothing to memorize to play Street Fighter II. To enjoy ST, you don’t need a strategy guide, or YouTube training, or training mode, or frame data, or super long combos you have to spend hours learning and practicing.

You need to learn the properties of your moves, because there’s no get-out-of-jail combos or mechanics to win the game for you off of one fortunate hit. You need to learn which moves are good in what situation. And each character only has 2-3 special attacks (special joystick motion plus a button) and a Super move, which are all easy to perform.

How do you learn your moves properties? If you get serious you should talk to expert players about ST, but mostly, you just play the damn game. When a character attacks you, try a move and see if it works. If it does, sweet! If it doesn’t, try varying the distance or the timing of your attack.

You can also watch matches on YouTube or through STrevival.com , but just playing the game is your primary way to learn. If you see something in a match that interests you, try it yourself.

If you want to grow as a player and a person, imitating others’ play styles and opinions will only get you so far. ST gives you all the power in the world to create your own way of playing after you grasp the basics. Cherry pick strategies and tactics from others’, but ST encourages creativity and freedom in your quest to succeed.

Without combos, there’s always new strategy to learn

Because ST does not revolve around long combos to entertain, reward, and lead a player to victory, it constantly inspires you to leverage the simple tools you have in new ways.

– Here are two of the U.S.’s top East Coast players in a high-stakes tournament. Count how many moves Guile used to win the first match. Not that many!

Dedicated players around the world are still learning about ST! I’ve been fortunate to have been able to contribute to the organized Street Fighter community through our international competitive event, Season’s Beatings, from 2006-2012, and as a committee member of ST Revival, the group that has organized the ST world championship since 2011.

Last year we were able to bring a number of Japanese players to the U.S. for the event, who happen to be the best in the world, and since we all had a whole weekend to talk and play all together, us non-Japanese players learned amazing new strategies and tactics.

For instance, the character Vega has a move — the Wall Dive — that knocks you down, and if he hits you once, he can immediately do it again and you have to guess whether to block right or left. If you guess correctly, you block and stay on your feet. Guess wrong and you just ate more damage, and have to play the guessing game again. You can lose a round easily just from being mixed up by wall dives.

One of the top 2 Americans invented an option select (basically, executing two moves at once) with Old Ken that he found more reliable than just guess-blocking a Wall Dive. Well, when he tried his technique on the world’s best player, who uses Vega, we were amazed that it didn’t work at all! We didn’t know why, either, just that he clearly knows something we don’t!

Street Fighter II is more than 20 years old. Learning long combos in new games can be fun, but because your brain has no ceiling and ST is mostly about strategy, its simple toolbox enables us to always learn new things.

It mirrors the appeal of ‘80s arcade hits in that your toolbox is very simple, but you can spend your whole life using those tools to improve.

It says “Turbo” for a Reason!

This is a Grand Finals between two world-class Balrog (Boxer) players … the entire first game was over in less than 30 seconds. In Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 you can be stuck watching (or doing) a combo that lasts that long, with maybe 1 decision to make for the defender that whole time.

4:35 Frank wins. To the casual observer, all you probably see is a bunch of fireballs, right? Beneath the surface, a decision is behind every fireball. Because of the high damage in ST, every move you throw out has to have a purpose and a calculated risk. If you throw a fireball at the wrong time and the wrong distance, you will probably lose 50% life on a jump-in combo. So you have to think:

A: Do I throw a fireball as fast as I can?

B: Do I try to trick them into landing on a fireball?

C: Do I want to lure him closer to uppercut him?

D: Do I want him at the opposite end of the screen as me so he takes fireball block damage?

Conversely, jumping at someone in ST is extremely unsafe, because anti-air counters are very strong. So when you jump in, either you’re guessing that the opponent will be too slow to counter you, or in attack stun. There is no jumping and just hoping your attack hits and leads to an easy combo.

— Tokido / Damdai jump ins

In ST, for you to lose half your life in one combo — first off, it’s going to take about 3 seconds to happen, so you have to already be thinking of your next move, and second, you have to make a big mistake (or be tricked) for you to eat that much damage.

You really have to bother to learn timing to play. To attract a wider player base, today’s fighters allow incorrect inputs and frame windows in between moves to chain combos together easily. Trying to mash out combos and not caring about the timing of your button presses (or which buttons you press!) and hoping for results won’t get you anywhere. ST rewards you for thinking about how you’re playing the game.

So the precision needed for attacking leaves little margin for error.

Not only that, but part of what makes ST so fun is the game speed: it’s fast! Tournament speed on a U.S. board or Asian board is Free Select Turbo 2, and preset Turbo 3 on a Japanese board. It’s an extremely fast-paced game, much more than the Street Fighters after it, especially today’s Street Fighter IV and V.

Most importantly, characters’ walking speed is very fast, and it makes for an extremely fluid game. It opens ST up and give you options and creative flexibility you just don’t have in most other games.

– 4:40 ground normals, walk speed

Combine that with high-damage and high stakes, and this means you have to think just as fast. ST demands a lot from the player, and having the game respect your skills as a player is much more rewarding when you work toward a victory.

Events

It might surprise you, but Street Fighter II is probably more popular today than it has been since about 1993, in three ways: number of organized events, knowledge of the game, and easy access to finding players.

SFII went through 5 official revisions in its arcade days, spawning dozens of console and PC ports, but back then it was very rare to find a serious tournament, for most players in the U.S. Tournaments were mostly put on by arcade operators or extremely dedicated fans holding small events at their houses or local arcades.

In the late ‘90s, some of those grassroots events became larger and annual, with hardcore players from neighboring states starting to get word through word-of-mouth or online. With the sheer number of fighting games out, events could attract players through tournaments in 10 or more fighting games. By the 2000s a few events had established themselves as “majors” with players from around the country attending.

Because of the dedication of fighting-game players — and the connectivity of the information age — today many cities have either an actual arcade or weekly or monthly meetups for people to play each other.

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