How To Play Street Fighter II (And Why) Today

How to play Street Fighter II?

No one at Capcom could have ever predicted the effect Street Fighter II would have on arcade goers, videogame players, two generations, and even popular culture, on a worldwide level.

Like pretty much every kid old enough to hold a controller in 1991, I was obsessed with Street Fighter II, and was lucky enough to have a mom and grandparents who would take me to the arcade once a month to get matches in.

[caption id="attachment_1281" align="alignnone" width="540"]Chris Hatala Games Done Legit origin story Chris Hatala: Origin Stories[/caption]

Fast forward to being introduced in college to the organized, fan-run fighting-game community, and I became a nationally placing competitor as well as the co-director of our own national fighting-game event, Season’s Beatings, at which Street Fighter II was always a featured competition (although not the focus).

[caption id="attachment_1289" align="alignnone" width="536"]SBa logo Not a fan of roman-numeral sequels or “EVENT NAME PLUS YEAR” we came up with a subtitle each year and branding to match it, to give people really really fresh annually for SB.[/caption]

SB became international in 2009, and with the special-event matches we organized. it became the second-biggest tournament in the world. Good times. Through that stretch we strived to creatively honor and cater to the hardcore Street Fighter II community through 3-on-3 team tournaments, $50 entry, high-stakes tournaments that attracted top talent, and showcasing finals live and on stream and to stand it up with the newer games.

So even with special events for the newest games (like the video below) headling at SB …

… as a guy who doesn’t enjoy the new fighting games, we got to live out our Street Fighter dreams by setting up tournaments and dream matches on the side in the games we love.

(I used to play the cheapest character, Old Sagat. Old Ryu is my man again now.)

[caption id="attachment_1288" align="alignnone" width="540"]SB4poster My co-director always had great ideas – still an early era for tournaments, he made SB look professional with getting a logo made and awesome posters like this designed to promote the boxing-like special events at SB.[/caption]

It’s because of SB, which of course wouldn’t have existed without Street Fighter II, that I learned how to entertain and galvanize others through gaming, giving me the impetus to follow my dreams and start a videogame entertainment company, Games Done Legit, in 2013.

(So to all who attended or watched Season’s Beatings from 2006-2012, I am personally extremely grateful to you, and rest assured delivering the best in gaming entertainment will forever be my passion)

[caption id="attachment_1282" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Games Done Legit Season's Beatings fighting games tournament Thanks to SB and SF2, I’m doing game entertainment for a living now! #ThankYouCapcom[/caption]

For me, SB still serves as a look at what videogame events can truly be like. The energy, camaraderie we can share through videogaming is truly a special, unique thing.

So many of us share stories about the people and experiences fighting games in particular have brought to our lives. And Street Fighter II is the origin.

History is fun. But Street Fighter II is more than history. It’s the present and future. It’s truly a timeless videogame, and it’s more alive than ever.

[caption id="attachment_1290" align="alignnone" width="950"]TOL2 poster The Super Turbo Revival Committee, led by Bob “kuroppi” Painter, was an incredible effort to install qualifiers around the world for a true world championship of Street Fighter II![/caption]

I was honored to work on the ST Revival committee these past few years, working to unite players and tournaments across the world for a true world championship of Super Street Fighter II Turbo. And it made me reflect on the journey that Street Fighter II has led us all on these 20+ years.

(And I’m not a reflective person … I’ve watched almost none of the stream footage from Season’s Beatings over the years and didn’t get to see most of the big matches live, either!)

Street Fighter II revolutionized videogames back in 1991, fundamentally changing and influencing what the gaming experience can be. A one-on-one, timed game of physical (and mystical) digital combat, it gave players unprecedented control: a joystick and 6 buttons grants you access to an unlimited number of strategies, tactics and tricks to gain victory over your opponent.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1440"] 1 joystick, 6 buttons, unlimited depth.[/caption]

However, the key to its mega popularity is that it’s simple to pick up and learn the basics –moving your character around and understanding which buttons do what (3 punches & 3 kicks, with each having light, medium, and heavy attacks). And it never gets old.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1200"] I remember the first time I saw this machine at Seven Springs resort in PA, 1991![/caption]

Most importantly, it ushered in a new era of player-versus-player excitement. No game had ever allowed you to out-think and out-react a human opponent like this. Sure, there was Pong, the original PVP hit, but here was the equivalent of digital chess! Street Fighter II naturally drives you experiment with ideas, perfect techniques, and seek out new challengers.

Street Fighter II gives the player a way to express him or herself digitally in an unprecedented way. Players’ strategies, play styles and character choice often reflect their very personality. Do you play defensive or offensive? Do you play the stoic, consummate karate master? Or his flashy, American counterpart? The aggressive Brazillian monster? The American Air Force Colonel out to avenge his best friend?

It’s legacy remains today, in both game sequels, media, gaming events and even popular culture.

(Street Fighter: The Movie is amazing.)

This will be a multi-part series on the WHY Street Fighter II is still enjoyed around the world, both by casual fans and the most hardcore fighting-game players of all-time. Even today’s few salaried professional fighting-game players will take time away from the stream and spotlight of the new games and throw down in SF2 tournaments, because the love of the game is that real.

[caption id="attachment_1291" align="alignnone" width="950"]Arcade Legacy poster The qualifier I personally ran at the amazing Arcade Legacy in Cincy![/caption]

I’ve been asked a lot over the years why I only play older fighting games, despite being so closely involved in the fighting-game community. For me, the newer fighting games (outside of King of Fighters XIII) do not have what I love about fighting games.

[caption id="attachment_1286" align="alignnone" width="683"]Me at SBss ST machine Just because I’m hosting the tournament doesn’t mean I can’t play! Who could miss a chance to play Super Turbo with the world’s best![/caption]

I don’t tell people not to play games just because I don’t enjoy them. Videogames, for almost all of us, are a hobby, and we have hobbies to have fun. Positivity always trumps negativity, so I do strive to show people why the classics are still so fun, and why in 2015 they are worth playing.

Super Street Fighter II Turbo (ST) is the easiest “classic” fighting game to get into. It’s one of the most-played videogames of all time, and people who enjoyed back in the day can couple that nostalgia with the new technology of 20 years of tournaments.

Additionally, players who got into competitions or online play with Street Fighter IV immediately have a frame of reference in the basics of ST: the joystick, the 6-button scheme, how the characters look, the special moves, etc.

Why is ST worth playing today? Here’s 10 reasons why::

— There’s more ST players than EVER

ST is still incredibly accessible

 ST offers the player things new fighting games don’t

— There are more ST events than EVER

— There are more match videos & resources than EVER

More than 20 years later, ST is still evolving.

— When you play ST, you’re apart of an evolving culture and history

— ST players comprise a worldwide, friendly, welcoming community

— No BS — everyone who plays ST does so because they absolutely love it

— New players are picking up ST every year

Planning the world championship of Street Fighter II in 2012, getting ST on the main stage, and seeing thousands of people who don’t know anything about ST get this hype for world-level played proved to me that ST has cross-generational appeal and can last forever!

Cool — so how and where can I play ST?

So now maybe you’re curious and willing to give it a shot with your friends.

There has NEVER been a perfect home port of ST, unfortunately. ST’s the fifth iteration of Street Fighter II, and there’s a lot of weird stuff in the game because of how many piles of code were piled on top of each other, year after year.

Think of it like a sandwich. You get 2 slices of bread, put a slice of turkey between them, and slather on some ballpark mustard. It’s tasty. Perfect combo. Then next sandwich you add ham and ketchup. It’s yummy and you want to get even crazier. Your fifth sandwich has grape jam, a beer-soaked brat, 4 kinds of cheese, chili and egg yolk, and the way everything dripped and oozed together, you know you could never make this sandwich again the same way twice.

ST is that crazy sandwich. So unless you’re playing an arcade board, you’re just gonna have to deal with that sandwich not being as perfect as the original monstracity.

So I’ll finish this first Street Fighter II blog post by letting you know what your options are. The TLDR version is posted  below.

STversions.png

1. Arcade Machine

Pros: It’s perfect.

Cons: Very expensive. Space hog.

So for tournaments, optimally we play on head-to-head Japanese cabinets.

versuscity2p1r.jpg

Unless you live near an arcade that caters to competitive fighting games or are a REALLY passionate retrogamer, that’s probably not an option for you.

Head-to-head is amazing on Japanese cabs. Each player has a whole control console and a 29″ CRT monitor to him- or herself! In Japanese arcades, you’ll find these Astro City and Versus City cabinets lined up in rows of classic arcade games. A number of American fans have imported them to the states.

We were lucky at SB to have arcade fighters on candy cabs and even a Showcase cabinet thanks to Matt “zenblaster” Fowler and Arcade Legacy of Cincinnati!

#2. Arcade board at home

Pros: It’s perfect; controllers of your choice

Cons: Really expensive. Everything you need is rare. Suicide battery.

That’s OK. If you really love ST, you can actually purchase an arcade board and play without an arcade machine, via a Supergun or, ideally, a UD-CPS2.

The UD-CPS2, created by Brian “Undamned” Grissom (who’s an awesome guy and a friend!), was designed specifically for the modern ST community (but works with any Capcom CPS2 arcade board).

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="624"]STboard.jpg Finding an ST board is an expensive endeavor these days, but it’s worth it![/caption]

A Supergun is basically a big box containing all the guts and video output of an arcade machine, and so you can play arcade PCBs on a TV.

The UD-CPS2 is everything in a supergun but is contained in an actual CPS2 motherboard, with the key addition of USB ports that work with almost any arcade stick or controller. So you just plug your ST board into the UD-CPS2 and you have a portable solution for playing ST, with modern controllers!

Note that you will need an old-school CRT to play ST, or else you’ll have to deal with the input lag that comes from gaming on an HDTV. If that’s not an option, skip to the end for your best HDTV options.

One thing to note: CPS2 B-boards have an internal battery that will eventually die on you, called the “suicide battery” for obvious reasons. On CPS2 it’s not that big a deal, though. It lasts for years, and before it dies, you can actually change it with a fresh battery yourself. If it dies you can send it to an expert to “Phoenix” the board so you’ll never have the problem again. I’ll update this section on how to do that when I get some answers.

It’s pretty expensive to buy a used ST board, let alone a UD-CPS2, so as a new ST player, you’re probably interested in option #3: FightCade.

#3. Offline/Online ST play on your PC or Mac

Pros: Free; accessible; always have someone to play; minimal online lag

Cons: Game speed is imperfect playing online; minimal online lag

Fightcade is the newest service that can allow you to play ST online. The game speed is different than you’ll be playing in a true tournament (which alters your timing), plus there’s a bit of inevitable lag, but it’s where you’ll find knowledgeable, friendly players (mostly) playing at all times of the day and night, across the whole world.

This is your best way to play ST these days unless you already have a thriving offline community. There are even free, regular tournaments you can join in, put on by ST fans like us.

The best way to learn ST is just to play it, so this is the best way to get matchup experience, see what your favorite characters can do, and talk to people about the game.

Fightcade is a fan-made project, and totally free to use. It runs on the Final Burn Alpha emulator, which was created to perfectly emulate CPS2 games. So if you play offline, you should use the arcade, tournament speed settings (U.S.=Free Select Turbo 2, Japan=pre-set Turbo 3)

#4. Dreamcast

Pros: Best store-bought home version; easily play on HDTV monitor via VGA box

Cons: Finding arcade sticks; aspect ratio wrong; timing at beginning of match wrong

You might not believe it, but the next-best way to play ST on a console is on Dreamcast.

It is a port, but it’s the best port available. ST master NKI even figured out special dip switch settings to make it as close to arcade as possible. (You can have access to the same ST settings in a VMU save that’s contained on the Toodles Capcom DC disc. Google “Toodles Capcom Dreamcast” and you’ll find it pretty easy).

The cons I noted don’t ruin the game at all, but they’re enough to be annoying to a really serious player. It’s the best home port by far though!

#5. HD Remix (in classic mode)

Pros: Avail. on Playstation 3 & Xbox 360; Cheap; USB sticks are easy to buy; Online play

Cons: Altered graphics; imperfect port of an imperfect port; doesn’t “feel the same”

I could probably write a book about what I’ve learned from insiders about how Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix was made, but I won’t get into it. Suffice to say that nobody plays HDR now.

HDR is a re-drawn, re-balanced version of Street Fighter II. Characters have new or altered moves and properties, as well as kind of looking like a Flash game.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="592"]sf2hdr_img.png Made in Adobe Flash. (jk).[/caption]

Competitively, it’s dead as a doornail now. After much debate, everyone went back to ST.

There is a “Classic” mode which is a port of the Dreamcast version of ST with the HDR engine. So basically it’s a port of an already imperfect port, with altered (arguably downgraded) graphics and some random properties. You can play with “original” graphics and music, but it looks pretty murky on a screen larger than 30”.

The upside is that most gamers today have an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3, and if you don’t they’re cheapish now and easy to get. Arcade sticks and 6-button pads are easy to find these days, as multiple companies make good to excellent ones.

No matter what though you can’t have the backgrounds in original art mode. And the altered special effects can’t be rolled back either. The game engine just doesn’t “feel” the same, a common complaint for players who’ve logged hundreds of hours on ST (me included).

This is a great option for most gamers today wanting to mess with ST if you don’t have a computer or need something to take to a friend’s house easily. Just put it on classic music and classic sprites and classic mode.

#6. Hyper Street Fighter II (Anniversary Edition)

I don’t know who this would apply to anymore, but if for some reason you only have a Playstation 2 or original Xbox, Street Fighter Anniversary Edition in the U.S. contains a crazy version of SF2 in which you can play all 5 versions of each character, with their properties from that game in tact.

For instance, you can play Champion Edition M. Bison (who has a block-stun chain you can never escape from) vs. Hyper Fighting Zangief, whose kick Spinning Lariat is invincible to low attacks.

So you can play Super Turbo versions of characters, but they aren’t 100% the same. Some of their properties will be different, and most of the old “Super” versions aren’t right at all either (who are very important to high-level ST play). ST Vega’s Wall Dive move is messed up which is key to playing that character in ST.

So yeah. If you only have a Playstation 2 arcade stick and are too lazy to get it to work with another version, at least the engine and feel of the game are better than HDR in Classic mode.

#7. Everything Else

You might not think so, but there were a TON of ST ports. It didn’t make it to SEGA Genesis or Super Nintendo because of the colossal failure of their port of Super Street Fighter II (the previous version to ST), but first MS DOS CD-ROM, then Panasonic 3DO, then SEGA Saturn and Sony Playstation all got ports of ST.

In 2007, it looked like Capcom did the ST community a huge favor (we thought) by including an arcade-emulation of ST on the Capcom Classics Collection 2 compilation disc. We were super excited and used it for our ST tournament at Season’s Beatings 2, which was already a national major.

Unfortunately, the emulation was trash. Not only did we find it to have terrible input lag (4 frames if I remember right), but the two-player versus mode injects all kinds of crazy glitches into the game. Playing two players in arcade mode is barely better — the game speed on certain stages goes crazy for no reason.

The music on the MS-DOS CD-ROM version is amazing, and you can pop the CD right in a music player.

Other than that the versions are poor enough to not be bothered with. You should play the DOS one for a laugh though. (Although it’s not nearly as insanely broken as the DOS port of original Street Fighter II.

Least-laggy HDTV/Monitor setup

So most of us don’t have CRT (cathode-ray tube) televisions sitting around the house anymore. Despite the black levels and ability to handle both low and high resolutions simultaneously on tubes, the portability, form factor and low cost of LCD and LED-lit televisions sets have won the battle for the consumer.

And they have input lag. What does that mean? Basically, think of Super Mario Bros. When you push B to jump, you see Mario jump. On a Nintendo Entertainment System on a CRT, Mario jumps with zero input lag. Put that NES on an HDTV and you will see Mario jump with more of a delay than on the tube.

Thankfully, we’re in an age where HDTV lag has been minimized. And that’s good news for ST players!

Best HDTV and Monitor options

First off, response time IS NOT related to input lag, guys. I know it’s confusing, but this is really important. Let’s say it together: “Response time is not related to input lag.”

OK, with that said, to play ST on an HD setup, you’ve got:

Monitors

BenQ and ASUS are well known among gamers for making monitors with about roughly 1/3 of a frame of input lag (9-10 ms).

They are NOT lagless. Every LCD (and LCD that’s LED lit) panel lags. It’s just a question of, “What’s the best we can do, and do you notice it?”

Refer to Displaylag.com to find a monitor that meets your needs. Most gamers use monitors with 11 ms of lag or less in a 23″ or 27″ display.

If you’re playing ST via 360, Playstation 3, Dreamcast or computer, then you’re good to go through HDMI or VGA output.

If you’re playing via Supergun or UD-CPS2, you need to either get a monitor that has composite or S-video input (do these exist?) or you need an upscaler to output to HDMI or VGA without lagging. Refer to the section below on the X-RGB upscaler.

HDTVs

Look up your HDTV on Displaylag.com and see if it’s there. Anything above 24ms of input lag (1 frame) will mess with your timing when you play in tournament, but if you’re just keeping it casual, don’t worry about it for now unless you find it to be atrocious lag.

These days there are large (40″-60″) HDTVs with 24 ms (1 frame) and less of lag. (A new batch even come out testing at 17 ms.) A gaming monitor is 9-11 ms of lag and people consider that lagless, so that’s pretty freaking good if you’re in the market for a new home HDTV.

(I’ve been reading about laser TVs and OLED TVs for years and keep hoping that they will finally replace LCD technology. I don’t know if LG’s current OLED TVs has been tested for input lag anywhere yet. If it has please let me know and I’ll update this!)

The X-RGB series: the upscaler that basically eliminates lag

So if are one of the most serious retrogamers out there, you really need an X-RGB. Not only does it upscale analog video signals to an HDTVs native resolution, it makes old games look fantastic!

If you have a gaming monitor without S-video or composite inputs (most do not) then you’ll need an upscaler to output VGA or HDMI. There are lots of cheap upscalers out there that actually ADD input lag.

The X-RGB series is famous among retrogamers for delivering maximum picture quality while upscaling with undetectable input lag. (When a TV upscales, it creates lag, so if you have a special device to do the upscaling instead of the TV, it take out the middle man and stop the lag.)

They also don’t come cheap.

I have an older X-RGB 2 which only outputs VGA at 480p, and I can’t tell any extra lag on a gaming monitor. It’s probably there but it’s if it’s good enough for me, it’s probably good enough for you.

The newest model, the X-RGB Framemeister, outputs HDMI at up to 1080p, and accepts composite and S-video (which both a Supergun and UD-CPS2 output), so that’s your ideal, money-is-no-option setup.

In the next post at GDLent.com/SF2CE I’ll be posting a bit more strategy to explain why it’s so fun and has lasted 20+ years. See you then! Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter (@GamesDoneLegit) to talk Street Fighter or to share your story!

Fight For The Future

I know Street Fighter II will be played and loved for another 20 years, and as many How To Play Street Fighter II articles out there as possible are needed! Let’s keep it going and make sure everyone knows that SF2 is more than an important footnote in game history. It’s alive and well today and I look forward to seeing it enjoyed for years to come!

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="320"] Congrats, Street Fighter II! You’re old enough to legally drink in the U.S.![/caption]]]>

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