Back in 1995, I didn’t think I would ever quit fighting games. I was still riding high on the Super Street Fighter II rush, mashing away on the Super Nintendo port at home. It was around this time that my mom was taking night school out of town, which meant that my dad, brother and I would spend our time waiting for my mom to finish class at the local mall. At the time, this mall had an awesome arcade, and I would regularly play (and get smoked) in Super Street Fighter II Turbo and Mortal Kombat 3.
Never did I think that a series of factors would ‘make’ me fall out of fighting games for 14 years. What happened?
I was a Nintendo loyalist
When Nintendo was king, every game made it onto their platform one way or another. However, the Nintendo 64 did a lot of things wrong, one of which was to make a system incapable of running modern-day 2D fighting games. From a system perspective and a controller perspective, the Nintendo 64 couldn’t handle the likes of Street Fighter Alpha (though oddly, the SNES got Alpha 2, which was sketchy at best). I was stubborn and I didn’t have the money to buy two systems, so when push came to shove, I was going Nintendo box all the way. Because of this decision, I pretty much cut off all 2D fighting games from my house. For a while, I tried to substitute my Street Fighter craving with games like Mortal Kombat Trilogy, War Gods and Clayfighter 63 1/3, but it was never the same and I just lost interest.
Even now, the Nintendo platforms of today have seen a major drought in fighting games. If I just owned a Wii, I would only have Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. While it’s a great game and much better than anything Nintendo has had since Super Street Fighter II on the SNES, it still falls well short of what its competitors have to offer.
I stopped going to the arcade
When my mom finished her night school courses, I was still too young to head to the arcades myself. While my older friends spent their after school time at the mall, learning the intricacies of Street Fighter Alpha, I was stuck at home with my Nintendo 64. Not to say that’s a bad thing, but my fighting game interest waned partially because I just wasn’t around the scene anymore.
Fighting games got complicated
Once I finally was able to go to the arcade on my own, the fighting game scene had left me in the dust. For a genre that was already complicated to begin with, the barrier to entry had grown by leaps and bounds since I had left the scene. Now you had to worry about multiple meters, multiple characters, insane multi-hit combos and possess a high level of execution just to beat whoever happens to stand next to you at the machine.
To this day, I still struggle with the intricacies of modern-day fighting games. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 still baffles me to no end and even BlazBlue, which is one of the slowest fighting games on the market, mystifies me with an extremely high learning curve. As much as I love Street Fighter IV, I know that my skills are mediocre at best. I may understand many of the mechanics and concepts behind the game, but Street Fighter at a higher level requires extremely fast button inputs to pull off big combos, which I just can’t do.
The arcade scene died
Arcades were rejuvenated with the release of Street Fighter II. Unfortunately, I also think Street Fighter II ultimately killed the arcade. Street Fighter II was a hard game to learn and master, which meant only the elite got anything out of it at their local arcade. Once the arcades were filled with complicated fighters, the only people left were the hardest of hardcore fighting game players.
Most of the arcades in North America are now gone. Within a 100km radius of my house, I can only name two arcades. One of them is in an Asian mall, so that one has a ton of fighting games in it, while the other one has only one Street Fighter IV cabinet. Even if I wanted to get back into the arcade scene, I’d have to travel a good 30-40 minutes by car just to hit the ‘local’ spot.
If you’ve followed my blog at all, you know how this story ends. It’s weird though looking back at how I went a full 14 years without playing anything in one of my favourite genres. Fortunately for me, I couldn’t have picked a better time to jump back in.