Fighting games may have their roots in the arcade, but I almost never play fighting games on an arcade machine. In my part of the world, the arcade scene is very much dead. Within a 60km radius from downtown, I can think of only five actual arcades in existence. There are also movie theatres that have a handful of arcade games, but the vast majority of them don’t have fighting games.
With that said, I was caught off guard the other day when Steff and I went out to see The Ides of March. The movie theatre we went to had a Street Fighter IV machine and a Marvel vs. Capcom 2 machine. I was pretty excited to play both of these games as they were originally designed to be played, but disappointment set in rather quickly when I got my hands on the controls.
Part of my disappointment came from the arcade button and joystick setups found on both machines, and on most fighting game machines in North America. They use the North American style setup that features a bat top joystick and springy concave buttons. Having put in over 1,000 hours into a Mad Catz TE, which features the Japanese style setup, this feels weird to me. It can be difficult to pull off moves as effectively as I would at home, and I find that my right hand actually hurts after a few minutes because of the button layout, but that’s fine. I’ve accepted that this is how arcade fighting games are laid out here, and I’ll deal with it.
However, what I can’t deal with is broken controls, which seems to always be the case at every fighting game cabinet I’ve played on for the last 3-4 years. On this particular day, the heavy punch button was broken on the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 machine, which made it impossible to tag in my third character, launch opponents in the air with specific characters, or execute most of my hyper combos. Things weren’t necessarily better at the Street Fighter IV machine, as the controls made it virtually impossible to register any quarter circle motions with kick inputs. With Rose, I could throw fireballs with ease, but her Soul Spiral almost never came out.
It’s really deflating to invest your coins into a game, only to have a less than ideal experience with it because the machine is broken. In both cases, I wanted to just walk away from the machine the moment I knew the controls were busted, but I didn’t want to let my money completely go to waste. What makes it more frustrating is knowing how relatively inexpensive and quickly a broken button or broken joystick can be to fix. However, I’m certain that maintaining these machines isn’t a high priority at these arcades or movie theatres, and even if they were to actively maintain them, their customers would probably just break them quickly anyway.
With that said, I’m sure that the next time I run into a fighting game arcade machine, I’ll drop a few coins in hopes of enjoying the arcade experience. I just won’t hold my breath for optimal controls.