Yep, I know. This monthly musing is sooooo 2009. But that's how I roll, so don't hate, hater.
What would develop for me into a love/hate relationship with Street Fighter II's Guile began, in fact, when Street Fighter II: Turbo came out for the Super Nintendo. Guile had always been my second main in the original, but I found that in the follow-up, I suddenly wasn't able to maintain my win ratio with the man who broke the sound barrier with his arms. I didn't know the term at the time, (I was in middle school) nor could I comprehend it's real meaning -- Guile had been nerfed.
But that was the only the beginning.
The many shades of Guile: Constipated and sexually ambiguous.
I think to really explain how it began, I need to provide a little background. I'm a very
casual Street Fighter player. I love playing competitively with friends who don't take the game too seriously (I have verrrry few of these left), but in a tournament setting, or even in Street Fighter IV's online lobbies, I don't do so hot. I win probably 3 outta 10 times.
What originally attracted me to Street Fighter II was the varied characters, each representing a nation, with their different move sets, the deep fighting system, and maybe most of all, their back stories. What a dumb reason to like a fighting game, eh?
Which leads me back to Guile. If you're tellin' me I need to get to my point, here it is: Over the years, Guile had devolved. I WANT to like him, to see what I saw in him in Street Fighter II... But the truth of the matter is, he's become a caricature of himself, an American, and to rock Guile in today's climate, you need to be able to ROCK Guile.
Let's break it down. I've got three main categories I'm gonna cover as I walk you through a history of Guile. Appearance, and voice, backstory, and technical.
Let's start with appearance.
Guile didn't always have small countries in his pecs. In the orignal Street Fighter II, you could even describe him as being a little lanky. He moved very fluidly with this weird kind of circular shuffle, and his hair was over the top, but not so much that it could be a selectable character on its own accord.
But I think the real damning evidence is what's happened to Guile's jaw line over the years. His lips and his chin have sunk further and further down his face with each iteration, as though his designers felt that to truly portray the quintessential American badass, he needed to have a scowl roughly equivalent to the American treasury deficit.
Guile's strange ass angles and omni-present jaw made him a freak of nature in Street Fighter II Turbo and beyond, and only in more recent entries in the series has any effort been made to correct that. But still, I submit to you, Street Fighter IV Guile:
I'll kick your ass... with MAH JAWBONE!
And let's not even talk about his animated presence. But that leads us right up into another problem area: His voice. Guile's high pitched "Sonic Boom" was the only indication of his voice in the original game, and while it was a little higher than maybe we expected, I think it gave him character. Even Ken and Ryu had more bass in their collective voice.
Then they compensated for that. And holy hell did they compensate. Guile now sounds like the gorilla he was apparently meant to be. Adding insult to injury are the games like Capcom Vs SNK where they made the brilliant decision to let a Japanese voice actor speak in English: "EASY OPERATION!" Really Guile? What does that even mean!?
In the present day, his "Mission... START!" line isn't much better. Remember like, a gajillion words ago when I called him a caricature? Maybe that's obvious. Maybe he's supposed
to be taken as a joke of an American soldier, obsessed with the mission, incapable of putting together sentences, and sporting pink camouflage like a war's about to start in Barbie's dream house.
That would be less insulting if that was always the case, but the problem is that it wasn't. What drew me to Guile was actually his depth of character! That's right, there was a time when Guile was a man on a real mission. His best buddy Charlie had "died" at the hands of M. Bison, and left with only his dog tags, he embarked on a quest for answers and revenge.
Back then, when he told Chun Li's busted up ass to "go home and be a family man," that was some raw shit, to be blunt. He didn't mean for his enemies to do that because they couldn't fight, he was projecting his own
desires. But the mission came first. Charlie came first. That was deep stuff, kind of moving, when you really think about it. And his ending was one of the best.
But flash forward what, 20 years? Guile is STILL searching for Charlie. They haven't refreshed his storyline ONE iota since the original Street Fighter II. In SFIV, Guile's encounter with Abel in SFIV tells us everything we need to know: Capcom gave up on Guile as my second main, and as a top-tiered character worth caring about.
I'm not saying I need epic RPG-like stories in my fighting games. But a little character evolution would be, you know, a nice touch. Ken and Ryu have evolved. So has Chun Li. Guile, like the jar head that he is, is still pressing on, looking for Charlie, who's been avoiding him by hanging out in cross-over games and the Alpha series. You're a dick, Charlie.
Which leads us to my last gripe - technical. Guile was one of the first characters in a fighting game to be considered a "charge" character. All of his moves involve holding the directional pad and releasing when the time is right. To play him is to bait your opponent into your charge, or to plan your moves so far in advance that a charge begins before the first hit of the combo and is unleashed with deadly accuracy. A good Guile player is ALWAYS holding a charge.
But somewhere at the point where super combos were introduced, charge characters got freaking wonky.
How do you even DO this? I suck, that must be the answer. I gave Guile my best effort, but with only being able to reliably bust out his special a third of the time I wanted it to come out, to stay competitive, Guile had to go. You can't depend on a move this complex, unless like I said at the beginning, you really know how to rock it. And more power to those of you that do, I'm sure you would wipe the floor with my Ken.
I thought I'd close this with a little bit of journalism.
See, when I said Guile had been nerfed, at the time, it was a gut feeling, but now, it's proven FACT, with science and journalism the judge and jury. Now, I know life-bars have changed over time, but... The following numbers are the number of roundhouse level flash kicks it takes for Guile to KO an opponent throughout his years in the Street Fighter series, at full handicap levels:
Street Fighter II (SNES): FIVE. Just five.
Street Fighter II Turbo (SNES): NINE. It jumped from FIVE to NINE.
Super Street Fighter II (SNES): Seven. These were not the doubles, either.
Street Fighter Alpha 3 (PSP): NINE. Back to 9. Seriously.
Street Fighter IV: 8. Again, single damage.
There you have it. And if this whole thing was tl;dr, this picture and the headline are worth my entire post.