And not even because of dat ass
I’ve been a casual Street Fighter fan since 1992. It wasn’t the arcade release that got me, but the SNES port that hit the console that summer. Every weekend, I would go down to the local video game rental shop to see if it had it, elated when it did and deflated when it didn’t. I never got serious about the game, but it was a title my brother and I could play together, ultimately engaging in some truly historic fights. We would argue over who got to play as Guile, our favorite from the original.
When Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers released a year later, we no longer had that fight. Because I found Cammy, and I’ve been with her ever since.
Like most people (I assume), once I find a character I’m good with in a fighting game I tend to stick with them with each and every release they’re included in. It’s why I still play as Peach in Smash Bros. even though I enjoy Duck Hunt Dog more than her. Peach I was great with right away, but my history with Cammy is different. I sucked with her at first. Her special moves were awkward to pull off compared to the other fighters, and that’s what drew me into her loving bosom. Cammy was the first fighter that made me practice a fighting game.
Before her, and mind you I was still under the age of 10 at this point, I would just fuck around with the game. I’d learn simple combos and moves and spam the shit out of them. But her Cannon Spike was different. Maybe I hadn’t seen it with the other characters, but for me, at this age, it was a complicated move to pull off. It almost felt like a mistake compared to the ease of the other moves.
So I pushed myself to learn it, to master that move, as well as figuring out the rest of her arsenal. That was the starting point of me no longer just dicking around with fighting games. I got serious about learning moves, combos and anything else I could after this point. Sure, I’m still a casual, but I’m a casual who can kind-of-sort-of hold his own when playing as Peach, La Mariposa, El Blaze, Batgirl, Smoke and of course Cammy. None of that would have been possible if it wasn’t for that unusual Cannon Spike.
For that, as well as her awesome back story, great costume and the fact she was played by Kylie Minogue in the movie, Cammy is easily the best Street Fighter character and anyone listed below is just a poser.
Street Fighter is such a sprawling series, and since I’ve played every major iteration (man, I almost picked someone from EX3!) I had a huge stable to choose from. While my main is usually Ken by virtue of him being in every game, I had to go with my man Rolento.
Hailing as a boss from Final Fight, the first time I really picked him up in earnest was Street Fighter Alpha 3 — which is probably still my favorite and most played fighting game to date. I spent hours learning his ins and outs, and given that he’s a relatively unconventional pick, I could crossup all of my friends and local tournaments with the sheer amount of chaos he causes.
As you might have guessed, the real reason I love playing Rolento is his playstyle is so freeing. You can go keep away with his knives, or rush down with his staff. He also sports a badass taunt that actually does damage. Mission complete!
When I first heard the question for this week, my first response was Chun-li. She’s the first lady of fighting games, iconic in image and in practice. Women want to be her. Men want to be her. I love seeing her animate and so much art and fan art is top notch if only because the source material is amazing.
But I can’t lie to myself. I love Chun-li as a character but I don’t love her as my absolute favorite in every aspect of personal choice. No, I have to be true to myself and admit my favorite character is Zangief.
This big, imposing Russian force of nature looked like such a bad guy when I first saw him as a child. Only as a teenager did I realize Zangief is actually a big goof who could also break your arms off. He’s covered head to toe in scars because he spars with Siberian Bears. He takes great pleasure in flexing over your loser, unconscious body. He freaking does the Cossack Dance with then-President Gorbachev in his SFII ending! Plus it’s no secret that my preferred archetype is the grappler. Why learn complicated combos when you can just practice instilling fear in your opponent with the dreaded command grab mind game?
Later on in the years, Gief’s reputation has only gotten more and more enjoyably ridiculous. He’s become the protector of Russian skies, and thanks to a certain celebrated player now developer, we only call good damage real Soviet damage.
Without a doubt in my mind, I’m going to say Ryu. I suppose this might have more to do with how plain he is, but I love his ferocity, his valiance and his willingness to fight for what is right. He is constantly on the hunt for new competition to better himself and will help out those in need even if it means throwing down his life.
Also, Ryu is in every Street Fighter and Capcom crossover game, so he’s got familiarity on his side. Sure, he feels slightly different in Tatsunoko Vs Capcom and is based more on his Alpha counterpart in Marvel Vs Capcom 2, but Ryu is the most fundamental of fighting game characters out there. His move set is so universal and so intrinsic that anyone can pick him up and do somewhat well.
In Third Strike (my favorite Street Fighter), he also has strong damage output, so you don’t need to be a flashy jackass to actually win battles. His rival/brother, Ken, is all about style and flair, but that has never been me in real life. I’ve always about doing things by the books and trying to be as perfect as possible, something that Ryu just embodies. In a lot of ways, I wish I was Ryu; he’s just so calm and collected all the time (except for when Evil Ryu happens).
Occams Electric Toothbrush
This one is a no-brainer for me. It’s Q. When the character begs the question, “What are you?” I am immediately on board. He looks like a cross between Japanese businessman robot and Ultraman. His move set is a bunch of slow, bruiser moves, all power and no finesse. His mannerisms and movements are jerky like you would expect from a Japanese robot businessman. Everything about Q is fun. He’s not innately cool like Ryu or imposing like Alex. If you told me Q was the mascot for a Japanese office supply company, I’d believe it. And that’s what I like about him. He’s strange and I appreciate strange.
[Art by Omuk]
It’s impossible for me to pick just one favorite Street Fighter character. I love them all, except of course for Joe. I can “like” Joe, but I could never love him. Not after what he did to Mike, over and over and over again.
So instead, I’ll tell you about the guy who best exemplifies what Street Fighter II is, and the style of fighting game reality that he single-handedly created. As you probably guessed already, it’s not Ryu. It’s Jimmy the green-skinned monster whose name means “white” in Spanish; the one and only Blanka.
I still remember the first time I saw Blanka. I had been playing Street Fighter II for about twenty minutes at that point, and I was already totally amazed by its graphics, its unprecedented array of different fighting styles, the complexity of the combat system, and all the things that blew our minds when the game was first released. Still, when it came to the character designs themselves, the game seemed to play it pretty straight – a Karate Guy, a Haggar-type Big Guy, a Fast Woman, an American Army Guy, all stuff we’d seen plenty of times before.
That wasn’t a surprise though. Fighting games and beat ’em ups prior to Street Fighter II mostly stuck to the same “Semi-realistic world with just a dash of Dragonball Z” flavor. There were totally vanilla fighters like Karate Champ and slightly more adventurous experiments like Yei Ar Kung Fu, but even within that range, things stayed relatively safe.
Then along came Blanka, a green skinned, red haired, howling man from Brazil in cut off jeans who’ll bite you on the face, fly through the air like a giant baseball, and… generate an electrical field by pressing punch a whole lot? What the heck was going on here?!?
A little further in and I’d also discover Dhalsim, the boldly bizarre Yoga fighter, but he was at least tied to an established spiritual practice that involved stretching your body in impossible ways. Dhalsim was an exaggeration of something familiar. Other than the green skinned Amazon aptly named “The Amazon” from Nintendo’s Pro Wrestling, there was nothing even remotely like Blanka in the video game world back in 1991.
After 1991 was a different story. Every Street Fighter game, and just about every other fighting game that followed it, needed to have at least one Blanka-style wild card on its roster. Street Fighter III had Necro and Oro, and later, as Occams mentioned, Q. Samurai Showdown had Genan and Earthquake. Mortal Kombat had Kano and Goro. ARMS has… just about everyone. The list goes on and on. When it comes to making a firm break from conventional reality that’s lasted for over 25 years, Blanka was an innovator in the fighting game space whose influence can’t be overstated.
I’m just about the filthiest casual there is when it comes to knowing about fighting games, so I’m going to do what any contemptible secondary is wont to do and nominate Raul Julia’s take on Bison. Just look at this clip. It’s great! He barely speaks a word during Chun-Li’s whole spiel, but there’s so much going on. He’s switching out of his armor, putting on a dressing gown, and then switching hats! I only wish I were decent enough at Street Fighter to actually main the dude.
This may sound surprising coming from me, but it’s Guile. Yep, the dull air force pilot with a blonde flat-top and standard revenge motive. AKA a boring role Jean-Claude Van Damme didn’t have to try hard to make worse.
While Chun Li has my heart and I love her agility, I’m just not that great with her. Guile is function over fashion. He’s a classic mid-to-long range zoning character and has two special movies unlike the bag of tricks most of his peers have. Doesn’t hurt there’s not a lot to memorize. Just hold or buffer back/down or turtle and let the games begin.
I was fond of tossing out light Sonic Booms, following them and baiting people to block or jump, then punishing them accordingly. Guile is the reason I play Ivy in Soul Calibur, favor Laguna Loire and Shantotto in Dissidia, why I choose Charlie in the Alpha games and now play B. Jenet in Garou: Mark of the Wolves.
Guile isn’t chosen without some sentimentality, though. In fact, he shares an interesting connection to my chosen avatar.
See, when I was growing up, I never shut the hell up about games and when I was visiting my mother in California one summer (bitter divorce, long story), she took me to this fancy place called Electronics Boutique in San Diego. They had imports, an actual arcade and all kinds of things in that two-story outlet.
It was there I met this guy named Brandon who was honestly just as enthusiastic about games as I was and he was so excited about Street Fighter II: Championship Edition he practically treated me to some rounds of the game. I had played the previous version and chose Chun Li as I had in the past, but noticing I struggled, he suggested I try Guile and showed me how to play him.
Brandon seemed to have more fun teaching and talking about games than winning, kinda like I did back home. I never saw him again, but the encounter gave my nerdy younger self more confidence that I wasn’t so alone in my brand of enthusiasm.
Years later I fell on some really hard times, that brand of enthusiasm faded as depression and some more bitter desires darkened me. I was even wanting to take my real problems out on people in games like Final Fantasy XI where I had once been a cheerful helper, more interested in birthing new Dragoon players and showing others the ropes than doing endgame.
I never really acted on those negative feelings, but they gnawed at me and I would obsess over perceived wrongs and slights that really shouldn’t have mattered. In an attempt to distance myself from that behavior, I quit FFXI and turned to my backlog.
One day, I got back around to Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne and meeting Pixie in that game left a familiar impression. Here was a character eager to make friends and show Demi-Fiend how to live in the Vortex World. She did it with warmth and sass, just like how Brandon taught me Guile. She reminded me of that chance encounter and part of who I used to be.
The years may not have treated Guile all that well as Street Fighter has grown further, but it’s part of why I still pick him and try to recreate level 80 Pixies. I’d rather lose with them than lose myself again.
There’s only one character that I felt truly comfortable with. I tend to lean towards weirder characters, and usually ones that are considered “bad” by the vast majority. I also don’t have the technical skill to consistently pull off big bad amazing combos, so I lean towards grapplers in fighting games. So naturally, my favorite character of all time in the Street Fighter series is none other than Hakan!
Street Fighter IV was the game that really got me into the series. Sure, I’ve played plenty of SFII arcades and at home, but never took the franchise seriously until IV. I spent a long time playing the various characters to see who “clicked” with my playstyle. In the end, it wasn’t even close. Hakan was my main.
I love his move set. Sliding on the ground to close the distance and punish from afar is great. His Ultra II is literally just him lying down. Even when it whiffs (it’s a counter) it’s hilarious because he just takes a quick nap and then pops back up. I’ve continued to search for a character who has a move set as interesting as Hakan’s ever since but have always come up short. I have since made peace that there is only one Hakan, and nothing else can ever come close.
Robo Panda Z
None of these is the Strongest Style! I will show you true Saikyo Power!
I main Dan Hibiki. Does this make me a monster? Possibly. Does this make me an idiot? Almost certainly. I started using Capcom’s joke character in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, where he actually has the single most damaging attack in the game (although even more damaging to himself). He also uses autographs as a projectile, compared to his standard Gadoken, the comically-small fireball.
Despite his horrid technique list, Dan actually has above average power in SFIV, and his Ultra is fairly good as well. More importantly, one can chain into it from his TRUE Ultra, the Chohatsu Dentetsu; a seven-second taunt that consumes the entire Super gauge. Actually succeeding in pulling off Dan’s Super Taunt and surviving (or, better, using it to trick someone into falling for your Ultra) is the peak of satisfaction.
I’m not a great Street Fighter player, or even a good one, but I believe in Saikyo Power.
Why Alex? Because he f**king rules.
Those are some great World Warriors. I mean they’re no Cammy, but there ain’t nothing wrong with a 10-way tie for second place.