My Expertise: Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix and the fighting community

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I guess everyone starts somewhere. Everyone has something that they call their own, something in which they’re a bit better at than their peers. Maybe, for you, that something has changed over time, evolving into something slightly different, or perhaps completely different than what it originally was. Or maybe it could even be something you haven’t found yet. My niche, my area of expertise, and my favorite game, is Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix, or as it’s commonly referred to as, HD Remix.

While I haven’t always been a fan of Street Fighter II, I’ve always been a fan of the genre, picking up Tekken 2 on the PlayStation 1 sometime in the 1990’s with a friend giving me his copy in the 5th grade because he was afraid of the last boss, a purple Devil. Since the day I went home and played it for the first time, I was hooked. Of course, I didn’t understand most of the intricacies of the game: how to deal the most amount of damage, how to string together combinations of moves in a manner which ultimately prevents my opponent from hitting me, and so on. What I did know, however, was that Paul Phoenix was a bad ass, and that alone was more than enough to make me want to play. I was happy. I was with my little circle of friends, and we’d play Tekken 2 together. I would win most of the time, but I quickly grew unsatisfied. I knew there were many other people out there who played this game, and I wanted to beat them. I wanted to win. 

The man that started the entire obsession, Paul Phoenix.

Growing up, I never had any real arcades that I’d frequent until recently. But I knew that there was a bowling alley a few towns away, no more than five miles from where my house was. And in the very back corner of the bowling alley, there was an arcade. More importantly, inside that arcade was Street Fighter II. Now, it wasn’t a legitimate Street Fighter II cabinet, it was a pre-made MAME cabinet with font so small you could barely make out the title of the game. It made obnoxious noises when you scrolled through the menu, making everyone look at you with scorn. The sticks were worn out and always a bit greasy. The buttons were stiff as all hell, and spaced in such a way that made playing for more than a few minutes at a time incredibly uncomfortable for your entire hand. I loved it.

Now whenever I would show up, there was always the same group of kids playing, and they were good. All a few years older than me, if it wasn’t for the fact they were playing a game I liked, I would’ve avoided them completely. By this point in time, the only practice I had with the entire series was by playing an emulated version of Street Fighter II Turbo for the SNES on my mother’s computer, and playing on a keyboard doesn’t come anything close to playing on an arcade cabinet, let alone a gamepad. It was hard to even learn. Back then, I didn’t pick or play as anyone other than Ryu, and dedicated myself to “learning” him, which mostly meant repeating a fireball motion continuously and talking about how throws were cheap. Although in retrospect, this is funny because I probably avoid Ryu and Ken more than anyone else, save for Bison or Chun-Li, and most of my traps when I play revolve around getting my opponent into a position to throw them.

But those other people, the ones who were older than me and would be playing the game by the time I showed up, they were assholes. No way around it, they hated me for being there. They’d talk shit to me the entire time, and really got in my face when they beat me (which happened a lot). It didn’t matter if I was playing them or not, if I was taking up their time by being on the machine, I was in their way. I got sick of it. If someone was going to try and stop me from enjoying myself at a game, I was going to beat them. And I was going to enjoy it.

Surprisingly similar to the cabinet found in my local bowling alley, Bowler City

Eventually, I got better and read up online about the game, learning some of the mechanics in play. I started beating them, and eventually got to a point where they couldn’t beat me, unless I made it obvious that I let them win, which only made them even angrier. These were kids who knew how to play the basic game, but still thought that throwing was cheap. So I threw the shit out of them, and laughed the entire time. And you better believe I gave them ten times the shit talking back when I realized I didn’t have to try to beat them. I played for a while, and I was the top competition. It was good, but when people started to think that I was getting in the way of them having fun, they stopped playing. With no competition, I didn’t have a reason to play. Beating a computer opponent isn’t anywhere near as rewarding.

Not many people really play fighting games seriously in my immediate area, although there are a few random tournaments that pop up every now and then, and going to gaming conventions usually results in me playing tournaments for stuff. Even then, a lot of people play to win. Now, this isn’t a bad thing, and I love to win as well. But when you stop playing a game because you love it, it just isn’t the same. This is one of the reasons I rarely play SFIV anymore. If you don’t enjoy the game, then you’re wasting your time. I always stuck with SFII, and subsequently HD Remix, because I love the game. I love winning, I love losing, I love learning about it, I love talking about it. It’s that love for the game that keeps me motivated to play it and better myself at it. In countless tournaments I can’t even begin to recall how many players I’ve seen who weren’t enjoying the game. They get angry at themselves, the game, or even their opponent. They say ignorant things, directed at their opponent. But with such a limited scene, you’ll take anything to get some decent competition.

Me going relatively easy on a Dhalsim player.

So, finally, HD Remix comes out on XBLA and PSN. It’s something I was following for a long time. I didn’t pick it up at first, but upon hearing of Haxan’s tournament, I immediately became interested again. It made me think of the days where I’d go to Bowler City, and wait 20 minutes to play a match against someone better than me, get my ass handed to me, and wait again. As you can see from the standings, that’s more or less what happened. I got my ass handed to me, but I ever stopped. Being beaten seems to only motivate me even more to become a better player. It isn’t how you lose, it’s what you take from it. Nothing else has ever rung so true when it comes to fighting games. So I kept at it. I played with people from the Destructoid community every night, until I had gotten to the point where I had gotten a much further grip on the game, as well as make people afraid of the name “E. Honda”. But I stopped getting better. And to get better, I needed to lose.

This is where Destructoid’s own Stella Wong comes into play. Now, if you haven’t heard, Stella is an absolute beast when it comes to fighting games, and her skill in HD Remix is nothing to be laughed at. And to make matters worse, her main character is the same as mine, E. Honda. Stella wiped the floor with me, without any amount of mercy or restraint. She would play in rooms full of community members, and would go on winning streaks I had never even dreamed of. All of a sudden, I was back at the arcade, staring wide-eyed at the monitor while seemingly insane tactics were being set in play. But, I learned. I adapted her techniques with my own, and learned from each loss. Although we haven’t had a match in a very long time, I like to think that Stella and I are on just about equal ground when it comes to HD Remix.

An essential for fighting games, although I’ll gladly trade a bat top for a ball top

Once I started going to New York City, and more specifically, Chinatown Fair, things got way different. You get used to the local players and such, but when you start going to the same arcade that some of the top US players go to, things get pretty different. On most weekend nights during the summer, people show up and put their best game on just so they can play these top players and try and beat them. People are hungry for beating these pros, and if you mess one thing up in your game, you can bet that they’ll exploit it and make you regret putting that dollar in to play.

And then, on the off chance that someone like Justin Wong, Sanford Kelly, or Arturo Sanchez shows up, the shit talking is out of control. So much shit talk gets flown around that it’s ridiculous, and the majority of the arcade is focused completely on the match at hand. But among all the shit talk you hear, you realize that it’s not about trying to be tough or give someone shit. It’s all done among friends. For all the videos you see Justin Wong talking shit or hyping shit up, you have to remember most of the time he’s playing against his friends or among them. It’s smack talk between friends, and that’s what people forget. Shit talk is about giving your friend shit because he’s your friend, and you know they can take it. One of the first times I went to Chinatown Fair on a weekend to try and play one of the pro’s, I ended up going against Justin Wong. I was with a few friends, but I was tense as all hell. I mean, this was someone who I looked up to in a way, one of the biggest examples of East Coast playing in a time when West Coast liked to think they were better. Although now, with Justin Wong living in Southern California, there’s a huge gap in the NYC scene for who’ going to become #1, a power struggle between Empire Arcadia, and more. But, dear reader, that is for another blog.

So I sit down, and he just kinda looks over, laughs a bit, and tells me something along the lines of “relax man, it’s just a game”. He wiped the floor with me, but even then the shit talk was done out of being a community. So if people are shit talking, don’t act like they hate you or they’re trying to put you down. Sure, some people are straight up dicks about it because they’re so self absorbed, but with most people, it’s all a sort of brotherly love. I learned from that. I learned to enjoy what I do. I learned that nothing comes easy, even if it’s something as trivial as a video game.

Along the way, I’ve played in any tournament for HD Remix that can find. While it certainly is hard to find one considering all the publicity and hype Street Fighter IV and it’s expansion, Street Fighter IV is getting, they’re few and far between. But I persevere. I continue to play HD Remix, I continue to further my knowledge in it, and most importantly, I continue to win. That being said, I’m always looking for another challenger. So if you’re looking to learn how to play, or if you’re someone hungry for another victory, I’ve got time for you. My gamertag is Cataractula. Step up and get beat down. I’m ready for you.