Happy Birthday, Street Fighter!
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As of this writing (I can’t make any promises about when this will be published), Street Fighter has just celebrated it’s 25th birthday. While watching a particularly well produced retrospective movie about the history of the series, I noticed that I was becoming a little misty eyed. Perhaps this could have something to do with the fact that I had to flush all of my Clonapazm down the toilet after a particularly stupid family event, or the fact that I get overly emotional when I’m tired. I’m the same guy who cried while watching “Click”, after all, and not just because I had to endure a sub-par Adam Sandler film.

I have a feeling, however, that these were tears of pride and sentimentality. I became increasingly choked up as I began to realize that at twenty seven years of age, I have literally grown up alongside the Street Fighter series. Introduced at a young age, I have been with the series through all of the milestones, mourned the death of the franchise (and the entire fighting game industry, technically), and was one of the first in line to welcome my old friend back with open arms for their big return in 2008. Truly, Street Fighter has made itself an important part of my life. Also, my first encounter with hentai was the discovery of a surprisingly well drawn picture of a naked Cammy having her way with an also naked Chun-Li while browsing Kazaa, but I’m not very proud of that.

While failing at locating that picture again for “historic purposes”, this was the tamest replacement that I could find.

My first experience with Street fighter came from visiting my Uncle, who played The second game extensively with his upstairs neighbor. They had a Super Famicom copy that played via converter. I remember many a sleepover with my Aunt calling upstairs to yell about the noise thumping through the ceiling of her apartment while my sister and I were supposed to be sleeping. I didn’t mind, though, as I often fell asleep to the sounds of Spinning Bird Kicks and Hundred Hand Slaps, having pleasant dreams about large Soviet men beating the shit out of Nazi dictators.

Of course at the age of five or six (years of drug abuse and a few too many chair-shots makes my memory hazy. Don’t make the same mistakes that I did), I had no idea what I was doing, but the simple act of competing with the grown ups had me hooked. I can still taste the excitement of pulling off my first hurricane kick, and still remember trying to master the motion of a dragon punch on the stiff Super NES controller. When the motion of a Sonic Boom was first explained to me, I actually pulled back on the controller like it was a throttle for two seconds before pushing it forward while pressing punch. I got laughed at.

I may or may not have a shrine in my room, featuring a C.Viper action figure in a lewd pose.

After that, I began to see the arcade cabinet everywhere, and whether we were in a pizzeria or a movie theater, I was constantly begging my mom for quarters. I remember getting into trouble on more than one occasion for going to the store to buy bread or milk, and spending all of the money I was given on Street Fighter II instead.

It was always a treat when my family would go to Nathan’s down in Yonkers, and not just for the world famous hot dogs, either. I would save every bit of change that I could in anticipation of this day. Nathan’s second claim to fame after the greasy food was their gigantic arcade, which always had Alpha or Super Turbo on hand, of course. Even big family get-togethers were overshadowed by my love of Street Fighter, as I would often sneak away from the boring adults to take part in some Super Nintendo competition with my cousins. Ironically enough my previously mentioned uncle often bailed on the conversations about General Motors and Union Wages to join us.

Frank and I are shitty fighting game bros.

When I got a little older and my family moved out of the Bronx, I found a new home at Fun Central over in Wappingers Falls. I was at the point of my life that I should have been concerned with girls and Sports, but Capcom said “fuck that noise” and dropped X-Men Vs. Street Fighter on me. When I first saw the giant cabinet, my jaw hit the floor. This was a game that kids would fantasize about on the school bus, right along side the imaginary NWO/DX feud of professional wrestling. This was the X-MEN fighting the STREET FIGHTERS! This was a TAG TEAM fighting game! This was screen filling, LASER BEAM HADOUKENS! My life was forfeit before the greatness and amazement of this glorious, golden arcade game. To hell with KOF and Mortal Kombat!

Eventually X-Men Vs. Street Fighter blossomed into the Marvel Vs. Capcom series, which I still play competitively to this day. Many friendships have been forged online and in real life while trying to step up my game. Some of my happiest days are competing for plastic trophies and eating home cooked Spanish food at my buddy Jemiel’s house, while secretly stealing his Hawkeye technology.

Dear god, this is the desk of a twenty-seven year old man!

When Street fighter celebrated it’s tenth anniversary, they released an anime based on Street Fighter Alpha. It sucked, but I remember scouring the Internet late at night looking for Chun-Li hentai AMVs, just to see as much of it as I could before I could get a copy. For the fifteenth anniversary, they released the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection. I had a great time staying up all night getting bodied in Third Strike on X-Box Live while my mother screamed through the wall for me to shut up because trash talking at 3am isn’t acceptable behavior. While dodging hammers, all I was thinking about was new ways to get in with Hugo’s command grabs. The only thing I took with me when I was thrown out was my official Street Fighter Anniversary fightstick. I regret nothing.

I remember the first time I visited my friend and now roommate Derek, and forcing him to play Alpha 3 for hours, despite his complete lack of interest in fighting games. Years later, he became my household sparring partner for Marvel 3, with the most annoying spiderman/sentinel drones shenanigans I have ever seen. With the release of Street Fighter IV I got my friend Keith to accompany me to the GameStop release tournament, where he picked up Zangief mighty fast. This lead to weekly Street Fighter nights at my house, much to the chagrin of the female I was living with at the time. You read that right, Street Fighter was more important to me than pleasing a member of the opposite gender. Still, I regret nothing.

Until it’s death and subsequent replacement, that stick followed me everywhere. The replacement had a much shorter lifespan once I began drinking and spilling beer.

As an adult, I still play The latest iteration of Street Fighter IV (because Capcom refuses to count), and my roommates have been very understanding of my need to get up and dance every time I land Hakan’s Ultra Combo on an opponent, and they never question why I’m yelling about oiling up and butt fucking people if I’m wearing a headset. Much like a child growing into an adult alongside a classmate or a neighbor, I have been there with the Street Fighter series. As each birthday passed, we both experienced many changes. We saw success, tasted failure, questioned ourselves and tried new things. We’ve learned from our mistakes (mostly) and matured, but can still look back at those old mistakes fondly, and pick up the phone to laugh at it together. Except for Street Fighter X Tekken. That game is pure ass. What the fuck, Capcom? You’re given the entire Tekken series to work with, and THIS is what you give me? And to have the AUDACITY to release it in the same month as Resident Evil: Operation Glitch City? The same month that I celebrate my birthday? I thought we were friends?