Video Games of the 90s: Street Fighter II

One of the most iconic video games of the 90s, Street Fighter II, has spawned numerous sequels, re-releases, and even a terrible movie franchise. Despite the recent release of Street Fighter V, for me, the World Warrior edition of Street Fighter 2 is the most memorable.

I first played it at a local burger joint around the corner from my grandparent’s house. As an 8-year-old kid, I was in awe of this huge arcade machine with giant buttons and a joystick the size of my head. I saw older and bigger kids go into button-bashing frenzies, beads of sweat forming around their foreheads as they battled fictional warriors in a virtual world.

Street Fighter II had a charm that perhaps we were only subconsciously aware of at the time. The original Street Fighter was before my time, and the sequel was a huge improvement on the original anyway. It had beautifully detailed and exotic backdrops on a scale not seen before then. You could travel to Japan, India, Thailand, Spain, and Russia, among others. As a special bonus, for no apparent reason, you would also have a chance to smash lumps out of a Lexus for some stress release.

The sound effects that became catchphrases, and the 8-bit soundtrack, were superb for each stage and character, creating a sense of atmosphere with a surprising amount of funkiness.

The game had unique and bizarre characters, including Blanka, the green jungle man from Brazil who could generate electricity. As a kid with Indian heritage, I found the caricature of Dhalsim hilarious. Unlike any of my uncles, he was a master Yogi with super stretchy limbs who could burp out fireballs with the right button combos.

Of course, I abandoned my heritage and usually chose Ryu. In the original game, Ryu was a warrior from Japan who had won a great fighting tournament fighting the ginormous Sagat in an epic showdown. In this game, Sagat, a Muay Thai expert, has a scar that serves as a painful reminder of that fated day.

Back to Ryu, if you’ve never played this game and wondered why kids were running around the playground at school with palms stretched outwards shouting ‘HADUUUKEN!’ at you, you can blame him. Ryu was just cool. Ken could also do the Haduken, but Ken was lame. We won’t talk about Ken. Ryu looked like a beefed-up Karate Kid but with added Japanese authenticity. His blue fireball Haduken was far from the most effective move in the game, but it just looked so cool! Mastering it was a badge of honor as it promoted you from a moronic button-basher to a highly skilled joystick warrior. In fact, Street Fighter II was one of the first beat-em-up games where you could do combination moves without relying on dumb luck.

One of the coolest parts of this game was that in later editions, you could actually play as the bosses too. This game had some great bosses. The nemesis of my pre-teen years and the final boss of the game was M. Bison, a demented wannabe dictator and megalomaniac. I hated M. Bison with a passion. On the rare occasions that my spare change would take me all the way to the final stage, he would leave my character in a bruised and bloody mess, smiling maniacally with that smug face.

I would still argue that one of my finest achievements in life was the first time I managed to beat M. Bison and claim the crown of World Warrior for the first time. Of course, each character in the game had their own backstory and ending that I won’t spoil for you. Some were actually quite touching, and although the game's graphics and borderline racist stereotypes of half the industrialized world haven't aged well, it still has a huge cult following and for good reason. Street Fighter II was a game that your siblings or parents could pick up, play, and compete with you through button-bashing madness. Yet, to truly master the game, you could spend hours practicing the special combo and special moves.

Even now, the sounds of the character select screen transport me back to a simpler time where my only worries were how much change I had in my pocket and how I was finally going to kick M. Bison's ass! Street Fighter II will always hold a special place in the hearts of those who grew up playing it. It's a classic game that has stood the test of time and is still being enjoyed by new generations of gamers.

Overall, Street Fighter II was a game-changer in the world of fighting games. It set the standard for what a fighting game could be and paved the way for future games in the genre. It's a game that will always be remembered as one of the greatest video games of all time, and rightfully so.

In addition, Street Fighter II has had a significant impact on pop culture. The game's characters, music, and catchphrases have become iconic and recognized by people who may not have even played the game. Street Fighter has even spawned its own competitive esports scene, with professional players from around the world competing for big prizes.

Street Fighter II's influence can also be seen in other fighting games that have come after it. Many games have borrowed elements from Street Fighter II, such as the special moves, combo systems, and the use of a health bar. It's no exaggeration to say that Street Fighter II has left a lasting impression on the video game industry and has helped to shape the way that fighting games are made today.

In conclusion, Street Fighter II is a game that will always be remembered as a classic. It's a game that has had a profound impact on the video game industry, pop culture, and the lives of those who grew up playing it. If you haven't played Street Fighter II, it's definitely worth checking out. It's a game that has stood the test of time and is still a blast to play today.


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