Street Fighter Folks

Yesterday was the release date for Street Fighter 4, at least if you’re being technical. Most every store in the nation won’t be offering it until today, but if you had a preorder, or a lucky store, then your local Gamestop may have been your potential source for a Tuesday pickup. When it comes to broken street dates and flaky launches, the Maryland area seems neither particularly lucky nor unlucky. Furthermore, these days my buying habits are such that I never pick up a new game the week of its release, so I avoid such flaky launches.

I knew I should wait until today to find Street Fighter 4, yet I found myself ignoring my bus to the metro station, instead taking the 40 minute walk so I could stop by the Gamestop and scout their stock. I knew I would leave empty handed and that an extra day was nothing; I couldn’t help myself. Not for a game I have waited over a decade for. So there I was, braving an unkind wind, like Ryu on his solitary march towards his next opponent.

The store was overflowing with copies; at least a dozen standard versions for each console. My knees were almost weak as I stood in line, but that was not the remarkable thing. This particular store is always crowded in the afternoon, but today, the entire line behind me was there for one game. People began to talk strategy, while others passed down strategy guides to eager buyers. Someone was about to walk off with a joystick he had preorded.

Later on I stopped at the Gamestop in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to look for Fightpads, and at least one guy was shocked to find out he could walk away with a copy. Two more outside the store were oggling the DVD case. This kind of excitement is nothing new in our hobby, but I never thought I would see it for Street Fighter 4.

I got home, set up the game, and found myself entranced by the kitschy theme song. The lyrics, the tone, it captured the mood perfectly. This is what we were waiting for. This game, this genre, it was truly indestructible.

Call me a sap, but a tear could have formed in my eye, if I wanted it to. For years, I read people saying they would be interested in fighting games again if only they got Street Fighter 4 – one that was a real sequel to SF2. No disrespect to Third Strike – I own it on three discs for a total of four versions. But the old fans that pumped quarters into Street Fighter 2 wanted that magic again. I didn’t believe them when they said it would bring those lost back into the fold.

I was proven dead wrong. It might not last forever, but for now, just this once, it felt like the old guard, the gamers of the 90’s, decided they were going to take back their hobby with a game they could call their own. Yes, SF4 is victim to DLC, Collector’s trinkets and the Hype Machine. But we all knew that we just needed the game and some opponents. We could take care of the rest from there. All of my disappointments with the handling of this launch melted away as my first run through Arcade mode was interrupted by online challengers. I was back in a place I loved so long ago.

The king is back baby. See you in the ring.

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15 years ago

Great to hear that SFIV is getting this kind of reception. Unfortunately, in this day and age, it can’t get the type (at least in the US) that would be most befitting – a massive crowd forming around a coin-op machine with quarters lining the screen.
What sold me on the original Xbox in late 2004 was not Halo 2, but the fact that I heard an online-enabled SFII / SFIII would be released. IV is doing the same to me for 360.