The Birth of a Fighter

I have fond memories of standing in the arcade in my Kentish coastal hometown, pumping coins into the Street Fighter 2 machine (I’m not totally certain which variant of SF2 it was) and slamming buttons and losing constantly to the AI and any human challengers. I used to sit and watch as some of the older kids played and wondered what they were doing differently. I was young, we didn’t have the internet at home yet so I couldn’t ask on that, and YouTube didn’t exist.

I used to sit at friends’ houses feeling slightly nervous and uncomfortable watching and playing the original Mortal Kombat. I definitely wasn’t supposed to be playing this game, I knew, but the cartoony low-res hyper violence was fun and I don’t believe that witnessing it at such a young age caused me any developmental issues either.

I remember getting my PlayStation one Christmas and amongst the games I got (Tomb Raider 2, Overboard, Crash Bandicoot) was Tekken 2. I have fond memories of my father and I sitting cross-legged on the floor, controller in hand, beating the daylights out of each other. The graphics blew me away and I loved the variety of characters. I didn’t really have a “main”, I kinda just played them all.

Terminology like “hit confirmation”, “zoning” and “frame data” was way beyond me at this point. I was most definitely a button masher, drawn to the pumping music, the satisfying smacks of a connecting hit, and the dream that I too could one day fight a match like the demo sequences that played if you left the game on the title screen for a while, or could actually beat arcade mode on a difficulty harder than easy.

Fighting games took a back seat as I grew up. I became enamoured with the Tomb Raider and Spyro the Dragon series, completing all of them with all of the collectibles (and I am super excited for the PlayStation 4 Spyro remakes). I was drawn into the worlds of JRPGS through Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire and Alundra (not strictly a JRPG). During the PlayStation 2 era, the only fighting games I really played was a near-launch title by Squaresoft called “The Bouncer” which was more of a “play the action movie” and demos of Dead or Alive and Tekken Tag Tournament – though I never got around to owning the full games of either.

It was only many years later that I would really get back into fighting games. Curiously, this was through Super Smash Bros. Melee on the GameCube and, strangely, for a long time, I didn’t really classify it as a Fighting Game in the same veins as Tekken and Street Fighter, but that “arcadey” quick-fire gameplay and the sound effects of landing a Smash Attack resonated with those memories of Tekken 2, though I didn’t realise it. The itch was back and Soul Calibur 2rarely stopped spinning in my GameCube.

From there, my PlayStation Vita was loaded with fighters almost the day I bought it. Of course, the PlayStation Classics version of Tekken 2 was installed right away, along with Dead or Alive 5+, Street Fighter x Tekken, Guilty Gear XX (which I remembered playing on Wii), Darkstalkers, Mortal Kombat 9, and a day-one download of BlazBlue Chronophantasma EXTEND, my first entry into that series. Many of these carried across to my PlayStation 3 and, eventually 4.

Now, my PlayStation 4 library includes Street a Fighter V, Ultra Street Fighter IV, Guilty Gear Xrd (Sign, Revelator, and Rev 2), Mortal Kombat X, Dead or Alive 5 Last Round, Tekken 7, BlazBlue Chronophantasma EXTEND, and I’m hoping to add Skullgirls and Dissidia to the list soon (Dissidia I played in a Japanese arcade and won all my games, coming highest in my team as Y’shtola) and I’m eagerly awaiting the new Soul Calibur.

I’ve had some great memories in arcades with the fighting community. When I was in uni, my housemates and I took a trip up to the Trocadero in Piccadilly Circus, London, for the unveiling of their Tekken 6 machine. Joe and Adam were much better than I was, and with the “Winner Stays On” rule in effect, both held their ground for some time, taking on challenger after challenger. When I visited Japan back in April 2016, I took on a bunch of locals at Tekken 7, long before its western release and didn’t do too badly. At Dissidia, I rocked, much to the chagrin of the other players quite confused at a tourist who couldn’t even speak their language dominating the matchups.

Why so many on my PlayStation 4 and Vita, though? Why do some stay installed and some keep getting deleted and dowloaded again later? That comes down to a few key points, mostly based on personal preference and local scene – meaning my friendship circle as there aren’t many ESL/MLG events here in Zimbabwe (but there is a surprisingly burgeoning community in South Africa, I discovered recently). Guilty Gear has always been a favourite of mine and stays installed as that “one day I will master this” game. Dead or Alive 5 LR is my favourite 3D Fighter, and stays installed because of its ease to pick up and have fun with when we have mates over. Mortal Kombat X is one of my wife’s favourite games, and we play together frequently. I’m not bad with Mileena, and she’s getting getting dangerous with Predator.

I intend to do a write-up on each fighting series and what I love about each of them, but since this article is already a little wordy, I’ll save those for another time! What was your first fighting game? Who do you main nowadays? Were you lucky enough to play in an arcade?

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