Bypass Super Street Fighter IV? Pshaw. That game was a must-buy for our PS3 in 2010. And good thing too because we were sorely lacking in fighting games for that console. (Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was still a year away.)
As I sit here recalling the game, I’m realizing that I have little in the way of opinion about it…as a fighting game. It’s a Street Fighter game, undoubtedly. I l-o-v-e- Street Fighter games. The controls, the characters, they’re pretty much as perfect as can be. The cast of fighters brims with old favorites and a few new faces. I played through the game twice, once with Zangief, because of course, and once with Rose, whom I really enjoyed from Super Street Fighter II Turbo and was quite happy to see again. But I only played through it twice, this despite the amazing roster, the pretty renderings, and the integration of intriguing if minimal stories in arcade mode. Yes, I played through it with other human beings, but on my own, I only saw two characters through to fruition.
With just about any fighting game, I’ll make several valiant attempts to find a handful of characters that I really like – a mix of the familiar and the unknown, usually in the realm of 5-10 fighters (depending on the number of playable fighters) – and I’ll play through their stories from first to final battle. When we got SSFIV, I made my choices in this regard after playing the versus mode. The familiars were Zangief, Chin-Li, Sagat, and Rose. The lesser familiars were C. Viper, Seth, and Juri. In my mind, the matches were set. Once I got through my initial groupings, maybe I’d play through with some other fighters. Maybe not. So why did everything come to a halt after only two?
When I’m faced with a wall of games to play, as close to my heart as I hold fighting games, it’s hard for me to make them compete with more expansive, story-based games. Fighting games are very “in the moment” experiences. Once you start a certain character’s arc, you have to see it through to the end. It’s just you and the controller and the game. Whether it takes you twenty minutes or two hours to complete a game with one character, all you’re doing is fighting (and, okay, opening up new characters, and in rare cases, new spaces). Sure, presumably you’re getting better at fighting, learning the moves and such, but nothing else is required of you. No managing dialogue wheels, no facing waves of enemies as you defend the castle. There’s no saving after every battle. There’s no wandering off to find secret moves. All your concentration is supposed to be on surviving to face the next opponent. There’s always some anticipation as the opponents themselves vary depending in which fighter you’re playing as – this helps heighten the tension, but once you start on that linear path, there’s no veering off it.
I have, with the best of intentions, started off gaming sessions with a fighting game thinking “okay, today I’m going to play though with [insert fighter].” Most of the time, I get about halfway through before my thumbs start to ache. That might be the other problem. The older I get, the less friendly fighting games are on my hands. (We’ve been wanting to invest in fighting game pads for this very reason, but they remain pretty low on the spectrum of fiscal priorities.) When everything’s going right and my concentration is fully, er…concentrated, I’m able to fight through the pain. But that happens a lot less than I’d like it too.
This post started off with Super Street Fighter IV and somehow I’ve brought it around to aging. It feels like everything in life slowly but surely comes back around to that. I spent last weekend raking the yard, from which I obtained a strange and awkward set of back pains. Yeah, the yard looks okay, but I can’t sit down long enough to admire it without my shoulders tingling with wretched heat. Frankly, the thought of playing through an honest round of SSFIV makes me nervous. The initial hand pain is bad enough, but what if it really affects my hands in a bad way in the long run. Like, one day I’m typing out a rambling blog post like this one and then BAM! …my right hand goes numb. That would be horrific.
I guess I’m saying (before I said all the stuff I just said) that Super Street Fighter IV is a really great, modern entry into the Street Fighter. It looks as good as it plays. And there’s a little bit of story included, but not enough that it distracts you from pummeling your opponent as the next one lies in wait. (And come to think of it, unlocking each characters’ story does add to the expanse of the Street Fighter universe, if you’re familiar with it.) I just wish that thinking about it didn’t make my hands hurt. Seriously, my knuckles are flinching at the thought.
Or, maybe I just need to punch something.