As usual, my biggest fan asked me to write an article talking about some of my favorite fighters of all time. So like any good idol, I said sure thing. I was going to do a top five list, but scraped that for a future article, then figured I’d list off my favorite fighters for each console, but found that kind of uninspired. In the end I decided to talk about the first five fighters that came to mind. That’s the way everyone should write, spontaneous and exciting! So let’s begin with a game you’ve all heard me talk about at one point or another…
Street Fighter II
If you’re old enough, you have a Street Fighter II memory; whether it’s playing the original arcade, or the various ports that have been released to virtually every system known to mankind. I mean there was a 3DO version. That says it all. I recently talked about my arcade experience with the game in a video I posted, so instead of talking about the exact same experience I’ll switch gears and talk about my good memories with the console version. My friend Anthony bought Street Fighter II: The World Warrior upon released back in summer 1992 and I’ll never forget it. Every time I went to his house this was our go to game, along with Super Castlevania IV and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. We just loved all of those games, but especially Street Fighter II. Having played the arcade version for around a year earlier at our local arcade, both of us were already well-versed in the ways of the game. He was Ken, I was Ryu, and the rest was history. We must have invested thousands of hours into that game back then. Funny how no responsibilities allow you to do whatever you want, and instead of enjoying nature or other things, we were virtually kicking the crap out of each other. Good times.
My brother picked up Street Fighter II Turbo sometime in 1993 and the madness continued. We played the living heck out of that game. It’s funny because while it added the bosses as playable characters, to us, the biggest improvement was the smoothness of the fights. I still remember cranking up the star rating on speed and going ballistic with Ryu. When Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers was released in 1994, we had moved on to another fighting game series.
Mortal Kombat II
MK II hit the arcades in 1993, and was released on home consoles in ’94. I can’t even begin to talk about how many hours I must have sunk into both versions of the game. I used to live at the arcades around this time period, and got so good at it that people used to actually pay me so I could show them how to play the game and teach them how to pull off finishing moves. It’s incredible how some people couldn’t be bothered to simply pick up the latest issue of EGM. What did I do with the extra money, simple, I kept playing MK II. Of all the fighters I’ve ever played, this is most likely the one I was the best at, alongside the original Street Fighter II. There was just something about it I loved. It improved on the original in every way, shape, and form. I loved that Sub-Zero was back, but also took a liking to Kitana’s fighting style. Eventually I got so good at the game that I used to challenge random people and allow them to select a character for me. Funny story, I actually went back to play the game a few days back at my brother’s place and wow I completely suck today, and also can’t believe how sluggish the game can feel at times. Street Fighter still holds up incredibly well even after all these years, and I think part of the reason is the silky smooth animation.
It’s funny thinking back to these early days of modern fighters. People used to be so into this genre back then. It really was the golden age because fighters weren’t overly complex yet. MK II is perhaps the last of the simple to play, hard to master fighters. After 1993/4 fighters started introducing extremely complex combo systems, which sort of pulled me away from the genre, or at least enough that I wasn’t into them as much as I was before.
Virtua Fighter 2
Now let’s shift gears into the 3D realm for a sec. No other 3D fighter floored me as much as Virtua Fighter 2 did back in late 1994. I know some people were amazed by the original, but I always thought it was clunky looking. I became more of a fan when the Saturn version was released, but in terms of shocking me in the arcades, VF2 did it. I remember doing a double take look at the game when I first laid eyes on it. Here was a game that featured stunning looking visuals, and also had an incredibly deep, yet realistic fighting system in place. It was a breath of fresh air compared to the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat series. Both of those had projectiles and far fetched moves, but Virtua Fighter was the real thing. You could pull off actual real-life fighting techniques, although a bit exaggerated of course.
While I had similar feelings about Virtua Fighter when I originally played that, seeing VF2 made me realize that SEGA was on top of their game and that their forthcoming next-gen console would be king. This was light-years ahead of anything I had seen in arcades, or on home consoles. Remember this was before the dawn of the PlayStation, N64, and Saturn so this was completely revolutionary. In a matter of twelve months Virtua Fighter went from extremely basic and blocky polygons to a stunning, silky smooth powerhouse. I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same way about another fighter ever again. It was just so mind numbingly beautiful.
By 1998 I wasn’t spending nearly as much time in the arcades as I used to. The same can be said for virtually everyone out there who played videogames. Arcades were slowly but surely dying off, and a lot of it had to do with the fact that home consoles like the PlayStation, N64, and Saturn had caught up to the power of the arcades, or at least were extremely close. When SoulCalibur was released in arcades in 1998 I remember glancing over at it in passing. I thought it looked alright, although nothing amazing. It was the sequel to 1995’s Soul Edge which I thought was pretty cool, but again, nothing too amazing. I preferred the Samurai Shodown series for my weapon-based fighters, but that’s a discussion for another day, and who knows maybe in that article I’ll profess my love to Soul Edge. I remember enjoying the arcade, but was too involved with Virtua Fighter 2 at that point in time. Everything changed the day I opened up an issue of EGM and saw the first screenshots for a Dreamcast launch title, SoulCalibur. Could this be the same game as the one in the arcades?
We don’t give SoulCalibur enough credit in the press. This one game is what convinced millions of people to go buy a Dreamcast, and also single-handily killed arcades. This was the first time, or at least the first time I can remember, where the home console version actually looked, sounded, and played better than the arcade original. This game featured countless additional content too. Honestly if you owned a Dreamcast, chances are very high you not only played this game, but that it remains one of your favorite Dreamcast games of all time. It was just that good. To this day it floors me. Shame those damn Agetec Dreamcast arcade sticks cost so much money!
Garou: Mark of the Wolves
The last game I’m going to talk about is one of the last games I played at the arcades that I have great memories of. Mark of the Wolves was released to the arcades in 1999 and while I was barely going to the arcades, when I did go this was the game I played. It was part of the Fatal Fury series, the last one SNK ever made in fact, and looked spectacular. It was one of the nicest looking 2D fighters ever released, and had spectacular gameplay. The ‘Just Defend’ system was awesome, and once you got the hang of it, the system allowed you to block at the very last second and turn your block into a counter. It was awesome. The game also introduced the TOP system which basically granted extra attack power, life recovery, and a special attack. Overall it was the combination of excellent gameplay, refined graphics, and a stellar cast that made this game shine.
The AES version was released in 2000, and the Dreamcast port followed the following year although there were some audio issues with the port. If you own an MVS arcade cabinet, or an AES this is one game you really shouldn’t miss out on. It was one of the last great SNK fighters released for the Neo Geo platform, and looks outstanding for a game released some 9 years after the platform launched. Garou was released on Xbox Live Arcade, as well as the Neo Geo X Mega Pack Vol. 1.