Super Street Fighter II Turbo

22:03 Fri 20 Jul 2007
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I played this game a ridiculous amount during the final year of my BA. Too much, unquestionably. I definitely regret not having put the same effort and money into MTG, as I would have had a rather valuable collection at this point if I had… However, Super Street Fighter II Turbo is an absolutely excellent game, a classic of the fighting genre.

It was more or less the last iteration of the Street Fighter II series, and I hadn’t played much of the previous versions, apart from a stint on Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers, which was the first of the series to really grab my interest. The Turbo upgrade increased the speed of the game and introduced the concept of “super moves” that could only be done once a character’s power meter has been charged up by doing special moves or by hitting the opponent. It also introduced the character Akuma, who could be played if you knew the right code.

I played two-player quite a lot, but never got really good at it, instead hovering just below the top tier of local players. I did play lots and lots of very close, very enjoyable matches, however, which is one of the reasons I loved the game. Even with just two dimensions, the game has a lot of depth, with scope for different types of skill, plus deception and feints/bluffs.

I played Ken almost exclusively (in his black outfit, naturally), with occasional shifts to Ryu and (rarely) Vega. Ken’s flashier style appealed to me more, and I tended to play him as a classic counterattacker, waiting for the opportunity to hit a Heavy Punch/Shoryuken combo (mostly from a jumping attack). This isn’t Ken’s best combo, but it’s the best one I learned to to with any regularity, excluding the Heavy Punch/Super Move combo when the meter’s powered up.

In two-player mode, I had a really tough time with Guile. There were some strong Guile players around, and a lot of the basic Guile attacks (slow Sonic Boom followed by walking in and either throwing or punching) were tough for me.

I should point out that while I refer to them as good players, the truth is that there wasn’t anyone playing in UCD (or, likely, Ireland) at the time who could challenge the true masters at this game, those in Japan and North America. The people who know how many frames of animation each move takes, and what the recovery times are, and how to do chain cancels, are on a different level from anyone I played with.

Despite not being spectacular in head-to-head, I was extremely good at beating the computer with Ken. Normally this would be a laughable claim, as any Ken player should be able to beat the AI pretty easily, especially in Super Turbo. However, I played for score, which few players did. My highest score on the game (yes, I still remember this) was 1662200, with no-one else there ever getting close (or really trying to, it should be added). Probably because rolling up such a score required a very specific rote approach: exploit the AI’s weakness to Ken’s Heavy Kick to get perfect rounds, but lose the middle round on purpose while getting in super combos against the AI to rack up points, and where possible in the perfect rounds getting super combo finishes. The AI is stupid and predictable, and with that particular exploit it’s really a question of execution. Not adaptability or tactical awareness, just execution of a plan against an unchanging opponent.

This raises the question of why I bothered, of course, and I don’t know the answer to that. Perhaps because there was a kind of perfection attainable there—perfect rounds finishing with six-hit super combo finishes each time. For whatever reason, something about that kind of endeavor appeals to me in games sometimes. It did in Mortal Kombat, also, where I again found an exploit against the AI and developed it to the point where I was able to win a round against the AI with my eyes closed… which again raises the question: why bother? Similarly, why bother with trying to put together B. Orchid’s 45- or 46-hit combo in Killer Instinct? That last one is slightly different, I suppose, but I wonder if the drive to achieve a certain narrow mastery and then concentrate on that one thing is a flaw, similar to what I’ve referred to before as “opiate haze”.

It has some of the same hallmarks: struggle until a certain skill level, one that definitely appears (and feels) impressive, and then linger there without engaging in real challenges. I don’t think I ever got past that point in Super Street Fighter II Turbo, and I wonder what games I have passed it in. Perhaps in MTG, but then only for brief periods, I think, before I again sink back. Q3A is the only game I can think of where I’ve really passed that plateau, and the technique for breaking that plateau (switching from right-handed to left-handed mousing) is something I haven’t been able to apply to other games. Certainly not to MTG, and it doesn’t look likely at the moment, as I’m primarily a casual player at this point.

I do occasionally want to play Super Street Fighter II Turbo, but that drive doesn’t tend to last, as it butts up against the relative lack of time as compared to plethora of candidate activities (such as writing, for example).

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