I came across this article today on BitMob, titled “A characters’ history of Street Fighter 4“. I’ve been playing and loving Street Fighter since Street Fighter 2 came out in 1991. I spent untold amounts of money at the arcades during my college and growing up years, playing Street Fighter with my brother Josh. And I loved it. And through the last 20 years (WOW), I’ve loved playing it on the PC, SNES, Xbox, and finally with the release of Street Fighter 4, on the PS3 and Xbox-360. I used to play with my kiddos and loved teaching them how to do the moves and learn footsies and strategy and mechanics. And I loved it.
But lately, I’ve been finding myself getting more and more frustrated by the direction Street Fighter play is taking these days and this article on BitMob said something that struck a nerve:
Now players are combing their way through Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition Version 2012, a free patch that came out in both arcades and consoles. Previous SF4 games have been criticized for rewarding safe defenses over aggressive play, while Arcade Edition tilted the balance too much towards offense. Version 2012 will hopefully create a better harmony between the two approaches.
Street Fighter Arcade Edition was just a huge joke, really. If the only purpose of Arcade Edition was to introduce extremely overpowered and unbalanced characters, why even pretend to have a fair game anymore? AE 2012 claims to try to restore balance, but it did far too little to achieve that.
Anyway, I know I’m going to sound like an old fart here, but I really dislike the current direction of Street Fighter play I see. You can say that previous versions of Street Fighter rewarded safe/defensive play over aggressive play, I suppose. If by safe/defensive, you mean more careful and methodical, then yes, I agree. I’ll refer to this gameplay model as CrouchingTigerHiddenFlashKick.
But the most fashionable way to play Street Fighter today is non-stop, in your face, constantly bullying, constantly rushing down, make one mistake and you’re dead, don’t give your opponent a chance to think, mash buttons faster than the other guy, and in general behave like you’re OD’d on Mountain Dew, Coffee, NoDoze, Monster, Jolt, and PCP all at once. I’ll refer to this gameplay model as MashUntilItWorks. And I really hate it.
The BitMob article pointed this out too with the following video and quote:
The most-telling example of Arcade Edition’s balance comes from an exhibition at Norcal Regions 2011 between Street Fighter grandmaster Daigo Umehara and Dhalsim expert Filipino Champ. In the beginning Daigo used his famed Ryu, and the two fought on even ground. In this video, Daigo switched to Yun and easily smothered the yoga master. The only round Champ won was when he connected both a Super Combo and an Ultra Combo.
Here’s a video to show what I’m talking about. Note that up until about 21:20 of this video, the fighting is more like an exciting chess game. You can just feel the tension and see the thought going into each move. If you’ve been playing Street Fighter as long as me, you can feel the frustration as Filipino Champ correctly guesses and counters each of Daigo’s moves on screen before he does them. It’s exciting. I love it!
Now skip to about 21:20 of the video. From that point on, you’ll notice that the game play is completely different. The focus now is more like beating your opponent over the head with a 2×4, daring them to make any move or guess wrong just once and then you kill him. I hate it.
Now I’m not saying there’s no skill involved in MashUntilItWorks. And yes, I know that it’s an insulting way to refer to 100%, non-stop rush-down play, because there’s a lot of science and practice and plinking and skill in it. But it’s really frustrating to play against people who play like that. And MashUntilItWorks certainly favors younger eyes and brains and hands and reflexes than I have. And I feel a lot of times like I just can’t compete and that’s extremely discouraging. And for the first time in 20 years of playing fighting games, I quite often honestly feel like setting fire to the video game console and trying to find another hobby.