Street Fighter II Software Versioning

There were some missteps back in the day when Capcom was enhancing and refining the original Street Fighter II. For those who are not in the know, this game instantly established itself as the greatest thing, like… ever. After the original—let’s call it SFIIv1.0—the first revision, Champion Edition, offered some minor graphical and gameplay improvements, plus four more playable characters; let’s call this SFIIv1.1. Turbo/Hyper Fighting came after that, with new character moves, programming tweaks and sped-up gameplay; let’s call this SFIIv1.2. Super Street Fighter II followed, and four awesome new characters were introduced, but there were some astonishing changes that were made along the way, like a host of swapped graphics and sounds. This was a much more substantial update, so let’s call it SFIIv2.0. Most of these changes were equal to or better than what was replaced, but a few—like the radical modification of certain characters’ voices—were absolutely, completely and unquestionably totally fucked… but I digress. Super Street Fighter II Turbo arrived last and maintained the same general format as its immediate predecessor, but made many important gameplay enhancements, and introduced a new secret playable character; let’s call it SFIIv2.1.

There were a lot gamers out there that were rightfully expecting a new version of Street Fighter II to land in 1995; let’s call it SFIIv2.2. Alas, it never came to be, but this version would have had additional gameplay balances, more new standard moves for characters, differentiation between throws and impact-grabs, secondary walking animations for the boss characters, and (more subtly) music change/speed-up only occurring when the loser of a previous round is approaching defeat in the current round.

The bad updates in the v2.x releases were taken with the good, but not without a readily identifiable pang. As such, there could easily have been a SFIIv3.0 in 1996 with further gameplay balances, one or two more characters, improved opponent AI for the single-player experience, an operator toggle switch for bonus stages in the setup menu, unique interactions in home stages for each character (à la Vega’s climbing of the fence in Spain), removal of chip-damage victories, and MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANY OTHER CHANGE THAT COULD EVER BE MADE TO THE GAME: removal of the estrogenized voices for Guile and the announcer. Ideally, the excellent voices that were used for these characters in the v1.x releases would be restored, or convincingly mimicked.

And for what it’s worth, any Street Fighter II aficionado who knows his ass from a hole in the ground will agree with every point made above, without hesitation.

Interestingly, instead of SFIIv2.2 and a string of SFIIv3.x releases, we got Street Fighter Alpha, which sounds sort of like some preliminary version of a new type of Street Fighter software. Then we got Street Fighter Alpha 2, Street Fighter III, Street Fighter III: Double Impact, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Street Fighter III: Third Strike, but never any further revisions of Street Fighter II. WTF Capcom?

I guess Ultra Street Fighter II on the Nintendo Switch—which was released well more than 20 years after Super Street Fighter II Turbo—is a vindication of sorts. At first, it seems like the long lost SFIIv2.2 that should have existed in 1995. Sadly, the game is more an oddity than anything else: two so-called “new” characters have been added, but both are actually clones of existing characters and have only superficial changes to their movesets. This unearthed relic is really just an ultra-low-effort release, and not the unthawing of hibernated super-potential. Let’s call it SFIIv2.11, or maybe SFIIv2.105.

The most significant improvement in Ultra Street Fighter II is that the original Japanese art is finally being used in the U.S. instead of the long-standing American art-style (see the Super Street Fighter II arcade marquee above for an example of the latter). The American art was special in its own way, but so much less at the same time. Some people say it’s terrible—I can’t really agree or disagree with that sentiment.

One of these days I’m going to talk to Capcom about making SFIIv2.2 a reality. With the right finesse, this would be a very profitable endeavor. Hopefully it will produce a healthy foundation for future revisions, and eventually a SFIIv3.0 release.

Echoes Moved Through the Hollow of the Arcade, Fading Down Corridors of Consoles

Excerpt from the novel Neuromancer icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by William Gibson icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

William Gibson's "Neuromancer" novel art. [Formatted]

     Rain woke him, a slow drizzle, his feet tangled in coils of discarded fiberoptics. The arcade’s sea of sound washed over him, receded, returned. Rolling over, he sat up and held his head.
     Light from a service hatch at the rear of the arcade showed him broken lengths of damp chipboard and the dripping chassis of a gutted game console. Streamlined Japanese was stenciled across the side of the console in faded pinks and yellows.
     He glanced up and saw a sooty plastic window, a faint glow of fluorescents.
     His back hurt, his spine.
     He got to his feet, brushed wet hair out of his eyes.
     Something had happened….
     He searched his pockets for money, found nothing, and shivered. Where was his jacket? He tried to find it, looked behind the console, but gave up.
     On Ninsei, he took the measure of the crowd. Friday. It had to be a Friday. Linda was probably in the arcade. Might have money, or at least cigarettes… Coughing, wringing rain from the front of his shirt, he edged through the crowd to the arcade’s entrance.
     Holograms twisted and shuddered to the roaring of the games, ghosts overlapping in the crowded haze of the place, a smell of sweat and bored tension. A sailor in a white t-shirt nuked Bonn on a Tank War console, an azure flash.
     She was playing Wizard’s Castle, lost in it, her gray eyes rimmed with smudged black paintstick.
     She looked up as he put his arm around her, smiled. “Hey. How you doin’? Look wet.”
     He kissed her.
     “You made me blow my game,” she said. “Look there, asshole. Seventh level dungeon and the goddam vampires got me.” She passed him a cigarette. “You look pretty strung, man. Where you been?”
     “I don’t know.”
     “You high, Case? Drinkin’ again? Eatin’ Zone’s dex?”
     “Maybe… how long since you seen me?”
     “Hey, it’s a put-on, right?” She peered at him. “Right?”
     “No. Some kind of blackout. I… I woke up in the alley.”
     “Maybe somebody decked you, baby. Got your roll intact?”
     He shook his head.
     “There you go. You need a place to sleep, Case?”
     “I guess so.”
     “Come on, then.” She took his hand. “We’ll get you a coffee and something to eat. Take you home. It’s good to see you, man.” She squeezed his hand.
     He smiled.
     Something cracked.
     Something shifted at the core of things. The arcade froze, vibrated—
     She was gone. The weight of memory came down, an entire body of knowledge driven into his head like a microsoft into a socket. Gone. He smelled burning meat.
     The sailor in the white t-shirt was gone. The arcade empty, silent. Case turned slowly, his shoulders hunched, teeth bared, his hands bunched into involuntary fists. Empty. A crumpled yellow candy wrapper, balanced on the edge of a console, dropped to the floor and lay amid flattened butts and styrofoam cups.
     “I had a cigarette,” Case said, looking down at his white-knuckled fist. “I had a cigarette and a girl and a place to sleep. Do you hear me, you son of a bitch? You hear me?”
     Echoes moved through the hollow of the arcade, fading down corridors of consoles.
     He stepped into the street. The rain had stopped.
     Ninsei was deserted.
     Holograms flickered, neon danced. He smelled boiled vegetables from a vendor’s pushcart across the street. An unopened pack of Yeheyuans lay at his feet, beside a book of matches. JULIUS DEANE IMPORT EXPORT. Case stared at the printed logo and its Japanese translation.
     “Okay,” he said, picking up the matches and opening the pack of cigarettes. “I hear you.”

Happiness is a Super-Turbo

SKL Arcades & Amusements icon-external-link-12x12 came out today to give my broken down Super-Turbo icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 arcade machine a sorely needed tune-up.

I have wanted an arcade version of Street Fighter II since I was a kid, and have probably checked Craig’s List and eBay listings off and on for more than ten years. I finally broke down and bought one last September from a kind but conflicted gentleman in Sacramento; his girlfriend was making him get rid of it. She had clearly put her foot down in the most convincing of ways—in that special way only a woman is capable of—and he was going to give it to me for an even $1000.

We had a very pleasant visit, but there was a recurring expression of pain in his face as we were talking, and I noticed that he became increasingly unnerved as we approached the transaction-phase of our meeting. This pain was in no ways contrived, and since I am not without empathy, I gave him $1200: an extra $200. This was still a good deal for me, and it took a little bit of the edge off the evening.

I am going to digress for a moment so I can also share that this gentleman had Stephen King novels strewn about the living room, and collectible comic books adorning the walls. This lead me to ask if he was a Stephen King fan and he responded, “I am now.” Understanding his meaning, I then asked a rhetorical question: “Is part of the deal that she also read some of your comic books?” He paused for a moment, his eyes temporarily transforming into windows that revealed the compounded depths of a man’s soul when it reaches this particular crossroad in life and must fumble a decision—no response was given.

At least it was Stephen King and not William Faulkner. He will be okay, and there is a good chance that some of the comic books will survive.

The colors in the cabinet’s CRT monitor were a little bit off, and the screen jiggled from time to time, but it was in excellent shape overall. I also received an additional board for Super Street Fighter II icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12, the previous iteration of the game. About three months ago, the power supply burned out which rendered it unplayable, but a new $40 replacement part installed by a pair of skillful hands from SKL got the game running again in no time. Most of the display issues were also fixed through fairly simple adjustments and recalibrations. The screen-jiggle persists, however, as the monitor PCB will need new capacitors for this to be corrected. This is a relatively minor visual problem and a decent amount of time will be necessary to perform the repair, so it will be a job for another day.

We live in an era of ultra-HD displays, but a healthy and color-rich CRT monitor can still work wonderfully for gaming. I also found out that the cabinet was produced by Data East icon-external-link-12x12 circa 1991 and it likely housed Captain America and the Avengers icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 when it was produced.

The original battery was still in the game board, meaning that it was pushing 24 years in age! This is pretty amazing when considering that these things are supposed to be replaced every five or so years. When the battery fizzles out, the game board fizzles out with it—forever. This bizarre phenomenon is infamous in arcade gaming circles and came to be known as the dreadful suicide battery icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12.

Given the cabinet’s heritage, and the fact that it uses the CPS-2 icon-external-link-12x12 game boards, it might be appropriate for me to pick up a copy of Marvel vs Capcom icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 at some point in the future. CPS-2 uses what are essentially giant cartridges and this allowed a Capcom arcade system to be transformed from one game into another without much difficulty. Other CPS-2 titles include Super Street Fighter II (mentioned above), X-Men: Children of the Atom, Dungeons & Dragons, X-Men vs Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, and the entire Street Fighter Alpha series.

This arcade machine has been and continues to be an instrument of joy—in its previous form (“Avengers assemble!”), in its present form (“Hadoken!), and in any additional forms in-between that have been lost to time.

Music of the World (Warriors)

U.S.S.R./Zangief Theme icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 (track from Street Fighter II icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by Yoko Shimomura icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 and Capcom icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 )

Super Street Fighter II promotional artwork. [Formatted]

Japan/Ryu Theme icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 (track from Street Fighter II icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by Yoko Shimomura icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 )
U.S.A./Balrog Theme icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 (track from Street Fighter II icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by Yoko Shimomura icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 )