I’ve been a fan of 2D fighting games since I first walked into a videogame store at my local shopping centre, and saw a long line of people waiting for their shot at a very popular arcade cabinet. That cabinet turned out to contain Street Fighter II: Championship Edition, which was my introduction to 2D versus fighting, a passion I still carry to this day.
Since then, I’ve been an avid player of 2D fighters, from the mainstream stuff like Street Fighter, The King of Fighters, Mortal Kombat (the early ones), Samurai Shodown and Darkstalkers, to the less mainstream stuff, like Waku Waku 7, Breakers and World Heroes. So you can imagine my disdain from watching these games slip further and further from the mainstream and ever more into the niche market from the mid 90s onwards. While 2D fighters remained relatively popular in Japan, in the West, gamers in general dropped them like a hot potato, especially with the advent of the PlayStation and the dawn of 3D gaming.
As luck would have it, that wasn’t quite the end of 2D fighters, but they really were shunted into a corner and largely forgotten about by the masses. I’ve personally seen many, many, many gamers walk into videogame stores (I tend to hang around in game stores a lot) and look up at the 2D fighting games running on the TVs there without so much as the faintest glimmer of interest – and instead ask the shop attendant about some upcoming or current game with impressive 3D graphics and big review scores. Hey, don’t get me wrong, people are entitled to buy whatever they want, but with every passing year, 2D fighting fans like myself constantly wondered whether the next King of Fighters or Street Fighter game would be the last – because of their decreasing marketability.
So you can imagine my surprise when the whole world went Street Fighter crazy after the announcement and release of Street Fighter IV – jumping up and down and shaking their pom-poms in support of it – even people who I knew had probably never played a Street Fighter game in their life. I strongly suspect – and I’ll raise this point again before this article is over, you can be sure – that the surge of interest in Street Fighter IV was largely due to the fact that it was one of only three big games released in March this year. Three game releases in one month at the beginning of a year is actually quite a lot these days, but there were still only three games for every gamer in the world to choose from for a whole month. In this situation, how could gamers not notice Street Fighter IV, and how could it not tempt a few curious consumers to buy it to satisfy their craving for new software?