This month, the Street Fighter series turns twenty-five making a lot of us feel extremely old. To celebrate this mile-stone, Becky Chambers, our resident video game expert, and Amanda LaPergola, our resident Street Fightologist (a title Amanda has given to herself), have sat down for a series of chats about the nature, function, and cultural impact of the series.
Last week, Becky and Amanda talked about the Street Fighter Alpha series, along with combos, bromance, and the practicality of blue nipple hearts. This week, they discuss Street Fighter III’s three iterations: New Generation, 2nd Impact, and 3rd Strike. Let’s join them now in an undisclosed chatroom as they talk about one of the darker chapters in the Street Fighter saga…
Amanda: Man, you ready to do this thing?
Becky: Super ready.
Amanda: Good, because of all the Street Fighter games, I think the III series are my least favorite. Unless you count those weird, polygonal EX games or that one horrendous game based on the movie. But I don’t.
Becky: I got my hands on 3rd Strike. The other two…well, they were only released on Dreamcast, as far as I can tell. I forgot Dreamcast was even a thing.
Amanda: Remember when Sega as a company was a thing?
Becky: I think that time is now referred to as “The Long Long Ago.”
Amanda: Sad, but true. Anyway, you are not missing out on much. Third Strike is a great game. New Generation and 2nd Impact are kind of ‘meh’.
Becky: So tell me of the first two games’ mediocrity. And start by explaining where the hell all the characters went.
Amanda: I don’t know what happened to them. Rocks fell, everyone died. As for the games…it’s not that the first two games are mediocre, but everything about these games is so shockingly different from the Street Fighters that I had come to know. The style, the music, the gameplay, the characters: all different. Here’s how I feel about Street Fighter III: Capcom once put out a fighter called Darkstalkers, which was basically a Street Fighter with monsters.
Becky: That sounds potentially awesome. Or, terrible.
Amanda: Oh, it was awesome, but that’s beside the point. Darkstalkers was a great fighting game, but it was not a Street Fighter. Street Fighter III: New Generation was also a fighting game, and a pretty damn good one, but as far as I’m concerned is not a Street Fighter. It did not feel like a Street Fighter, it did not look like a Street Fighter. For all intents and purposes, this was a new game that someone slapped a “Street Fighter” title on. Why? Capcom did not call Darkstalkers, Street Fighter 2-and-A-Half: Now They’re All Monsters, so what gave this game with these weird new characters and confusing parrying system the right to call itself Street Fighter III?
Becky: It had…Ken and Ryu? Didn’t it?
Amanda: They did have Ryu and Ken…but only after Capcom caved into fan pressure. New Generation was originally going to be all new characters. No Ryu, no Ken.
Becky: I don’t understand that. Given how popular Street Fighter was, why scrap the characters that everybody loved?
Amanda: I have no idea. Someone must know, but I don’t. It’s all a big mystery.
Amanda: So New Generation alienated a lot of the casual players, and around that same time the arcade scene was starting to fade. The game came out with two strikes already against it. It was a dark time for Street Fighter.
Becky: But yet, it endured.
Amanda: It did. But it would be almost ten years after Third Strike before another new Street Fighter game was released.
Amanda: Like I said, dark times.
Becky: But Third Strike is a good game! Punishingly difficult, but good!
Amanda: Third Strike did find a lot of popularity amongst the hardcore gamers. It is one of the featured games at EVO every year.
Becky: Seriously, though, is it just me, or did the learning curve for Third Strike jump way up from the Alpha series? I mean, I’ve been kind of tired this past week, but jeez.
Amanda: It did.
Becky: Oh thank god.
Amanda: No, it’s not just you. The increase in difficulty was another thing that turned off a lot of the casual players.
Becky: I have to say, of the Street Fighter games I’ve played thus far, this one feels like the least friendly of the bunch.
Amanda: Capcom made this game specifically more challenging to appeal to the hardcore gamers that had driven Street Fighter’s initial success. Which also makes it the most intimidating of the series.
Becky: That seems like a plausible explanation for why they didn’t further the franchise after Third Strike. That’s not a good way to keep a large fanbase happy. The veterans will be happy, but everybody else will walk away.
Amanda: Yeah, Capcom nearly screwed the pooch on that one.
Becky: I have to say, though, it’s a solid combat system, and it requires a lot of finesse. I can see how it would appeal to someone who’d spent hours and hours and hours honing their skills in the arcade.
Amanda: Which I wish could have been me, but by the time New Generation came out, my love of Street Fighter had been crushed under the societal pressure to act like a “real girl.”
Becky: Oh, you poor thing. I had a short-lived spell of that, too.
Amanda: I missed out on all the development behind Street Fighter III. I did not even know it existed until I found a strategy guide for Third Strike in the local Blockbuster.
Becky: And then the flame was rekindled?
Amanda: Well, at first I was excited, knowing that a game I had loved had endured and evolved. In an instant, all the love that I had felt for Street Fighter for years came rushing back to me.
Becky: Oh no. I see where this is headed.
Amanda: Then, as I leafed through the guide, and saw all the new characters, my love was replaced by an overwhelming bewilderment.
Becky: Aw, all your bros were gone.
Amanda: I remember thinking: “Who are these assholes? Is that guy an alien? Why is he wearing a trench coat? Where’s Cammy?”
Becky: “Who are these assholes?” was exactly what was running through my head through that entire game.
Amanda: Years later I would come to appreciate Third Strike as a great game on its on merit, but it was a long road.
Becky: Are you okay? Do you need to hug it out?
Amanda: I’m good, man. I’m good. Anyway, these characters: it’s not just that they are all new and replacing my favorites, but many of them just don’t feel like Street Fighter characters.
Becky: Like Gill. Look, I understand the need to have a new villain, but seriously, what is his deal?
Amanda: He is comfortable with his body and he doesn’t care what you think.
Becky: Well, that’s all good and healthy, but still.
Amanda: You’re just jealous that you can’t rock a banana hammock like that! Seriously, though, Gill. Yeah, he’s…different.
Becky: Bison doesn’t make any sense either, but at least he’s properly villainy. He sneers and mocks you and has a cape.
Amanda: Well, you get used to Bison after a while. Bison is comfortably settled into the Street Fighter storyline, and we understand and accept that he is the Big Bad.
Becky Gill looks like a colorized version of the Cheron natives from Star Trek: The Original Series. With less clothes. Basically, no clothes.
Amanda: Yup, that’s Gill. “FEAR MY DUAL-COLORED NAKEDNESS! FEAR IT!”
Becky: I did. I did fear it. Not in a good way.
Amanda: There is so much that is ridiculous about Gill. Like the fact that he’s the leader of The Illuminati, an organization that actually exists.
Becky: There are few things in a story that will make me ask for the check faster than bringing in the Illuminati.
Amanda: Why would you put your fighting game’s final boss at the head of a real life organization? Bison was the leader of Shadaloo, not the Khymer Rouge. Sagat was a vengeful Muay Thai fighter with criminal ties, not a CEO at Goldman Sachs. Seriously, why the f***ing Illuminati?
Becky: Shh! Don’t talk about the Illuminati! They’re everywhere. They’re at your place of work and where your kids go to school. They’re probably in your house right now!
Amanda: Look, if their all-powerful leader is strutting around in a muslin speedo, I will talk about them all I want.
Becky: That’s fair. He doesn’t exactly lend them a lot of credibility.
Amanda: And then you get into Gill’s motives for hosting the tournament: the Rapture. The Illuminati is going to induce the Rapture, and Gill wants to repopulate the world with the strongest individuals he can find, whom are all street fighters.
Amanda: I just… Time the f*** out. The f***ing RAPTURE? You are going to create THE RAPTURE and repopulate the world with martial artists? And you only invited two women to your tournament? And they are both TEENAGERS???
Becky: God, I miss Psycho Power.
Amanda: You see, with Psycho Power and Bison, you don’t have to think too hard about these things.
Becky: You can just say “because Psycho Power,” and all is well. But without it…
Amanda: The Rapture. And statutory rape.
Becky: There are a lot of teenage girls in these three games. I’m just sayin’.
Amanda: Until Chun-Li showed up in Third Strike, all the female characters were teenagers. And none of them wear shoes. Also just sayin’.
Amanda: I just want our audience to understand that Becky and I are not implying what you think you’re implying. All we are saying is that the Street Fighter III series was produced by latent pedophiles with foot fetishes. You may direct your subpoenas to the editors of themarysue.com. [Editor’s note: Shit.]
Becky: ‘m glad we’ve cleared that up. Ooh, point of interest: if you go to the website for the online version of 3rd Strike, Chun Li is featured front and center of the box art.
(Can you call it box art if it’s a title you can only buy online? There should be a word for that.)
Amanda: Damn, that is some good art. And Chun-Li is overpowered as hell in Third Strike.
Becky: Seriously. It’s like she was waiting in the wings for the first two games, chomping at the bit to show those teenagers what’s up.
Amanda: And then she stomps the living hell out those teenagers and everyone else in her wake. So, about these poor teenagers…
Becky: Where to begin?
Amanda: Well, there’s Elena.
Becky: I am having such a hard time sorting out how I feel about Elena.
Amanda: Point of interest: she is the first Street Fighter character from Africa.
Becky: She’s…I dunno. My initial reaction to her is that her character design is rather stereotypical. Not that all the other characters in the series aren’t big bundles of over-exaggerations in their own right. But it seems like the default mode for “character from Africa” is always “a tribal princess who wears no clothes.” People know there are cities in Africa, right?
Amanda: Another point of interest: her fighting style is capoeira.
Becky: And see, that’s where it got interesting. She uses her leg for her throw. ‘Nuff said. And she studied in France. And her thing is that she wants to travel the world and meet people. Now, beating up everybody you meet maybe isn’t the best way to make friends, but she gets points for trying.
Amanda: Are you kidding? I punch everybody I meet. It makes you easy to remember.
Becky: How has that been working out for you?
Amanda: I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls. From lawyers.
Becky: Hey, lawyers need friends, too.
Amanda: Maybe I should try head-butts next time, but back to the matter at hand. Elena: what is her deal? On the one hand, she is a unique fighter with a lot of flare and style. We have had boxers in Street Fighter before, but this is the first time a character has fought exclusively with their feet.
Becky: I really like her fighting style. She looks incredibly cool in combat.
Amanda: On the other hand, she fights in a bikini, and looks and acts like Storm’s annoying younger sister.
Becky: And sounds like her, too.
Amanda: Yes. The giggling. The f***ing giggling. But still, Elena is making an effort, so you can’t hate on her that much. Ibuki, meanwhile is another character that instills similar conflicted feelings.
Becky: She’s a ninja. That much is good. I approve of ninjas.
Amanda: Ninjas are awesome. They have scientifically been proven to be awesome. But Ibuki does not like being a ninja. Ibuki wants to meet boys.
Becky: Street Fighter really has a thing for the whole “but I just want to be a normal girl!” storyline (readers, please note the earlier reference to our “real girl” phases for why this sucks). That was Chun-Li’s original ending. It’s Elena’s ending. It’s Ibuki’s ending.
Amanda: But not Makoto’s ending.
Becky: Makoto. Is. Awesome.
Amanda: Of the Street Fighter III Shoeless Teenage Girl Triumvirate, Makoto is easily the best. I will forgive Street Fighter III all its flaws because they introduced Makoto to the world.
Becky: For starters, she’s wearing a gi. Like, a normal martial arts garment.
Amanda: Secondly, I think she is the only female Street Fighter character who was not designed to appeal to the testosterone brigade. Makoto don’t care if you thinks she looks like a boy. Makoto will stomp you all the same.
Becky: I love her ending so much. They are literally turning people away at the gates of her dojo. Her master says he’s nothing compared to her. And unlike the other ladies, she is perfectly stoked to go on beating up people until the end of time. Or the Rapture. Whatever.
Amanda: That ending makes me cry a little. It’s like watching the daughter I never had at her graduation. I’m just so proud of her!
Becky: Me too! She’s like the valedictorian of causing bodily harm.
Amanda: She will head-butt and chokehold her way through life, and into everyone’s hearts. Makoto is just the best.
Becky: Not gonna lie, she’s probably my favorite thus far.
Amanda: And she became hugely popular.
Becky: Wait, you mean, you can make a popular female character without sending her out there half-dressed and wishing for a normal life full of boys? The very notion!
Amanda: It’s crazy, but sometimes it works! But, shhh! Don’t say it out loud. They’ll hear you…
Becky: The Illuminati, man. They control everything.
Amanda: They’re in my coffee right now!
Becky: You know, Third Strike taught me an important lesson.
Amanda: And what is that?
Becky: It’s something Chun-Li said during her ending. And we’ll skip over the part where I don’t know why she’s caring for orphans all of a sudden.
Amanda: The game is supposed to take place 5 years after Street Fighter II. When you’re not busy fighting Psycho Powered criminal organizations, you might start getting all Angelina Jolie.
Becky: As she reflects on her experiences of traveling the world, beating the shit out of people, she thinks of her kids and of the future, and she says, “I’ll use my fists to create our tomorrow.”
I was so moved. What a beautiful sentiment. I think we can all learn something from Chun-Li.
Amanda: Indeed. You know, Street Fighter kind of inspired me to take up martial arts in real life.
Becky: Oh, awesome, I love stories like this.
Amanda: I found a style of karate called Seido, and what has struck me most about my experience so far is how positive it has been.
Becky: Really? I just was just being flippant about Chun-Li’s ending before. Tell me how you’re actually using your fists to create our tomorrow.
Amanda: Well, I don’t know if it is true for all systems, but Seido has a strong philosophy about using karate to the betterment of communities. Our dojo does a lot of work with blind students and developmentally disabled adults. We have fundraisers for different charities, and we have toy and clothing drives around the holidays. And all the while I have been developing not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually. So I guess that’s how I relate to the whole “using your fists to create our tomorrow” thing.
Becky: And Street Fighter helped nudge you toward that?
Amanda: It did. Not that I thought I would come out throwing fireballs, but it instilled the curiosity in me.
Becky: This is why I love games so much. It’s so easy to look at something like Street Fighter and just write it off as an empty pastime. You hear “arcade game” or “fighting game” and you don’t think “substance.” But it’s in there, even mixed in with Psycho Power and the Illuminati and whatever the hell Rainbow Mika is wearing.
Amanda: I can’t really explain it, but there is some heart nestled under those crazy stories and punches and fireballs.
Becky: You don’t need to explain it. I think that’s a feeling all gamers have. I’ve got artwork of some of my game heroes up around my desk for that very reason. You took an experience that made you feel powerful and positive, and you let it steer you toward some real world good. There are tons of stories like that in the gaming community, and I think they’re just the best things ever.
Amanda: And now I’m using my fists to create our tomorrow!
Becky: Thanks, Street Fighter!
Amanda: Well, now I just feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Becky: Me, too.
Amanda: I don’t know if I feel comfortable leaving things on such a sentimental note. Quick! Give me something to make fun of!
Becky: The weird secretary lady standing next to Gill!
Amanda: Oh, yeah! Hey, weird secretary lady! Why are you so weird?
Becky: To be fair, it probably takes a lot of administrative effort to coordinate the Rapture.
Amanda: Probably a lot of paperwork involved.
Becky: We shouldn’t give her such a hard time.
Amanda: Sorry, weird secretary lady.
Amanda LaPergola is also a freelance writer and a non-union actor. Mostly, though, she serves a lot of food. She is also on the Twitter.