Do you remember throwing your first dragon punch? Do you still swear by Ryu after 25 years and dozens of different games? What does Street Fighter mean to you? These are the questions that ran through my head as I roamed around New York City’s Center 548 for Capcom’s Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Qualifying Tournament.
Major fighting game tournaments have evolved from pure competitions to fan-driven conventions, and this weekend was no exception. Capcom went full-on with their fan service, providing a sweet Chun-Li shirt for all attendees and bringing a playable build of the upcoming Vita version of Street Fighter x Tekken. There was a mini-museum on hand, as a giant poster listed the entire history of Capcom fighting games, from the single-character Street Fighter to the four iterations of Street Fighter IV. Also on display was the upcoming $150 Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Box Set, which admittedly had this SF nerd salivating.
It almost became easy to forget Capcom was hosting a tournament, until the likes of Dieminion, IFC Yipes, Wolfkrone, and dozens of the best Street Fighter players around the country started walking through the doors. Tables upon tables filled Center 548 generous floorspace, where crowds gathered early to warm up in the 4 games that have come to define each generation of Street Fighter: The classic Super Street Fighter II: Turbo, the unforgiving Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike, Street Fighter IV, the game that essentially revived the genre, and finally, 2012′s Street Fighter X Tekken. One particular highlight was the arrival of top player Justin Wong, who was immediately showered with requests for photos and autographs. Street Fighter has become a virtual sport, Wong being one of its brightest stars.
The event ran some of the usual roadblocks at a major – namely players registering late and not being at their stations at time. Still, the staff handled the massive player pool as efficiently as possible, and the matches rolled along. Sunday’s finals were full of great competitive moments, namely the victories of Dieminion and Nica KO in Street Fighter IV and 3rd Strike, respectively. Both grand finals were moments of talented New York players defending their turf against visitors, and were met with emotional, raucous responses from the crowd. Dieminion and Nica KO are among a small group of qualifiers who will go on to compete in San Francisco this December, which is shaping up to be an even bigger, more exciting event than the qualifiers before it.
What stood out to me most, however, had nothing to do with wins, losses, and world-known players. We spoke with spectators and competitors alike about their history with the games, and hearing their anecdotes about their first time throwing a fireball on a Super Nintendo or at a pizza shop reignited my own personal nostalgia, and reaffirmed the lifelong passion I have for Street Fighter. Everyone in attendance had fond memories of different iterations of the game, and many have stayed loyal to their favorite characters through the years, including a fan who had Blanka etched into his skin. I’m sure he wasn’t the only one there rocking a tattoo inspired by his favorite games.
Being at SF25 this weekend conjured up some great memories of my gaming past, and surely has made some new ones. Now I ask, what are yours?
Photo Credit: Mike Andronico and Will Parker