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Tag: multiplayer

How I Began Street Fighting

With Street Fighter IV out this week, those that follow along here on the site and podcast should (rightfully so) expect a lot of talk about it coming your way. Before I even get to talking about the new game, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back and figure out just how exactly I got here. When did I first play a Street Fighter game? Why did I stick with it? What are some of my earliest memories? Why does it continue to enthrall me to this very day?

First off, let’s be honest: very few of us actually played the first Street Fighter until we loaded it up in MAME one day. I simply never saw it in arcades or convenience stores, and if I did, I dismissed it without a thought.

sf1_arcade

I should start off by saying that I don’t think I got “into” fighting games until Mortal Kombat came around. I don’t know what it was that I was so busy playing instead, but the first round of Street Fighter II in the arcades (and even on the SNES) just totally flew by me. Even then, I didn’t get interested in playing them until the first Mortal Kombat was already out on the home systems in late 1993, nearly a year after it hit arcades. I was vaguely aware of it, but that awareness was the extent of my interest. I first remember seeing the game at a local kid’s house (wasn’t really a “friend”, especially since I kicked the crap out of him later that year for being a jackass, but boys will be boys). I have to imagine it was the prospect of doing fatalities that really drew me in, though I don’t remember all that much. I just remember seeing it, and being hooked from there on out.

mk1_snes_gameplay

Around that time, Mortal Kombat II was already hitting arcades, and I was ready to jump in head-first. Everything about the second game was better. The fighters were more realistic, the amount of moves increased, the number and types of finishing moves increased, and the game had a fantastic tongue-in-cheek sense of humor about itself. While the game certainly bumped it up a notch in terms of skilled players being able to fight effectively, all of the characters ultimately still played exactly the same with the exception of their special moves and finishing moves. Additionally, let’s continue to be brutally honest: we were still all playing the game just to see the fatalities. In the case of Mortal Kombat, the “end-game” was far more interesting than the actual game, itself. I played the ever-living-Hell out of the SNES and even Game Boy versions (the latter of which actually let you pause the game, which is the sole reason I purchased it… in addition to wanting to play against everyone else at school…), but something was lacking.

mortal_kombat_2_fatality

It was around this time and with this realization that I became more aware of Street Fighter. I was enjoying fighting games, but the fighting games I was playing (really only Mortal Kombat) felt more like brief competitions to see an end show rather than focusing on the fighting itself, which I was truly interested in.

I don’t know what went off in my little head, but I decided it was time to pick up a Street Fighter game.

I had my dad drive me down to the local video store, and I purchased a used copy of Super Street Fighter II for the SNES. Yes, by this point in time, we were already on the third revision for SNES, and I hadn’t even played the game before. I was initially confused by the lack of an “end” after the fight, which was to be expected coming from the Mortal Kombat camp (I don’t have a source on me, but I do remember the MK creative team noting that fatalities even came about in the first place because they wanted to move the mid-fight dizzies from other games to the very end so you could get one more hit in). Regardless, though, it was a love affair from there on out. Instead of mastering the art of B, B, LP, I suddenly became a master of F, D, DF, P. Two-in-ones became second nature. The clumsy juggles of Mortal Kombat became more skill-based than I could imagine.

ssf2_snes_char_select

It’s interesting to note that, despite becoming totally involved in the world of Street Fighter, I kept up with Mortal Kombat for a little while. I was all about Mortal Kombat 3, and will tell anyone who will listen that I was the one responsible for unlocking Ermac in my local Wal-Mart’s arcade machine of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. I rented a Sega Saturn more than just a few times for the sole purpose of playing UMK3 (though Sega Rally was nice, too). I was running around with my crazy-ass Kabal and Nightwolf combos, and proving that Smoke had more to him than just a teleport punch -> spear -> uppercut.

umk3_snes

By now we’re into 1995, and I’ve still said more about Mortal Kombat than the supposed topic of this post. Here’s where it begins to shift, though.

I became very adamant about checking out my local arcade and playing not only against other people, but completely new games, as well. It was a big year for fighting game fans. I may have skipped over Super Turbo (other than some brief play on my friend Jason’s 3DO), but the series received a reboot with Alpha. The Mortal Kombat series had just gone Ultimate, and Virtua Fighter 2 was shocking players with how far polygonal fighters had come in a single generation of games. I took notice, too. In addition to playing the first game on my 32X, I was pretending to be good with a little Kage action in Virtua Fighter 2 in arcades, myself. I was still mostly ignoring Street Fighter, though… which I don’t really understand. I preferred the gameplay of that series more than all of the others, but I found myself leaning towards these others. Maybe it was because those arcade machines were actually free of crowds? Was I still trying to figure out exactly which game series interested me the most? Who knows?

virtua_fighter_32x

Things shifted for good the next year, though. My arcade got a gigantic, large-screen, sit-down Street Fighter Alpha 2. The combination of the music, the characters, the animation, and the grand scale of the thing won me over. I still vividly remember seeing that pre-match character layout (which zips into the profiles) for the first time and being amazed at just how slick and refined the whole thing felt, and I even remember that it was Adon that I first went up against.

sfa2_arcade_gointofight

I think “refined” is the perfect word to describe what I found missing in all of the other games. Mortal Kombat 3 brought the series into more offensive territory with the Run button, but it still felt clunky and imprecise. Virtua Fighter was a great first step into 3D, but the ridiculous floaty jumps were very off-putting (though 2 did an amazing job cleaning it all up). I only briefly dabbled with Tekken until Tag, and only the second game on PS1 (thanks to a demo pack-in with my system). SNK’s games were getting to a fantastic level (despite the hardcore fans problems with the striker system, I’m a huge fan of King of Fighters ’99), but I couldn’t find anyone else to really play them with (at least until college). Here was Street Fighter, pulling everything together so nice and clean. It just… worked.

I never seemed to get around to picking up any additional home console versions for a couple years. I think I just rented them enough that I felt like I owned them. Once 1999 came around, though, I wasn’t about to miss out on Street Fighter Alpha 3. I emptied all of my change bowls and scrapped together enough right there to purchase the game. Everything about it was magical. Despite finally dropping the classic tunes for the characters, Alpha 3 just oozed fresh style. Takayuki Iwai & Co.’s new musical score was both instantly memorable and catchy (and was actually one of the first game soundtracks I ever purchased). The new “-ism” styles let you play Alpha 2-style if you so desired. The home version’s inclusion of even more characters from “Upper” (the Naomi board version) flesh out an already-gigantic cast of both familiar and new faces. It may not have been the most balanced game in the franchise, but that was hardly enough to keep a player like me away from the controller. In fact, aside from Super Mario Bros. 3, it is perhaps my most-re-purchased game of all time (PS1, PS2, GBA, PSP… nope, never owned the Saturn or Dreamcast versions, myself).

sfa3_ryu_gameplay

You’ve heard Andrew and I talk about Alpha 3 enough on the podcast, so I’ll leave behind one of our all-time favorite games behind.

During this time and over the next several years, we were treated to an array of crossover games that complement the main (numbered) series quite well. Whether it was dropping quarters into X-Men vs Street Fighter or playing the import Dreamcast version of Capcom vs SNK 2 day in and day out, we played them all. Marvel vs Capcom 2 also immediately jumps to mind, with all of us having college buddies that, despite having absolutely zero interest in fighting games, couldn’t resist throwing down for a few hours with us.

We’re missing a game series, though. It seems like a lot of people forget about Street Fighter III. I think like the majority of the more mainstream Street Fighter fans (those of us who thoroughly enjoyed the series, but never got up to tournament level or anything like that), something just didn’t sit right with me. Perhaps it was indeed the overall lack of returning fighters. Maybe it was the more Darkstalkers-esque characters that felt out of place (don’t get me wrong; I enjoy that series, as well!). Maybe it was yet another drop of any and all classic tunes. I played here and there in random arcade machines, but then again, maybe it was the death of arcades that was hurting my ability to even play the game in the first place. I was excited to see a III machine on my college campus while visiting the summer before school, so you can understand my sadness to see it gone when I returned later that year.

Things have changed over the years, though, with regards to III. Like a fine wine, it actually seems to get better with age. I appreciate more and more about the game as I get older. I now find the soundtrack to be one of the most fitting (if not silly) in a fighting game. I love a lot of the new characters, and even found my quasi-Fei Long in Yang. I like to pretend I’m a solid technical fighter with my parrying of simple fireballs (don’t ask me to use it in general gameplay up close, though). The animation is fluid and eye-popping. The general presentation is just as slick and streamlined as any Street Fighter game before it. It’s a very technical fighter, but it’s not as intimidating as something like the Guilty Gear series. I’m incredibly glad to have a copy of the game sitting around, and while we don’t revisit it as much as I otherwise would like to (Alpha 3 and CvS2 seem to be the default go-to games), it’s always a damn good time when we do.

sf3_char_select

It seems like there is so much more to talk about, and so many other fighting games to compare and throw into the mix (nevermind all of the assorted merchandise like anime and action figures). Alas, this is only supposed to be a simple reflection on how I came to be the type of Street Fighter fan I am, and it still ended up being a stream-of-consciousness plop of text. Here we are with IV finally in our hands, and like Ono wanted us to do, we are rediscovering what it is about the series (and these characters) that we love so much. Forgive me, but I think I need to stop typing and get back to the game, now!

Next time around, we’re going to take a look at the “Collector’s Edition” pack-ins. How does the new anime stack up to previous efforts? Does that headband fit? Are the extra costumes worth downloading? What’s on the soundtrack? Stick around…

Xbox Live Experience: Classic “TMNT” With Friends

Yesterday, our buddy Kevin coordinated a cross-country gaming date for the evening over Twitter. Myself, Andrew, Kevin, and our buddy Ryan all joined up for a little play-through of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic arcade game over Xbox Live (10:30 pm eastern time, 7:30 pm western time). Seems like an easy enough recipe for a good time, right?

Well, mostly!

tmnt_arcade_4players

What we quickly found ourselves doing instead of just playing the game was fighting with the Xbox Live service to simply allow all four of us to join up. We initially started with Kevin creating a “Party”, and then he invited the entire party to a private match in the game. No matter which order people joined in, who tried to set up a match next, inviting through the party system or one-by-one manually, we simply could not get all four of us into the same room. The fourth person would always get the “Game session is no longer available“-style message, even if they just got in on the previous try. We even all tried joining into a “quick match” together at the same time, and ended up with the same problem (only three of us able to join in, though it was a hilarious miracle and testament to the game’s play-drop-off that we all ended up in the same random quick match).

Around fifteen minutes into this epic struggle against Microsoft’s back-end, Kevin randomly suggested that we try signing off and back onto Xbox Live. Andrew and I did so, and we were magically able to all immediately connect to each other in-game. This proves that it had nothing to do with our ISPs, our firewalls, any port-forwarding in our routers, or any nonsense like that. It was nothing more than random nonsense on the Xbox Live side of things, and nonsense we typically only expect from the free PSN, as opposed to a service we pay ~$50 a year for (and therefore, rightfully so, expect a near-flawless experience with).

Once we got into the game, we sufferred little in the way of hiccups (with the exception of some minor lag problems on the “Come on guys, we gotta save Splinter!” stage). We managed to make it up to Krang, and while Kevin survived long enough to get him blinking, the rest of us succummed to his mighty kicks with the measely amount of lives we had left at that point. We all made a couple stupid mistakes, but now that we’ve played again… I fully believe we need to set up another session so we can not only complete the game for that achievement, but also make sure that Andrew doesn’t get himself flame-throwed in the face so we can all get that achivement, too!

“Portal”: Best Multiplayer Game In Years…?

Yes, you read that title correctly. Is Portal one of the best multiplayer games to come out in years?

I know, I know. Portal is a single-player game. There is no “versus” mode and there is no co-operative campaign. How exactly is the game “multiplayer”, then? Let me explain how I played through the game, and the answer should be pretty obvious.

portal_first_area

With the exception of test chambers 17 and 18, there was always at least one person in the room while I was playing through Portal. My first playthrough of the beginning dozen or so test chambers was with my wife in the room, somewhat paying attention as she went about her own business. There were questions here and there along with the occasional chuckle at GLaDOS, but that was about it.

I decided to show Jeff the game one day, and figured the best way would be to just start at the beginning. Anyone who has played the game knows how fast the first few levels fly by, so I very quickly made my way back to where I had left-off (I think somewhere around test chamber 12). From there, it seemed like there was no stopping us. While I was in full control of the game (personally having my hands on the mouse and keyboard), the two of us figured out the puzzles in each chamber to get Chell onwards through the Enrichment Center’s test. It was getting pretty late that evening, so we left off at the beginning of test chamber 17.

From there I dropped the game for a while (though for no particular reason other than that… well… that’s just how I roll). A few weeks back (OK, the end of November) I finally decided to play the game some more. I was home by myself for the evening and played through test chambers 17 and 18. It was a very different experience. “Lonely” is perhaps the best way to describe it, and probably more along the lines of how Chell actually felt (were she, ya’ know, a real person). That’s not to say it was a bad experience; it was simply different.

I began running into chugging problems with the game, with later levels throwing more and more “stuff” on the screen and my GeForce 7900 GS having a tough time keeping up. I again “dropped” the game for a little bit, right at the start of the final level.

Fast forward a couple months later, and the new GeForce 9800 GT is all installed and running things silky-smooth. It was time to beat Portal.

portal_final_area

That evening, with not only Jeff right by my side, but his girlfriend and my wife hanging out in the background, we returned to the multiplayer version of the game that I knew so well from the earlier sessions. It was exactly what I was looking for, and I can’t imagine not having (finally) experienced that ending level and battle solely by myself.

What did I enjoy so much about it? Those moments where we would all go, “Oooooooooohhhhhh!” upon figuring out the deceptively-simple key to a puzzle. The collective laughter at GLaDOS’ increasingly-desperate antics (the “reverse psychology” tirade was brilliant). The chuckles at hilarious things in the background (like the PowerPoint-esque presentations in the meeting rooms in the final level). The random shout-outs of things to try or places to look.

With the exception of a couple little platforming acrobatics to perform at certain points, the pace of the game is “slow” enough for anyone around to really become absorbed into the story and flow right along with it. It gives you enough time, but also provides just enough of a sense of dread that you need to hurry up and move on… and everyone is right there with you.

Andrew mentioned to me that when he played through Portal: Still Alive on the 360, he typically had one of his roommates there with him (who had played through the game before). What were your “multiplayer” experiences like with this game? Did you just blow through it all by yourself in one sitting? Did you later replay to show friends and family? Were you that “friends and family” being shown the game?

(Blah blah blah, “Welcome to 2007″…)

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