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Vol. 2, Issue 6
December 13, 1999

From the Mouth of Madness:

Fight!

by Jason "loonyboi" Bergman

 

 

 

ince this week's cover story is devoted to fighting games, I thought I'd take a moment to recall my personal history with the genre, and just hop down memory lane (as I'm apt to do from time to time).

My first experience with fighting games turns out to be the same as most old-school gamers...the original Karateka. Created by Jordan Mechner (who would later make a name for himself as the creator of the meticulously rotoscoped title Prince of Persia) while he was still in college (living in the dorms, nonetheless!) the game was a combination of many genres that exist today. It was a side-scrolling game, but it incorporated elements of what we would call today a fighting title. Best of all, it looked just plain great. In every respect, this is a classic. If you missed it, chances are you won't understand its significance...but it was a real eye opener.

click to enlarge!

Glom them kickass graphics, baby! (55k(

I mean, in Karateka, your character had legs! You could see them! Other games of that era didn't even come close to that! Sure you had guys like Mario that moved, but they didn't look like people did...in Karateka, you could run! For an Apple II (or, in my case, an Apple IIC) this was some hardcore stuff, man.

The first real exposure I had to a fighting game was when I played this weird looking game called Street Fighter in a local arcade. The game was ugly, dusty, and looked like it hadn't been used in years. It was buried away in a corner, and when I decided to try playing it, I quickly realized why. It was hard! I had never played anything like it (most people hadn't) and I wasn't used to this whole "combo move" concept. In most games of the day, you had a "jump" and "attack" button - and that was it. Here I was supposed to throw punches, kicks, and move my joystick at the same time? Are you mad, man?

Needless to say, I didn't care for it. In fact, I buried it away entirely, until a friend of mine, who owned one of those import PC Engine systems (the Japanese TurboGrafix 16) told me about this kick ass game he had just gotten for the system's CD-ROM (which was beyond bleeding edge at the time) called Fighting Street. I ran over, and checked the thing out, as anything that came on a CD in those days was totally badass (hey, I was impressed by Cosmic Osmo, what do you want from me?). And while I proceeded to get my ass kicked out of my head (in Japanese, nonetheless) I started to understand how the thing worked. And before I knew it, I was actually enjoying it.

But the funny thing is, I never made the connection between Fighting Street and Street Fighter. What the heck was wrong with me? It was basically the same game. Same characters, same levels...cool soundtrack, but still the same game. And I swear, I didn't figure it out until I played Street Fighter II.

People who weren't around arcades the summer Street Fighter II was released can't really understand the significance of the game. This thing wasn't just a new game...it was literally a revolution. There had been some great draws to arcades before, but nothing (in my hometown, anyway) could compare to Street Fighter II. You would be driving down the street, and pass by a bowling alley, which had a giant sign outside that read, "we have Street Fighter II!" and people would drive from miles to play it.

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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Dan Zalkus. From the Mouth of Madness is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, you cartoonish villian, you.