I was never very much into video games as a kid, and the only times I ever really played them were at friend’s houses and arcades. I have only recently gotten into games, retro and new, alike. Some of these series include Sonic the Hedgehog, Contra, Final Fantasy, Punch Out, Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, Double Dragon, Pokemon, as well newer ones such as the GTA Series and Batman: Arkham Asylum. Nonetheless, Street Fighter, old or new, is my favorite of all. Even after what happened...
I was out to dinner with my family one night when my friend, Michael, called me, but when I told him I was with my parents, he said he’d call me back. I was really curious about what he wanted to tell me. Michael was like a big brother to me: I talked to him whenever I had a problem, he’d always give me good advice, and we’d never even had an argument. He was a good role model. Could he have been getting into dangerous activity like drugs or alcohol and wanted to invite me along? Not likely, but my suspicion was still fortified. He was older than me, but responsible too, so I ignored that thought, but was still a bit nervous and anxious to find out. As I got home, I called him back to ask what he wanted to tell me. He happened to be into retro games as well and told me about a website for ROMs emulators, and wanted to tell me about a good one for the SNES.
I downloaded it and it worked like a dream. No games were faulty, the controls were fluent, and I played away. I had played the more recent Street Fighter games on my Xbox 360, but wanted to back track where the series began. I searched for Street Fighter II, because that’s the most common among the older ones. The first Street Fighter game is a really obscure piece that next to no one has played, and wasn’t sure if that was there. I found Super Street Fighter II: New Challengers and downloaded the ROM. I was so excited to finally play the classic game! It was all so cool, with a selection of the classic 8 World Warriors, 4 Grand Masters, and 4 additional ones, some of which I hadn’t seen in the newer games. Not sure of the controls, I configured my keyboard and looked up combos online, which Street Fighter was famous for. The character select screen popped up after the bright Capcom logo, and I was ready.
Sticking to what I know, I picked Ryu, who was my favorite. The first fight was against Ken, who I never really liked. He had an overconfident look on his face, but Ryu had one of pure malice, as if he really wanted Ken dead. They’ve always been depicted as friends and I just assumed these were their default faces. As I started to play, I noticed how over powering Ryu really was. Ken’s hits had very minimal affect on Ryu, but Ryu’s weak hits seemed to give an abundant amount of damage. This was curious because they always had an equal skill and strength level, and thought something was wrong. All it took was a 3 Shoryukens (which are like super uppercuts if you don’t know) and a Hadouken (which is a blue fire ball he shoots from his hands) to KO him. As round two started, Ken’s face changed to an expression of fear and worry, as if he was afraid he’d die. This was strange, because I’m sure the game isn’t as advanced as to change facial expressions. That didn’t even carry on in a new games. Again, I took him out near effortlessly, but as I hit Ken with a Shoryuken, KO’ing him, Ryu punched his head off, sending it spiraling into the air, off the screen, while 16-bit blood shot out of the neck of his best friend Ken. He then stood over Ken’s carcass with a look of hatred and disgust, as if Ken had done something to him. But what would he’ve done? My heart nearly stopped.
I did not expect that sort of violence from Street Fighter! The only times there was ever blood, as I recall, is if Vega is to slash someone with his claw, but even then is was only a drop or two. Intense blood and gore was Mortal Kombat’s claim to fame, in which I am not a fan, not only for its graphic violence but also its near impossible combos. After he defeated his friend, the end quote was in text and read “No friend of mine is so weak!” Ryu’s face had an expression of malice and hatred. Did he really hate Ken for being so weak? In the other games, anime, anime movies, and even that crappy live-action movie, Street Fighter: The Movie with Jean-Claude Van Damme, they were always portrayed as best friends and sparring partners, and were more or less evenly matched, but Ryu always seemed slightly stronger. Could this’ve been Evil Ryu? He didn’t come along until the Street Fighter Alpha series, and questioned this much. But it couldn’t’ve been because Evil Ryu had an all black and grey color pallet. With little time to react, I just sort of shrugged it off as it may've been a glitch of sorts but still was in appalled by what I saw.
Anyway, the next fight began, and was with Chun-Li, who was my second favorite character in the games. On the screen right before the fight, Ryu looked just as mad as he did before, but Chun-Li looked calm and confident, like always. She was strong. However, beating her was just as easy as Ken: a few combo moves and she dropped. I finished her off with a hadouken, and instead of collapsing and flying back like usual, her face seemed to have melted off partly. Ryu’s stern face still stood as he looked at her in digust. On the screen following the fight, the text read “Burn in hell, you bitch!” A swear like that in a Street Fighter game? An old one nonetheless! That’s when I knew this game was hacked. This couldn’t’ve happened in a real game from that time. But still, Chun-Li always seemed to be on Ryu’s side. Why was Ryu turning on all his friends? I, myself, started feeling worried by this very concept of Ryu making everyone his enemy, but had no idea what to do but to press on.
The other fights were very similar: Ryu’s quotes were full of enmity after each defeat, and some included racial slurs when applicable, after fights with DeeJay and Balrog (Who're black, if you didn't know). I was in total shock and disbelief at this! Capcom would never let this pass. Why did I press on? I felt fear and evil with each fight, but as if I controlled the evil. I had to keep playing because I felt I needed closure on this game.
Finally, the fight with M. Bison came, one of the most recognizable bosses in all of video games. How hard could it be if Ryu was so strong? However, in the previous fights, Ryu had just looked disgruntled and repugnant. Now he looked FURIOUS and hellbent on Bison's demise. He was planning to destroy Bison like he’d done to the others, but worse. Bison was slightly harder to beat, but no real challenge, just the same. Bison looked unshaken in the first round throughout, but still handily had it handed to him. When he hit Ryu with the Psycho Wave in Round 2, Ryu’s health dropped significantly. Ryu wasn’t having it, and Bison’s expression changed to one of trepidation. With a spinning mid-air kick, Bison was ground to a pile of bones, guts, and bloody meat in a crimson military uniform. Ryu still looked unsatisfied, and I was afraid of what might come next, but was another after-fight cutscene. This one read “You’re not the embodiment of evil, you’re a joke! I am!” Ryu’s mouth was covered in Bison’s blood, almost as if he had eaten his flesh. That just made me gag.
But Ryu’s cutscene played and told how Ryu was looking for the “next greatest challenge”, which was typical of him, and portrayed Ryu walking through a red, brimstone and lava filled cave surrounded by fire. Was he in hell? Was it Akuma he’d fight next? No. He didn’t come into the series until Super Street Fighter II: Turbo. Was it Satan? Maybe. I didn’t want to find out. The last frame was of Ryu’s face on fire, melting as he receded backwards into the fire, much like the opening of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the metal skeleton in flames. That shocked the hell out of me and I turned off the game, and deleted that ROM and emulator. If something as classic as Street Fighter was so tainted, I didn’t want any surprises out of any other seemingly normal games.
I called Michael right after I got over my initial shock and I just went off on him, angrily ranting at him for what he did. However, I was more shocked than angry. We’d never even pretend fought before or argued at all. I thought he was doing this a joke. He told me to take it easy and he didn’t know why it did that. After he explained I felt relieved, and he didn’t know what was wrong. That scarred me, but didn’t stop my love of retro games. Wanting to get back into them, I tried another another emulator about a year later, which seemed to work not as well, but was surprise-free. I still play the Street Fighter games but am always aware of what happened. Now, I play as many others, but not Ryu; I don’t want to feel like I’m controlling evil anymore. Never again.