Chasing Ghosts: One Quarter at a Time

You Must Defeat Sheng Long (and that girl in middle school) to stand a chance

The following is part of a series about my past experiences with arcade games and running them in MAME. I will only write about games I remember playing in an actual arcade, not games I only discovered through MAME.

Street Fighter 2 flyer

Japanese Flyer for Street Fighter II: The World Warrior.

“Lets watch him blow up!”

Those were my dad’s words upon seeing Mike Haggar, the mayor of Metro City, tied up with a stick of dynomite ready to blow up. I had just played Final Fight for the first time in a Pizza Hut, and lost pretty quickly. Regardless of the fact that I was seven, it was still an embarassingly short game.

So began my introduction to violence in a video game. Yes, I’d played things like Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, where the whole point of the game is to punch bad stereotypes, but this was the first game with gritty violence, where I had to give concussions to everything in my way.

I’ve always enjoyed Final Fight, although other beat-em-up games have surpassed it in quality (Streets of Rage, for example), but just two years later, another offering from Capcom would turn my head upside down. That game was Street Fighter II: The World Warrior.

My dad was in the Navy, so we moved around a few times when I was a child. Not anything extreme like every six months, but I lived in six different places before I turned 18. The nice thing about moving when you’re a child is that you get exposed to new hobbies and new interests, since every neighborhood of kids is slightly different.

So in 1992, we packed our bags and moved from Memphis to Virginia Beach, and on a random trip to a movie theater to see God knows what, I took my dollar to the arcade section of the theater and spent my four quarters on the SF2 cabinet, completely bypassing the Time Traveler arcade cabinet (it was a laserdisc game that made hologram fighters, and I really wish I would have just played it at least once since I’ve never seen it again in person).

I should have tried this.

Ryu looked like a bad ass karate guy, so I picked him. The game put me up against Chun-Li, and I lost. All four times. I mean, I was pitiful, absolutely pitiful.

Elated about this game, I went home and told my jerk friend Chris about it.

“You didn’t know about that game?” he asked me like I was stupid. Of course he didn’t realize that his accusation had a giant flaw, which was that if the game was so great, why hadn’t he mentioned it to me in the months that we’d known each other. Also, he mocked me for choosing Ryu, which shows that he probably had never played it before, as most elementary school children wouldn’t goof on a hardened karate warrior.

Nevertheless, I started salivating at the idea of playing this game any chance I got. And when it finally got a home release on the Sega Genesis (my friends and I didn’t have a Super Nintendo), we were over the moon.

We stayed up and played SF2 all night at my friend Randy’s house. Pit Fighter got some play as well, but I’ll always remember those nights for SF2 and Batman reruns on FX (back when FX was a fun, lighthearted and interesting channel).
So I got good. Good enough to face strangers? I’d soon find out.

Why I hung out with my jerk friend named Chris is beyond me (I bought him a Wolverine figurine as a going away gift when he moved. The morning he moved away, he showed me another X-men figure he’d gotten and when I asked to hold it, wouldn’t let me). But one night, I went with him to the bowling alley while his mom played in a league game. My mom had given me $5 to play games with, and I remember spending $3 of it on the X-Men Arcade game (the one with six players). With little money left, I saw the SF2 machine with a GIRL PLAYING IT! Nowadays, I think girls are just as good as boys in the world of video games, but 9-year-old me didn’t have that same mindset. So I put in a quarter to face off against this girl who was probably 13 or 14. I picked Ryu, she picked Blanka, and she picked me apart.

Years later, even the Sims are playing this game! Mod courtesy of Winsyrstrife at

Years later, even the Sims are playing this game! Mod courtesy of Winsyrstrife at

If my memory serves me correctly, I think she got a few perfect rounds against me (I played against her four times). She destroyed every little part of me with Blanka. I like to think that this girl grew up playing video games, is an amazing gamer nowadays, and somewhere on the internet, is fondly reminiscing of the time when she beat the sexist 9-year-old four times in a row at Street Fighter II.

In time, I got better at the game, and so did Capcom, as their later fighting games like Marvel vs. Capcom are some of my favorite games of all time. But for pure fighting simplicity and goodness, you can’t compete with Street Fighter II.

And, looking back, neither could I.

Does it work in MAME?

This is probably the easiest game to get running on a home arcade cabinet. Not because of the computer hardware, per say, but because nearly every arcade cabinet kit you purchase (if building from scratch), is produced with this game in mind. If you’re wanting to play Street Fighter 2 or any other fighting game for that matter, you won’t have to customize your cabinet.

The button layouts are almost always six button, and the X-Arcade stick that is wildly popular comes with the SF2 button setup as standard. And even if you don’t like SF2 that much, the layout is universal to nearly every game except for Neo Geo ones (four buttons in one row instead of 2 rows of three). As far as getting the game to run, it was pretty simple. And SF2 is a game where many clones exist, such as Rainbow edition. I’d put that on my machine and I found it to be more annoying than fun. For instance, in the pirated Rainbow edition, characters could morph into others. Interesting yes, but it gets in the way of the solid gameplay the game already has.

SF2 Rainbow Edition title screen: This mod adds gameplay elements such as Chun-Li throwing fireballs and morphing. It gets it's name from the rainbow colored font.

SF2 Rainbow Edition title screen: This mod adds gameplay elements such as Chun-Li throwing fireballs and morphing. It gets it’s name from the rainbow colored font.

Bear that in mind when you fire up this game in MAME.

My Wife Plays SF2

It was fine. I think I like Mortal Kombat better. I like the variety of players better in MK. I was good at those kind of games as a kid. I could beat the boys. Which was especially impressive since we never owned the games. We had to go to the neighbors or the arcades to play them.

Since it’s been years since I’ve played this one, I kept hitting the wrong buttons. It was still a challenging game even when I hit the right buttons.

I played as Chun-Li. I like to be the girl then the girl could beat the guys. I wouldn’t want to play the newer ones necessarily, but I’ll still play the older stuff.