“The following is a contributor column by the Infernal Accountant Mage.”
The motion to throw a fireball, or Hadoken, as Ryu or Ken in Street Fighter II is described in numpad notation as 236P. Look at the number pad on a keyboard and you’ll get it: down, down-forward, forward and a punch button. With a joystick, this represents a quick swing from down to forward, a sort of mini-punch to the right using the stick. It’s a nice, visceral feeling, a tangibly offensive action, and in the back of your head you can imagine your aggressive intent flowing through the joystick and out of the character’s hands. Even the associated voice clip feels powerful: a forceful HADOKEN! There you go, that’s video games.
Young me preferred playing as Guile. Not because of his stylish hair nor because of my family association with the military, though both of these things made Guile appealing. I preferred Guile because his fireball, the Sonic Boom, was performed in a different way: 6P. Hold back for a second or so, then press forward and punch. This was a simple motion and, more importantly, young me couldn’t throw a Hadoken.
Why not? Well, because the guides at the time explained the Hadoken as, literally, down, down-forward, forward and punch. That is the correct motion! What is not correct is down (return to neutral), down-forward (return to neutral), forward and punch. It’s intended to be a smooth, natural motion, not a series of inputs strung together mechanically. That concept just didn’t hit home for young me. What’s more, this motion and similar motions are common to several Street Fighter II characters; if you’re unable to perform them, you might as well not play those characters at all. My choices, then, were limited to Guile, E. Honda, Blanka and Chun-Li (who, at this point, did not have any circular motions as her fireball attack didn’t yet exist.) Of those, only Guile was capable of throwing a projectile, which was non-negotiable to young me; fireballs are cool, so I had to play someone who could throw fireballs.
Fighting games are a favorite of mine because they reward practice and persistence. You can get better at fighting games, but more importantly that improvement is visible and noticeable. You either pull off a combo regularly under pressure or you don’t. You either beat opponents you couldn’t beat before or you don’t. Fighting games are win or lose. If you aren’t winning, you need to try harder, practice more, get better. When you’re playing a fighting game with the right mindset, losses are all on you; you lost because you weren’t good enough and now it’s time to get better if you want to change that. Today, fighters are starting to move away from requiring complex move execution, and while I agree with this as a means of making the genre more accessible, I’ll always treasure being able to pull off a stylish and difficult combo with my favorite character after spending a few hours in the training mode.
Young me hadn’t quite thought this through yet, but he did want to be able to play as Ryu, who was unquestionably cooler than Guile. So he practiced. And practiced. And practiced some more. We’re talking literal hours of trying to get a Hadoken out with an entirely incorrect paradigm of how the motion was done. We’re talking days of frustration; both young and old me are plagued with headaches and, like most people, they’re aggravated by frustration and anger, so the quest to properly throw a Hadoken was literally agonizing at times.
The best part is that young me never actually managed it. The first time I really grasped how to perform a quarter-circle motion correctly would be years later playing, of all things, the PlayStation fighter Bloody Roar…which doesn’t have any projectile attacks. The first time I really worked to learn a fighting game outside of properly executing a certain motion would be years after that with BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger. Young me was stuck playing charge characters.
Young me also eventually managed to defeat M. Bison, the notoriously difficult final boss of Street Fighter II’s single-player campaign, and earn Guile’s ending scene. In a time where console games were still relying on arcade-level difficulty for longevity, that is, in retrospect, no small feat. It turns out that hours upon hours of practicing does have some value even if you don’t ever achieve your goal. Self-improvement is useful in and of itself. Who’d have thought?
For the record, I can throw a fireball now. They make these nice fighting game controllers with macro buttons, y’see. I’m kidding, but only just; living in the future is great.
The Infernal Accountant Mage believes the pen is mightier than the sword…well, depending on how sharp the pen and sword are. A child of the ’90s and a prolific writer, he strews his work about like Legos made of words, just waiting for your brain to step on them. He enjoys a devilish challenge, so when it comes to talking about some of the more difficult games out there, you might just run into the Infernal Accountant Mage. Some advice: hold on to your soul around this guy, and don’t sign anything. Read more at popzara.com
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Categories: Wednesday Column