Wednesday Column

1991: Street Fighter II (Personal Growth Through Fighting Games)

InfernalMage “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: [4]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


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8 replies »

  1. I remember a similar experience when I used to play Street Fighter 2. I could never get the characters to do complex special moves, so I used to play Blanka and Guile. I was more effective with characters whose special moves relied on backing away and then charging (while pressing buttons), rather than moving the pad in a complicated sequence. Later, I realised that the most effective fighting technique in the game was to continually jump and kick towards the opponent and, if they start to stand and block, crouch and kick to trip them over. I also remember the reward for defeating M. Bison was the short animated sequence to end the character’s story. I enjoyed the description of performing the special moves and why the author enjoyed fighting games.
    Did you every manage to complete the game with the other characters? Have you played the game since you were younger?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. SFII was, is, and always will be one of those games you think you master at home. Then step foot into an arcade or tournament, and find out that, no, you in fact, have not mastered it. But that’s what makes it so damn fun. It has layers of depth, but not overly complicated depth to turn off a newcomer. Case in point; my nieces. At 11, and 10 they had never played a Street Fighter game. But my Sister got it for the Switch for Christmas in a misguided view her experience meant the kids wouldn’t win. After two rounds the kids figured out lightning kicks, cannon spikes, and shoryukens. None of them are going to win EVO, but it was accessible enough that it didn’t take long to defeat average players. Still. I was a pretty proud Uncle that night.

    Liked by 2 people

    • One of the worst opponents to go up against was the inexperienced button masher. They had no skill, no grace, but an endless wellspring of unpredictability. It only took a few well placed Fierce punches or Roundhouse kicks to win a match, and when the neurotic eight year old standing next to you only knows how to jump over and over and over and over and over and over and over, and smash the buttons, it becomes difficult to win when your mind wants to go over tactics and counters and combos.

      A sure fire way to not only leave the arcade in shame, but to have your hubris brought low when you think your the king of fighters.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Haha I had to laugh! This was totally me and my friends when we were preteens. We were definitely button mashers around the time that they started putting out those early X-Men fighting games, and I remember one time I actually did beat an older kid just from spamming buttons on him and he stormed off angrily. Of course I was proud of myself not realizing that everyone was laughing because of the ridiculousness of the situation.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh the tales I could recant of the years spent at the control panel of Street Fighter II.

    “When a man approaches you at the Street Fighter machine, he is not your friend! He is the enemy, and the enemy deserve NO MERCY!”

    Such was the common saying amongst my friends and I with regards to SF2. I recall my best friend, Draxon, telling me about the new game at the mall arcade which contained a soldier, some voodoo priest guy, a sumo wrestler, etc., but I had no idea he was talking about a second iteration of Street Fighter, which we had previously played at the same arcade (the one with two giant, pressure sensitive buttons). Once I made it to said arcade I fell in love with a pretty little lady named Chun Li.

    I must have spent a million dollars in quarters back in those days. Assuredly if I took all the money I dumped into SF2 and saved it I would be a rich man now, but instead of money I am rich in memories! Memories of slapping said quarters down on the control panel, indicating my third place in line to challenge! Memories of seriously showing no mercy and smashing the girl player, who all the guys would succumb to because she was a female in an arcade (seriously, she didn’t play that well) into oblivion and getting harangued by all my buddies for it afterward! Memories of nights high on Pepsi and pizza playing the very same game on the SNES!

    Indeed, I am a rich man.

    To note: I mastered the uppercut with a double fireball motion after the recommended forward-down-down forward + punch failed to work for me over and over. From then on I was nearly unstoppable as Ryu. 👍

    Liked by 2 people

  4. For the longest time, I was convinced that you had to charge Guile’s Sonic Boom for three+ seconds. I only actually found out that you didn’t last year, and finally finished the game as him. Still, SFII, BlazBlue and Bloody Roar. Those are some great fighters.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had trouble with the quarter-circle-forward P too when I was a kid. I think I caught on with it first in Primal Rage but I know I definitely couldn’t do it in Street Fighter II. To this day, I’ve still taught it to others as quarter-circle-forward punch but 236P is a much more efficient way. You learn something new every day. Would you say that Street Fighter II remains your favorite fighting game?

    It’s nice to read something touting hard work and practice for success. Great column, as always! Thanks for sharing yourself through these.


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