"You do not talk about Street Fighter Club."

This email subject couldn't be addressing THE Street Fighter franchise, could it?

I stared at my computer screen for a good ten minutes before realizing the event I was invited to was less Tyler Durdin and more M. Bison. I remembered playing through SF II: Turbo on my SNES over and over again, growing more frustrated when I couldn't advance through the boss levels. Stupid Balrog and his turn-around punch. I could never see it coming!

I have never turned that switch in my brain off, even if there hasn't been a decent SF game for a home console in years. After my PSII rusted out, I finally upgraded to an XBox 360 last year, but couldn't understand why there wasn't a sweet new Street Fighter game out yet. Turns out they've been working on it for a while.

Capcom invited a buddy and I to an exclusive preview of the game, and even though we had to trek all the way out to Bed Stuy, Brooklyn (and not the gentrified, high-rise part of the neighborhood, but the dirty, dingy part), we gladly did it to play Street Fighter IV. Read on to lean over our shoulders.

       Notice the guy on the right? Abel, a new character. He's a French-MMA fighter.

Five blocks from the subway we arrived at the venue and were greeted with a line that wrapped around the block. We were glad to sneak right in after giving our name to someone inside, who ushered us past the crowd. The space was modeled after an old bodega, and it was called, appropriately enough, "Bodega." The corner-store door was covered in stickers so you couldn't see inside from the street. The floor was coated with dust.

Once inside, I noticed the attention to detail, something that would permeate through the game. We saw an old 16-bit version of the game set up  on an tiny TV, and a few randomly modified products, like a "Sonic Broom," and a "Haduken Lighter." I was getting excited. Once we ducked through the curtain, we found a wide open space with with white walls tagged up with black SF art.

Notice her sweet Nintendo controller necklace?

The first floor was dedicated to Street Fighter II HD Remix, another remodeled Street Fighter title from Capcom out in late 2008 or early 2009. Basically, it's a re-done Super Street Fighter, with better graphics. Whether talking about the HD Remix or Street Fighter IV, which was housed downstairs, there is no distinguishable difference between what I remember an arcade game looking like (and seriously, who goes to arcades anymore?) and what I saw on the TV's at the event.

When I tore myself away from the consoles, we found a far wall loaded with pizzas to feed the famished gamers, and there were plenty of top-notch competition on hand. Mostly, the event was populated with industry kids, fans of the game who had found out about the event through a link on Capcom's website, not through a media invite. My name tag said, "Brandon." Many others said something like, "Xxx Deathkill xxX." A DJ bumped hip hop all night.

       The character in the white mask? El Fuerte, a Mexican Luchador. He's new, too.

But this was only the top floor. We had to go down a flight of stairs to get to the good stuff.

You don't know where I've been, Lou. You don't know where I've been.

Sprawled out, looking like a high school kids basement, were 20 XBox's hooked up with the new game. I stepped up to play some kid who had played way more than me, since, you know, I haven't thrown a dragon punch since 1995. I held my own, blocking really well, and overheard someone say, "wow, his guard is awesome. Look how many times he got hit, and look how much life he has left!" That was the only compliment my fighting style would get all night. I lost that and every other game I would play that night, but I didn't expect to win against guys who spend hours every day figuring out combos. I just wanted to play the game.

I waited an hour to play twice, and I'd do it again.

Here's my buddy (and the photographer) getting pwned by some random 13-year old:

The kid lied about the buttons, which was kind of unnecessary, I think.

 As the night  progressed, more and more kids packed the downstairs space, making it harder to find elbow room, much less a machine.


Everyone, apparently, had next.

There were two guys dressed as Ryu and one as Zangief. They were clearly not paid enough.


This was not staged, and there is no after photo.

It's hard to capture the energy inside a space filled with hardcore fans, getting a chance to play a game they've been waiting a decade to play. Everyone was awed by how great the graphics were, but ask any real fan and the game play is what matters. The game hasn't deviated from the traditional 2-D SF II mechanic, although the camera wraps the action on combos and special movies to make it feel 3-D. The better you are, the higher your combos can be, but if you only know how to throw a Sonic Boom, you'll still be able to have a good time.

And the look of the game is really cool. Everyone's beefed up: Guile's arms are huge, Blanka is beastly, and Chun-Li's thighs are bigger than Tom Platz's ever were (bonus points if anyone knows anything about Tom Platz). It's styled sort of like 300, with thick, black outlines and anime-style animation. Even though the characters seem to be on HGH (seriously, even their hands and feet seem large), they're true to what gamers remember them being in past games.
Guile's fists are high, guarding his face, that kind of thing.

Here's hoping I get my Red Ringed-XBox back from Microsoft in time to get killed online by some more random kids.

(All photos courtesy of Jeremy Koven)