Man, diggity. I can’t remember the last time I was this hyped over a fucking ARCADE game. Do they still make those anymore? Yeah they do, and I got SF4 in my neighborhood about 3 days ago. Lemme get a few things out of the way: I live in the sticks (Tamashima, Okayama… about as far from Akihabara as backwoods Alabama is from New York). 33 years old since last June 7th. Married. Kid due in TWO WEEKS. And yet, here I am on the intertrons trolling forums trying to figure out what the fuck a Saving Attack is, and how the fuck I’m gonna shove one up Blanka’s ass the next time I see him.
This game has single handedly reminded me of what it used to be to stick a quarter up on the arcade machine indicating it was your turn next. In Japan, they have some fruity system where you don’t share a machine with the guy you’re battling against. All the machines are single player cabinets, and networked by LAN; so the guy you’re fighting may be on the other side of the arcade, he may be on the other side of the country, or he may be on the opposite side of the machine you’re playing on (usually the case).
With SF4, you (have an option to) buy these gaming cards for 500 yen (5 bucks). You take them with you in your wallet, and use them each time you play. They have a unique numerical identifier that allow you to track your wins and losses, and you can log onto a special SF4 website in japan using your keitai (cel phone) and register your card to your own account. It’s kinda fucking crazy. I’ve tied my own card to my name (リチャード = Richard), so when I play, anyone I’m playing against sees that they’re playing リチャード on the other end. The more you play, the more Zeni you earn, and you can go online later in the evening and buy alternate costume colors, or in game taunt moves to use during matches. You can even customize what Ken (my preferred fighter) will say after a win. You can’t go straight for ‘eat a dick, bitch’, but there are about 20 choices to choose from (in Japanese, this is Japan), to set you apart from the next guy.
You can form ‘guilds’ of fellow players (via the website), and you can earn extra Zeni if your guild performs well. It’s interesting to see how much arcade gaming, usually a ‘throw away one quarter at a time’, has embraced the internet and really moved forward. While the backwoods city I live in has two machines, I was paired against someone from Tokyo yesterday, and the online play (via two arcade cabinets!) was awesome. You can check your cel to view your win / loss record, and who you happened to be fighting when you laid the smack down. You can even claim your local arcade as your "home turf", and each day you play at least one match on your own turf earns you a stamp on your calendar... multiple stamps can unlock new outfits, etc.
Today I played a bunch of link matches, and didn’t even realize I was kicking someone’s ass for 8 games straight that was 4 feet away from me (on the far side of the cabinet I was playing on). The stakes just feel that much higher when each win or loss is tied to a permanent record. I’m 9 wins for 11 matches played atm since yesterday, and feeling pretty shit hot ;).
I can’t put it in words. It’s awesome. I can’t wait to get up tomorrow and go dump a few hundred yen into the machine at the local Marunaka! HADOKEN!