Monthly Archives: April 2009

Twilight: Journey Into the Abyss (Part Three)

In this ongoing feature (*gulp*) I will be delving into the much-dreaded world of Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer, a work that is dreaded by serious writers the world over. I fear what terrible horrors, what mutilations of the English language, what unbelievably poor excuses for story construction await me.

In all seriousness, as an aspiring writer myself, I thought it was time that, for better or (more likely) worse I saw what all the damn fuss is about. What follows are my thoughts, my color commentary if you will, on the book as I go along.

So, Stephanie Meyer, give me your best shot. I’m all yours.

Chapter Two

Notable Quote #1: “The next day was better… and worse.”

She sure has a way with amazingly helpful descriptive passages, doesn’t she?

Let’s first just ignore the fact that’s it’s impossible for a day to be both better and worse at the same time and that’s an incredibly awkward way of phrasing this thought.

Boy, I sure hope there’s a poorly written mini-essay in the next two paragraphs explaining the myriad of reasons why the day was both good or bad in monotonous list form.

Once again, she does not disappoint.

Thought #1: It occurs to me that I may have to be somewhat more lenient with Mrs. Meyer regarding her frequently awkward phrasing. The remarkable consistency of her language butchering means that if I continue to harp on it this much it’s going to dominate my thoughts on the book as I go along and make it that much harder to finish the thing.

As hard as it may be, I just might have to let some of it go. The last thing I need is to make this read any harder than it already is.

Awkward Simile: “But I knew myself too well to think I would really have the guts to [confront Edward]. I made the Cowardly Lion look like the terminator.”

Coming soon to a theater near you: The Cowardly Terminator.

He’ll be back. And then he’ll run away again.

Notable Quote #2: “But I couldn’t get rid of the nagging suspicion that I was the reason [Edward] wasn’t [at school]. It was ridiculous, and egotistical, to think that I could affect anyone that strongly.”

Oh, don’t be so quick to write yourself off, dearest Bella. As far as I’m concerned, you are repulsive to a rather incredible degree.

You don’t have to thank me for the compliment. It’s the honest truth. I’d like nothing more than to run away and never have anything more to do with you. I wouldn’t blame poor Edward for feeling the same.

Thought #2: In a story, it is usually considered good form not to include much action or dialog that doesn’t directly affect the plot of the story. Stephanie Meyer doesn’t seem to pay much heed to this advice. There are all kinds of unnecessary details stuffed in here that serve no other purpose than to slow things down.

Thought #3: Oh holy hell, now I’m reading along, line by laborious line, as she writes an email to her mother; one that conveniently recaps some of the boring, needless details she’s been throwing at me recently no less. Please make the hurting stop. Please.

Well, there is one new detail in the email. I now know that her mom’s missing pink blouse is at the dry cleaner’s.

That’s just bound to be a vital plot element. I can feel it. From now until the end of the book, I’m sure that in every scene I’ll be thinking, “What emotion, what drama, what intrigue could the pink blouse add to this scene?”

Notable Quote #3: “I guess he considered me old enough now not to shoot myself [with her father’s gun – her father being a cop and all] by accident, and not depressed enough to shoot myself on purpose.”

Aw, but why not? Come on, it’d be fun! Everybody’s doing it.

Surprise: There was actually a small bit of not-abhorrent dialog between Bella and her father here. I wouldn’t call it amazing, but even average is a cut above what I’ve seen so far. There might have even been a tiny hint of character.

Of course, she’s still trying to be all sneaky and tippy-toeing around the fact that the group of outsiders at school are vampires and I kind of wish she’d just get on with it already, but if needlessly avoiding the point gives me my first glimpse of tolerable dialog I’ll take what I can get.

List: List, list, list.

Thought thought. Description. Emotion thought. Description. Emotion thought thought. List.

Dialog!

Emotion thought brood brood complain bitch thought.

Repeat for ten pages and simmer over a light boil to make one fresh, steaming chapter of Twilight. Enjoy while hot, lest it quickly become tepid and stale.

Sudden realization: It didn’t hit me until just now, but I finally realized one of the major things missing in Meyers’s writing: the five senses. I know my writing professors tried to hammer home how important they were, but I didn’t realize quite how much this was true until I read the first two chapters of a book almost completely devoid of anything but sight. It’s hardly the only thing wrong with the style here (as I hope I’m beginning to make clear), but boy does it ever make this world feel a lot more lifeless than it should.

Exasperation: Is she seriously still keeping up this charade of Bella pretending to not like Edward or being afraid of him or whatever the hell these mixed signals she’s sending are supposed to mean? We’re not fooled, you know. How stupid do you think your readers are?

Well, they did willingly purchase your writing I guess. Touche Mrs. Meyers. Touche.

You may continue. You might yet be craftier than I gave you credit for.

Thought #4: Have you ever had to sit and listen while someone enthusiastically described the plot of an awesome movie to you? One that you had never seen before but perhaps had some interest in? At least, before your stupid friend rambled away any interest you had in the movie through his boring recounting of scenes that might have actually been interesting if you had seen them instead of having them told to you?

Yeah, well Bella is that friend. Only she’s not very enthusiastic. And the movie she’s telling me about sucks. And she’s not my friend.

Notable Quote #4: “But his [Edward’s] eyes were careful.”

Here she goes with her awkward eyes again. Haven’t we been over this one before?

I hope this doesn’t become a trend. Strike that. Yes I do.

Apparently you’re still missing the point. Eyes can display emotions. I’ll give you that. Careful is not an emotion. Thus, eyes cannot display it.

Simple enough?

I humbly suggest that you try giving your humans an emotion or two for a change instead of their individual body parts. Take it for a test run. See how it turns out.

Notable Quote #5: Bella [to Edward]:“‘H-how do you know my name?’ I stammered.”

“[Edward] laughed a soft, enchanting laugh.“

Bella, I know we might not have gotten along spectacularly well so far, but just trust me on this one: you don’t want to know.

Run away, Bella. Very fast.

Notable Quote #6: “His fingers were ice-cold, like he’d been holding them in a snowdrift before class. But that wasn’t why I jerked my hand away so quickly. When he touched me, it stung my hand as if an electric current had passed through us.”

*Barf*

Thought: So apparently whenever Edward is nervous he clenches his hands tightly into balled fists. Again I am forced to ask: does anybody do this? What kind of bizarre freak show did she get her character tags from? None of them make any damn sense.

Notable Quote #7: “I couldn’t fathom his interest, but he continued to stare at me with penetrating eyes, as if my dull life’s story was somehow vitally important.”

Damn it all, now Edward’s encouraging her.

Trust me buddy, you don’t want to do that. This lady can blather on uselessly like you wouldn’t believe. You’d best learn how to cut her off early while you still can.

Besides, you seem to know everything she’s going to say before she says it anyway, so how’s about we drop the mind games and stop making her uselessly repeat it.

Notable Quote #8: Edward: “But I’d be willing to bet that you’re suffering more than you let anyone see.”

I’d make some crack here about how this describes my situation almost perfectly, only I happen to think I’m being rather upfront about my intense suffering.

Notable Quote #9: “That’s when I noticed the still, white figure. Edward Cullen was leaning against the front door of the Volvo, three cars down from me, and staring intently in my direction. … I stared straight ahead as I passed the Volvo, but from a peripheral peek, I would swear I saw him laughing.”

Yup. Edward’s a creepazoid. No doubt about it.

I’m no expert on what young women find attractive, but somehow I just fail to see the appeal of a guy who glares at you, balls his fists under the table when talking to you, runs away from you, glares at you some more, pretends to be interested in you for a bit, stares intently at you, and then laughs at you just for good measure.

I guess multiple personality disorder is hot these days.

Farewell: I fear the story may be inching closer to actually getting started. I’m rather amazed it’s gone this long without doing so, frankly, but I am both enthused and terrified by the prospect of getting into the story proper.

At least it surely can’t be any worse than this.


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Review: F.E.A.R. 2 – Sweet, Sweet Parthenophobia

Let’s not delude ourselves any more than necessary. F.E.A.R. 2 is little more than a long string of horror movie and shooter cliches strung together into one tidy package.

Stop me if any of this sounds familiar: creepy little girl, long black hair, scientific experiments gone awry, traveling through subways, hospitals, and elementary schools…

You get the picture.

But as such, it becomes a prime example of how a game can be perfectly enjoyable despite not bringing much new to the table.

In F.E.A.R. 2, you play as a different character than the undoubtedly poorly-fated soul you inhabited in the first game. This fresh perspective on the world allows the game to retell and clarify much of the backstory. F.E.A.R. 2 even begins before the ending of the first game. Far from seeming redundant, this recapping actually managed to tell many of the hazy details of the first outing better than the original, so it is much appreciated.

Our dear little psychotic Alma is now all grown up, on the loose, and seriously pissed off. You will spend most of the game chasing after her and trying to put an end to her shenanigans. That’s pretty much what you need to know. It’s a simple setup, but since the game carries the added burden of making sense of the original’s heap of poorly-told nonsense anything more would have bogged it down too much.

Not to worry though, as there are plenty of twists and turns in store and the yarn is much more satisfying and clearly delivered than in the first game.

The gameplay will also seem familiar, but in a pleasant, comfort food sort of way. Not much has changed, but it’s so well crafted that it didn’t really need to. A few new guns are added to the mix, the AI has received a notable boost in intelligence, and you can now make cover for yourself in case you ever felt jealous of the enemy’s ability to do so in the original F.E.A.R.

The combat isn’t terribly original, like the rest of the game, but it’s immensely satisfying and provides that perfect roller coaster of fear, tension, and release as the game moves from scary bit to action bit. Adding to this are a couple of sections where the player is given the opportunity to control a mech and mow down legions of enemies. Monolith has totally nailed the sensation of piloting one of these things like no other game I can remember, and if these mechanics aren’t fleshed out into a full game it will be a true shame.

Even the slow-mo, which could feel seriously dated, unnecessary, and overused, remains great fun. It’s hard to define exactly why slowing time and blasting foes into tiny bloody bits never gets old in this game when it wears thin so quickly in so many others.

The gorgeous graphics and terrifically disturbing blood effects certainly don’t hurt. This is one extremely gory, visceral game. In fact, the presentation here is easily one of its biggest strengths, from sound design to graphics to special effects. The whole shebang is quite an impressive package.

Occasionally, however, the lights do shine a little too brightly in this haunted house and expose a few of the more shoddily built props for the cheap skeletons they really are.

Most notably for fans of the original F.E.A.R., Monolith doesn’t seem to have learned too many new scare tactics for this newest outing. Alma still pops up randomly, lights flicker on and off, and hallucinations haunt you from time to time. The entertaining “dream” sequences from the prior outing are also more infrequent than I would have liked.

This, by far and away, is my biggest complaint. The atmosphere is stellar, the shooting is just as fun, and the environments more varied, yet this one fault comes dangerously close to making the game feel uninspired.

All is not lost, however. The game certainly does have enough cool, creepy, and even genuinely scary moments to keep you on the edge of your seat. I’m not about to spoil them here, but there are definitely some treats in store.

Monolith has thankfully addressed one of the biggest complaints about the original F.E.A.R., and to great effect. The environments are both impressively detailed and varied. Gone are the days of the endless series of cloned office corridors. Sure we may have seen the themes before, but never once did they feel sterile or uninspired, as if they simply chose these overdone location themes because they couldn’t think of anything better. All of them served their intended purpose and were suitably creepy, unnerving, and memorable.

Also, other games should pay attention to F.E.A.R. 2 when it comes to endings. It’s no secret that few horror stories, no matter the medium, actually end properly. The first F.E.A.R. was certainly an example of this and the sequel is no different.

What separates Monolith’s two games from the rest of the crappy horror endings (and indeed the innumerable games of late that seem to relish in not having an ending, instead choosing to set things up for the inevitable sequel) is how well they are constructed. In the first F.E.A.R., you knew Alma was far from gone and the story far from over, but the arc of your particular character, and that of the game’s slice of the overall story, had been told and concluded, in suitably epic fashion.

F.E.A.R. 2 is even more of a cliffhanger than the first game, but the ending is so spectacular that it doesn’t matter. The entire sequence, from the last level to the final confrontation to the story twist saved for the very last moments, is one of the outright coolest endings I can remember playing in a long time.

I can only hope that the, yes, inevitable sequel will make good on it, because they’ve already sold me.

So while it may not be astoundingly original, while it may have lost a little bit of its fright factor compared to the first game, and while it could still be accurately described as a “ride” just as much as a “game” at times, it is still an experience most certainly worth undertaking for those that fit its target audience. There’s nothing wrong with creating something that’s simply fun, and that’s what F.E.A.R. 2 is: a fun experience that, for the right audience, will provide thrills, chills, and plenty of memorable moments.

For those that don’t fit its target audience, well, I feel sorry for you, because if this game is a ride, it’s a hell of a trip that will leave you wanting more at the end. And that’s what any good story should do.


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Twilight: Journey Into the Abyss (Part Two)

In this ongoing feature (*gulp*) I will be delving into the much-dreaded world of Twilight. That is to say, Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer, a work that is dreaded by serious writers the world over. I fear what terrible horrors, what mutilations of the English language, what unbelievably poor excuses for story construction await me.

In all seriousness, as an aspiring writer myself, I thought it was time that, for better or (more likely) worse I saw what all the damn fuss is about. What follows is my thoughts, my color commentary if you will, on the book as I go along.

So, Stephanie Meyer, give me your best shot. I’m all yours.

Chapter One

Beginning Thoughts: As I began my journey deeper into the book proper, it lulled me at first into a false sense of security. Sure it was kind of like reading an almanac, with its continuous listing of seemingly pointless facts, but it was tolerable. Much like, well, reading an almanac.

The never-ending string of the main character’s likes and dislikes was a little less pleasant. I don’t even know the character’s name yet, but I do know her favorite shirt, that she hates some small, rainy, shithole of a town, that she loves Phoenix instead (and all the horrible, sweltering, heat-related crap that goes with it), and that apparently she’s a city girl.

Um, sorry, I hate to barge into your fascinating rambling list of random tidbits here, but you seem to have neglected to tell me your main character’s name.

Ah, thanks awkwardly inserted name in a sentence of dialog where a normal person wouldn’t have said a name in their dialog. Bella, eh? Fine, fine.

Note: You’ll have to forgive me, by the way, if some of what follows seems a little stream-of-consciousness. It is often hard to fully collect my many scattered thoughts on this dreadful experience into a cohesive hole. I shall do my best to make it readable.

Bella Problems: As soon as I realized that the book was told from a first-person viewpoint (which was, in fact, the first word: “my”), I realized that this daunting task was going to be perhaps even worse than I thought.

After reading yet further, my fears were confirmed. Bella’s head is one that I most definitely do not want to be inside of.

Puzzlement: Can you undertake an action “with great horror”? Stephanie Meyer seems to think so, but I must admit that I somewhat question her judgement on this sort of thing.

Thought #1: Apparently Bella’s poor mother is some sort of helpless lunatic who is taken care of by her daughter. That’s good to know. Got some good parents, this Bella gal. Came from good stock. Proper, healthy upbringing, I’m sure. Not going to produce any weird neuroticism or character traits at all, no sir.

Notable Quote #1: I have now come across a sentence that is awkward in so many ways it’s almost hard to know where to begin: “But I could see the sacrifice in her eyes behind the promise.”

I’m sorry, I won’t relent on this one. Sacrifice is not something that is visible through a human eyeball. Anger, sure. Sadness, yes. Happiness, fine. Sacrifice is not one of these simple emotions that can be seen through the eyes. In fact, unless I’m mistaken, sacrifice is not actually an emotion at all, and therefore can’t be displayed on a face.

Can’t you see the sacrifice on my face right now?

Nope. Tried it myself now. Doesn’t work. Not an emotion.

On top of that, this non-emotion is apparently hidden behind a promise, which I suppose is also stuffed in that inhumanly expressive eyeball somehow. Or so this horribly written sentence would lead us to believe. This is false, lazy writing at its finest. And it’s only the first page of the first chapter. Goodness gracious this is going to be a long trip.

Notable Quote #2: “That would explain why I didn’t remember him. I do a good job of blocking painful, unnecessary things from my memory.”

Dear Bella,

I would like to argue the above point based on the vast array of needless crap you have just dumped upon me, the poor reader, from your own first person viewpoint in an alarmingly short number of pages. You might wish to begin rethinking your self-perception in this regard.

Thought #2: Wait, the rocking chair “from [her] baby days” is still in her room? The one she lived in growing up? That can’t be healthy. And you have to love how she refers to her infancy as “my baby days”. Like it was some phase she passed through.

Yeah, I tried out the baby thing. Worked for a while, but I got a little sick of it. It was just so last week, you know?

She’s Got Issues: She plans out her crying sessions, apparently. Yup, Bella’s a weird one all right.

Egotist Protagonist: For the love of Pete, stop talking bout yourself already! There are six full paragraphs of describing and philosophizing about herself and her oh-so-unique teenager-y problems here. Get over yourself, babe.

*Sigh*: Oh, she’s claustrophobic too? Great. Just great. Keep it coming, Steph, you’re character’s not quite enough of a basket case yet. What else ya got?

Notable Quote #3: “Charlie left first, off to the police station that was his wife and family.”

I think I know what she’s trying to say here, but could she really not think of any better way to say it? This makes it sound like some sort of obsessive sexual fetish, not simply a guy who works too much.

Thought #3: What Meyer has neglected to give me here, amongst her heaping helpings of vagaries and piles of descriptions that don’t actually seem to describe much in particular, is a reason to care about her character. Aside from the fact that she seems to be a mentally screwed up weirdo from a broken home, I don’t know why Bella is of interest. Where is the conflict? Where is the story goal? Where is the plot going? My only hints are a few mysterious clues so forced and pointless it’s laughable.

Some weird girl from Phoenix moved to a cold place she hates for some reason even though she didn’t want to. Woo. Get to the point.

Notable Quote #4: “I can do this, I lied to myself feebly. No one was going to bite me.”

Oh ha ha. Very funny.

Notable Quote #5: “My plain black jacket didn’t stand out, I noticed with relief.”

Why would a plain jacket ever stand out? Isn’t that the point of wearing something plain? Not to stand out? You’d think the thing that would stand out here would be, you know, her. The one person in the small school everyone knows is new and should be staring at like some sort of state fair sideshow attraction but are apparently not noticing for some reason, which kind of goes against all the details of the place that have been laid out so far. Way to go with the consistency there, Steph.

Notable Quote #6: “[Bella’s new teacher] gawked at me when he saw my name — not an encouraging response — and of course I flushed tomato red.”

Um, ew. Unless Mr. Mason here happens to be in a federal database of some sort, this is not a reaction that a teacher of children should have.

Contemplating Bella: I can feel myself slowly growing to despise Bella. My casual indifference is slowly turning into something far more sinister. Call me crazy, but I find something unappealing about the way she seems to consider herself a paragon of perfection next to the inbred hillbilly freaks that are, of all the terrible sins to have to suffer, trying to politely introduce themselves to her and make her feel at home in her new town. The concepts of hospitality and friendliness seem to be totally lost on this poor girl.

It all goes further to prove my belief that her loneliness is completely self-inflicted. Why should I feel sorry for this poor creature, scheduling sadness sessions in her day planner in some pathetic attempt to induce sympathy, when she won’t so much as try to make connections with other human beings?

Thought #4: I have reason to believe that Edward is a sexually frustrated weirdo due to the whole “vampire” thing, but I see no logical reason why he should act actively angry at Bella when he first meets her. What kind of stalker-wannabe acts like that? This reeks of an author trying too hard to be deceptive.

Angry Bella: Oh great, she cries when she’s angry too. Doesn’t get enough of the good ol’ tears in her scheduled sessions, apparently.

Actual legitimate question: Does anybody actually respond to anger by crying? Is this a real human response? I’ve certainly never heard of anything like it before, but I’m no expert. Still seems odd to me.

Thought #5: The gym teacher’s name is Coach Clapp? That’s both horribly inappropriate and terrifically entertaining.

Notable Quote #7: “[Edward] was so mean. It wasn’t fair.”

You’re a stuck up, antisocial bitch. Get over it.

Farewell: Until next time, dear readers. Wish me luck. It’s not getting any easier from here….


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Twilight: Journey Into the Abyss (Part One)

In a new, ongoing feature (*gulp*) I will be delving into the much-dreaded world of Twilight. That is to say, Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer, a work that is dreaded by serious writers the world over. I fear what terrible horrors, what mutilations of the English language, what unbelievably poor excuses for story construction await me.

In all seriousness, as an aspiring writer myself, I think it’s time that, for better or (more likely) worse I see what all the damn fuss is about. What follows is my thoughts, my color commentary if you will, on the book as I go along. Both good and bad, both horrified and pleasantly surprised, both hilariously bad and actually entertaining will be commented upon.

In all seriousness I will try to be objective, but I have to be honest: I’m going into this fully expecting to despise this book with every fiber of my being. So, Stephanie Meyer, give me your best shot. I’m all yours.

Preface

One thought pops into my mind: Oh God, what have I gotten myself into?

Reading the first nine sentences of a novel should not be a chore. To be fair, maybe to someone who had never read a book before this would seem dramatic and clever. Unfortunately for my own sanity, I know better.

Call me crazy, but the dry, utilitarian prose doesn’t do much for the laughably pretentious concept. It may be a short nine sentences long, but it just packs oh, so much bad into that small number of words.

And I’m sorry, but killers don’t saunter. That’s just dumb. A killer that saunters, looks pleasantly at you, and smiles “in a friendly way” does not exactly paint a terrific picture of suspense. Maybe it was Stephanie Meyer’s cute little way of going for contrast – you know, the classic dramatic situation with lighthearted elements thing – but she obviously wasn’t trying all that hard. Meyer tried for creepily happy killer, what she got was the partially drunk girl at the bar that’s trying way too hard to get your attention.

Suddenly I realize just how daunting of a task I have laid out for myself.

Stay tuned, dear readers, and wish me luck.


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A Fistful of Revelation

For a person such as myself, the following statement borders on life-altering revelation:

I think I can feel myself beginning to like Street Fighter more than Soulcalibur.

Trust me when I say that typing those words is almost scary for me.

To really understand why, you must know my background when it comes to fighting games. I been a Soulcalibur addict from day one on the Dreamcast, having bought the first title on a whim when I really didn’t like fighting games much at the time. Since then I’ve been addicted to the series, breathlessly anticipating every new installment and spending countless hours playing it by myself and with friends (and there are a lot of Soulcalibur players of similar skill as myself in my circle of friends).

I’ve never been much of a fighting game fan, either. Sure, I like to dabble in them quite a bit. I’ve picked up a number of Dead or Alive games, tried a Virtua Fighter or two, and maintained a steady yet completely unexplainable fascination with Mortal Kombat even though I can’t stand its fighting mechanics, but nothing ever hooked me. Soulcalibur was the only one that kept me coming back.

On top of all this, my attitude toward Street Fighter in particular has traditionally been one of condescension. I thought its success was due to the many gamers who were on a nostalgia high, so lost in their memories of their childhood days spent playing Street Fighter that they didn’t realize it had become dated, intimidating to newcomers, and irrelevant in the modern fighting game scene.

But somewhere, deep within me, a strange desire to learn how to play Street Fighter, to be able to enjoy it like so many other gamers around me, wouldn’t go away. It had stuck with me for years. Maybe, just maybe, my hatred of the series was due to the tiniest bit of envy of those players who seemed to be having so much fun with something that I apparently couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around.

This made it all the more frustrating that every time I would try to let it into my heart it would turn me away. The early Street Fighter games always seemed to meet my disdainful expectations: they didn’t so much as try to teach me their secret ways, I got killed repeatedly by the weakest of enemies, and I could never quite grasp where that magical fascination everyone else seemed to feel came from. All I saw was an overly difficult, overly simple game where each character only had a few moves, most of the fighting came down to repetition and cheesiness, and both depth and longevity seemed to be severely lacking.

Well, it was a rocky start, and I’m not entirely sure what did it this time, but Street Fighter IV managed to change something. Slowly but surely it did what no other Street Fighter game had yet managed to do: show me what all the damn fuss was about and let me have a good time with the revered series.

I’m sure that I was overly harsh on the old games just as I’m sure that some of my complaints stand true. Ultimately such discussion really isn’t the point, especially of this particular tale.

What I have now discovered about Street Fighter seems remarkably obvious in a way, yet I can also see why I failed to pick up on it with no one to tell me any better. The simplicity of the move set and the control scheme should not lead to repetitive play or a lack of strategic depth as I had once thought, at least not in the hands of the right player.

What it should lead to is a system where what is important is not showing off a broad range of flashy moves, but rather knowing your character’s entire arsenal by heart and being able to call up any attack in a split second without thinking to properly react to the lightning-fast battle conditions.

It’s easy to get drawn into the trap of thinking that Street Fighter’s simple controls and move set lead to a low barrier of entry. This is not the case. There is quite a steep learning curve. This caught me by surprise and drove me away from the series many times. Once you get past it, however, the surface simplicity works in the game’s favor. Street Fighter avoids the problem of some fighting games that drown in their own complexity, making hard to pull off that one, particular, elusive move or encouraging button-mashing because there are so many obscure inputs that it nearly ceases to matter what you’re actually pressing.

Street Fighter’s strengths have been made especially clear to me recently after returning to my beloved Soulcalibur IV for the first time since putting a good number of hours into Street Fighter IV.

The characters in Soulcalibur moved like they were mired in molasses. Combatants I had once thought of as peppy dragged their feet, in no particular hurry to lead my puny self to a victory anytime soon. I struggled to remember the move inputs for characters that I had once believed I was well-acquainted with, as there were just so many moves that I kept pulling off the wrong ones.

I say this not to knock Soulcalibur. Once I spent a little more time with it I began to regain my footing with it and everything seemed a little more right with the world. I say this only to point out how big of a difference I truly noticed between the two. Playing Soulcalibur again after spending time with and actually learning a new fighting game for the first time in my fighting game career made me see my precious weapons-based fighter in a slightly different light.

It made me question which game I was really having more fun with. No other fighting game has ever come close to raising that question in my mind before.

I am far from having made a decision one way or the other on this issue. I’m not about to write off a series I have spent so many wonderful moments with in the past in favor of a shiny newcomer without giving each one of them their fair shot.

The important point here is that I have finally gotten my wish. I have seen the Street Fighter light. The draw of this classic series is no longer a mystery to me. Whichever game I ultimately decide is on top in my mind, if indeed I do decide that either even needs to be considered “better”, I am happy to have finally solved the Street Fighter puzzle.

I’m glad Street Fighter kept calling to me for all these years, continually tempting and teasing me, making me want to like a game that I couldn’t figure out, because now I feel a new addiction to a fighting game like I haven’t felt since my early days with the Soulcalibur series, and it really is a great feeling.

It’s nice to finally meet you, Street Fighter. You might just have been worth the wait.

Oh, and, incidentally, I also played some of Dead or Alive 4 again for comparison’s sake. That game is just truly terrible. In so, so many ways. How a game with such floaty controls, such a reliance on tedious combo memorization, a roster of characters that all look exactly the same except for the hairstyle, and fighting styles that are distressingly hard to tell part from each other became so popular is one puzzle I am more than happy not knowing the answer to.

Oh yeah, the breasts. I almost forgot. Puzzle solved.


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