The lights are on
I remember the first time I saw a Street Fighter II arcade cabinet. I was in college, playing pool in the student center with some friends. There were about a dozen or so machines – things like Attax, Rampart, and Cyberball – as well as a few pinball machines. None of the games drew any crowds, until Capcom's fighting game was installed. After it was my turn to "get next," it was over; I never picked up a pool cue in college again.
I wasn't surprised when the Capcom logo appeared on the screen between matches. I'd been paying attention to the company since I played the oddball arcade game Trojan years before. Since then, the Capcom name kept popping up on some of my favorite games. DuckTales, Bionic Commando, Mega Man, Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Little Nemo: The Dream Master, Strider – much like Konami at the time, seeing the Capcom logo on the box meant that you could expect a consistently high level of quality. Capcom's NES games were among the best-looking and well-designed games out there. In spite of what all those retro shirts may have you believe, the NES was home to piles of garbage games. As a young person with a limited budget, I felt comfortable spending my money on Capcom titles based on very little concrete information. I discovered Mega Man that way in a list-based catalog; a game with a cool name (I was 14, lay off) published by Capcom? Sold.
Narrowing this feature down to a specific period was difficult. I picked 1991, because it was right in the middle of a stretch of great titles. Street Fighter II was a high point for me as a gamer. There was a level of competition and comradery around it that no other game replicated for me. Trading combos and secrets with other players was part of those early days, some of those players generated their own little auras of mystique. There was one repeat player in particular – a lanky guy who never took off his baseball cap – who had a seemingly unstoppable Dhalsim and Zangief. I eventually beat him a few times with my Chun Li, but it was clear that some people went beyond simply being good to approaching a clear mastery of the game.
A few years after 1991, we'd see arcade games like U.N. Squadron (possibly one of my all-time favorite arcade shooters), Saturday Night Slam Masters (pro wrestling, with a little Street Fighter sprinkled in), and the surprisingly good SNES game Goof Troop (if you can look past the license). And, of course, there was the seemingly endless parade of Street Fighter spinoffs and other fighting games.
Nostalgia is a dangerous thing, but I still look back fondly at the late '80s and mid '90s era for Capcom. They've continued to put out games that I love, like Resident Evil, Dead Rising, and Phoenix Wright, but that logo isn't quite as shiny as it used to be.
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