Street Fighter deluxe edition
After last week’s look at how a big controller can make a big impact, I thought it would be an interesting time to dip into the history of Street Fighter controls.
SF as we know it now depends on fast, consistent, unequivocal controls. Although it’s true that part of good Street Fighting is the ability to physically input the right sequences, that’s really one of the basics, and the controller should be getting out of the way of that task, letting you focus on tactics and timing. That’s why the input for the in-flight version I wrote about killed the game. Cramped buttons and excruciating lag destroyed the heart of it. You shouldn’t mess lightly with the fast and familiar stick-and-six-buttons. The Mega Drive even replaced its standard controller for the sake of SF2.
So it’s interesting that the original Street Fighter deluxe cabinet from 1987 looked like the above. Since I’ve managed to lose all my best pictures of this wonderful thing, I gratefully found that one linked from this interesting discussion thread.
The interesting part of this cabinet, which seems to be referred to around the web as the “deluxe” one, is that instead of the now-usual six-button arrangement for light, medium, and strong varieties of kick and punch, you have just one button for punching and one for kicking. And why are whose buttons so massive? Is this like Dekarisu, somehow engaging through the simple physicality of gigantism? It’s more than that.
Those big buttons are soft rubber cups, squashable beneath a clenched fist or open palm, and they cover a giant round button with a long travel. Hit the button harder; hit your opponent harder.
According to Wikipedia, the cabinet actually translates the depression of the button into an analogue value. It’s not clear if that’s then translated into a light, medium, or strong category for the in-game attack, or if it actually delivers more fine-grained variable damage. The latter would be quite remarkable, especially considering that the standard, non-deluxe SF cab was reportedly a six-button Taito Vewlix, so there was no room for any such fine variation there. So we’ll assume each press gets put into one of the three strength categories.
Owing to the cabinet damage that results when you encourage people to hit things as hard as they can (*ahem*), the rubber-button cabinet was apparently replaced or avoided altogether by some arcade operators in favour of the standard variant. So the deluxe cabinet would probably have always been something of a rarity, even before it turned out to be a freak diversion in the history of Street Fighter controls that was written over the following quarter-century.
So is it good?
First you may want know, am I a Street Fighter expert? Well, I think I may have played this first game once before —the Amstrad version at a friend’s house. However, much more clearly than the game, I remember that his dad smoked cigars because he had given up cigarettes, that he was permitted to smoke them only in the downstairs lavatory, and, most clearly of all, the stale and sickening smoke-stench humming from the thick, burgundy carpet of his downstairs lavatory. So am I an expert? You decide.
I played so poorly on this arcade cabinet that I couldn’t even tell you with any degree of confidence whether it was working properly. Had it been SF2, perhaps I would have at least known how badly I was doing, but as it was, I couldn’t even execute any special moves. It was pretty fun to push the big squishy buttons, and, as ever, a second player would certainly have made it more fun. So, for me, it was a curiosity but nothing more.
If you see one of these cabs, I strongly recommend going and pressing the buttons, but I think the game itself has been trampled into the depths of history by many years of obsessive refinement. I wouldn’t worry if you don’t get chance to play it — just be pleased to have seen it in the wild. The newer Street Fighters are everywhere, anyway, and every one a classic.
(See all postcards from the game centre here.)