Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sofa Story: Honda Slaps the World

Many of my fondest gaming memories are of playing Super Nintendo with friends. There is something to be said about sitting right next to person you are playing with and feeding off each others interactions with the game. Simply put, this is an element modern multiplayer games are missing. Sure you have voice chat, but you lose out on the intangibles of being able to physically distract your opponent when you are badly losing or slapping a high five when your teamwork pays off. Today, I recant a tale of badly played but thoroughly enjoyed Street Fighter 2 on the SNES with one of my best childhood friends.
Street Fighter 2 is a game that hardly needs an introduction. It is the gold standard of classic fighting games that is still influencing fighting game design to this day. I, like many players, learned to throw my first fireball on an SNES pad. While I had played Street Fighter 2 in the arcades, the reality was that I was too young to muster a steady stream of quarters to make any headway; I loved what little exposure I had but could not satiate my appetite. Obviously, when my neighbour called me up to tell me he had laid his hands on a copy for the SNES, I was at his place before he could hang up the phone.

As I headed down the stairs to my friend's basement, I could hear the familiar opening riff calling me like a siren. We immediately jumped into some versus action with dreams of becoming the ultimate world warrior. While I like to pretend that I was such a natural that legends were written of my initial string of perfect victories, in actuality, I bounced around the screen like a flea on crack wildly mashing out a series of unintelligible kicks and punches in the hopes of randomly achieving victory. It certainly wasn't pretty, but it was incredibly entertaining. After the first few rounds, things evolved to a back and forth affair of trying to pull off special moves with limited success. The game instruction booklet assured me that certain motions on the controller would result in spectacular decimation of my opponent but neither my friend or I could do so with any sort of consistency.

As we each progressed through the roster of iconic characters, flailing about and haphazardly unleashing special attacks, I eventually stumbled upon the greatest special move of all time: E. Honda's hundred-hand-slap. My reaction as a read the input from the instruction booklet was of mixed delight and disbelief, 'you mean all I have to do is tap the same punch button really fast? easy mode!'. My first round playing as E. Honda was a bloodbath. I began the match deploying my secret weapon without issue and enthusiastically discovered that Honda could slide forward or backward while maintaining an impenetrable wall of slaps in front of him. My opponent was helpless to my new found prowess and was quickly sent to the ground by a mighty strike. Sensing opportunity, I continued to swing my slaps over his body and immediately struck him when he stood up. The round was over within mere seconds. The second round started with my opponent attempting a jump kick which was promptly rebuffed and Honda resumed his dominant position of air slapping waiting for him to get up to take some more hits to the face. Overall, it was a solid victory for my new favourite character.

Determining that his failure was due to his choice of character as opposed to my amazing skill, my opponent swiftly switched from Ryu to Ken; clearly an American was better suited to the job. Unfortunately for my friend, the next match unfolded as expected with a desperate attempt to hurl a fireball before Honda put palm to face. Nothing, not even America, could stop the dominant force of Honda and my opponent took to only logical course of action, pick Honda himself. I must admit that I was a bit nervous. As the game went through the pre-match cycle, the only sound that could be heard was that of furious pounding of the punch buttons on our respective pads. The match started and we slowly inched our hundred-hand-slaps into each other. It was as if we were watching two exceedingly powerful cosmic forces come into contact, an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. No longer was it about pride or victory, we were conducting a scientific experiment of epic proportions. As contact became imminent, both myself and my friend were screaming at the television in anticipation of the amazing. The moment came, and the aftermath was two E. Honda's lying on the floor but a universe still in tact.

I ultimately emerged the victor of the battle of the Hondas and the game promptly degraded to my friend picking each character in succession while I steadfastly hundred-hand-slapped my way to victory. One by one, the world warriors fell with ease. There were a few brief moments of panic such as Zangief's lariat and Chun-Li's lightning legs, but they all eventually succumbed to to the might of Honda. As the afternoon wore on, eventually the unthinkable inevitable happened. At first, the signs were barely noticeable; Honda taking an extra second to get up to speed or occasionally interspersing his wall of slaps with a slow fierce chop. Eventually, these occasional chops became much more frequent and the hundred-hand-slap much more disjointed... my thumb had finally grown tired. I guess the god-like power of Honda is too much for a mere mortal to wield indefinitely. Finally, in a particularly weak state, I dropped my offence altogether and was unable to recover. Honda ultimately lost his crown to a well placed knee from Sagat.

Over the years, my friend and I continued to love fighting games and, fortunately, improved at played them. Gradually we progressed to a point where, instead of furious mashing, we were discussing potential combos and strategy. Even as the complexity of our matches grew, we never lost the fun factor of that first day and, whenever one of us picked up the latest release, we were sure to block off two weekends: one for playing and one for thumb blister recovery. E. Honda may not be my main main character today, but I always keep him in my stable ready to bust out a mighty hundred-hand-slap.