A ’90s Odyssey: Fighting Games and Pinball

Flashback to summer of 199X (I seriously can’t remember the exact year, let’s say mid-to-late ’90s), Washington, D. C. When you could still tour government buildings. When air travel was far less of a hassle. Not that it mattered, because I’m pretty sure that was the year we drove 12 hours to D.C. in the teal Suburban. And yes, it’s not too pretty when your Mom has driven for the past 12 hours and is trying to navigate her massive truck-plus through the crazy city traffic of D.C. and find the hotel (no mapquest, no Garmin, no Magellan) and turn into the hotel parking thing without hitting stuff.

So, yeah. This is the setting for this story, one in which I remember the kids’ room more than the actual tours. A note: this was one of those convention/family trip deals where you can dump your kids off in a kids’ room for the day, sign them up for tours of the area, etc. I have been on a few of these trips throughout my childhood and I remember the kids’ rooms IN DETAIL better than the actual city for many of them. But this brings me to the actual subject of this story….one of the moments in my life where fighting games were awfully important.

I’m skipping my first encounter: playing Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat on my sister’s Sega Genesis without really knowing how to play at all. Thinking that Chun-li’s bun hair things were blue ribbons and trying to put my friend’s blue ribbons from horse shows in her headband. (Damn, I’d so forgotten this stuff!)

So, this game room. Right. It had World Heroes and World Heroes II, right next to each other. These games were probably the worst of SNK’s Street Fighter-like fighting games, but of course, I was far too young to develop and refine that critical eye that we all develop with age and that everyone seems to utilize now in the era of the internets.

rasputin gets his ass kicked by fei long ripoff

Who did I always play? Well, at first, the only girl character (of course), Janne. There was always only one girl character in these early games, and girls would always pick her. Then discover that she basically sucked. I quickly learned the error of my ways and started playing Rasputin exclusively. He had a very convenient throw move which consisted of generating giant yellow magic hands that would crush your opponent, accompanied by a creepy super-bass laugh. It was the cheapo move that worked, and being a child with no concept of skill or movelists, I utilized it mercilessly.

Yeah, the concept of the historical-figures deathmatch sounds cool at first. And Joan of Arc? Badass. Unfortunately, Janne is NOT Joan of Arc, because she is some stupid girl looking for a husband – a man stronger than her. YES, that’s her backstory, and knowing it now….I think she sucks. Give me Charlotte from Samurai Shodown any day.

This game room also had a Street Fighter II pinball machine.

Notice the crappy art of Chun-Li which makes it look like she only has one hair-bun. She has two. Duh. Like Sailor Moon.

This was before I figured out the one pinball trick (which to this day remains the only “technique” I have on the off-chance that I decide to play pinball) consisting of holding both levers in the up position. I conveniently picked up this technique from some redneck 9 year old at Chuck E Cheese’s who was inexplicably watching me play Terminator Pinball (maybe he ran out of tokens?) and telling me what to do. But yeah, I’m no Tommy, unfortunately. So, needless to say, I sucked at Street Fighter II PInball.

Which brings me to part II of this “story,” if you can call it that (can you believe this was going to be just a one-topic deal before I started rambling?). Pinball. Flashback to the early 2000s. The local Walmart inexplicably drives the local Kmart out of business. Kmart closes down, putting virtually every item in the store on super-ultra-“EVERYTHING MUST GO!” sale. I walk away from the store with more bargains on great PSone/PS2 games and….A RIDICULOUSLY-CHEAP GUNDAM WING PINBALL MACHINE! Not a proper pinball mahcine…but it was big enough to look impressive and it had cool electronic sound effects. Instant Gundam Wing nerd coolness points for Recca in her circle of Gundam Wing nerd friends. Still didn’t become that much better at pinball, though. Oh well.

[Please let me know what you make of these flashback ramblings (more to come?)…. I seem to be on a nostalgia kick lately, which officially makes me old. I’m old enough to discern an era/decade of my childhood and its particular culture/fashion/whatever. Thanks, internet, for making this ever-worse…but I suppose I would’ve seen “i love the ’90s” eventually and it would’ve happened that way.]


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