If you're an American male between the ages of 21 to 35, there's a good chance you farted away most of 1992 playing Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior on your Super Nintendo. The game sold more than six million copies, single-handedly popularized an entire video game genre and spawned dozens of imitators (we're talking to you, Mortal Kombat).
Unfortunately, we're afraid the game gave a whole generation of young males a skewed version of the world.
Strangely enough, all of Street Fighter's supposed Asian characters would not look out of place in an Indianapolis Cracker Barrel. We're not sure if the game's Japanese programmers were closet Europhiles, but the proof is in the pixels: if you're from the Pacific Rim, you might as well be from Des Moines.
Perhaps the easiest way to understand the sheer pastiness of SF2's Asian fighters is to match them with celebrity analogues. Compare the studied gaze of Japanese karate master Ryu with the constipated stare of Karate Kid Ralph Macchio ...
... the stately cleft chin of Thai strongman M. Bison with that of Dudley Do-Right ...
... and the "tall, bald, and cyclopean" look of Muay Thai champion Sagat with Dennis Hopper's Razzie-winning role as "The Deacon" from Waterworld.
It's harder to pin down the celebrity genealogy of sumo wrestler E. Honda, but we at Cracked have done it. He is the terrifying love child of Luciano Pavarotti, Richard Nixon and the Ultimate Warrior.
A lesson in racial harmony. You may be Japanese or Chinese or Thai on the inside, but on the outside, we're all white.
In many stages in Street Fighter 2, enthusiastic spectators watch on, setting aside their native tongues to cheer in the lingua franca of bloodlust. This is mildly disturbing but not out of the ordinary. After all, every society has some form of popular, culturally sanctioned violence, such as soccer hooliganism or the stoning of infidels.
However, the onlookers' zeal becomes particularly creepy when no one bats an eye at the sight of an American black belt assaulting a tiny Chinese woman.
Deep in the jungles of Brazil, Gunnar Nelson look-alike Ken burnishes Chun-Li's face with his naked size 11. The villagers are just as blasé as when they saw Ken's pyrokinesis. They may as well be doing their taxes.
Though to be fair to the fine people of Brazil, they are equally unimpressed when Ken lobs a fireball at hometown favorite Blanka. The locals are appreciative yet expressionless. Perhaps that is just their way.
"So what," you think. "Some backwater in Brazil tolerates the battering of women. That would never happen in the US of A!"
On the contrary! It does happen in the US! On the Las Vegas Strip, in fact! And they hold a parade to root you on! With showgirls!
Welcome to America. Ike Turner's America.
The casual, violent misogyny of Street Fighter 2 means one of two things. Either A.) Feminism has advanced to such insane levels that women were now fair game for fistfights, or B.) We live in some ass-backwards bizarro world where Saudi Arabia is a member of the UN Human Rights Council. But that could never happen, right?
It doesn't matter if you think the US military are defenders of democracy or the Great Satan, you have to agree that Uncle Sam has at least a little bit of organization behind its war machine. And when we say "little bit," we mean "not accidentally bombing Tampa."
Sadly, you can trust Street Fighter 2 to place the American military's collective IQ somewhere between "zero" and "pastry." For evidence, look no further than Guile's stage, the USAF airbase.
There are several things terribly wrong with this situation. First, take a look at the fighter jet in the background.
Now we at Cracked are no experts on military aviation, but given the jet's design and the date of SF2's release, that appears to be a Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, which costs taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 to $18 million. Who's guarding this pricey implement of winged death?
Oh, that must be the job of Hockey Mask Face and Buxom Betty. Her body language suggests that they are in clear violation of the anti-fraternization statutes as specified in Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. His hockey mask suggests that they like kinky sex.
These two are obviously unfit for duty. Who's in charge here?
The obvious answer is Colonel Guile, but as you can see here, he's busy in an illegal street fight with a foreign national on a restricted US airfield. That there's an entire casserole of ways to get court-martialed.
In addition to wiping his ass with military law, Guile spends most of SF2 crapping on diplomacy. For example, he travels abroad to beat up karate men--this means he's a US military officer beating up foreign civilians. >
This seems like an act of war, but no one ever complains about Guile's conduct. The international community hasn't appeased a foreign belligerent this crazily since Hitler annexed the Sudetenland.
Given the US armed forces' lax discipline, dislike of rules, and tacit approval of Guile's flat-top Mohawk, we grew up believing the military was run by Kid n' Play, circa House Party 2.
In the early '90s, the nuclear stalemate between East and West ended, thereby making the world an exponentially less shitty place to live. This rapprochement was lost on the children of America, who kept fighting the good fight in their rumpus rooms and local bowling alleys.
The Soviet Union officially collapsed on 12/25/91, well after SF2's arcade release on 3/1/91 and a smidge before the Super Nintendo version's debut on 7/1/92, so we can't fault the programmers for not predicting the fall of the USSR. Hell, the CIA could barely do that.
We can however applaud the creators of Street Fighter 2 for accidentally creating the most poignant historical anachronism in video game history. Here's the arcade ending for hairy-shinned Soviet bear wrestler Zangief:
Now the Cracked staff are God-fearing patriots, but wasn't that depressing? Didn't you feel bad for Gorby when he waxed poetic about the immortality of the USSR? Can't you just imagine the single tear rolling down his cherubic cheek if he knew the Soviet Union was dead? Wasn't his little stained head adorable?
And when Zangief danced with those gulag guards in that charmless linoleum room ... wait, what's the noise? Oh, it's the sound of ice water, dripping off our thawing hearts.
The Super Nintendo ending may have been tweaked for a modern update, but the tender message remains. Soviet premiers are just like Jennifer Beals from Flashdance--they just want to dance right through their lives.
With endings this touching, we're actually bummed the Cold War's over.
If there's anything we learned about the Soviets from Street Fighter 2, it's that they were a bighearted people who just wanted to collectivize the world through the power of rhythm. Oh yeah, and that democracy is for party-pooping jerk-offs.
We've seen the problems inherent in the World Warrior part of the game's title, but so far we've ignored the fact that the Street Fighter part is a total mindfuck of a misnomer--the street fighters in Street Fighter 2 are ironically not street fighters.
First off, the street fighters rarely fight in the street. Of the game's 12 stages, only a few could pass for roadways or pedestrian thoroughfares.
Above: Not a street.
Moreover, the street fighters do not fit the colloquial definition of "street fighter," or an amateur pugilist. The street fighters in SF2 are proficient at generating bioelectricity, shooting plasma boogers from their wrists, and generally giving the middle finger to the laws of physics.
Above: Not street fighting.
Sonny Chiba was a street fighter. Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse was a street fighter. Even the entire cast of Bumfights were street fighters. But the street fighters in Street Fighter 2? Nuh-uh. Those guys were gods in human form.
Lest you think we're exaggerating, check out Dhalsim, the battling yogi from India. In addition to his aptitude in basic self-defense techniques, Dhalsim can breathe fire, telescope his limbs to lengths of 20 feet, levitate and, in later SF2 sequels, teleport.
A quick Google search reveals another Indian gentleman with similar abilities. Meet Agni, the Hindu god of flame.
According to Wikipedia, Agni "is depicted with two or seven hands, two heads and three legs, [and fourteen] fiery tongues with which he licks sacrificial butter." That sounds a lot like our body-morphing, flame-barfing buddy Dhalsim with the exception of that butter blurb, which awkwardly reminds us of Last Tango in Paris.
We're just going to lay our cards on the table: the Capcom team devoted to fact-checking Street Fighter 2 failed big-time. Looking back, as badly as this game mislead us, we're almost wishing we hadn't skipped all those classes to play it.
If you liked this, you'll probably enjoy our rundown of 8 Important Lessons Learned from 80s Cartoons. And then check out the latest gaming experience being churned out of that vast video game development machine the Christian Church.