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Gamasutra reached out to several designers, pro players, and other luminaries of the fighting game scene for a roundup of comments on Street Fighter II's 25th anniversary.
One of the people we heard back from following initial publication of that roundup is Daigo Umehara, aka "The Beast," a legendary esports star whose skill has earned him the nickname 2D Kakutō Gēmu no Kami (God of 2D Fighting Games). He's particularly known for his string of tournament victories on Street Fighter II, including an epochal win that has come to be known as "Moment 37."
Umehara told us about his earliest memories of the game, and his reminisces make clear what a huge cultural phenomenon Street Fighter II spawned in his home country of Japan, and how the game was instrumental in creating the esports scene as we know it today.
Here is his full comment.
My earliest memory of SF2 dates back to age 12 or 13, so that’s in '93-'94.
For 3 years, there was an annual national SF2 championship held at Ryokoku Kokugi-kan (Sumo Arena, which is also used for boxing and other martial arts). 8,500 players who made it through the qualifiers gathered from all over Japan. It was done with Super Famicom. Whopping 8,500 qualified players! Can you believe it? A crazy huge number of players entered into the qualifiers to be narrowed down to an opening round with 8,500 competitors. Looking back, we know that it was at a new height of the SF history.
Small mom and pop toy stores also joined the league to host qualifiers all over the country among big arcades. We would stare at store popups and fliers, which listed all the names of the hosting stores from small to big. We would look up where they were and how to get there, to the unknown places every weekend. We had no internet, you know. We didn’t know what and who’d be waiting for us. We could not find out whom you would match against and how he would play until we arrived there. It was such a different time from now. I remember those exciting feelings looking at the popups. Those exhilarating feelings. Such sweet memories.
There has been and will be no other game like that ever. Because SF2 established its genre and it is the milestone that’s been written in the history. It is the legacy. It also means a milestone to me; if there had been no SF2, I would not have been here today as a pro gamer. SF2 enthralled me just as it did to so many others. I have immense respect for the creators of SF2. I will forever be in debt to them.