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Best of 2009 - Street Fighter IV

As one year transitions into the next, I find it a healthy and refreshing endeavor to look back upon the past year and reflect upon those experiences which touched me the most; to discover which games stood tall above the rest and, for one reason or another, made a lasting impression.

Over the next few days, I will be sharing my own personal list of the ten best games of 2009, followed by those that didn't quite make the top ten and even a few of my greatest disappointments of the year. These are in no particular order, but they are the games I found most worthy of praise. Reflecting upon them makes one thing clear: it was a great year for gaming.

Some games have gotten recognition from me on this rather insignificant list because of how individually spectacular they are. There was something amazing or addictive or original about many of the games discussed so far that put them on a level above other products released this year.

Street Fighter IV gets the nod for another reason. Sure it’s a terrifically crafted, well-polished game, but the real reason it stood out to me in 2009 is because it marked the first time any fighting game other than my beloved Soulcalibur series had ever managed to truly hook me.

That’s quite an accomplishment.

The Street Fighter series had always baffled me, frankly. I had given a number of them test drives over the years, most recent Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix Long Name, but I never understood the draw. I couldn’t fathom why people had stuck with the series for so long or where the addiction came from. It seemed too simple, too repetitive. 

With Street Fighter IV I was determined to figure out what the bloody fuss was about. After spending time with it and getting handed my ass an embarrassing number of times by the easiest difficulty setting, something finally began to click.

It’s hard for me to really say why this game did the trick when none of the older ones managed to. The modernized presentation and (relatively) easier difficulty options probably helped. Perhaps I had been comparing Street Fighter unfairly to Soulcalibur and not recognizing the unique charms of the comparatively simpler 2D franchise or maybe I was missing the depth hiding behind the seemingly simple facade. It could have been as simple as me spending more time with this game than titles past, having been suckered in by the modernized presentation. 

Whatever the case was, I’m glad it managed to sink its hook into me. It was refreshing to finally discover the joys of another fighting game after being addicted only to Soulcalibur for so long, and I’m especially glad my expanded fighting game awareness started with the father of all fighting game series.

Perhaps the best thing about the whole experience, however, was how this led to further experimentation and dabbling with other series as well. I discovered the pleasures of a good fighting stick, going so far as two buy two of them, one being the ultra-expensive, ultra-gorgeous Street Fighter IV Tournament Edition stick that is so far beyond my needs it’s laughable, but I love it anyway. I played a smidgen of Guilty Gear and, later, its spiritual successor, BlazBlue, in all of its hyper-weirdness. I dabbled in a bit of Virtua Fighter and was amazed to discover after all these years that Namco’s other fighting game franchise, Tekken, wasn’t all that bad either.

In fact, one or two of the games my Street Fighter obsession eventually led to me discovering might even be more deserving of recognition, at least from a purely feature-based standpoint (I’m looking at you, Tekken 6). Street Fighter IV didn’t have the most modes or the most characters or the most depth.

But it did have a simplicity and a high level of quality that was enough to finally break me out of my blind obsession with Soulcalibur as my fighting game of choice. Plus it’s simply a great update to a classic franchise, serving as exactly the push into the modern age the series needed while retaining enough of the charm of Street Fighter II that it didn’t alienate long-time fans.

For finally making it really hard for me to decide what my favorite fighting game series is, Street Fighter IV is one of my Best Games of 2009. 

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