Walking into the shiny London venue hosting Capcom’s first official Street Fighter IV UK championship, it was immediately clear that this was going to be a good day. It was but early in the afternoon (1pm, with the tournament proper only starting at 6) and most of the day’s combatants were still in transit from points all around the country, but the huge room reserved for warm-up fights and heats was already abuzz with anticipation. I was here to report of course, but as a Street Fighter devotee since 1992 it was hard to suppress a skip and a giggle.
But I wasn’t just here to report. A couple of months earlier, Capcom had announced that the tournament would be run in parallel with a second title battle reserved for the UK games press. Within seconds I had replied to the invitation with a volcano of gleeful affirmatives.
However, much like the original SFII’s World Warrior contest, the total number of entrants had come in at single figures. Perhaps word of my entry had sent a shockwave of fear through the industry. In fact that’s almost definitely what had happened. Whatever the reason, things were now a lot more interesting. It would be easier to get a high placing, but infinitely more crushing if I got walloped. Still awaiting confirmation of my nemeses, I headed over to the warm-up machines to begin some last-minute honing of my occasionally mighty Bison.
Arranged in squared islands of four screens each, those 360s were to be our home for the entirety of the next 5 hours, but frankly, three times that wouldn’t have been too long. Those glowing screens were like camp fires to a nomadic Street Fighter tribe. The qualifying players had travelled the length and breadth of the country to meet, and as the room steadily filled, the party atmosphere grew and grew. Tournament old-hands mingled with first-timers mingled with press mingled with Capcom, in what felt increasingly like a jubilant one-day Street Fighter theme park.
Stories were swapped, tips were exchanged and fight upon fight was fought. There was a genuine sense of every little pocket of the community coming together to share its own particular brand of Street Fighter culture amongst a celebration of it as a whole. It was, in a word, brilliant.
But for all the joviality, tension was rising. The hour of my title showdown was approaching and I still had no idea of whom I was up against. I checked up with Leo, Capcom’s UK PR manager. He revealed that my one and only confirmed opponent was to be a writer on one of Radar’s sister magazines, who shall henceforce remain nameless. Reason being that a couple of hours and a passed fight time later, he hadn’t turned up. Having fought us both in the past, Leo had revealed that he thought I had a pretty good chance of winning, but such things mattered not any more. My opponent had thrown it by default and the title was mine! Go Radar!
Above: I was right to look pensive. Things were about to go very wrong for me.
But as it transpired, my victory was not to be so naively easy. In the absence of a climactic journalistic battle for death or glory, we decided I should fight an exhibition match after the main finals. But who of the assembled warrior ranks would be my opponent?