Recently I’ve been pondering on what to write about. Digging through my art book collection I discovered a handful of Udon books, all the Penny Arcade volumes including the 10th anniversary, and a couple of miscellaneous gems that I’ve picked up at trade shows. Thinking that you guys would get bored of me raving about Penny Arcade for the next few articles, I noticed that I have three books dedicated to Street Fighter’s fighting high schooler Sakura Kasugano. So I’m making this month September Sakura starting with why I love this character so much.
Nowadays I’m known as the guy that loves Street Fighter. If anyone wants to throw down on Street Fighter in a 1km radius then you can expect to see me there, decked in broken tier apparel and rocking a mad catz tournament edition stick. But it wasn’t always like that. When I was a wee lad I hated Street Fighter. Complicated moves, no story mode, and it was 2D! Tekken 1, 2 and 3 were at least 3D.
It wasn’t until I started watching ScrewAttack before I got into the fighting game scene.
I loved how they were so passionate about the game and saw glimpses of the hype generated by fighting game fans. It was a world I wanted to be a part of. So I dusted off my PSX, loaded a copy of Street Fighter Alpha (or Zero) 3 and started my rigorous training of Hadoukens, Sonic Booms, and Yoga Flames. During that time I was in high school; balancing social life, sports, and education in-between late night Street Fighter games. The world was still a distant place and couldn’t wait to get out there. In this case I was very similar to Sakura.
I felt that Sakura, although a weaker clone of Ryu was very similar to me at that stage of my life. She was a high schooler having trouble co-ordinating her school life with her street fighting hence the way she runs into frame before a fight. I found her to be very inspirational as a teenager undergoing the angsty phase. Happy, determined, had a strong role model, and wasn’t afraid of bigger meaner street fighters like Birdie. Also, I used to have a massive crush on her too.
When we choose a fighter it can come down to superficial reasons. He looks cool, she looks sexy, or she is top tier so she’s the best in this version of the game. But I have seen players grow attached to their fighters on a deeper level. They see a small part of themselves in the fighter, almost as a projection of themselves on the screen. It may be because of the way they fight, appear, or move but, somehow players have found a way to bond emotionally to the piece of animated binary code and that causes them to choose that character consistently. To me, that is what Sakura is. She was what I wanted to be like in high school which is why I chose to play as her over hyper masculine characters like Guile, Zangief or Akuma.
Flash forward several years and the high school cycle of school, activity, sleep has evolved into the hustle and bustle of work, cook/clean, sleep. I was naturally ecstatic to see Street Fighter IV include my favourite Street Fighter Sakura in the initial line up. Pulling off Haru Ichibans in HD was a delight to relive. It took me back to my salad days; like revisiting a childhood home and running through the gardens again.
Whether playing games or specifically, playing Sakura affected my personality growing up is debatable. She is definitely a character that feels awkward to play now because of the age difference and the amount of upskirts performed during the match. But, I still perceive her representing my youthful ambition; to take on the big ol’ world with a smiling face and boundless passion.