Street Fighter fans converge fairly often, to compete in tournaments or just shoot the shit and play some local matches with friends. But those meetings don't usually involve a real-life bonus round in which a group of rapturous fans descend on a six-foot-long, cardboard green sedan and recreate a memorable moment from the series.
But that's exactly what happened at Capcom and iamb8bit's Street Fighter 25th Anniversary art gallery opening in Los Angeles on Friday evening. Hundreds and maybe even thousands of fans gathered together to check out Street Fighter-inspired art, drink, eat and be merry, and—just for a few minutes—be transported into the world of Street Fighter itself.
The car-shaped pinata was fashioned to look like the one in Street Fighter's famous bonus rounds, and just as they do in-game, attendees caused as much damage to it as they could—particularly the one armed with oversized, flesh-colored foam Hulk hands.
"Iam8bit had the cool idea of, like, recreating a real-life bonus stage," Capcom's Matt Dahlgren told us among the throngs of milling enthusiasts. "It's something that we've always wanted to do, and they were able to pull it off."
Iam8bit founder Jon Gibson, who describes his company as "for all intents and purposes a creative collective," had a longer explanation:
"Several years ago, we pitched Capcom the idea of doing a real-life bonus round with a real-life car. The liabilities and insurance involved in doing something like that with real people, and the broken glass, and metal shards—very dangerous," he said. "The lawyers were not so happy about the idea. So several years later, we devised a plan that was very safe and filled with candy."
Attendees ate it up (literally), converging on the pinata the moment the blindfolded, Hulk hand-equipped first striker landed a blow.
Capcom's pulled out all the stops for Street Fighter's 25th anniversary celebration, and the gallery is only one theatre in the company's year-long war to make sure Street Fighter remains the preeminent name in fighting games. Those efforts include the comprehensive 25th anniversary box set, a worldwide tournament tour, and a tribute website.
But at the gallery opening, no one was actually playing Street Fighter. Iam8bit's gallery space was filled with the work of dozens of artists, as well as some contest-winning fan art.
"This is a celebration of this culture and the idea that Street Fighter represents." Gibson said. "It's all about that personal touch. It's all about what the artists see in their head after they're done playing and what they dream about."
Artist Gabe Swarr based his piece on his first experiences playing Street Fighter in arcades.
"For me, at that point, it was like the graduation to something more mature," Swarr said. "I could feel the shift there."
So what is it about Street Fighter that's kept fans coming back for two and a half decades?
"It was on the forefront of when fighting games came to fruition," Dahlgren told us. "Fast-forward 25 years, and it's still going strong."
"It's pretty incredible," Gibson said. "Street Fighter has this fan base that is just outrageous. It's like it has this fervor about it that's almost majestic in a way."
"This celebration is our way of trying to give back to the fans," Dahlgren added.
The Street FIghter 25th anniversary gallery will run until August 19, and it's free for anyone who feels like stopping by. How are you celebrating the series anniversary? Tell us in the comments or on Twitter.