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American expats explain why they moved to Japan to play Street Fighter 3

‘It’s the redheaded stepchild of the Street Fighter series.’

Tucked inside YouTube this week is this gem, the endearing, unalloyed monologues of five gamers — John, Aaron, Ryan, Nate and Dusty — all of whom moved from the United States to Japan, all of whom did so to play Street Fighter 3 there.

Teaching English is one of the more common ways for Americans to immigrate to Japan, and both Ryan and Nate do so. But why they wanted to go, why it was worth the effort to get to Japan and work there and stay there, is more of a feeling than an idea. “It would be like asking someone who is really serious about soccer why they wanted to live in England, and play against Manchester United every day,” posits Aaron.

“You get to to play against the best players, any day you want,” he said.

Street Fighter 3, had three launches between 1997 and 2000. It is mainly remembered for Street Fighter 3: Third Strike, which was later ported to consoles in the west. “It’s the redheaded stepchild of the Street Fighter series,” explains John, made “at a time when people weren’t going to arcades anymore,” in the U.S.

As Aaron puts it, the game arrived at a time when Capcom was seriously challenged by the Tekken franchise and still working hard to distinguish itself in the fighting game scene. “It had the best art of any Street Fighter I’ve ever seen,” Aaron said. “The game was so beautiful, and everyone was so excited to see it.”

“In America, you can’t access Third Strike easily,” said Dusty.

“This is the best place to play Third Strike in the world,” added Nate.

A decade ago, one of the first people I met in this business was Seth Killian, familiar to the fighting game community as a top-flight Street Fighter fighter, the former Capcom community manager, and the commentator for one of the all-time greatest moments in the history of all tournament sports. He spoke forthrightly of the fighting games community’s unique affection for fellow competitors and the games they shared, and sincerely believed in it all as a means of cultural exchange.

This video validates what he said then.

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