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Capcom has had a very good track record in regards to not having to ban characters entirely from tournament play. Unlike games like Tekken and Soul Calibur where outright bans are far more common, but Street Fighter has remained almost untouched by this problem. Almost. One of the very few exceptions to the rule is Akuma in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (normally abbreviated as “ST” among the competitive scene). Akuma is a mainstay in Street Fighter now, but in his first appearance he was only playable as a secret character through a hidden code. That same code can be used in the recently released Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection to play as Akuma.
Unfortunately though, this also applies to the online ranked matches. For those that don’t know, for the 12 games released in the collection 4 of them have full online play capabilities; Street Fighter 2: Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter 2: Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Street Fighter 3: Third Strike. The problem this creates requires a bit of a history lesson.
Soft banned in Japan, hard banned in America
When Super Turbo was first released Akuma was a hidden character for a very good reason. He was not originally designed to be part of the main game, therefore, he was not balanced in accordance to the rest of the cast. Simply put, the game was not designed to handle Akuma, most notably his air fireballs. While they are one of his most unique moves, back in Super Turbo the rest of the cast was not designed to handle the angle of his air fireballs. When played extremely defensively, Akuma is virtually unbeatable by the rest of the cast from a pure design perspective.
As the competitive scene for Super Turbo began to emerge, a rift was formed between the American and Japanese competitive scenes. On the Japanese side Akuma received a “soft ban.” It was understood that Akuma breaks the game, makes it less fun, and far less competitive, and therefore players as a whole agreed not to use him. Think of a soft ban as like using the honor system. For the most part, this has held up in the competitive scene of the game since this rule was introduced. Sure, once in a while some upstart would choose the raging demon at an event, but it was usually an unskilled player, and would therefore be thoroughly trounced by the competition.
America took a much more hard line approach though. Akuma has a “hard ban” in American Super Turbo tournaments. Meaning that the character is straight up banned, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. That may say more about the Western player base than the Eastern one, but that is a discussion for another day.
What this means for online leaderboards
Now that brings us to the Anniversary Collection. Akuma being playable is going to seriously undermine the online playability of Super Turbo for this game. Being able to play online is probably the biggest draw of Anniversary Collection, and many players take Super Turbo very seriously. Without a way to ban specific players from matching up against you in Anniversary Collection (one of many basic online features mysteriously not available in Anniversary Collection) I see a very likely future of online leaderboards being dominated by Akuma.
This may be the pessimist in me, but I just have a hard time seeing the majority of online players being able to resist the temptation of an almost guaranteed win. Granted you must have some skill to use Akuma effectively in Super Turbo, but the overall skill level of players has certainly risen since the release of Super Turbo, and it isn’t unlikely to have players with even a moderate amount of skill do extremely well with Akuma. Hopefully this is not the case, but as of right now I fear for the online viability of Super Turbo in the Anniversary Collection.
To see how bad Akuma can be in action, check out this tweet from Twitter user @JassiSingho using the character online. He goofs around a bit in the beginning, but by the end it is made abundantly clear how easy it is to use Akuma to wreak havoc on the rest of the cast:
Super Turbo, Online Ranked on #SF30th
Akuma…is…SELECTABLE! Via the old skool arcade code. 🙈
Thanks to man like @F4RHANN being the first scum bag to do it! 😠@grandmaster_uk @2Old2Furious @nycfurby @KillrMillerTime @eltroubleSRK @RedditSF @GMCGolcarJack @FirstAttackBZH pic.twitter.com/WXc0uZjnGE
— dWo | Singho (@JassiSingho) May 25, 2018