We Found the Champion of Street Fighter II


(electronic music with bass) – [Narrator] Being a kid in the ’90s meant spending most of your quarters trying to beat your
friends in Street Fighter. The gaming community was
filled with memorable players, but one kid seemed to eclipse them all, the legendary Tomo Ohira. – One of the greatest video
game players who ever lived. (dramatic music) – Tomo Ohira was this towering
figure in Street Fighter II. – A guy that legendary, that’s the kinda guy
you wanna aspire to be. – [Narrator] So why did
the champion disappear? (arcade music) In 1991, arcades went
through a Renaissance with the release of Street Fighter II. The game re-energized
the coin-op business, drawing people away
from their home consoles and back to the arcades. Up until then, arcade winners were determined
by the highest score. But with Street Fighter II, players dueled each other
in one-on-one competitions. The fierce matches and cutthroat rivalries made the game into a
bonafide sporting event, turning champions into legends. And a group of all-stars was forming in sunbaked Southern California. (arcade decrescendo) (electronic music with bass)
To get this story started, we first need to understand
that Street Fighter is a lot more than a
bunch of button mashing. And who better to explain
the complexities of the game than legendary players Jeff
Schaefer and Mike Watson. – What Street Fighter is
really, is a chess game. They have six different
buttons that you can push, and whether you’re standing or crouching, the buttons are different. And so you have so much diversity of different punches and
kicks in a fighting game. – Each character has
their own specific moves. Those specific moves can
be used in combinations, so there’s so many different variations available in the game. – [Jeff] Based on whatever
character I’m playing, I know what distance
that character’s weak at, so it’s all about forming your game plan around staying at that
distance to win the game. – [Game Voice] You win! – This is the bread and butter of becoming exceptional at any game. That’s Street Fighter. – [Narrator] And if you
haven’t guessed it yet, Mike and Jeff are really
good at Street Fighter II. (dramatic orchestral music) – I became the best
player in Orange County, and then, eventually, I
got banned from playing, because it was a foregone conclusion that I was gonna win. – I would beat everybody. There was no one I ran
into that I didn’t beat. You know, I was a little kid, just shooting my mouth off all the time, but that was part of my strategy actually. We always played to win. – The whole crowd was thinking like, “Wow, Jeff’s on his own level.” You know, no one could touch me. I was eating everybody for lunch. (soft boom) And that’s when I met Tomo Ohira. (dramatic orchestral music) He was about thirteen years old, probably weighed about 90
pounds and was five feet tall, and he was just a little kid. – He was a smaller guy, so it wasn’t intimidating or anything, but man, he played lights out. No mistakes. His play’s just amazing. – He’s a gaming savant. I musta spent over $20 in
quarters to beat him one game, and I never beat him one game. I can’t win one game off the guy. He’s very much like Michael
Jordan or Tiger Woods. They don’t need to talk crap. They already know they’re the best. – He was, hands down, the
number one player at the time. I was kinda dumbfounded by it. It was like Tomo, me, Jeff, and then fourth place is way down here. – [Narrator] And in 1994, the three participated
in a Super Tournament to find out who was the
best player of all time. – [Mike] There was a big
Super Tournament in Nor Cal that all of us went to. – It was like the biggest Battle Royale ever in the history of Street
Fighter at that time. We’re finally gonna find out, right? Is Southern California
better than this group here? It was literally shoulder to shoulder of people packed in like sardines. – [Narrator] And you can
probably guess what happened. Tomo won it all. But then something unexpected happened. The world’s best Street Fighter II player completely disappeared. (dramatic electronic music) – He just quit. That was it. He never played Street
Fighter again after that. – I felt a little empty, I guess. He was my competition, he was always the one that would beat me. He just finally walked
off into the sunset. – [Narrator] Questions
haunted the gaming community. Where is Tomo? Where is “The Champion”? – [Jeff] Everybody asked
about him for years. – [Mike] His name rung out through the arcades in
Southern California. Everyone wanted to find
Tomo and play against him. – [Narrator] But they never got that opportunity.
– [Game Voice] Three! Two! – [Narrator] The original gaming savant… – [Game Voice] One! – [Narrator] Was gone. So at this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “What became of the legendary Tomo Ohira?” – This is my life now. Getting balls out of the tree for the neighbor’s kids. (light, xylophone music) – My name is Tomo Ohira, I used to play Street
Fighter, long, long time ago. I was known as the “First
Champion of Street Fighter.” And the feeling was just incredible. (music adds heavy bass) I think people were a
little bit surprised by me leaving kinda suddenly, because I had such a passion for it. But eventually, it went from, “Yes I won! Oh my God,
I can’t believe it!” to, “Oh, okay, good, I didn’t lose today, “so now I don’t have to be upset tonight.” And that’s when I fell out of it. – When we became adults, right, you don’t have the eight hours a day to put into becoming like
he was when he was a kid. – He accomplished what he wanted, he left on top and, we played one final tournament and, he won, so he kinda
walked out on a high note. – When something is done, I think you should realize
it, face it, and let it go. So, now my passion is family. I have twin kids that are two years old, and as soon as they’re old enough, I will hand them a gaming pad, and see what they can do. Can you say, “I win!” – I win!
– I win! – Yeah! Say it louder! “I win!” – I win!
– I win! – Yeah! That’s my life now. And if I had to turn the clock back, and do it all over again, I would not change a thing. (bell tone)

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