Out of ideas…kinda

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Before I started to produce Street Fighter: The Heart of Battle, I was overflowing with Ryu/Chun-Li ideas, so much so that these ideas pushed me ever onward to make those ideas real and this book thicker. But now with so many of my Ryu/Chun-Li art ideas having become reality, as artists approach us wanting to help us do more, I find myself struggling to come up with more ideas. Oh sure, I can come up with a new Ryu/Chun-Li idea for our current book with a little help. I brainstormed today with my co-writers, and I managed to get an idea for the latest mini-comic about to start production. And the sequel for this book, provided the fans want it, and are willing to support it,  is ready to go in to production. But the days of me coming up with a new Ryu/Chun-Li idea lickety-split, are over. I really need some time or some help now to come up with something more that is worth putting in the current book. And you know what? That’s just…

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Why? Because it means all my dreams for Ryu and Chun-Li, as far as the content of this book goes, have become a reality. I am sated.

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A few more months and I’ll finally be able to move on. I wonder what will be next.

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Soul Games

There are games you like. There are games you love. There are games that you can take or leave. There are games you would not touch with a forty-foot joystick. And then there are games that resonate with your very soul. For me, Street Fighter is one of the latter.

But there is one other. One that came…before.

It was a Saturday morning in 1980. I was up at 5:00 A.M. as usual to get my hands on the TV remote and thus control over my cartoon-watching destiny for the day. You see, I have a younger brother and the unspoken rule between us then was whoever got the TV remote first controlled Saturday morning. I held the remote tightly under my quilt like a knight would grip his sword, never letting it go, even for a second.

I remember it was getting close to 6:00 A.M. I was waiting for one of my favorite cartoons to start. But just before it did, I saw this on my TV:

 

hqdefaultWell, OK, not EXACTLY this, but you get the idea.

IN THE NEWS was a series of two-minute televised video segments that summarized topical news stories for children and pre-teens. The segments were broadcast on Saturday mornings on the CBS television network from 1971 until 1986 between animated cartoon programs. And they annoyed me. I mean, who cared about current events when there were cartoons to be watched? As the segment was about to start, I went through my Saturday morning mental checklist : Hungry? No. Need a toilet break? No. Comfortably wrapped like a cinnamon bun in my quilt? Yes. I still have the remote? Yes. Satisfied, I decided to stay in my seat in my mother’s armchair and tolerate the IN THE NEWS segment. And that was when I saw him for the very first time.

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The title of the segment was “Cartoon Video Games” or something like that. It showed this dorky but determined-looking knight running down a stone hallway on the screen of a large 1980’s film editing machine. The segment did not give any names and, even if it had, I was too stunned by what I saw to listen well. When the segment finished I was left feeling horribly unsatisfied. It was the first time in my life I wished the news was longer. Was it a movie? Was it a game? I did not know what to make of it. All I knew was if I understood the news segment correctly, two worlds that I had come to love, video games and cartoons, were about to mix, and I had no more than a razor thin slice of info on the event. I was in fanboy agony.

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Time went on and my agony faded, but I never forgot the image of that dorky looking knight. There was something about him. He was not your typical animated knight: a handsome prince charming with a killer smile and a great singing voice. This dorky knight was the everyman. The look in his eyes said, “I am the most daring knight there is because I am too clueless to realize the odds are completely against me.” And he gave me a sense that for him to be as old as he looked, dame fortune must have held him tightly to her bosom, maybe even let him see her naked once or twice.

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It was not until a couple of years later, in 1983, when I saw a teaser commercial for an upcoming episode of  THAT’S INCREDIBLE, that I would see the dorky knight once again. But this time, I would hear a name: DRAGON’S LAIR!

When that commercial ended, I was left with but one goal in life: to see that show. I had watched THAT’S INCREDIBLE before. It was one of the shows in my family’s regular weekly TV line-up then, but never would it hold more significance in my life than at that time. When the day and time to see the episode finally arrived, I was on edge because my father had the remote and was a bit of a channel surfer. It was not that he would surf in the middle of a show, but he did do it during commercials and I wasn’t in the mood to take any chance where I might even miss even a microsecond of the Dragon’s Lair segment. I watched him like a hungry dragon until the segment began.

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The segment came and went. It is fuzzy in my memory now. I remember seeing previews of the Dragon’s Lair stages–the most vivid of which was “Boulder Trench” and its colored balls. I heard the names Dirk the Daring and Princess Daphne for the first time. I cannot remember exactly, but I think Rick Dyer, the man who came up with the game concept, or perhaps Don Bluth the head animator, was on set showing off the game. I do remember them revealing move sequences for the game too, but not which ones.

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It would be some time before I would finally find the game and play it. It was an evening. I was at the 7-11 convenience store near my home, with my mother and brother. I saw the game in the back corner of the store. Sigh. Remember when convenience stores had arcade games in them? I begged my mother to let me play it despite the game’s 50 cent price. This was an outrageous amount on money since every other game was only a quarter. But since the game had a $4300 American price tag, the arcade operators had to make their money back somehow. Heck, I remember running into Dragon’s Lair machines that cost a dollar to play. Anyway, my mom let me play and I lost my three lives so fast, I saw more of Dirk’s skeleton than the actual game. In the months to come until the 7-11 changed its games, I played Dragon’s Lair a few more times with half of my meager one-dollar allowance and sometimes with five dollars more from my grandparents. But the fifty cent to one dollar price kept me watching the game attraction screen more than actually playing.

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It was not until I encountered the game again in an arcade while on vacation, I realized the truth about Dragon’s Lair. It was very much a spectator’s game. Until a player mastered every move for every animated sequence, he was under too much pressure to enjoy said sequences. Sure, he got the euphoric rush and glory for beating the game, but usually the player was too worried about keeping Dirk alive to enjoy the Bluth studio’s amazing laser disc graphics, even the amazing Princess Daphne. However, everyone around the player watching him play was having a ball. For the spectators, of which there were often many, it was like watching an awesome animated movie. I found this to be particularly true when I finally played Dragon’s Lair II in arcades six years later.

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That said, it was very much this inability for the player to relax during the game that made it so memorable. I mean let’s face it, after the player completed around twenty-eight out of a possible thirty-seven sequences (some of which were the same sequences but played in reverse), Dirk finally reached the dragon’s lair. Upon hearing the sexy-voiced details from Daphne on how to defeat the dragon–get the magic sword, slay the dragon, and get the key to break Daphne out of her prison–the player soon realised doing these things were not easy feats! This difficulty of the game, combined with the excitement of actually getting to the dragon’s lair stage, and dealing with the stress of the huge crowd of kids surrounding the machine to watch, was a lot of pressure for a player. Most people can still remember the excitement of seeing someone save the princess for the first time. I remember shouting and cheering with the other spectators around me. I even remember slapping the player on the back. It was one of those rare moments where everyone in the arcade suddenly became friends–fellow warriors who had just traveled together on an incredible quest and emerged battered, but ultimately victorious.

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On a consumer level, the Dragon’s Lair frenzy would create a whole line of products, including lunch boxes, clothing, a board game. It even had a fan club. I never owned any of the products even though I really wanted the Dragon’s Lair board game–sigh. But that doesn’t mean I loved the game any less. Hey, did you know Dragon’s Lair, along with Pac-Man, and Space Invaders, is one of three arcade machines at the Smithsonian?

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Man! I really wanted one of these Dragon’s Lair board games.

Lucky for me, Dirk the Daring soon made his way to saving Princess Daphne every Saturday morning on a comedy-adventure cartoon show. The series lasted for one season, and finally gave the kids what they wanted, more animated footage of Dirk in action. Sadly, Don Bluth and his studio had absolutely nothing to do with the series’ production.

Thirteen half-hour episodes were produced in 1984. The show was generally run of the mill, but boasted an unusual feature: to keep the show in the spirit of the game, before each commercial break a narrator would ask what the viewer would do to solve the problem facing Dirk and provide three options. After the commercial break, the outcomes of the various choices were shown, two usually resulting in Dirk’s death, and the remaining choice being the correct one. However, more often then not, all the choices given to the viewer were bad ones and an option not provided, but revealed after the commercial break, was the solution. I guess the show’s writers just loved killing off Dirk. I mean how often did you get to write and see a character killed in a Saturday morning cartoon?  But then, the death sequences were part of the game’s fun, so why not the show too?

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I watched the Dragon’s Lair animated series religiously and hoped it would get another season. It never did. However, this show did leave its mark on the world of Dragon’s Lair in that it gave the originally nameless fire-breathing dragon a name: Singe–a name that stands to this day.

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What can I say? Dragon’s Lair is in my soul. Is it because Dragon’s Lair is both a carton and a video game: a match made in heaven just like Dirk and Daphne? Probably. To be honest, despite all my words here, I can’t really explain it. But I love the game and that’s why I write this now: to honour it.

And that’s why had this picture drawn too.

Commission - Cauples

My Past: Dirk and Daphne

My Present: Ryu and Chun-Li

My Future: Kal and Knites

It’s so great to make all my years of gaming count for something.

DeviantSF

More next time!

ryuxchunliproject@gmail.com

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If I did all this again…

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I would love to do a sequel. But since I’ve completed Street Fighter: The Heart of Battle, some people have asked me what OTHER intellectual properties (IP), I would start fan projects for. Well, there is one: Mighty Orbots.

Like Ryu/Chun-Li, there is love to be had here between one of the humans (Rob) and one of the alien characters (Dia), but what I find particularly fascinating are the robots…or rather…Orbots.

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Ono, Tor, Bort, Bo, Boo, and Crunch are the most advanced robots on their version of Earth. And they act so…human. This human behaviour would be easier to accept as genius level programming, if there were other robots in the show as amazing as the Orbots are. But all the other robots presented on the show aren’t even close to the Orbots in terms of human behaviour. So I wonder. Is there more going on than Rob, the inventor of the Orbots, realises?

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Add this theory to the fact that the Galactic Patrol, the police force Rob and the Orbots are members of, is led by Rondu, a powerful telepath, and his daughter, Dia, and I wonder if Rob, just “thinks” he invented his Orbots and there is much more to the six Orbots than meets the eye? Yep, that’s a question I would really like to answer.

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Mighty Orbots, a joint American/Japanese creation which you can learn more about here, was the only other piece of entertainment that left an impression on me as nearly as strong as Ryu/Chun-Li did. So, if I were to do another fan project, barring a Ryu/Chun-li sequel, Mighty Orbots would be it.

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http://shin-ian.deviantart.com

But, if I did do Mighty Orbots as a project, I would definitely redesign the Orbots.  Make them look a lot more exciting. Maybe even do my own 100% original take on the concept. Heh. Who knows what the future holds?

Well, ok. I do know ONE THING the future holds…

DeviantSF

More next time!

ryuxchunliproject@gmail.com

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Our Third Review!!!

Tony Blackmore, aka T. Pickles, journalism certificate recipient, English literature degree holder, and keeper of the blog tpicklesexpat.blogspot.jp is unique among my friends. We started as coworkers for the same English teaching company in Japan and became good friends. I have always been a fan of both Tony’s wisdom and his sense of humour.  But while I stayed in Japan, Tony eventually made his way to China where he teaches the EAP Program at the Sino-Canada HIgh School at Soochow University High School, Suzhou, From there, Tony keeps me informed on the truth about China and its people. They are people much like us with hopes and dreams, people you would love to get to know. They’re just stuck with a crappy communist government that keeps them from living life to the fullest and standing happily with the rest of the world the way they should.

Who better than someone living in China, Chun-Li’s homeland, to do our non-fan review? Tony, the blog is yours.

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“Street Fighter: The Heart of the Battle” gives every fan the ending that they yearn for:

As the pace of technological change accelerates, generations become shorter.

I was born too early for Street Fighter. I remember when a game of Asteroids at the arcade was considered a good night out. 

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Yet, we did have fan fiction back in the day—mostly of the Star Trek variety. It was smazidat in those pre-internet days, low-quality and stained photocopies being passed hand to hand. Also, it was a more innocent time as no one, at least in my immediate circle, had thought of Pac Man “slash” Donkey Kong fanfic.

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So, most of my own experience with the characters of Ryu and Chun-Li consisted of me ignoring Sean while he blabbed on about them. It sounded like cabalistic crazy talk to me. Yet, I was not completely unsympathetic as I too had experienced the obsession that can come with fandom when I was at a younger age. That allowed me to parse some of Sean’s crazy talk.

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In all genres of fandom, there is a constant tension between desires of the fans and the interests of the producers. The fans yearn for what they see as the natural ending of the story. The producers, on the other hand, never want it to end as that would kill off the goose that lays the golden egg. The tension must always be maintained—and when you run out of stream, just reboot, but never complete.

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So, the fans have stepped into the gap and produced the ending to the tale that they lust to overcome their own frustrations as they know it’ll never be forthcoming from the powers that be. 

The tale begins with Ryu showing up at the door. He’s barefoot, dirty with the dust of the road, with a bag slung over his shoulder. Despite his claim of inadvertence, he’s obviously the traveler who has returned home after a long and arduous journey like Odysseus returning to Penelope.

The image harks back to original Street Fighter—Bruce Lee! This is how all his movies begin. We know who he is, the familiar archetype of the street fighter, the working-class everyman hero.

On the other side, we meet Chun Li as (for a panel or two) the harried waitress-like character, another familiar archetype. They have a mysterious past together—that’s clear—but they’re both struggling to get beyond it. She seems to be further along that path—maybe because girls mature faster than boys—but Ryu is not resisting the path as shown by the fact that he may have, on a level unbeknownst to himself, sought the path out in the first place.

So the archetype is set out in broad strokes in familiar colors from the first pages. This is a tale of maturity; it represents the last struggle of late adolescence, one last battle before settling down into an adult role as the nurturer and teacher for the next generation. 

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It is the natural ending for a story of this type overarching narrative; it’s what everyone instinctively knows is the final chapter for the scenario that the original producers created—even though they themselves are too timid to go there.

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On the downside, there are short-comings that distract from the story itself. For example, there is a confusing backstory that I as a nonfan can’t wrap my head around. Second, characters pop in and out without being adequately introduced. Finally, there are phrases, actions and stances which might thrill the fan but are again jarring and odd to the non-fan  The consequence of this story taking place after something called “Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike”, I imagine. Sean tells me this game has a huge narrative history, one he has very likely taken into account, and one I will unlikely read up on. Non-fan, remember?

Yet, the overall benefit for the non-fan is that “Street Fighter: The Heart of the Battle” presents an archetypical story that delivers what any fan of any genre instinctively knows in their heart of hearts to be the natural ending of all and every narrative of this type: Evil is conquered once more. Boy gets girl. Girl gets boy. And all is well with the world.

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And if by chance fans dare… If they just dare…to demand and support a sequel from what should be a natural ending? The two titular heroes will be ready to face that sequel in the way fans of this couple have always hoped: together.

T. Pickles (Tony Blackmore)

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Our Second Review!!

When it comes to Street Fighter, there are many types of fans, but they all fall somewhere amongst the serious and the casual. Kris Jensen, Applications Consultant with ISM Canada – IBM Global Services (and an amateur author) , is the definition of a casual Street Fighter fan. Kris and I used to play Street Fighter together on the Sega Genesis while we waited for the latest episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation to start. Kris almost always played E.Honda as Honda’s screen owning hundred hand-slap was a deadly weapon in Kris’s hands.

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Kris and I both bought and watched the Street Fighter: Animated Movie and the Street Fighter II V animated series together when they first came out for VHS. We thrilled at the movie and every episode of the series. And Kris, a huge fan of the B-movie genre, actually liked “Street Fighter: the Legend of Chun-Li.”

 

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Now now….put the weapons down. On a planet of six billion people, odds are someone has to like the movie, right?

The fact is, Kris is the perfect definition of the casual SF fan. He knows the SF universe well enough to enjoy it, but not enough to discuss its finer points, or to be hurt when a bad movie about the franchise comes out. He can take or leave the series at any time.

He has also been my number one friend for decades. He has stood by me in the good times and the bad, taught me what a good friend truly is, and how to be one myself. Without his life lessons, there was no way I would have been able to make this project what it has become.

 

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Kris finished reading “Street Fighter: The Heart of Battle” last night. Here are his thoughts:

I used to play Street Fighter II with Sean when we were teenagers, at his house, before watching Star Trek TNG on a Friday Night. He won’t admit it, but I will. I really sucked at the game and didn’t really like it. I lost count the number of time I got crushed. Out of all of that I learned two things. E-Honda was my favourite (The 100 hand slap was cool) and Sean absolutely loved Street Fighter. I think that is why I played the game, because Sean was so passionate about it.

So I was not surprised when he told me about this project. Our monthly Skype chats always included updates and he would tell me how cool the art was and the response he’d had from people all over the world. Then finally, he said it was done and he wanted me to review it. So here goes. Now remember, I’m not a Street Fighter fan (although the anime was cool), so this is purely on story and art. I give it an 8 put of 10. Story flowed well, the different arts styles were cool, and I always figured those two should end up together. You can see Sean’s passion of Street Fighter in the story. Street Fighter fans will take this and leave with a smile knowing they got a quality story worth keeping. I liked the intermissions and some of the art at the end.

So why only 8 out of 10. Well, like I said I’m not a Street Fighter fan, so I don’t follow the games, story lines, or characters. So some plot points didn’t make sense to me. I knew they were specific to the plot and that the Street Fighter fan would understand, so he wrote for his audience, like every good author should. Also, E-Honda only had one panel. One! Come on! E-Honda with the 100-hand slap! Come on man! He should’ve had at least two. Just saying… So there you go. My review. Hope this helps people out there and I encourage other to review it as well when they get it!

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We’ve had a review from the serious fan (Patrick) and the casual fan (Kris). Next is… the non-fan!

Watch this space!

 

ryuxchunliproject@gmail.com

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Our First Review!

Patrick Reynolds, CEO of Kenzai, is one of my best friends. We met years ago when I became an instructor at the English school he and I used to work at. His company was small then, but Kenzai has since grown into a strong player in the online health industry. Patrick, the man,  has a standard of quality in his work that I wish many more companies had, and its been a honour and a pleasure to learn the ways of the entrepreneur from him. Over the years we have bonded over many things, and we have become partners in another amazing business venture, Question Quest, but the thing that started our friendship really rolling was Street Fighter.

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We have beaten each other to virtual pulp, Patrick’s Ken and my T. Hawk trading blows night after night online, and both of us became stronger players because of our many battles. We have become too busy over the last couple years to pick up controllers like we used to, but the fun-scars our games have left on us have never healed, and we don’t want them too!

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But while Patrick and I see eye to eye on many things, Ryu/Chun-Li is not exactly one of them. He doesn’t hate the idea. He’s more wary. Patrick is the one who pointed out to me that having Ryu and Chun-Li together in the Street Fighter story may have a significant impact on the Street Fighter experience and made me ponder just what that impact would be. He also reminded me of one of his greatest lessons in entrepreneurship, unless the final product on this project–on any project–is quality, no one is going to care.

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So, keeping these things in mind over the course of this graphic novel endeavour, my people and I finally finished the main story. And last Saturday I gave the story to Patrick to read. I tried not to watch him while he read, but it was impossible. While I sat next to him trying to focus on my online newspaper, I kept glancing over at his face to see if he was enjoying himself. I glanced over so much I knew exactly where he was in the story at all times. He had a poker face all the way through.

When he finished, Patrick didn’t say much, but that’s normal. He likes to let things percolate in his mind a while before commenting, something I’m still trying to learn. But, to my relief, when he finally did speak, his feedback was positive. He said “Good job, man!” He said the story was well written and the twists were good. He also said the book sent a clear message and the motivations of the characters were believable. And like most comics, you wish there were more pages to give parts of the story more room, but sometimes that can’t be helped.

 

In the end, Patrick summed up his feelings about the book in the following review:

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Street Fighter: The Heart of Battle intertwines a fast-paced, action-filled story with the tender moments of a budding relationship between the two most famous characters of the Street Fighter universe. We get to see the relatable, human side of Ryu and Chun-li as they wrestle with their feelings for each other vs. the paths they’ve chosen to walk. Any fan of Street Fighter will love all the small details and cameos that pop up throughout the story. Whether you’re a lover or a fighter, you’ll find plenty of great moments in this 110 page, full colour story. And the over 120 pages of bonus content are a true delight!

Patrick has been more than a friend. He has been a mentor over the years of our friendship. After all my people and I have done to bring this book to life, I’m so glad (and relieved) he is pleased.

 

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More next time!

And see you on February 14th, 2015 for the official release!

ryuxchunliproject@gmail.com

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Crossing the Bar

Brian Yip, aka Night or NightDragon, the young man who wrote “Hero of Heroes” aka “Ryu and Chun-Li Forever.” It’s fitting that with the main story of this project complete, I finally got to see what he looked like. I only wish I could have talked to him, maybe even worked on this project together with him. Thanks to David “Duake” Muich for the help finding the video link.

Brian, you set the bar for a Ryu/Chun-Li story. I hope somehow you get to read the work my people and I have produced, and hope that my people and I have raised the Ryu/Chun-Li bar high enough that CAPCOM, UDON, and the producers of Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist will see it and take it even higher.

You can see the memorial video for Brian below.

(May 24, 1980 – Feb 26, 2010)

Sunset and evening star,
      And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
      When I put out to sea,

   But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
      Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
      Turns again home.

   Twilight and evening bell,
      And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
      When I embark;

   For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
      The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
      When I have crost the bar.
“Crossing the Bar”– Alfred, Lord Tennyson

 

 

 

ryuxchunliproject@gmail.com

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