Pop quiz, video games fan: what was the first fighting game to feature counters, in-air reversals, special moves accessed by twirling the joystick, secret techniques that didn't appear in the instructions and a super attack that led to instant disqualification? Don't bother guessing, you're probably wrong: it was Brian Jacks' Uchi Mata, a judo game released on the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 which came out a full year before the original Street Fighter.
'Round one. Fight!' booms the announcer, just like he has a million times before. Guile opens with a Sonic Boom, Ryu counters with a fireball. So far, so familiar. Then the first strange thing happens: Guile throws another Sonic Boom, much faster than his two-second charge time should allow. Ryu's forced to block one, then another. He jumps backwards to get space, and the second oddity occurs - he unleashes a fireball mid-leap, 'standing' on thin air. As soon as it leaves his hands, it veers towards Guile, who's already into the animation for his next shot. Meanwhile, two Sonic Booms are already humming through the air, glacially slow but ominously relentless. Ryu retaliates again, then again. Soon, the screen is a stream of projectiles, Guile's signature yell overlapping itself: 'Sonic-sonic-sonic-sonic...'
The shot flies high and straight, arcing towards the overhead camera as the players below jostle for position. Nobody is close enough to intercept. The last line of defence is the keeper, and he's right there, in the narrow mouth of the goal, too smart to stray off his line. He takes it easily. A split-second later, the opposition forward slams into him, taking the ball out of his limp hands, finishing the play. The scoreboard shows ten - and then an instant later, another ten. The keeper, it turns out, is still on the floor, waiting for the medical droids that will come and scoop him off the field of play. His legs twitch, briefly. Somewhere in the stands, a voice calls out, almost too faint to hear. 'Ice cream?'
20 years ago - nearly a decade before Medal Of Honor forced players to storm Omaha beach under merciless artillery fire, and a full 15 years before Call Of Duty ended a mission with everyone dying in the radioactive aftermath of a nuclear blast - one game taught a generation that war is, indeed, hell. If you were playing games in 1993 - especially if you were playing them on the Amiga, the concerned parents' 'educational' alternative to the SNES and Megadrive - you probably remember Cannon Fodder's 'Boot Hill' inter-mission screen, where tiny, brave, 16-bit civilians were waved through a door by a recruitment officer, only to (almost) inevitably reappear as gravestones dotting the surrounding landscape. It's hard to forget.