The character roster alone is impressive as the 12 fighters from Street Fighter II, 3 boss characters, and 4 new playable characters from the arcade release are all here in the home addition along with 6 fan-favorites that weren’t featured in arcades. What’s really incredible about having all 25 of these fighters in one game is that Capcom managed to balance everyone out. No one particular fighter feels too strong or too fast without having something to even that advantage out. It’s great because it puts so much more emphasis on the skill of the player. Another great thing about the roster is that everyone is so different and unique and you really get a sense of it. No 2 characters can be played the same. You need to take into account each fighter’s strengths and weaknesses, especially when you’re using any of the four new characters who are awesome. Rufus, Abel, Crimson Viper, and El Fuerte again bring a unique flavor to the game and are so much fun to play with. El Fuerte is easily one of my favorites. He’s a hilarious addition to the roster, but he also brings a great mix of speed, agility, and technical prowess in the form of his lucha libre fighting style.
Of course not everyone is going to be as eager to try out some of the new characters and would rather stick with the fighters they’re far more used to using. If that’s the case, Capcom’s got you covered. If you like, go ahead and pick Ryu and jump right in. There’s a certain familiarity with the game that you’ll be throwing hadoukens instantly. Street Fighter IV was meant to be something easy to pick up and enjoy right out the box, and in many ways it fulfills those intentions. What’s really interesting though, is you can play entirely as if it was back in the day without any of the special power meters and combos and you’ll find the game still handles very well and you’re going to have some success playing this way. Truthfully though, playing like that is only the tip of the iceberg. Capcom put a whole lot of cool things into the fighting engine that ignoring them would be doing yourself and the game a disservice.
Firstly among the new additions are the Focus Attacks. When charged all the way, a Focus Attack is unblockable and if it connects it will send your opponent crumpling down to the ground. The Focus Attack also doubles as a defensive technique as well. While charging, your character will be able to absorb a single impact. Though the damage will still be done to your health meter, if will refill to its previous position in just a few seconds. Of course Focus Attacks are just one step along the way to the almighty Super Meter and Ultra Meter.
The Super Meter is your standard power meter that fills when you land a strike, execute special move, etc. When the meter is filled you can perform a Super Combo which looks pretty cool. The Super Meter doubles by fueling your EX Super Moves. EX Super Moves are extra powerful special attacks. Using something like an EX fireball against a standard fireball will cancel out your opponent’s projectile while yours will continue on to the end of the screen. Of course EX moves should be used sparingly as they take up ¼ of your Special Meter energy.
That brings me to the Ultra Meter, a powerful yet dangerous addition to rely on. Making their debut in Street Fighter IV, Ultra Moves are executed with similar button inputs to those of the Super Moves however the attacks are longer and more cinematic. The Ultra Meter is filled opposite to that of the Special Meter as every attack you’re hit with fills the bar more and more. Ultra Moves can be executed when the meter is half full, but at a fraction when compared to a fully charged meter.
With so many new and returning elements to the Street Fighter IV gameplay, it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed. Thankfully there are plenty of opportunities to get accustomed to all the different things. Arcade Mode is your standard fight through a series of opponents until you get to the end boss. Very typical. The training mode is fairly deep in options that allow you to practice against anyone in nearly any scenario. Challenge mode is likely where you’re going to spend the most time not just fighting, but learning as well. There are plenty of challenges like win without taking any damage, defeat “x” number of opponents consecutively, or win within a certain time-limit. There are challenges that force you to complete specific moves and will show you the button sequence you need to execute. You gain a new sense of depth with the characters you use because learn so many new combos and how to string certain moves together in ways you probably would never have come up with.
Along with all these single player game modes, there’s a decent enough online mode. I say “decent enough” because it does the job, but any time you’re playing online and you have something like a fighting game where timing is crucial to winning, just the slightest bit of lag can cost you a match. Honestly though, Street Fighter IV is a game that you’re going to have more fun playing against someone in the same room rather than online. I remember some of my greatest Street Fighter memories are from discussing an awesome match a friend and I just played or the trash-talking that went on back and forth.
However you decide to play though, there’re plenty of reasons to keep coming back. The number of unlockables in particular, is staggering. Firstly not all the characters are available right away so there’s some work to be done in order to get the full roster. Also there’s some cool artwork as well as a bunch alternate color palettes for each character’s costumes.
Unfortunately not everything is going to go over as well as the rest of the game. The art style for example, has been something of a hot-button issue since day one. Personally I’m a big fan of the 3D visual style and I think there are some great level effects that make use of the style especially since the fighting is 2 dimensional. The 3D really works well when you power up a Super or Ultra Combo and the camera pans to show your fighter just as he’s about to takeoff. I wasn’t totally onboard with some of the overly-muscular character models either, but eventually I didn’t care as much and even grew to like them. A lot of their motions and strikes and so fluid and look really unique and fit their overall fighting styles. The added facial animations during the Super and Ultra Combos are hilarious and are greatly detailed. You really get a sense of pain when you watch someone get hit square in the liver or kidneys.
However, some of the more stylized art is hit or miss with me. So many of the signature moves like fireballs and such look awesome and the Ultra Combos are incredible. Seeing some of these moves in action is such a cool payoff because they’re really impressive and you get such a feeling of accomplishment. On the other hand, some of the visual accents like the calligraphy inspired ink strokes and splotches are something I’m, still getting used to. They can be a little distracting at times but they work to punctuate some of the more punishing strikes.
One of the things that I’m a little
less forgiving of are the anime cutscenes that appear at the beginning and end
of each character’s
From start to finish, Street Fighter IV is a fantastic game. It’s just about the perfect amalgam you’ll find for bringing back something so classic and yet tweak it enough to appeal to a new audience. Just about all of big name, fan favorites are back in full glory. The character models look great and everyone handles very, very well. Each member of the roster is incredibly unique in the way they look, the way that they fight, the special moves they utilize, etc. The four new characters are all excellent and each brings something new to the table. Above everything you could say about Street Fighter though, the number 1 thing is that it’s still so much fun. That’s why people have been playing the games for this long, and it’s the reason why most are going to pick up Street Fighter IV.
Overall Score: 9.2/10