Street Fighter IV is a game that surely needs little introduction. Few other videogame series could claim to have the recognition amongst late-twenties males in the UK, with perhaps only the 16-Bit releases from Nintendo and SEGA’s system mascots providing more readily accessible memories of childhood videogaming thrills. Street Fighter II, and all its successive adaptations, created a revolution in early 90’s home videogames that few could match, and Capcom undoubtedly hope that Street Fighter IV can do the same on the Current-Generation.
Street Fighter IV takes its cue directly from Street Fighter II. Taking a step-back from the commercially-underachieving Street Fighter III and a dimension away from the likewise Street Fighter EX, players of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System releases will find themselves feeling right at home with the modern visual rendition of a two-dimensional game. All of the original characters return, bar none, and comprise eight (or twelve, depending on which Street Fighter II release you are referring to) of the sixteen available in the starting line-up, expandable to twenty-five through in-game unlockables. The additional characters are an assortment of new additions and fan favourites, with a few interesting choices in the roster. Seth, the final fight in the Arcade game and Arcade Mode in the console release, will undoubtedly be seen as cheap by many, Rose, from the Street Fighter Alpha series, allows for a floaty style of fighting that feels at-odds with the rest of the pack and El Fuerte’s combination of Vega’s leaps and Zangief’s throws may annoy the Street Fighter devotee more than endear at first, but none of the seemingly offbeat refinements create an obstruction beyond the first few hours.
The returning characters handle much as in Street Fighter II, as do the core mechanics. A Hadoken remains commanded by a forward roll of the D-Pad and press of a punch button, and those who dedicated hours to tightening manually developed combos on Street Fighter II will revel in the return of the cross-up collision system. Basic moves, special moves and combos learnt in Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II Turbo or Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers will be flooding back within minutes.
Although appearing familiar, each character has undergone significant refinement for the sake of balance, and also for the sake of the fans. Ken’s flaming Dragon Punch is present and correct, as is Guile’s overhead kick. Ryu’s multiple hit jump attacks from Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers have been included and Sagat’s Tiger Knee is the more aggressive combo attack seen in the Mega-Drive release, Street Fighter II: Championship Edition. EX Moves and Focus Attacks are available as powered-up versions of special moves and basic attacks, which will cause more damage when landed, but leave you vulnerable should you miss.
Two more dramatic new additions come in the form of Super Combos and Ultra Combos. Allowing for more depth in the manner players of modern 2D Beat-‘Em-Ups will be accustomed to, Super Combos rely on filling your Super Meter and performing combo variations of your chosen characters’ special moves. Ultra Combos can be released when your Revenge Meter fills half-way, and call on the camera for a more aggressive view of the potentially devastating attack.
The Arcade Mode is your traditional battle through a series of characters, finalised by facing your Rival and Seth. A modernisation of the formula laid down by the Street Fighter series that many competitors since have attributed to, and Capcom have been wise to take note of. The Arcade Mode includes an option designed to reflect the Arcade origins of the series, known as “Request”. When Request is enabled, players online looking for a match will be able to automatically interrupt your game and call you into a Player Match or Ranked Match, depending on your preference. Although an initially rewarding feature, after extended use it simply distracts from the Single-Player mode you originally opted for, as attempting to complete even a single fight before being pulled to an online lobby becomes extremely difficult. With an option to choose to enter online matches also available from the Main Menu, you may well wonder whether replication of an outmoded style of gaming is worth representing on modern day home consoles.
A new addition to the gameplay mode line-up is Challenge Mode. Here, players compete through a series of progressively difficult events based upon one of three themes – survival, time attack or trial. Survival and time attack are pretty much self-explanatory, and trial mode simply asks the player to compete a number of manoeuvres. Although Challenge Mode isn’t particularly original, it will undoubtedly add longevity to the title, and will be a pleasing addition for those coming back to Street Fighter after more than a decade.
Street Fighter IV’s visual quality is simply fantastic. Though some fans may find the three-dimensional representation of their favourite character a little off-key, none will find themselves turning away in disgust. The unique art style compliments the original Street Fighter II while systematically modernising each and every aspect of the animation and mis-en-scčne. The new characters are welcome and soon become as accepted as those originally appearing in Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers, though the jiggle physics attached to Rufus’ bloated belly certainly looks out of place. Many of the environments available in the retail release lack the detail of previous Current-Generation Beat-Em’-Ups such as Soul Calibur IV and Virtua Fighter 5, and the localisation of in-fight lip-synching appears to be non-existent, but these are only slight scuffs on an otherwise sparkling presentation.
Street Fighter IV is a fantastic rendition of a one much-loved series, and will undoubtedly be a success at retail. Paving the way for a Street Fighter II style revitalisation of the Beat-‘Em-Up genre, and with talks of additional characters having already begun, one has to wonder how long it will be before we see Street Fighter IV Turbo arriving on the XboxLIVE! Marketplace and PlayStation Network; and with such an aggressively practiced fanbase, just how far such plans will continue to be profitable. For the Street Fighter aficionados then, there’s simply no question. But even for the newcomer, finding a better 2D Beat-‘Em-Up on the Current-Generation will simply be impossible.