If you are a 20-something, then the chances are that you’ll have played Street Fighter II as a child. You’ll remember the vivid colours, the strategic gameplay and the host of characters with a range of fighting styles. Many, many variants later and we’ve finally seen the release of Street Fighter IV. Today’s consoles can be seen as sorely lacking on the fighter front, so another is always welcome – but does SFIV arrive and show the pedigree it should? Luckily, it’s safe to say that it does.
The characters this time around are represented in 3D and fight on 3D backgrounds. However, they are locked in to a 2D plane, meaning you don’t have the option to sidestep into 3D. Essentially it was a way in which to keep the gameplay the same but move the graphics into the 21st century.
The characters of course make the game, so you will be pleased to hear that Ken, Ryu, Chun Li, and Zangief etc all make an appearance. Alongside the cast of Street Fighter 2 Turbo you’ll be able to select some new fighters, including Crimson Viper (fights with power gloves), a lucha libre wrestler known as El Fuerte, Rufus – a large kung fu master, MMA exponent Abel others.
Most of the characters seem quite well balanced, with a range of standard, special, super special and EX attacks (these last ones are more powerful versions of special attacks, for example Ryu’s hadoken is unleashed as a fire variant). There’s also an ultra combo system that builds on an aggro style meter, charging up to the max when you’ve taken a lot of damage. In one fell swoop, you can turn the match around.
On the whole, fighters seem to be quite well balanced (barring the comedy variants such as Dan). Seth though remains a big disappointment. This new boss character looks quite derivative and is similar to the boss from SF3. Worst of all though is his fighting style. He goes from reasonable to beat to massively overpowered in the second round.
Controls are slick, which is as you’d expect for a game that hasn’t been tampered with too much and doesn’t move from the tried and tested formula. So, you have sick buttons (light, hard and medium kicks and punches) with which to attack your opponent. Alongside this you have a counter system initiated by using both medium attacks together, which implements another layer of strategy to the game.
Playing through Xbox Live means that at any point you could face ‘A New Challenger’ – what could be more fun than that? A global ranking system means you get to see how good you really are, as well as facing players from all over the world.
Street Fighter IV is a real visual treat. Characters have been reimagined in a chunkier, visually arresting style and it’s something that I personally think you’ll love or hate. Characters look almost like action figures that have sprung to life. Animations are completely superb and when you do nail a combo that is of the ‘Ultra’ variety the game moves into 3D to show the full damage you inflict upon your opponent. It really is quite a sight to behold.
Not too much to say about this one here – it’s not like you need the atmosphere of Dead Space created for SFIV! The voice over work isn’t particularly great, but the sound effects in general are nice and meaty. The wailing guitar might make you think that you’re back in the early nineties but hey, this is Street Fighter II but with a modern twist!
My first impression was that I could just pick up and play it. Don’t get me wrong, you can do that. You might find however that you’re just not as good at it as you remember – which is probably down to years of other games such as Soul Calibur and Tekken. Nonetheless, Street Fighter IV is a fantastic game and one that deserves a place on the shelf of any gamer.
Granted, the gameplay does hark back to another era when things were more simple. However, subtle tweaks, added characters and great little elements such as the anime intros are divine. If you’re a fan of fighting games then they generally don’t come much better, or fair than this.
Without the simple combos of the Tekken series or the huge complexity of the Virtua Fighter games, Street Fighter IV remains at heart a game that provides a character for all and gameplay mechanics to put a grin firmly on your face. Capcom, you’ve done a great job.