|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Capcom||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Capcom||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Perhaps the most acclaimed fighting franchise of all time, the Street Fighter series has helped to shape and define the genre. Whether pumping quarters into a machine at a boardwalk arcade or slagging off your best friends at home on the couch, Street Fighter owns a fond place in the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere. Fans will be happy to know that Street Fighter IV (SFIV) brings back all of your favorite characters and the controls with which youve grown up. Whats more, the incredibly sharp graphics, loads of unlockables, online play, new characters, and interesting yet straightforward new gameplay mechanics make this edition one of the best Street Fighters ever.
Upon firing up the game, players are welcomed by an artistic cinematic full of brush strokes and J-pop amid classic Street Fighter bouts it becomes immediately apparent that Street Fighter IV is graphically stunning. Though the game no longer uses 2D sprites, the 3D characters still fit nicely against the lush backgrounds. Some purists may prefer the look of the old games due to their own nostalgia, but the new HD visuals and hand drawn characters are outstanding. Truly, nothing of consequence has been lost in this modern reimagining. The quality of the graphics really help to set this title apart.
For starters, the vast array of fighters is animated beautifully. Switching from one action to the next is fluid, and the energized moves of each individual fighter are striking to behold. More than any other fighter out there, Street Fighter IV does a masterful job of making each character feel and look unique. Second, the multitude of backdrops is amazing. They are all nicely detailed and quite interesting. The designers did a great job of marrying the kitsch of the old with the best this generation of consoles has to offer. Third, juxtaposing the in-engine graphics with the prologue and ending anime shorts for each fighter really helps the Japanese feel hit home. Moreover, I found myself playing with every character just to make sure I caught every cutscene - the cinematics tell terse yet engaging stories that keep players interested in the entire cast of characters. All in all, the visuals in Street Fighter IV are one of the game's greatest changes. Thankfully, they prove to be one of the game's greatest assets as well! Likewise, the aural presentation is exactly how it needed to be. The classic catch phrases and pre-bout taunts are all accounted for. Moreover, even the anime shorts are nicely voiced over.
Outside of the outstanding presentation, you'll be happy to know that gameplay is as good as it has been since the Street Fighter II days. Doing away with anything superfluous, SFIV gets back to the tried-and-true mechanics players have been mastering for years. Without looking at the manual, players will be unleashing Hadoken, Shoryuken, Electric Thunder, and Spinning Piledrivers simply from years of well-trained, twitch muscle memory; this is the fighter hardcore gamers have been longing for. That said, SFIV is fun and accessible to even novice gamers. The mapping of crucial skills to the face buttons and high and combo attacks to shoulder buttons makes brawling a breeze for anyone.
Of course, you're not just any gamer. You want to know about advanced controls. Unfortunately, the console controllers are not ideal for this game. Being confined to thumb sticks, face, and shoulder buttons is ungainly compared to what can be experienced from an arcade. If you've got the cash, you may want to spring for the MadCatz peripherals that bring the arcade experience home.
Graciously, most console gamers will still be able to adjust nicely, as the core gameplay mechanic is intact and has been only moderately tweaked (for the better). With a little practice, complex moves are sweetly incorporated into your repertoire. Each character has Normal, Focus, Special, Super Combo, EX, and Ultra Combo attacks. Normal commands are easily accessed and combined via the face buttons. Focus attacks are charged attacks that have the ability to knock your opponent prone if used effectively. Special moves are exclusive to each character and they are initiated by combining analog stick inputs with normal commands. EX attacks are the same as Special, except they are powered up via the Super Combo Gauge (SCG) - more on this next. EX commands simply require the player to press the final command button twice, and they will consume one segment of the SCG. Super Combos can be performed when you have successfully filled the SCG. This new meter will begin to accumulate blue love as you land combos. Inputting the correct combo will then initiate an attack that does a great deal of damage and is a whole lot of fun to see (as long as you're not on the receiving end!). Finally, getting an ass-whooping isn't always so bad, as long as you know how to counter with an Ultra Combo. Ultra Combos can be launched by a player once a separate Revenge Gauge has filled. Ultra Combos are even more powerful than Super Combos and can turn the tide of a fight.
This may all sound like a lot to take in and it is, at first. Standard Special moves are the most difficult to master. Once you've spent a bit of time with your character of choice, executing the more advanced moves is like second nature. That's because more complex offensive moves are logical extensions of skills you've already mastered. Of course, Street Fighter has never been just about offense. Players can also get back to their feet or shake the cobwebs out of their heads by performing standard and stun recoveries by tapping down on the joystick or mashing buttons, respectively. Furthermore, players can stop attacks and even regain health while blocking by holding back on the stick or interrupting your own attack while in Focus. Needless to say, Street Fighter IV is full of attack options for true players to master and enjoy.