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 you’ve grown up. What’s 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.
Fans will be happy to know that Street Fighter IV (SFIV) brings back all of your favorite characters and the controls with which you’ve grown up. What’s 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.
However, don’t expect to be able to pull off ridiculous moves with all the characters, as every character’s move set is unique in true Street Fighter style. In fact, many of the fighters are very difficult to use effectively. Naturally, playing as Ryu, Ken, Sagat, Dhalsim, Chun Li, and E. Honda are a breeze; with about 15 minutes in the Training Mode, all of their moves can be mastered.
Conversely, fighting with the likes of M. Bison, Vega, and some of the unlockable characters can be quite challenging. Indeed, look for online players to constantly select Ken and Ryu without ever getting too adventurous for fear of getting their butts handed to them. Unfortunately, this may be the biggest complaint I have for SFIV. Players will likely master just a few of the characters due to the steep learning curve – never branching out or exploring the breadth of the cast. Indeed, novice gamers will never be able to effectively initiate most of the more challenging moves from the host of available characters.
Then again, you can’t fault the devs for players’ decisions to stay in their comfort zones. After all, they do provide for an excellent tutorial via the Challenge Mode. As previously discussed, the Challenge Mode provides players with objectives such as Time Attack and Survival, which have you clearing all stages within the time limit or defeating successive CPU-controlled opponents with a limited amount of health. However, Trial is where gamers can really learn the ins and outs of each character. These challenges will have you initiating simple and advanced combos in order to clear them. This does a remarkable job of familiarizing you with all of the available fighters, and it will get you to understand complex combo progressions and combo feints. Completing Trial in Challenge Mode is a must for anyone who wants to truly master SFIV.
SFIV sports a nice variety of modes both on and offline. Locally, players can choose from the standard Arcade Mode, which has you following the story of your chosen brawler via mini-anime cutscenes and fighting for glory against wave after wave of challengers. The VS Mode simply pits players in customizable bouts against the CPU or a second player. The Challenge Mode tests players’ skills by setting time limits, health limits, etc. Advancing through these local modes unlocks a variety of concept art, movies, taunts, and character colors.
Players can also head online to test their fighting mettle. You can be matched to other players via Ranked or Player matches. There is also leaderboard support. Beating players online will net you Battle Points (BP) and Medals. Accumulating these two coveted bits are important for working your way up the SFIV standings and unlocking titles and icons for your online persona. The online play is remarkably well implemented. We experienced nearly no lag during play testing, and getting matched to players was an absolute breeze. SFIV also allows players to turn on or off an Arcade Fight Request feature, letting you accept Ranked and Player match requests from out of the blue. We really enjoyed how players could challenge us to a network battle even while we were playing through the offline Arcade Mode. It felt like we were truly connected to a broader community that’s game at any time!
Simply put, Street Fighter IV is everything gamers had hoped for. The extensive character list, tried-and-true mechanics, gorgeous graphics, and quality play modes (including online battles) have updated this franchise in such a way that it feels both fresh and familiar. If you own a PS3 or Xbox 360, you simply have to go out and pick up Street Fighter IV – it will be remembered as one of the marquis fighting experiences of this generation of gaming.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.6 Graphics
The sharp, hand drawn characters and beautiful HD backgrounds are a real treat. Nostalgic gamers may tell you otherwise. 4.0 Control
The controls are very tight. However, novice gamers will struggle with complex moves, and the console controllers aren’t ideal for this arcade classic. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The character taunts and catch phrases are all accounted for! 4.7 Play Value
There is so much depth to this game it’s almost obscene! You’ll likely be playing this title for years to come. 4.7 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.