announced at EVO '13, Ultra Street Fighter IV is the successor to
SSF4: Arcade Edition (Ver. 2012), and is quite possibly the final version of Street
Fighter IV (one can hope). It's been 2 years since the release of SSF4:
Arcade Edition, and nearly an exact 5 years since vanilla Street Fighter IV
first dropped in Japanese arcades.
Not many fighting games have lived
to see 5 years of continued updates and never-ending community support. While
it's natural for non-SF4 enthusiasts to scoff at
yet another iteration of SF4, one can't fault Capcom in their latest effort to lengthen
the lifespan of the reigning, undisputed, most popular fighting game of this
era. Considering SF4's undeniable popularity among the hardcore tournament
crowd, a "definitive" update is to be expected and certainly welcome among diehard players... but is
Ultra "enough" to bring back the casual SF4 player?
...the on & off SF4
player? ...or perhaps, the "old school" Street Fighter player?
SF4's full character selection screen... including the Cammy clone,
To cover the basics of this
update, Ultra features 5 new characters. Elena, Hugo, Poison & Rolento
make the jump from Street Fighter X Tekken, and the mysterious, masked Shadaloo
Doll named Decapre finally transitions from a support character in 1998's Street
Fighter Alpha 3 to a playable character in Ultra SF4. Even though Decapre is literally a clone of Cammy, her
"charge style" moveset and unique attacks make her a fairly interesting
new addition. The returning veterans from SFXT aren't total rehashes at
least and show off some new moves & animations, including all new Ultras. Many
of their new Ultras & Supers are also taken from earlier titles, which is
naturally a cool fan service for old school
players. To be more specific:
Rolento's Mine Sweeper & Take No Prisoners (from SFA series), Hugo's
Hammer Mountain & Megaton Press (from SFIII series), Poison's Thunder
Whip & Poison Kiss (from Final Fight Revenge), and finally, Elena's
Spinning Beat & Healing (from SFIII series).
Ultra SF4 alsothrows 6 new stages into the mix, all of which are
"recycled" from Street
Fighter X Tekken.
While those weird & random SFXT stages
received some minor visual tweaks, none of the returning SF4
stages were retouched or remixed, at all... and that's sad. (Sorry for being a 90's Capcom fan).
the classic stage BGMs haven't been updated in the last 5 years either. And as a
fan since I was standing on a crate to reach the controls of the Street
Fighter (1) arcade cabinet, I find that disappointing also. It's understandable that Capcom focuses primarily on
game balance these days, but seeing the "artistic direction" of Street Fighter IV not evolve
whatsoever is a shame. *In best Gordon Ramsay accent* ... "What-a-shaiime.
It's BLAND." Call
it nitpicking maybe, but any long-time fan can remember
the "effect" that new (or remixed) stages & BGMs had in the SF2,
SFA and SFIII series (not to mention many other games). C'mon,
something as simple as changing the sky color, the weather, or mixing up other
background elements can go a long way towards making a game look fresh. Because
right now in Ultra SF4, two original SF4 characters fighting on
any of the original stages still looks exactly the same as 2009. In fact, I
don't think there's a single fighting game in history that went visually
unchanged for this long from sequel to sequel.
Continuing on, Ultra SF4
presents some new universal gameplay mechanics, such as: Ultra Combo Double
(enabling players to fight
with both of their characters' Ultras in a match, in exchange for doing less
Focus Attack (enabling fighters to absorb multiple attacks at once by
sacrificing some of their meter), and Delayed Wake-up (allowing characters to delay
standing up after being knocked down). In a nutshell, the new mechanics do
manage to freshen up the 5-year-old, tried-and-true engine. Red Focus costs quite a bit of meter, so it
is risky, but it can also be very rewarding with proper timing and
score you a fancy counterattack or finish. The Ultra Combo Double is another great addition,
offering a few more options during gameplay (which is something I've wanted to see in
past iterations of SF4).
Also new in Ultra is the "Edition Select" option.
Similar to Hyper Street Fighter II:
Anniversary Edition, Edition Select allows players to select any and all previous versions of
characters from the SF4 series, complete with their original balance
(offline only). This is certainly a fun
option for hardcore players who have followed SF4's competitive scene
since the beginning. Other new options include: Button
configurations on the character selection screen, Training Mode Fight Request
(allowing players to freely
practice in between online battles) and Offline Battle Log (which automatically archives offline matches
for easily accessible replays). An "Upload to Youtube" Feature was also added
for players who don't own a capture device and want to share their replays
backbreaker is still cool... but it looked way better in 2D.
As you may know, Ultra SF4 introduces a ton of character
balance changes based on community feedback over the years.
While I understand
the point and (sometimes) need for balance patches, I can't say I'm sold on
"hitting the reset button" and changing a game this many times. There are
plenty... and I mean plenty... of classic fighting
games that weren't altered a fifth as much as SF4. Unbalanced as
some of those games may be, they are still loved today and have been played competitively for many years... decades in some cases.
Of course the better half of balance changes can add years to the competitive lifespan of a game, but while buffs
& nerfs will cater to some, other players will likely end up annoyed or
discouraged. It certainly
takes quite a bit of study and commitment to somewhat "re-learn" a
game, and if you're like me... you've already got too many other games to
play. Re-learning my SF4 mains and all the new match-ups just isn't on my itinerary.
the flipside of all this, the new formula of adding "chess pieces" to
the game and making "new
rules" for existing ones is mostly accepted and appreciated among
players. I'm just making the simple point that many games of the
past were balanced when they were released the FIRST time, and never needed to
change once... Just sayin'.
Ohhh Capcom... I've supported Street Fighter for the last
25 years. I bought SF4
three times already, even though I was never a serious SF4 player (and
bought SFXT as well), and you still want more of my money?
I suppose $15 is
reasonable for an update of this size, but I was hoping for more
"heart" out of the final iteration of SF4. No one can deny that
"Ultra SF4" could've
been more Ultra. Remember the Super update that added 10 new
characters? And lest
we forget that some "minor" fighting game sequels in the past also
featured improved animation
quality, new victory animations & win poses (for all characters), an entirely new
set of character artwork, a brand new soundtrack, and the list goes on. Ohh
yeah... and NEW STAGES. (I think I mentioned that earlier in the review).
Of course, all the "ultra hardcore SF4 tournament FGC bros" would be fine fighting
on the SF4 Training Stage for the rest of
their lives... but... some of us have higher standards. Yes, believe it
or not... some of us actually care about other things besides "who
got buffed" and "who got nerfed."
are still effective in Ultra SF4. Imagine that.
I hope I don't sound too much like a "Namco fanboy"
when I say this, but... just sayin'.... Namco's FREE-to-play fighting
game, Tekken Revolution, has an entirely new soundtrack (and it's good), new
facial rendering for female characters, a new graphics filter (improved graphics over TTT2),
new projectile effects (and premium effects), and visually altered stages (as slight as they are, it counts). So, I wouldn't
say I'm "wearing nostalgia glasses"
when I reflect on past Street Fighter installments, because other
fighting game developers are clearly capable of caring about other things besides balance changes.
And that stuff matters, because this is a fighting game review. Not mentioning what Ultra SF4
from an aesthetic and artistic perspective would be an
injustice to all of the other fighting games of the past that did care enough to add those extra
details in addition to implementing balance changes and new characters.
Recycled SFXT stages & characters and a few new BGMS only go so far.
There should be more... more of something.
Even though it would've been nice to see additional (and actually new) fan-favorite Street Fighter characters make the cut to Ultra...
the 5 new additions to the roster are definitely good ones. I happen to be a
huge Final Fight fan (ever since 1987), so seeing classics like Hugo,
Poison & Rolento in the SF4 engine is nonetheless awesome. On the
other hand, while I've always loved how Elena looks in the SF3 series, her transition to 3D didn't go quite as
smoothly.... Elena is yet another SF3 character that looked and animated much
better in SF3.
It's difficult for me to accept any kind of downgrade after enjoying 3rd Strike
for so many years - another reason why I'm still not keen on the SF4 animation
style or art style. What worked fairly well as "new" back in 2009-2010 is starting to
look dated, in my eyes.
is the result of today's social technology and Capcom's innovative connection with
SF4 players... an update created for the players, by the players if you
No, you don't need to be an expert to enjoy Ultra SF4, but if you plan on
actually being competitive online or elsewhere, you better know your stuff or you'll be picked apart
by the players that have lived and breathed this game over the past few years.
On that note, Ultra SF4 is not a game I would call "casual friendly" (unlike
some mainstream reviewers out there).
While there are hundreds of balance changes that could be named,
the immediately noticeable changes of the game can be counted on one or two hands.
We all know Ultra will be a hit among most hardcore tournament players... but there's
always the other side of the coin. The players that don't watch every SF4
tournament final and aren't 125% behind any and all minor updates to a 5
year old game. No, you won't hear those voices as loudly as the voices that want to talk frame
counts, match-ups and strats... but they're out there.
I respect SF4 for turning the mainstream back in the direction of
fighting games in the late 2000's... but in all honesty, I've been done with Street
Fighter IV for a while. Ultra isn't going to bring me back to playing
but nonetheless I'm glad it exists. Maybe if I didn't have a zillion other games to play right now, I might
have the motivation to invest more
time in UltraSF4... but I don't aspire to join any
300-man SF4 tournaments anytime soon (even though my local scene is
thriving), and quite frankly, I find other fighting
games more fun to play online... so what's left? Ultra SF4 just wasn't
made for me, I guess....
I've been playing Street
Fighter since Street Fighter (1) was a shiny arcade cabinet in a
musty, dark arcade. I never took a break from the series either. Not once. I own
practically every iteration of Street Fighter, but... to be perfectly honest, I was never "in love" with Street Fighter IV.
Where to start? ... Wonky animations that looked better in 2D, terrible
English voices (Rolento anyone?), silly and nonsensical ending movies, goofy
costumes, ridiculous-looking & repetitive super moves (with lots and lots of spinning, and
then more spinning),
no free hit after K.O. anymore, and a wee-bit too many shoto-clones maybe? I'm
not much a fan of
the SF4 soundtrack either. Of course there are some exceptions in all of
the categories I just mentioned... but these are things that go under the
mainstream radar, and I know other fans out there share my opinions. That's why
they're in this review.
The FGC has plenty of community leaders to hype up Ultra SF4 till no end. The
game will draw huge tournament crowds for years to come (until the next game). For any player who has remained dedicated
to SF4 over the past 4-5
years, I RESPECT THAT. And if you love Ultra SF4... you deserve it, and
I'm happy for you. I had my fun with SF4 in the past, but I've moved on. I'm
tired of the recycled engine, and I think it's about time for the Street
Fighter series to be taken to the next level, and taken seriously again
(from an artistic point of view). I'm ready to
see what's next from Capcom... So I say bring on Street
Fighter 5, Darkstalkers 4, or grant my wildest dreams and let's see Capcom VS SNK 3.
In closing, Ultra SF4 is
still a very solid game in every aspect. It's gotta be one of the most balanced fighting
games out there at this point (we'll find out in the coming months). One thing's
for sure, Street Fighter IV had a great run and it obviously
still has plenty of fight left with Ultra. But
once Ultra's newness wears off... it's still SF4 at the end of the day. And it's up
to you whether that's a good thing or bad thing.