“Hadouken!” “Shoryuken!””Kikoken!” These terms, besides sounding eerily similar, are ingrained in the memories of many gamers thanks to Street Fighter II. Hell, it is, perhaps, the most famous, and popular, vs fighter ever made. Back in 1990, Capcom released the sequel to a minor hit, totally revamping the series by making it a two player vs fighter that would, for years, eat up quarters at the local arcades.
Now the days of arcades are gone and home consoles rule. And while Street Fighter has had numerous iterations over the years, from the really underrated Street Fighter III to the pretty awesome Alpha series, many have clamored for a true to form Street Fighter game, one that takes the formula in two, and adds a nice facelift for the hardcore crowd.
Enter Street Fighter IV. Not only is it that true to form version that ardent fans have been waiting for, the minor improvements overall have made it a household name once again, and prove that old school gameplay is still relevant today.
The premise is simple enough for a fighting game; you control one of the characters and go through a series of fights in Arcade and trial modes, as well as online battles. The game is, in terms of game modes, somewhat thin. Fortunately, the gameplay mechanics make up for this, two-fold. Returning to the roots of Street Fighter II, the original twelve brawlers from the game return. Classic favorites like Ryu and Chun-Li, to the loveable oddballs like Blanka and Dhalsim, are back again with their moves pretty much intact. It is a breath of fresh air to see the most famous cast in vs. Fighter history in a game again, especially after many of them were dropped in Street Fighter 3, or took a while to get into the Alpha Series.
New to the game are four different brawlers for the franchise. The French grappler Abel, the chef wannabe luchador El Fuerte, the secret agent Crimson Viper, and the Sci-Fi loving Rufus all join the cast and do bring some new moves to the table here. The sad part is, though, the characters pale in comparison to the established fighters in the game. El Fuerte is too technical to use for most average gamers, Crimson Viper is way too weak, her hitting power is terrible, and Abel has to be close to be effective, which is usually an Achilles heel in fighting games. Ironically, the best of the bunch is Rufus, who is perhaps the most annoying of the four characters, both based on his voice actor, his appearance (yes, I’m kind of fat) and his attitude.
Also new to the games are the ultra combo moves and focus attacks. The ultra combo moves are special attacks that can turn the tide in the battle to your favor. They work somewhat similar to the super moves of Street Fighter III, but the kicker is that these ultra combo moves are filled by being hit. Essentially, they can exact revenge on a spamming opponent if you time it just right, which adds some power to each of the characters at the right moment. Focus attacks are a slow, but damaging special move that can momentarily stop any attack on your own character, recover some lost damage if hit, knock down your opponent, and be a good executor for quick combo moves, adding a whole degree of gameplay for the hardcore crowd.
Despite these new fighting mechanics, the core gameplay is the same, really. Pick a character, a color, a taunt, and a level, and you duke it out until one is standing. The challenge modes include time, survival, and trial modes that add some minor depth to the game, but it’s nothing to write home about. The online multiplayer is also a major plus, with a more sophisticated ranking system based on your skill level rather than a win/loss record. The problem is finding a match, which, like Soul Calibur IV, is hard to do most of the time. The load times plague the multi-player too much, frankly, which is something that needs to be addressed.
Graphically the game is beautiful, with 3-D sprites done right for once. The textures are semi-cartoony, but the cel-shaded style fits them beautifully, with flowing movements that rival their 2-D brethren. The environments are somewhat forgettable, and despite being fully rendered in 3-D, pale in comparison to those in the foreground brawling it out.
Those 3-D rendered graphics are a lot better than the in game cut scenes that grace the bookends of each characters arcade mode. While it is decent anime in action, the cut-scenes, frankly, just suck completely thanks to really bad voice actors. Street Fighter IV has to have some the most atrocious voice acting I have ever heard in a long time. I was thankful that I could switch it to Japanese so I didn’t have to hear it.
Another sound bit that is weak is the games music. The jazzy, techno tracks that grace the backgrounds of the stages are really forgettable, especially when compared to the cool sounds of Street Fighter II and III, which have some memorable tracks in their ranks, like Guile’s, Ken’s, Hugo’s and Yun and Yang’s themes. Here, the only noteworthy stage I can think of is the African Airfield, and that is barely worth listening to. The opening song, Indestructible, is decent though, as far as openings go. A lot better than the DK rap, that’s for sure.
So there really is not a lot in here to discuss. It’s Street Fighter, which has relatively remained unchanged for years. The transition to make it a 3-D game on a 2-D plain works really well for a game as old as this. The minor tweaks make all the difference, and despite being light on modes of play, and no doubt a lot of unreleased content, from modes of play to characters that can be added to the roster, Street Fighter IV proves how it is one of the best vs games out there by sheer balance and pure arcade fun of its own design, something that veterans and newbie’s alike will enjoy.
Final Score- B