Street Fighter IV
Is this just a lame SFII sequel or the king of fighters? And do we like it more than Virtua Fighter?
By Adam Doree
Over 22 years, the Street Fighter series has gone from fighting game oddity (the original Street Fighter) to explosive 90's success story (Street Fighter II), to a series that we think started to lose its direction a little with countless spin-offs and sub-series. It wasn't that this era produced bad Street Fighter games. It's just that the Alpha and VS subseries, as well as the Street Fighter III series, while still outstanding beat-'em-ups, lost a little of the magic introduced in Street Fighter II.
Was it the evolving art style? Was it the various, increasingly complex - perhaps convoluted - fighting systems and styles of play? Or was it simply the fact that the classic character roster that we grew up with since SFII, was largely thrown by the wayside in most of these games? Perhaps Capcom was doing the right thing to explore new directions for the franchise, but we wanted a full-power sequel that revives the feel-good factor - the definitive, modern day Street Fighter. We didn't even know what that was, until Capcom went and made Street Fighter IV.
Street Fighter IV is the only fighting game that can really challenge the popularity of Virtua Fighter 5 here at Kikizo. It has enough 'wow factor' to win new players and boasts all of the good stuff that seasoned and veteran players are after. We've got a major boner for its art style, and the stunning, expanded character roster is pretty much the most blatant example of high fan service ever seen in a home fighter.
Being absolutely in love with this game since we first played it early last year is down to two key things. Firstly, the 2D gameplay is at once recognizable as Street Fighter, and instantly familiar to play. Yet there are enough new additions, refinements, features and depth, drawing upon the best elements from Street Fighter's rich history.
And secondly, it's a visual masterpiece thanks to a delicious, vibrant art style, and its technically innovative 3D engine, which provides a real AV punch. It's a groundbreaking visual presentation, with gorgeous character designs and stunningly detailed, highly animated background stages that reveal a surprising level of depth once the camera starts to move around, all soaked in lovely effects, and running at 60fps.
One of the things I like about Street Fighter's exhilarating, dynamic gameplay is that it encourages you to check out the full character roster, whereas in other fighters I tend to stick to just one or two characters. In Street Fighter the ground rules and similar controls sets of either 'motion' or 'charge'-based characters mean that every fighter is someone you'll be able to get to grips with right away, and yet everyone has their own unique touches and qualities that will take practise and effort to master.
And one winning factor of the home version is the expanded character line-up. It was already worth going into fits over Capcom's choice of characters in the arcade version, which was pretty much exactly what we wanted - that is to say, the entire original SFII Turbo cast, plus four all-new characters, funky new boss dude Seth, plus Akuma and the debut of the legendary Gouken (Ryu and Ken's sensei and Capcom's long-requested iteration of Sheng Long).
But proving that they really do care what fans want, and going above and beyond the call of duty, Capcom hits the ball out of the park with a further six, unlockable characters to the home version - the welcome return of Super SFII stars Cammy and Fei Long, Alpha's Sakura, Rose and Dan, and Gen, who debuted in the very first Street Fighter. And of course, the home version also lets you (eventually - and only if you're good enough) unlock Akuma, Gouken and Seth as playable characters. The extra characters are no secret now, though - their voice actors are even listed in the end credits after you complete it with anyone for the first time.
This is a multiple-orgasm of fighting game character line-ups, like never seen before. It would be offensive to bicker about who else you may (or may not) want to have seen added as console-exclusive characters. We're pretty certain that there are no additional super-secret fighters that ship on the disc (if you put a copy of the review code into a PC Blu-ray drive, you can see the data for every known character), but there's nothing to stop Capcom adding future characters as downloadable content (after all, there are nearly 100 characters in total from the entire series' history), however, the first (free!) DLC for SFIV has already been announced, and basically consists of alternate costumes as seen in the arcade game.