For better or worse, people generally like things they’re familiar with. If you take a beloved formula and change things up too much, you risk alienating your fan base. If you do too little to the same formula, you’re just making more of the same. Luckily, Street Fighter 4 is a gleaming example of an old favorite, revitalized and expanded upon, without sacrificing anything that made the original a renowned classic.
Street Fighter 2 carved out a spot as the king of fighting games for over two decades. The sheer caliber of widespread familiarity with almost every aspect of the game can be matched by few, only trumped by the most popular Mario titles. While Capcom has arguably dropped the ball when it came to the series’ sequels, Street Fighter 4 is their best attempt at capturing the magic, and in turn the audience, that made Street Fighter 2 the gargantuan phenomenon that it was.
All 12 fighters from the original Street Fighter 2 are present and accounted for in Street Fighter 4 in addition to some other fan favorites from other Street Fighter games. Every fighter plays and feels similarly to their SF2 incarnations on an almost move-by-move basis. If you were an expert with any character in SF2, for all intents and purposes, you’re still an expert with that character at a base level. Zangief’s throws are still results of 360 rotations, and sonic booms are still products of a charge back and a quick jab forward. Thrown into the mix are a few new faces. El Fuerte, the lucha-libre chef and Abel, the amnesiatic grappler, and Crimson Viper, the tech’d up secret agent are among the newest fighters. These new entrants are equipped with new types of moves that aren’t like anything we’ve seen in SF2, but aren’t such a departure that they don’t fit in with the hadoukens or shoryukens.
The biggest addition to the fighter’s repretoire is the focus attack, done by pressing the middle punch and kicks simultaneously. The base level application for the focus attacks is that it’s both a parry and an unblockable attack at the same time. The focus attack can also be used to cancel some moves into others, among other things, some currently undiscovered. Also new to the SF series is the Revenge meter. This meter fills as you take damage and once it builds past the half way point, your character is able to perform an ultra combo, which is a super-stylized version of the super-combo that does increased damage. The progress of the revenge meter doesn’t transfer from round to round like the regular super combo meter does, which serves to balance the matches more evenly.
For a good while after you start the game the new characters will seem like the group of kids that just transferred in from a different school. You can’t help but be a bit hesitant to welcome them into what you felt was already a comfortable environment. With time, they become as familiar as the rest of the old friends on the roster, in both aesthetics and gameplay. This is mostly due to Capcom not overproducing new characters for the game. They created a small group, and they made each new addition count. The story of each of the character’s is presented with cut scenes at the bookends of the various fighter’s story modes. For the most part, these scenes are completely throwaway as there isn’t any significant story being presented and the animation is completely flat and uninspired compared to the rest of the game’s aesthetic.
Much like World of Warcraft, Street Fighter 4 relies more on great art direction than graphical power. This helps to keep the look of the game timeless. Similar to how Street Fighter 2 kept its legs long, Street Fighter 4’s approach is to make everything really stylish, instead of realistic. The game is entirely 3D, played on a 2D plane. The backgrounds are lively and active, and the characters in the backdrops look and behave as if a fight is actually going on in front of them. While the aesthetics are gorgeous, the same cannot be said about the music. SF2 is famous for its soundtrack, with almost every song in the game being a videogame classic. SF4 is the exact opposite, the only memorable tune is the intro theme, “Indestructable”. This song is used and reused with about 5 different versions in 5 different scenarios ranging from stages to the character select screen. Any other music in the game is entirely forgettable, that’s not to say the music is bad, it just isn’t the fanfare we’re used to from SF2.
As far as game modes, Street Fighter 4 has the standard boilerplate set of options. There’s local versus against human and CPU opponents, survival, and time attack. The online aspect of the game is where players will spend the majority of their time. In my time with the game, I have seen little to no lag, although I have seen a vast overabundance of players choosing Ken. There game doesn’t allow blind picks, but for the most part, you can anticipate fighting a Ken at least 70 percent of the time. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t provide any fancy inclusions in the online component, you can only choose from ranked and unranked one versus one match-ups. There aren’t any quarter matches, tournaments or lobbies although Capcom has promised some of that stuff in Downloadable Content.
Street Fighter 4 is the new king of fighting games, it’s the successor to the greatest fighting game in history, and it does just enough new to keep it feeling like the classic, without seeming like a retread. If you have any interest in fighting games, or you’ve dedicated any amount of your younger years to a Street Fighter coin-op machine, you owe it to yourself to pick up Street Fighter 4. Just keep in mind, you must defeat Shen Long to stand a chance.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
Sharp, Unique art design ensures aesthetic longetivity.
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Plays every bit like the classic, without feeling old or antiquated.
Good voice acting mixed with mediocre music. Beware "Indestructable"
This is going to be THE go-to fighter for a long, long...long while.
Amazing core gameplay is slightly hampered by a few miniscule restrictions