Ultra Street Fighter IV / 17th of August 2014
Street Fighter 4, for all of its flaws, was undoubtedly the game that was singularly responsible for returning the 2D fighter back to the forefront of gaming, its character balancing was undoubtedly a major sticking point, and with it, on the whole, it came as something of a let-down after the superb Street Fighter 3: Third Strike. With two additional iterations between that and this latest, and surely final version of the game, have the team at Capcom finally put things right?
There can be no doubt that Super Street Fighter 4 and its later Arcade Edition added gameplay tweaks of their own, the former also creating problems with unblock-able attacks that mirrored an aspect of Killer Instinct’s gameplay, except that this was surely not an intentional addition to the game. So many of Street Fighter’s gameplay tweaks seem to have come about accidentally, escaping unscathed through the testing process before eventually going on to define a particular entry into the series, and it is evidently a tradition that still seems to exist today.
Ultra Street Fighter 4 contains within it a whole range of gameplay tweaks, character balances and brand new systems that undoubtedly mark it out as being the very best iteration of the game, and that’s before taking into account its massive roster of playable characters, which I will return to later. The new Delayed Standing mechanic allows players to simply press two attack buttons as they are being knocked down to vastly decrease the speed at which they return to their feet at (approximately eleven frames). This should prove to be a viable way for the development team to counter the so-called “vortex” characters that were favoured so strongly in Super Street Fighter 4, though for how long, nobody knows. The devoted Street Fighter players are always learning and adapting to any gameplay changes that Capcom make, and they are surely already working on ways to circumnavigate this too.
The new Red Focus addition is much like Street Fighter 4's Focus Attack, though it requires three button presses instead of two, but, the main advantage of this particular addition is that it will absorb the damage of an enemy’s attack for the entire duration of the animation as opposed to simply negating one paltry hit, as the Focus Attack would do. Of course, like all of Capcom’s work, their systems are designed to be worked on, perfected by the game’s hard-core following. The beauty of this particular system is the way that it has been balanced out, given that it is entirely possible to use the Red Focus to cancel out an opponent’s Super Combo, it costs the player a massive chunk of their super meter, meaning that it needs to be used sparingly, and frittering it away could very well turn the tide of battle in the opponent’s favour. Of course, it also happens to fill up the Ultra meter at twice its normal rate, so it’s not all bad.
In addition, Ultra Street Fighter 4 also gives players the opportunity to select Ultra Combo Double, a new feature wherein characters can enter battle with both of their Ultra Combos selected, though this obvious advantage is offset by decreased damage output. These new features are further supplemented by some new online play modes, including an online training mode to prepare warriors for the challenges ahead. Supreme performances can also be shared via YouTube now too, and there have quite literally been hundreds of tweaks made across the entire roster of characters to ensure that Ultra Street Fighter 4 is the most balanced version of the game to date. But that, believe it or not, is not all.
There is a most impressive character roster of forty-four fan favourite warriors, including the full cast from Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition along with an additional five, these being Rolento, Hugo, Poison, Elena and Decapre. The selection of stages has also grown substantially with six new ones added too, all of which come across from Street Fighter X Tekken, including North America’s Mad Gear Hideout, Europe’s Blast Furnace and the Jurassic Era Research Facility. As if this wasn’t enough though, it also comes with every costume pack ever released, giving Ultra Street Fighter 4 a ludicrous amount of content in total, considering that it can be picked up brand new for only £19.99 on disc, or just £11.99 for owners of Arcade Edition via a digital upgrade, this alone surely makes it an essential purchase.
I’m not going to kid anyone into thinking that I am some kind of Street Fighter master, for me, the glory days of the genre-and indeed the Street Fighter series-reside back in the late nineties on Sega’s magnificent Saturn console, but in all honesty, this might very well be the entry into the series that successfully reminds of those times, it’s classic gaming reimagined for the modern age. With its ultra-low price point, a ton of new features and a phenomenal amount of content, I simply cannot recommend it enough. Ultra Street Fighter 4 achieves that one coveted thing that we all desperately seek, it is a gaming experience that reminds us of a time that we oft refer to as the golden age of gaming, a time when games brought only joy into our lives, and surely that alone is reason enough to buy this.