Ultra Street Fighter IV (Xbox 360) Review
One of the best fighting games in recent years gets even better, but is it worth the upgrade?
Capcom has, in pretty much the entirety of its history (especially with fighting games), been more than a little update-happy. Even in the early days of the Street Fighter franchise, we got a whole bunch of variations on the Street Fighter II theme, culminating in Super SFII. After that of course, Capcom released Street Fighter III, which sort of fell flat, and then nothing till 2010′s birth of Street Fighter IV.
Set in between SFII and III, Street Fighter IV sets the world warriors against S.I.N., the evil weapons-arm of M Bison’s Shadaloo organization. As usual, there isn’t much of a story though, and what there is is told in a pair of cut-scenes and a few lines through post-fight commentary by the fighters. As fighting games go, this isn’t in-depth by any means and won’t tell the same level of tale that a Mortal Kombat (the reboot) will.
But that’s honestly just fine as Street Fighter is old school in that way, and it works well for the game. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t mind seeing something more in the next real installment of the franchise, but it kind of is what it is. And for what it does, Street Fighter IV is among the very best, maybe the best, of the modern crop.
Ultra doesn’t really mess around too much in the way of mechanics, but does make a few notable additions. For starters, you’re now able to select any SFIV version of any character. So, if you want to play as the Super Street Fighter IV version of Ryu, you can. If you want to play as the straight-up vanilla Street Fighter IV version of Ken, you’ve got it. This is a seemingly small change, but one that arena tacticians should eat right up as it opens up all kinds of options for balance and getting an advantage over an opponent- even one who’s playing as the same character as they might be playing as a differently balanced version. As a somewhat passive fighting game player, it didn’t make all that much of a difference to me, but it definitely will for the hardcore.
Also new in Ultra is the ability to load up two Ultra Combos at the same time and use them in battle. They lose a little of their edge, but having double the chance to deal big time hurt is a pretty good tradeoff for only one shot at massive damage. There are more little teaks here and there, all of which go to balance this almost perfect roster of characters and fighting game engine even more.
And speaking of the roster, USFIV adds in a quartet of ‘new’ characters to play as. Rolento, Hugo, Poison, Elena, and Decapre all join the fight right form the beginning, no annoying unlocks needed. The first four characters were actually lifted (with even more tweaks to their move sets) from Street Fighter x Tekken, but Decapre is all-new and fits right in with Bison’s all-girl hit-squad. The five newbies also bring the complete selectable character choices up to a monster 44 and, especially when you’ve got characters that are almost all radically different than one another, that’s impressive.
Graphically, you won’t notice a difference between this and say, the base Street Fighter IV title, outside of a few new outfits for your favorite fighter (of which you’ll get even more with a SFxT save on your hard drive). That’s not really a bad thing though as this game has seriously held up.
The look is an *almost* cell-shaded one that quite honestly still looks incredible and lends itself very well to the type of fighter that SFIV is. Characters are big and well-detailed, with cool little touches here and there- which you really expect to see in a Capcom fighter, but is appreciated nonetheless.
The music is great here too with familiar tunes form the Street Fighter catalog getting interesting updates and new riffs. Complimenting that is the above average voice work. The voices are all pretty great with not too many aggravating or grating ones in the mix, and the little comments that they shout out while in battle with their rivals (each fighter has a rival character they must fight in the Arcade Mode) are terrific- even more so with classic duels like Ryu and Ken.
Modes of play are what you might expect here with Arcade (or ‘story’), versus, online fighting, training, and more. There’s also a YouTube upload feature, which is pretty neat. That’s about it as far as new features go though, and the rest of the game is the same one that you played in Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition… and Super Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter IV as well.
Maybe that’s the one major knock against this game too, it’s starting to get to be about time to talk Street Fighter V and not yet another rendition of SFIV. Well, that and that the lack of a real ‘story mode’ is starting to become an issue… for me anyway.
Whether Street Fighter IV is worth another go-around for you is entirely up to your own personal tastes. Though I’ve covered many of the new additions and already existing conventions of the game here, you should know that if you’ve played SFIV in any incarnation, you’ve pretty much played this already, give or take some characters and new mechanics. Unless of course, you’re a devotee of the genre.
If you are, then you’ll definitely notice the balancing that Capcom has done here, because they’ve really put a lot into making Street Fighter IV play even better than it already did. That’s really saying something too, as this is (in my opinion) far and away the best playing fighting game on the shelves.