(Edit: “Final” was changed to “Latest”. Why? Well as the Otaku Judge pointed out in the comments, it isn’t a guarantee that this is the last version of SFIV. It was an oversight on my part, and I’m sorry. So it’s been corrected.)
The latest revision to Capcom’s flagship fighter hit consoles earlier this year. It recently landed on Steam. So is Ultra Street Fighter IV a worthy upgrade? It depends.
PROS: Additions to the fighting system. More refinements.
CONS: Most of the new content is recycled from Street Fighter X Tekken.
DEVO: Apparently Hugo is a spudboy.
It’s hard to believe, but Street Fighter IV is already almost six years old. It came out back near the end of 2008 on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Windows. It was a smash hit receiving critical acclaim. Older fans loved it because it brought back the feel of Street Fighter II. Newer fans liked it for taking chances with newer characters with new play styles. It even officially brought in Gouken. Ryu, and Ken’s master. Before SFIV, he was little more than an April Fool’s joke by the editors of Electronic Gaming Monthly.
Street Fighter IV was then followed up with Super Street Fighter IV which added a lot of beloved characters from Street Fighter III, and Street Fighter Alpha. This updated version wasn’t released on Windows, but it did start the trend of expansion packs in Street Fighter. Previous buyers could buy the added content at a much lower price than repurchasing an entire game.
Super Street Fighter IV was followed up with Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition. This release did come out on Windows in addition to the console versions. SSFIVAE once again took community feedback to heart. By rebalancing the characters’ attacks, defensive moves, and frame data. On top of that, it gave fans Evil Ryu, Oni, Yun, and Yang.
So now we come to Ultra Street Fighter IV. This is supposed to be the final version of the game. Street Fighter games have always seemed to follow this trend of updated versions. Most notably Street Fighter II, which is probably the most popular fighting game ever made. SFII gave us SFII Championship Edition (which made bosses playable), SFII Turbo (Gave us faster gameplay, refined characters with buffs, and nerfs), and Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers (added Cammy, Dee Jay, Feilong, and T. Hawk). Then it all culminated with Super Street Fighter II Turbo. A game that did some more balancing, and added the desperation super combos we love to the series.
Ultra Street Fighter IV feels a lot like Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Not in the game play. This is still decidedly Street Fighter IV. But in terms of the new content it is pretty light. USFIV is not a bad game by any stretch. The refinements to the characters are definitely thought out well. If you’ve played all of the various versions of SFIV before hand you will notice some combos have different timings. Or changes to the amount of damage a lot of moves do. The really in-depth players who enter tournaments will definitely be happy with these changes, as most of them do make all of the characters a little bit more viable.
Lapsed players, or folks who only pop it in when their buddies come over may not notice the under the hood stuff. For them, the newer additions, and content are going to be more interesting. On the plus side, There has been a new type of Focus Attack added in, as well as a new Ultra Combo finisher option. The Focus Attack addition is actually quite nice. In order to use it you must have at least two of the combo meter segments full. It allows you to absorb much more damage during an attack. It also fills the revenge meter for your Ultra Combos faster. It adds a little bit more strategy in doing so.
You’ll be debating whether you should hang on to your combo meter for an Ultra combo, or use some of it on an EX attack, or if you should use the enhanced Focus Attack. Players can also use the enhanced Focus Attack as a cancel. During an EX attack, players can use the enhanced Focus Attack to cancel the move. It can also be used to delay the wakeup time when getting up from being knocked down. The newest Ultra Combos (marked with a “W”) are an option that allow you to use either one of your standard Ultra Combos. This is handy in the sense that you may find your opponent can easily get around your favorite one. So you can surprise them by using the second one instead. Or vice versa. The drawback is that this option does less damage than sticking with one of the two Ultra Combos.
Other new features were added as well. One of them being an online training mode. This is actually a really cool feature, as you can have higher level players teach you things, rather than fighting an NPC aimlessly. Or having the game bark inputs at you, and then giving a pass or fail. In the past, if you wanted to learn online it meant rematch after rematch as there was either a time limit, or a life bar running out.
Online fighting retains everything from SSFIVAE. You can still save replays. In fact, you can now upload your matches to your YouTube account. You can still opt for a quick match, or a ranked match. Ranked matches again involve Battle Points. Depending on who you defeat or lose to, you will win or lose Battle Points. Wins will also go a long way to updating your report card. Going against other people online you will run into D’s C’s,B’s, and A’s. you can choose to fight people in your report card rank, or people with a higher rank. Beating someone with a higher rank will certainly help you more than beating someone with the same or lower rank.
Net code has been refined as well. Overall things seem smoother, and matches usually go swimmingly. Though on the PC version there are still the occasional lag filled matches. Even when the indicator reports a solid connection. This may be due to the recent change over from Microsoft’s Games For Windows client to Valve’s Steam Client. It doesn’t happen enough to make the game unplayable, but it can be annoying when it gets in a funk. During these times, you may attempt to get into a match 3 or 4 times before it finally decides to let you connect.
One thing players of the Windows version will appreciate is that Capcom’s benchmarking utility is still included, along with many options. The PC settings allow for resolution changes, lighting effects, rendering effects, and added texture effects for the characters once again. The game also still supports keyboards, game pads, and arcade sticks. So there are options for everyone. For offline multiplayer, you can now choose versions of each character. So if you want to pit the super Sagat from the original SFIV against the current Ryu, you can. This feature has been used in previous Street Fighter Collections, and so now it shows its head here.
The rest of the content is pretty thin though. The new characters, and backgrounds have almost all been regurgitated from Street Fighter X Tekken. And while playing with some of these characters is welcome, none of them will feel new. Almost every die-hard Street Fighter fan has at least tried SFxT. They’ve seen the Jurassic Park knock off stage. They’ve seen the Cosmic Elevator. They’ve played as Elena, Hugo, Poison, and Rolento. All of the move sets from these characters are pretty much the same. But they have been readjusted for the different speed of SFIV. The only stand out character of the new additions is Decapre. Decapre is still a little bit disappointing though as she is a re-skinned model of Cammy. To be fair, none of her moves are shared with Cammy, and instead of quarter circle style special moves, she has charge attack style special moves.
In the end, buying this is going to come down to how deep into Street Fighter you are. Dyed in the wool fans who want to play with the latest balances, and who study frame data will want this. Average fans who want a complete roster might want to buy the upgrade if they happen to own Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition. As a standalone game it isn’t going to be recommended unless you haven’t played a Street Fighter title in a very long time. If you have a previous Street Fighter IV title, and only play it a few times a year, you can skip this one. It isn’t going to make you a Street Fighter fiend.
Final Score: 6 out of 10