Street Fighter IV is the latest addition to the acclaimed series which first graced the coin-op arcades in 1987, and marks arguably the best title release amid a wavering history of productions both good and bad (let’s forget the abhorrent SF movie).
The game’s hallmark heroes, from Chun-Li, to Zangief, are back and more badarse than ever, having fallen off the radar for more than 10 years since their expulsion in the last Street Fighter III releases.
The wait was worth it.
SF IV, unlike say the latter Mortal Kombat series, has retained its grounded martial art-style fighting which encourages – well demands – players land a few solid punches and sweep kicks before pumping out hadoukens and fireballs. Fighting is still restricted to a 2D plane but this is far from a restriction; moreover it pays homage to the tried and tested bygone beat-em-ups that tore a generation from the soccer field to the arcade.
SF veterans familiar with an Xbox or PS3 control (the latter being the more apposite) will impress their mates with the second-nature quarter-circle-roll + punch for a hadouken, or some simple button-mashing to electrify Blanka. They will in turn be impressed by a new series of Super and Ultra moves (surely influence by the newly recruited developers of Dragon Ball Z: Budokan), each with a respective power gauge, that deliver both a nastier version of a character’s special attack, and a cataclysmic ‘finishing move’ complete with its own cut-scene. That’s unless you miss.
Which is where yet more SF IV improvements lie. Despite that defence plays second-fiddle to offense, it’s a delicate balance, and I’ll freely admit that at the time of publication I still couldn’t beat the extortionate demands of challenge mode – a training module that tempts players with some basic CQC-to-special move combos, then lays down more pain than Mr. Miyagi. But the theatrics are a necessary evil if the player wants to win the trophy and get the girl (a lame pun, not a spoiler).
The bonus characters from SF EX have been sacked, and replaced with six new faces (you’ll take pleasure in beating the **** out of Rufus and C.Viper), which are unlocked though the single-player mode, while costumes and taunts are made available in survival and time trials.
The key to a fluid online match is to fight among yourselves. I tried a few overseas matches on a good connection and the consensus is that the lag numbs your precise combos so much that the only thing you’ll win is a noise complaint from the neighbours. The game also allows you to fight in arcade mode while you wait for a matchup.
While I admit I was more concerned about foraging for 20c coins for the arcade than admiring the wallpaper backgrounds of the first SF releases, the new re-jigged 3D fighting environments of SF IV are stunning and command admiration. And the characters and cheesey anime cut scenes have a hand-drawn look that works. Sweeping uppercuts and roundhouse kicks are often followed with a trail of ink, again reminiscent of Dragon Ball Z: Budokan, that complements the exhaustively-detailed environments, characters and honest, but brutal gameplay.
A must for SF fans and beat-em-up junkies.
Check out this kickarse SF IV guide for gameplay tips.