Street Fighter 2 was a massive hit when it was released in 1991.
A sequel to the lacklustre original, with its expanded character roster and fast gameplay, Street Fighter 2 and the variations that followed managed to help sustain the arcade industry as it faced off against the 16 bit generation of home consoles.
By the time of the PlayStation, the Street Fighter series had spun off into more games than there were players, all with varying enhancements to the core gameplay made popular by Street Fighter 2. To try and re-focus the fan base and regain territory lost to 3D fighters like Tekken, Capcom released Street Fighter 3. With an all new roster of characters and some key changes to the fight mechanics, Capcom had a game that was embraced by the hardcore fans, but failed to ignite excitement by the majority of gamers who grew up with the series.
With Street Fighter 4, Capcom have learned from their past experiences and brought back the twelve original characters from Street Fighter 2 as well as popular characters from the Street Fighter Alpha series.
Six new characters bring the total number of selectable characters up to 25, each one unique enough to bring an interesting new dynamic to the fights, yet they are still familiar enough that they are easy to pick up.
Graphically, Street Fighter 4 has made the jump to 3D graphics whilst thankfully still keeping the combat to a single axis. The style allows for fluid fast movement and for the characters to feel more animated than ever before. In a nice twist, the art design means that the characters still retain a "cartoonish" feel and powerful attacks are detailed with ink-like effects that hark back to the hand drawn style of the mid nineties.
The sound effects are as good as they have ever been, adding weight to every drop kick and dragon punch. The music unfortunately dwells around the level of generically average and the voice acting is nothing to write home about.
Being able to switch between English and Japanese for each individual character is certainly a nice feature for those of us who don’t like to think of Akuma as just a shouty white guy.
Combat for the most part hasn’t changed in the last two decades, and Capcom know not to mess with it too much. Gradual speed increases and character refinements have brought about what feels like one of the more complete and balanced Street Fighter games ever created. Almost all of the characters are instantly accessible to players of any skill level while still having enough depth to allow expert players to develop a nuanced fighting style all of their own.
The super combo meter returns while other features such as the parry system have been dropped (yay!) The new focus attack, which is activated by pushing medium punch and medium kick, allows the player to absorb a single attack as they charge up a strike of their own.
The inclusion has yet to be adopted by a lot of the returning players that you tend to find in the online matches, but it’s effectiveness is slowly being acknowledged by the two million plus gamers who aren’t used to having an active counter move in a Street Fighter game. Being able to start, end and break combos with it has lead to some incredibly intense battles with many fights being dominated by those who have been willing to learn how to use it.
The other new feature is the revenge meter. Every time you take damage in a single round, the revenge meter slowly begins to fill. Once you have lost half your health, you are able to unleash an ultra combo, which is a high powered version of your super combo. With the ultra combos of some characters being able to take off over half of a life bar, the over-exaggerated build up for each one makes them easy to avoid, but if they do manage to connect, the damage they do will allow the other player to retort with their own ultra combo almost instantly. If they are still standing.
Online is where you will want to spend most of your time. You have the option of allowing other players to challenge you at any time in ranked and unranked matches as you play through the arcade mode. Searching for other players can be a bit of a mission as you are limited in your filtering choices. Searching for games based on stability doesn’t provide you with quality choices but the netcode is better than anything we have come across for a fighting game. Previously, even local games have been pretty unplayable due to lag, but any average or better connection will give you some quality gaming.
A lobby system for games with groups of friends would have been nice, but it is coming in an upcoming content patch.
Overall, Street Fighter 4 doesn’t bring a lot of new ideas to the table but it does do everything better than any previous incarnation, which is exactly what we wanted.