With fighting games going into 3d, the Street Fighter series took a backseat to other fighters like Tekken, Soul Caliber, and Virtua Fighter. There was a still a small loyal group that were dedicated to the SF series and claimed Street Fighter 3: Third Strike was the best 2d fighting game around. When Street Fighter 4 was announced, there was a twinge of excitement, but once the videos started coming out, the excitement grew several times over. It attracted the current fans of the Street Fighter, the older fans of Street Fighter, hell frankly everyone that played a Street Fighter game was excited over Street Fighter 4. Sadly, it's the fans that have been out of the SF series for so long that will not have much fun with the game because it has a learning curve. Still, you cannot deny that this game is amazing and brings back Street Fighter to the forefront with all the glory it deserves.
As with most fighting games, the story is that major. The main villain, Seth, is seeking to get data of the best fighters in the world creating a tournament to bring the best fighters in the world together to see who the best is. The returning fighters have made appearance in earlier SF games are M. Bison, Balrog, Guile, Vega, Chun-Li, Ryu, Ken, Sagat, Zangief, Rose, Sakura, Dhalism, E. Honda, Rufus, C. Viper, Abel, La Fuerte, Akuma, Gouken, Cammy, Fei Long, and the longest running joke in a videogame, Dan. Each fighter has their own reason to enter the tournament with groups of fighters all part of the same agenda. While Seth is the final boss, characters that are part of a long standing rivalry will fight right before the final boss. These rivalries include Ryu vs. Ken, Sagat vs. Ryu, and Guile vs. M. Bison.
For those gamers who have been living under a rock, in a dark cave, on the moon, for the past 20 years, the Street Fighter system is at the core of SF4. There are three punch and kick buttons: light, medium and heavy. Combing a motion on the joystick/gamepad, a button press, and proper timing, you can pull off the character special move. Depending on whether it's light, medium, or heavy, that will change the effect of the special move from the damage it causes to the distance of the move. Each character has their own unique moves that are more of a variation of kicks/punches which is different than the special moves that multiple characters make use of (i.e. the Hadoken, Shoryuken).
Also each character can use a Focus Attack. By pressing both medium punch/kick buttons, a fighter will unleash this move that will change depending on how long they're held. If held for a short time, the move will just do regular damage and a quick stun. Hold onto it a little longer, and it'll cause a slightly longer stun as well as be able to go through certain attacks. Keep the buttons down for just a little longer, the move becomes unblockable and will stun the opponent making them drop to the ground. While sounding like an excellent move, use of this move will damage the fighter using it although that small portion of damage can be recovered in a small period of time, or permanently loss if damage is received during this small window of time. So this move is a pure strategic move because it offers a great benefit but can screw you over just as much. Using it right, you can stun an opponent leading into a nice combo, but miss and the damage to yourself can be increased much more than expected.
Where the system in SF4 changes is with the EX moves and Ultra moves. Both of these have made appearance in previous SF games but have been changed a bit for SF4. For EX moves, there is a gauge at the bottom of the screen that will increase when either taking damage or pulling off moves. To execute an EX move, you have to press two punch or kick buttons (depending button is needed to do the move). This will cause your fighter to light up during the move. EX moves themselves do more damage than regular special moves and can interrupt other moves. To explain this, let's take the most common special move, the Hadoken. By itself, it does a certain amount of damage and can be cancelled when it hits a projectile from another fighter. Now when you do a Hadoken with two punch buttons, this will create the EX move that will do more damage, and if another projectile comes in contact with this particular Hadoken, instead of canceling each other out, the EX Hadoken will cancel out the regular Hadoken continuing on its path hopefully damaging the opponent. The EX gauge is split into four segments letting you build up EX moves and use whenever you feel the need. What's great about these EX moves is that they can be used for defense and offense. For defense, these moves will interrupt moves preventing your opponent from going on the offense. Offensively, these EX moves will deal more damage helping you pummel your opponents. A full bar will let you unleash your fighters Super combo which is the same as the Ultra combo.
Ultra combos are super moves pulled off by fighters that deal a large amount of damage. To pull off these super moves, you will have to do certain motions and typically press three punch or kick buttons. The meter for the Ultra combo fills up differently than the EX gauge. While the EX gauge increases by executing moves and getting attacked, the Ultra combo meter will only increase when you take damage thus becoming an equalizer. If you find yourself taking damage early, that meter will reach to a point that lets you use the super moves that will drop down your opponent's health quite a bit if it hits. However, if you do hit them with a super move, then they're Ultra combo meter increases so they can do a super move. In a way, the Ultra meter always keeps you aware that your opponent will always have a chance to come back.
Possibly the biggest attraction of the game when the first screens came out was the graphics. Not only are they on the level of next gen, but Capcom went to a new art style. While the characters look the similar from previous SF games, there's still a nice change in each character. It reminded me of the change of looks from the SF2 series to the Street Fighter Alpha series. Nevertheless, each character looks great. What I love the most is the facial expressions the characters make when the action is zoomed in on as a super move is being executed. At just the right time when you pull of a super move, the game will pause a sec, and you can see your opponents' expression as if they know exactly what's coming. Capcom has gone the extra distance by making the characters' eyes and face follow their opponents' movements
As a series, Street Fighter has always been 2d with the exception of one game, Super Street Fighter EX. SF4 goes back to that SFEX style in that the game is 2.5d. The characters themselves are 3d which you can see when the camera moves around before/after matches and during super moves. Yet the action is done on a 2d plane where there is no movement in the third dimension. This keeps the game from being your typical 2d game while keeping the 2d movement and action.
Now I do like the audio for SF4 except for one personal problem. If you've heard my podcasts, you know what I'm talking about. I am sick and tired of FUCKING CAPCOM VOICE OVER GUY!! I hate this guy. What happened to just the standard "Ready? Fight!"? Now we have this dick talking for almost the whole fight I mean COME ON! Sorry, have to get that off my chest.
The Street Fighter series has always been known for its catchy stage themes and SF4 is no exception. Each stage has a theme that is both catchy and fits well with the setting. I personally enjoy the main menu music but it can be a big turnoff if you're not into Jpop. Voice acting, at least for the English side, is pretty bad. There's that similar lack of timing and tone that is common with bad voice acting. Luckily, Capcom was thoughtful enough to include the Japanese voices. This option can be selected once you beat the game the first time.
While there's not much of a story mode or single player mode, Capcom did give you a compelling reason to beat the game over and over again. To start off, you have to beat the game to get more fighters. At the beginning, the roster includes the 12 fighters from Street Fighter 2(that's the 8 original plus the 4 bosses) and the 4 new characters. Beating the game with certain character will unlock the rest of the roster with the final 3 (Akuma, Gouken, and Seth) requiring certain conditions to be met before being unlocked. There is also the survival mode, time attack mode, and trial mode to challenge you further but they're just mere diversions.
Obviously SF4 has a versus mode for 2 players to compete with each other but this is the next generation where online is king. Whether you're looking for a fight, or you can be like in the arcade where you play the arcade mode by yourself and random people can jump on to challenge you. Be warned though, this game does not take it easy on bitches. Bitches are the players that quit once they start losing. You do that and you automatically take a loss. It's only by winning do you climb up ranks and you can unlock titles that will make you the envy of online play.
As a whole, Street Fighter 4 is a great fighting game. Point is that it's a fighting game. Lately, fighting games have become a niche title because they've gone to another level in mechanics. It's that higher level that kept a lot of people away from fighting games for awhile even though many gamers have played SF2 and MK. Capcom did what they needed to do in Street Fighter 4, and that is to bring back the series to its former glory which it did in a great way. They took the tried and true system from previous games, mixed it up and took it to a new level but it's still a fighting game. If you've avoided fighting games for years and are not a big fan of them, then SF4 is not going to change your mind. This game is for those who are really into fighting games and those who are not will not last.
What I love most is that Capcom totally flip-flopped on the theme of the game. When the counter/parry system started in the Alpha games and moved over to SF3, the game was all about defense and keeping your opponent from doing any damage to you. With SF4, the theme changed from "don't let them hit you" to "go hit them back you little bitch". Capcom took the whole notion of a good offense being a good defense. So "turtling" bitches will find themselves forced to fight, and forget the staying on defense the whole round.
- Matt W.