Saturday, 28 February 2009

Review - Street Fighter IV

Co-written with Boss Man
  • Game: Street Fighter IV
  • Format: PS3
  • Other Formats: Xbox 360, Arcade
  • Developer: Dimps/Capcom
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Genre: 2.5D Fighting

Street Fighter II defined a genre and created an impression still felt today, a game known for great characters and great gameplay. After years of re-releasing it with new additions, Capcom released Street Fighter III - a great game in its own right, introducing the series to a parry system and an array of new characters. Many of said new characters had an almost cloned move-set of those from the previous game. As good as it was, it failed to draw as big a fan -base as its predecessor. Many games have even tried to imitate the series: King of Fighters and Dark Stalkers spring to mind, but none so universally accepted as Street Fighter. Nine years since the last game, Capcom have finally created a new addition to the already bloated series. So after countless pretenders, will this new installment prove itself to be worthy of its title, or will it be another impersonator and eventually be forgotten?

Street Fighter IV is purely a fighting game. If you’re hoping for mini-games, customisation of characters or anything other than a toe to toe brawl, then this isn’t the game for you. The fighting game staple that is Arcade mode is included - this is simply you going one on one against a number of computer controlled opponents until you eventually reach the final boss. On completing the mode you get the second anime bookend to your character's story. The more appealing mode is Versus, where you can play local, or online battles against real opponents. New to Street Fighter is Challenge mode, where you can find multiple tasks, like Time Attack (you are given a time limit to defeat a number of opponents), Survival (you have one life bar through a few fights) and Trial, which is very much like training mode but introduces players to moves and combos with increasing difficulty.

Kameh-hameh… wait a minute…

As for the game's graphics, it looks nothing less than gorgeous. Cel-shaded style not too unlike Prince of Persia's is used to stunning effect. For fans of the previous games it may take a while to get used to Ryu and Ken’s added bulkiness, other than that slight qualm the graphics are fantastic and even better in motion. Street Fighter IV keeps the gameplay strictly 2D, but allows the characters and levels to stray into the third dimension, in a similar way to Super Smash Bros.

Street Fighter IV returns to its roots, with the original twelve characters from Street Fighter II. As well as the returning 12 there are four completely new characters, all with their own fighting style, moves and inputs. These four new characters are welcome additions and fit the bill perfectly. There are also three playable boss characters you can unlock. Included with the console versions of the game, you also have six extra characters from updated versions or spin-offs from the original series. In total there are 25 characters in the home versions of the game. There’s plenty of variety so there should be at last one character that takes your fancy.

"And what do they call you? Wheels?"

Now for the online, the options here are simple; Player Match or Ranked Match. Player Matches allow you to invite a friend for some matches with the online system. Lobbies here are limited to two people so unlike a local multiplayer match you can‘t have a group of friends taking turns. Ranked Match is you versus an opponent of equal or higher skill, fighting to be the victor. As you win a ranked match you gain points depending on how strong your opponent is and these points are deducted accordingly if you lose. Through these online battles you can unlock titles and an avatar for your online moniker, these give your Street Fighter alter-ego a personal touch.

Being a 2D fighter, it can easily be looked down upon for being shallow, but as fans know, Street Fighter can be exceedingly deep in the right hands. Unlike many fighting games, Street Fighter's simple controls give ease of access to newcomers, allowing them to play the game and have a good time in the process. Veterans of the series will not be alienated either, controls have been left untouched, even though some systems have changed. An example would be the exclusion of the parry system found in Street Fighter III, something called the 'focus system' has took it’s place and has proven to be quite a good inclusion. A focus attack when charged is unblockable, and when used properly they can lead into devastating combos. Street Fighter IV is almost perfectly balanced. If you lose, you know it’s because the other guy played better then you, but if you win, you know you deserved to win.

So does Street Fighter IV live up to it’s predecessor? Of course it does. With awesome characters, great gameplay and fantastic balance, this is easily one off the best fighting games ever, if not the best. Like Street Fighter II before it, Street Fighter IV doesn’t just impress, it pushes the fighting genre forward in one redefining leap.


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