Tag Archives: Fighting

Best of 2009 #4: Street Fighter IV

“Oh my god. This is the shit.”

That summation, taken from a friend – a huge Street Fighter II fan – after his first few silent moments with Street Fighter IV, pretty much captures how I think most fighting fans felt when they got their hands on it. Street Fighter III was great, but it was such a step away that it was always going to be difficult to love quite as much.

Capcom, seemingly, knew this when it came to doing the sequel thing over again. This wasn’t Street Fighter III, and it certainly wasn’t Street Fighter EX; this was Street Fighter II’s successor.

It’s quite simply a magnificent fighting game. While its competitors, which have been more active over the past few years, have built dauntingly huge character rosters with moves lists the length of a toilet roll and more and more realistic visuals, Capcom eschewed such nonsense and took a pleasingly retro tack with this, and it was a big part of what I loved about it. A cherry-picked line-up with some largely inoffensive new additions – I don’t count Seth there, obviously¬†– and moves list that fit on a single screen not only made complete mastery both tempting and feasible, but also brought back that old-school chess feeling, where your small pool of resources is well balanced and every character can beat every other one; you just have to work out how.

It was the only game that enchanted me into spending over ¬£100 on a controller – not for Activision’s lack of trying – and I’ll probably be buying Super Street Fighter IV in a few months if that gets the old crowd in for another round. Capcom did a phenomenal job of actually following up Street Fighter II while keeping the essence and making it feel modern, and so here’s my recognition of that massive achievement.

The Evergreen Street Fighter II

Guile

Speaking as a fan of Street Fighter III, which is a beautiful, deep, competitive game that didn’t receive nearly the attention that it deserves, it really has nothing on its predecessor. A rough calculation tells me that I’ve already bought Street Fighter II three times this decade, and playing the new HD Remix has really reminded me of just how brilliant this game is.

Besides its better, more iconic characters that have gone on to become archetypes in themselves, Street Fighter II is a game that just never seems to age at all, no matter how many times I play it, and that amazes me every time I return. The lick of paint for the latest release obviously helps, but looking beyond graphics it’s as much fun today as it ever was. Everyone must have at least some experience with this game, and you only have to play for a little while to feel at home again, even if you haven’t played since it came out, which is pushing two decades ago. It’s impossible to have ‘just one more game’, especially now that we have a version that works extremely well online.

What’s impressed me more than anything, though, is how playing online has shown just how deep a game it is, even compared to one that is so deliberately tough to master as its sequel. People know every in and out of every character and move, and some of the high-level players you’ll meet online can completely humble you, switching styles as they go and thrashing you, even with characters that I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Even after all these years I can’t work out how to effectively play as a ‘charge’ character like Guile, and yet I can go online and be routinely humiliated by one of them. Such is life…

It seems like HD Remix has been timed to hype up a certain other fighting game due in February, and if that was indeed one of its purposes it’s worked with me. The previews are coming out and suggesting that the talk about Street Fighter IV going back to the deep yet accessible roots of Street Fighter II, appealing in the process to both the hardcore and casual fans – that’s ‘casual’ in the old sense, not the ‘plays Imagine Party Babyz’ kind – may actually be true. While that ‘back to basics’ marketing trick has lost its power not to make me suspicious after its repeated use on Sonic games, there just isn’t a better foundation for a fighting game than this.

Because of this, no matter how good SFIV ends up being, it won’t be its immediate predecessor that it’s held up against. Aiming to succeed Street Fighter II is ambitious, given that even the best new fighting games struggle to be played for three years, let alone seventeen, but again, this is the sheet to crib from. I hope it succeeds, and I bought an arcade stick as evidence of my faith – okay, so HD Remix had something to do with it as well – but I have my suspicions as to which Street Fighter I’ll still be buying with each new generation when 2025 rolls around.

Street Fighter Alpha Anthology

Shin Akuma

Who can say no to some classic Street Fighter? The number of people lathered into a murderous frenzy waiting for Street Fighter II on the Xbox Live Arcade suggests that the answer is “not many”, so logically nobody could resist this – not one, not two, but five classic Street Fighters all for ¬£20. I love this compilation.

It’s not perfect – there’s no moves list in either the game itself or the manual (rumours abound that it’s a cynical ploy to sell more guides, but all it’ll do is increase traffic to GameFAQs) which makes mastering five whole fighting games incredibly difficult, and unless you have another means of control the PS2 D-pad will cause blisters. Seriously, less than an hour with that controller had me going and buying a Hori stick to alleviate the pain I was in. Quarter-circles on a D-pad can be nasty as it is, but when said D-pad is essentially four separate buttons with a gap to bridge between them it goes up there with the iron maiden.

Despite these annoying features, not that a crap controller is Capcom’s fault, they redeem themselves by not only giving the PAL version a 60Hz option (take that, SNK!) but also throwing in 480p. Very nice to have for a game this fast, coupled with an optional anti-aliasing filter to get them looking as good as possible on shiny new displays. There are also tons of secrets, ranging from pretty much every revision of the games through a dipswitch editor and new fighting styles (“-isms”, although disappointingly still no “j-ism”) for SFA3, even as far as a version of SFA3 Upper, the recent PSP port. The conversions seem great, as well.

Some of the games are stronger than others – SFA2 Gold and SFA3 are two of the best fighting games ever made, SFA2 is superb, SFA is great but dated, and I didn’t think much of Pocket Fighter which was nothing but an obstacle to getting all the unlockables. Still, this is the first time since Mario All-Stars that I’ve been moved to buy a retro compilation and it really is outstanding value. I heartily recommend it.