Ask just about anyone under the age of 30, and they know what Street Fighter is all about. Whether they owned a Mega Drive or a SNES, had an older sibling packing a copy, or a vague friend who hosted some multiplayer sessions, everyone has enjoyed the thrills of kicking bottom with Ryu and Chun-Li.
After years of leaning towards the staunchly hardcore end of the beat ‘em up market, Street Fighter IV aims to go right back to basics. Instead of intricate pixel perfect timing to unleash all those mega moves, now there’s a much larger scope for just sheer enjoyment that even newcomers can fall in love with.
One of the biggest changes that immediately hits is the introduction of heavily stylised visuals. Though the game still takes place on a solidly 2D plane, characters have been rendered in fully 3D offering up a heck of a lot more detail than classic titles in this series. The slightly hand-drawn look to each character, combined with the frequent ink blots and splashes during each brawl helps create a stunningly beautiful visual experience.
Similarly, the sheer size of the on screen fighters helps make this one a fighter that truly looks like it’s packing a real meaty punch. Think back a few years and the lightest of punches and kicks looked about as threatening as a house fly. Now, every single punch and kick looks like it truly hits the spot, causing your opponents eyes to bulge, and body to move and contort.
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Long-terms fans will no doubt be delighted to hear that a number of lost favourites have returned after years of absence, including the classics of Cammy, Guile, and the electrified Blanka. Though quite a number of fighters introduced over the last decade fail to make an appearance, all the old favourites are back and looking better than ever.
Ryu and Ken, the pair that everyone first tries, are here and wielding the same powerful moves as always. Chun-Li and her incredibly huge thighs are ready to kick away. And everyone’s favourite bad guy, M. Bison, is still as uber cool as you remember him to be. In total there are almost 20 well designed characters to choose from, including a few unlockables, and 4 brand spankingly new fighters.
The real biggest changes are how you play. Gone is the absolute pin point timing and the absolutely overwhelmingly number of finger bending moves and parries from the last batch of Street Fighter titles. Instead, things are stripped back to basics to allow those of you who haven’t touched the series since the mid-90s to jump straight back into the action.
Of course, there’s still a truck load of special moves to master. All those fireballs, uppercuts, and sonic booms you remember remain fully intact. The brand new Focus Attacks, which allow you to absorb one attack before unleashing a powerful counter move by holding the medium punch and kick buttons is a real handy addition. A swift stab will unleash a simple counter, where a lengthier hold will initiate an unblockable move that will leave your opponent dazed and confused.
For truly talented fighting fans the Super Combos and EX Special Moves return, allowing you to flaunt powered-up versions of the special moves you can wield at other points of battle. In addition to those, the Ultra Combos, which initiate a change of camera angle and a cutscene-esque few seconds are newly introduced, giving talented button bashers yet another move to master.
Don’t let all this talk of combos and special moves put you off. Street Fighter IV is a slower paced affair, much more in tune with Street Fighter II than any other fighting title. Yes, unless you can get to grips with some of the characters nuances and energy-gauge draining moves you’ll probably get a thorough beating online. But unless you’re desperate to prove yourself as the best brawler in the world - the online situation incredibly seems to lack any form of lag at the moment, though it is lacking in innovative modes - you’ve no need to worry about hours of practice just yet.
The biggest problem with Street Fighter IV is just how costly picking up a copy can be. It’s safe to say that today’s modern controllers simply aren’t built for the kind of intricate d-pad waggling and button mashing to initiate some of the biggest and best moves. Hence picking up one of those expensive joysticks is almost essential if you take your games seriously.
Don’t let this little fact dissuade you from picking up Street Fighter IV if you’re reluctant to splash out - unless you’re planning on spending every second of every day taking on the best in the world online, you can easily get by with a standard controller.
It’s been a long time coming, but we finally have a classic beat ‘em up title that can take multiplayer duties away from Street Fighter II.
Stunning stylised visuals, bone crunching brutal brawling action; Street Fighter IV has the lot. Highly recommended for anything with even a casual interest in gaming.