Street Fighter IV Review: Kickin’ It Old School


“Since this title is a direct sequel to SF II, things like air blocking and exceedingly long air combos do not exist…”

Before I begin this review I would like point out something: I don’t believe in reviews without adequate exposure to a proper title. I say “proper” because it’s almost impossible to do a review without an unlocked title these days. Indeed you can buy a game on release day, and begin your review process to submit it by your deadline for release week, but that would go against my beliefs. My point being that one can only appreciate the nuances of a title with adequate time spent with it. Even though “Street Fighter” has been around for decades, a rushed review does not make sense.

As a matter fact, it’s been about ten years since the Roman numeral in the “Street Fighter”’s title changed. With stiff competition from its predecessors, and other titles from SNK and the Guilty Gear team, “Street Fighter IV” has to bring more than just fireballs and shoryukens. Regardless, the title turns out to be pure genius for some, and bittersweet for others. What it does bring to the table is everything you know about “Street Fighter II” as well as some new mechanics. The new stuff comes in the form of a new tech move dubbed “Focus Attack” (hold medium punch and medium kick), ultra combos, and some new fighters that aren’t just fireball throwing heavies. Add that to the fact that the game runs in 3D, adheres to its 2D heritage playing field, and visually flared with a Japanese Ink brush, intense colors, decent sound effects and has a fan questioning soundtrack. All of these aspects coalesce to make one of the better fighting games to be released in a long time. Nevertheless, it is just another fighting game, but it’s one that’s done very well. At times the game clings to its roots too strongly, yet with time you come to acknowledge the conjugated old and new mechanics.

Sakura

The game play in most fighting games is ancient; pummel your opponent long enough to deplete their life bar to win. The fun started back in “Street Fighter 2″ when developers pioneered the combo. That led to the introduction of super combos, and now we have ultra combos - the latter of these is simply presented better. Though they are easy to execute, you will not have the option to select from a barrage of ultra combos, a la “SF III.” What you get is situational super/ultra moves. For example, if you pull off Ken’s Shin Shoryuken on a juggled opponent, it will turn into “Street Fighter Alphas’” Super Shinryuken. When you do pull off the Ultra Move, the camera zooms into your character before, during, and after the assault for dramatic effect, making them very satisfying to watch. It’s a wonder why more fighters don’t do this.

You also get the standard super combos that charge when dishing or receiving attacks. The ultra combos are charged only by receiving attacks (even when you block) via the revenge gauge. The funny thing about the revenge meter/gauge is that it charges much faster than the standard super meter. This causes the ultra combo to become a crutch as it tends to be available way more often than the standard super. You’ll see competitors pull off over 3 ultras per round and never one regular super for the entire bout. It’s not game breaking, but it should have been thought out a bit more. This feature is tantamount to many elements of the SNK games; the difference is that it’s not pulled off as well in “Street Fighter IV.” The simple fact is, the regular super takes too long to charge. Try your hardest not to use an ultra combo for a match and you will see what I mean. Returning to the mix are EX moves, executed during special moves with more than one button of the same kind (kicks or punches). The jumping overheads introduced in “SF III” are gone, but there are still moves you can use against constantly crouching opponents. This changes the pace of the game, only before you start to explore the overhead moves. Everything else you have seen in the past with the exception of the re-animation of the characters for the new 3D models.

Gouki

Since this title is a direct sequel to “SF II,” things like air blocking and exceedingly long air combos do not exist. It is only with time, patience, and an insatiable appetite for domination, gamers will gain the ability to pull off some impressive attack patterns. It doesn’t mean mind games are not possible; it’s just that you have to work at it. There are some other oddities that are worth mentioning. For example, Akuma has one super/ultra combo, the Raging Demon; Capcom must have known what they were doing because this character typically had the most supers in the series. Some super move inputs and the priorities of some moves have also been changed. The tier is also quite different this time around, with Zangief ranking in the top three spot with Sagat and Ryu leading.

Gouken

Sadly, not everyone was meant to love the new soundtrack. It’s true, playing “Street Fighter” to hip-hop influenced beats is “nirvana,” but I guarantee you will find yourself humming along to the soundtrack for all the wrong reasons. It’s catchy stuff, no doubt, but it does not leave an impression the way “Street Fighter III”’s soundtrack did.  Still, you can’t cry over something small like this, especially if you own an Xbox.  

“If you’re not familiar with many of the tricks, and have some EVO level skills, you will most likely be spending a long time doing the Normal trials…

I’m not sure what Capcom was thinking here…”

“Street Fighter” has always been about out-witting, subjugating and finally embarrassing your opponents for making mistakes. If you are not winning then you are not having fun; plain and simple. If you need to polish your game you can spend time in the additional modes. In trial mode you are vaguely given moves and combos to pull off. Time and survival modes can speak for themselves. But, do these extra modes really matter when there’s online play?

Back when we dreamed about network play across consoles for titles like these, gamers went to Chinatown Fair (they still do), 32nd Street, Jersey City, or whatever arcade had the cabinet to bump up our skills.  With the advent of network play over PSN or Xbox Live, Capcom has engineered net code that seems to work really well, so you don’t have to travel that far to get better. Unlike “Tekken HD,” you get to see someone’s connection strength from the get go. The game warns you; avoid players with red bars like the plague. If you’re not playing online to polish your skills, then you’ll want to do the trials. The trials are are hard, but that’s mostly because they are vague.  If you’re not familiar with many of the EVO level tricks out there you will most likely be spending a long time doing the normal trials, much less the hard ones.  I was able to complete all the normal trials after 3 weeks and it took me an additional 1 week to finish Ryu’s hard trials.  I’m not sure what Capcom was thinking here, but this area is not for beginners.  It definitely feels at home for the elite players though, so in a way there’s something for everyone.

sfiv_review_img2

Does online play compare to the arcade experience? Yes and no; think the same thing but minus the “I got next”, lost pennies and the smelly scrubs. You can also have random users jump in on you during regular arcade mode. I found this a hindrance when trying to unlock other characters though. Fortunately, you can turn it off. What is missing is a massive lobby system. This is something I’m sure Capcom thought about, so here’s hoping it makes it to “Street Fighter IV Championship Edition.”

There’s one thing though about online that surprised me: There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of Ryu, Ken, and Akuma users out there. You may get a little turned off by this, and it may kill your network experience all together.  The general reason for this is BP, or battle points.  Battle points are what you earn, or lose, for every ranked online battle you engage in.  Since online play can be just as competitive as arcade play, I’m sure that the insane usage of Ken, Ryu, and Akuma is a result of people wanting more battle points.  You can also play friends via player matches or you can just create a room to go one on one with a random user. Player matches last longer than ranked matches.  With ranked matches you get only one bout with someone else.  I heard someone itch about this, but it probably makes sense, especially when one user is more skilled to another so as to avoid battle point farming.

Play with Friends!

What’s missing from the network play is a Championship Mode, or some sort of tournament mode.  Perhaps this would mess with the performance if more than one user was watching a fight, much like “Tekken HD.” It could encourage users to play as other characters more. Regardless, the best way to enjoy this game is at someone else’s home with several friends, who happen to have a 46″ LCD TV. Truly, the soundtrack in the game was more varied in “SF III,” but at the end of day its not so bad, minus the intro soundtrack. The new look for the game is impressive, and well done, but when you consider “Street Fighter EX,” you have to figure that it probably wasn’t that difficult for Capcom to pull off.  Using the original hit detection codes was also a great way to maintain the old school “Street Fighter II” feel.

The downloadable content is nice but most people will wait for the bundle pack. Then there’s playing all those Ryu’s and Kens outside of your friends list.  These gamers will actually be a detriment to your progression in the game as you become an expert on dealing with fireball characters.  Sadly, that can only be remedied by playing others you know.  After several hours of playing this game, I feel like Capcom held back a little. “Street Fighter IV” will draw in old and new players a like, but there’s always room for improvement.

Rating: ★★★★☆

“Street Fighter IV” was released on February 17th, for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. This review is based on the PS3 version of the game.

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Comments

19 Responses to “Street Fighter IV Review: Kickin’ It Old School”

  1. ALI on March 18th, 2009 7:11 pm

    I enjoyed reading this article. Even though I am not an a SF player, this article brought the game to life for me…

    Reply

  2. DW on March 18th, 2009 7:13 pm

    Glad to hear that … always great to pull in new fans!!! It was great writing about this game because I’ve spent more money on this series compared to any other.

    Reply

  3. Vagrant Pistol on March 18th, 2009 7:37 pm

    Oooo very nisch!!! One thing to mention…GET A JOYSTICK!!! You aint’ doin’ nutn’ with a controller! (Ask DW ’bout his experience with and Xbox 360 controller. Thumbightes anyone? LMAO!

    Reply

    DW Reply:

    Aint that the truth. That’s probably the one thing I didn’t talk about. This game can truly only be appreciated with a JoyStick. Controllers work … but the JoySticks are just better.

    Reply

  4. Rudimus Maximus on March 18th, 2009 8:04 pm

    This article is right on point. I couldn’t agree more DW. BTW The first player in the pic is seriously cheesin.’ LMAO

    Reply

    DW Reply:

    lol that’s an understatement :)

    Reply

  5. DW on March 18th, 2009 11:56 pm

    lol

    Reply

  6. MarkyX on March 19th, 2009 4:53 am

    Oh maaan..

    I have to disagree with a lot of things here. First and foremost, the online play? Terrible. As you mentioned before, there is a crapload of shoto characters floating around and in all honestly, I wouldn’t consider you a Street Fighter fan if all you do is play one of those characters.

    What makes online play so bad is the input lag from every match. Because you get lag, it’s harder to pull off moves, block, or do essential combos. Shoto characters and command moves (e.g. Zangief) get a huge advantage in this, whereis offline play isn’t so bad.

    The throws themselves are pretty terrible as well. Besides two buttons to throw a guy (yes, it was in SF3 and it sucked then), “blocking” throws doesn’t seem to work at all. It mostly comes down to luck, even if you predict your opponent. With the input lag, it makes it even worse.

    The absolute worse thing is the controls: Two buttons to make a throw (bad enough to mention again), and 3 kick and punch moves for certain moves. The hell? To make it even worse, the ultra motions are very similar toother special moves, so it’s quite easy to pull an EX instead of the ultra. Rufus and C. Viper are great examples of this.

    Speaking of Ultras, ew. It rewards making mistakes and some of them destroy 3/4 of the lifebar. To make it worse, you are able to pull these twice per match.

    To say the least, I’m completely disappointed at the game. I’m definitely way more interested in King of Fighters 12, which already announced online 3 vs 3. Not to mention that unlike Street Fighter, they actually give characters new moves to perform (Guile still has 2 moves?)

    Reply

    Vagrant Pistol Reply:

    “I have to disagree with a lot of things here. First and foremost, the online play? Terrible. ”

    Have to really disagree with that. The only reason online is terrible is because your joining matches that have a 3 ping or lower status. I have played SF4 for both for XBox 360 and PS3. I NEVER experienced ‘lag or ‘input lag’ on a 4 ping or 5 ping status. Now on a 3 ping or less status I have experienced what your talking about. But that was in the beginning. Now I only play on a 4 or 5 ping status ‘ONLY’. The only real terrible thing about online is all the RYU’s and KEN’s. You must not be paying attention to the status.

    “The absolute worse thing is the controls: Two buttons to make a throw….”

    If you haven’t gotten used to this, than your more concerned about throwing an opponent than actually fighting. Throws are there for counters. Always have been for the SF series and any other fighting game. Who cares if you had to use the start button to throw. I know there’s a lot of players that like to throw and players that implement throwing as part of their strategy, but if you can get used to throwing in any other game than this shouldn’t be an exception on “Why do I have to press 2 buttons to throw”…FIGHT fuk throwing. That should be the least of your worries….and if your gonna say that there’s a lot of people that trow online or in the arcades and you wanna throw back, than learn because “Your too DAMN CLOSE”.

    …..can’t wait for KOF 12 either!!

    Reply

    MarkyX Reply:

    “The only reason online is terrible is because your joining matches that have a 3 ping or lower status. I have played SF4 for both for XBox 360 and PS3.”

    Go to the trials and do the expert challenges for combos. If you manage to succeed, can you tell me with confidence that you can pull these off with input lag?

    Reply

    Vagrant Pistol Reply:

    ” If you manage to succeed, can you tell me with confidence that you can pull these off with input lag?”

    First, your question has no relevance to my reply??? Input lag is miniscule on online. I have felt input lag on Soulcalibur before, but again, it had to do with the low PIng of that room. IDK how you are playing this. If you are just jumping into rooms or just letting anyone join your room and not looking at the Ping status, but something must be wrong with your connection.

    I’ve played at other friends houses (ask DW: I’ didn’t complain once about input lag: I had 8 straight wins with no complains other than all the KEN’s and RYU’s). I don’t follow combos the computer tells me to do either. I make up my own. I may take an idea and implement it, but I’m not one to copy and paste. Yes, there are your generic combos, but there are more combos than what they show you in the trials. If I was to follow that online, I would be replicating what everyone else is doing…boring…

    …and no, I probably couldn’t pull off some expert combos in a room with a 3 ping status or lower. I cant even do my regular combos in that type of room. lol! Put me in a room with a 4 ping or higher status and I can pull off most combos and thats only because I’m not a perfectionist. I’m not into the game that much to try and do the hardest combo in the game against someone. I would only do that to impress them and say I can do it. :) That’s not to say that I don’t like fighting games, I love fighting games and it is one of my favorite genres.

    In the end I’m out to win and how I win doesn’t matter because no matter what, if you are not first you don’t matter.

    Reply

    DW Reply:

    That’s true Marky but unlike most other fighters that have online play … you’re given the opportunity to kick players out with a weak connection. I’ve adhered to the Golden rule of 3 or more. You can pull off some of the normal trials online if you’ve got the skill and patience but like my bud said I’d like to be that man that wins a title saying “OMFG, Man beats masses in SF with no combos!”.

    As for you’re comment on the controls … well .. uhmmm its’ street fighter. 2 button input command for a throw made it easier for you to get out of a throw. Thinking back way back then (SFII days), forward and round house or fierce just didn’t cut it. That system was implemented so you could also get out of throws.

    As for KOF 12, I can’t wait!

    Reply

  7. Darryl joseph on March 19th, 2009 8:35 am

    I only got to play this game once or twice, for someone like me who still plays the game the oldschool way (and still wins..lol), it was not bad at all. I still got that SF feel from the game, It wasn’t on the same level as third strike, but you still felt like you were playing Street Fighter. Third Strike had the soundtracks, the combos, the characters etc. I will def agree with you gameheadz when you say capcom held back.

    Reply

    DW Reply:

    Indeed, you can just feel that they are going to make “Super Street Fighter IV - Championship Edition Gold” :p

    Reply

  8. Unit on March 19th, 2009 9:45 am

    Yep third strike had it all! As much as i want to really like this game. It’s just turning out OK for me. And i have to agree with you MarkyX. Why the hell is there so many characters that can do a dragon punch and fireball? Ryu,Ken,Akuma,Dan,Sagat,Goken,Sakura,Seth. What happened to the variety of characters like they had in SF3? And the grabs are ridiculous in this game. Especially with Zangief! And if i fight annother ken,Ryu, Akuma online i swear I’ll never touch online again!lol

    Reply

    DW Reply:

    Only scrubs complain about grabbing. It’s a sign that you don’t know how to get out of them. Indeed, the new roster is a breath of fresh air.

    If you didn’t know a majority of the roster were added because fans asked for them way back when at Capcom’s Community blog. Simple request had been put - “who do you want?” I had voted for ibuki but she missed the roster by 500 votes. If you think about the sinking amount of Ryu, Ken, and Akuma users online, it correlates with the requests users submitted. So yea, sadly, there’s nothing but a bunch of Ryu, Ken, Akuma users out there and Capcom is probably just feeding the masses.

    So you missed your chance to ask for 12 Unit (lmao) … even though Seth is really 15 .. or -21 .. or whatever you wanna call it. :)

    Reply

    UnitDaGamer Reply:

    how are you a scrub when the priorety for grabs on characters like Zangeif is way off? Your telling me that it’s normal for him to be able to grab your character when he’s more than arm’s distance away?..hmmm. And i know how to avoid him, it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s off

    Reply

    DW Reply:

    The priority is not off Unit .. take a look at this:

    http://www.eventhubs.com/guides/2008/oct/17/street-fighter-4-tiers-character-rankings/

    ZANGIEF is ranked 3rd! so that’s what’s up sucka! So the fact that he has insane priority makes sense. And now you can pull off sweet little 4 hit combos with him into grabs .. its freaking heaven! LMAO.

    Then again you can make anyone look like they have insane priority if you’re just that good. Look at how good you got with you 12 in SF III. It took you a while … a long while to give us competition but eventually you figured so many different ways to keep us at bay. I’m sure you can find someone here to do the same. What you don’t like Dhalism? (chuckles)

    Reply

    MarkyX Reply:

    Unit, I suggest you watch Sirlin’s “tutorial” on YouTube. Even Zangief in Street Fighter 2 Turbo had a distance.

    That being said, Gief is a little overpowered, especially with the Input Lag that allows you to make grab commands a second earlier and voila, automatic register.

    Reply

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