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Street Fighter 4 – A Step Too Far?

March 8, 2009

As a diehard fighting game fan I naturally treated Street Fighter 4 with what one would call cautious optimism. I like Street Fighter and I was happy to see they kept the 2D gameplay elements but would the bold move toward 3D modelling help of hinder the game as a whole? Being in a small country I had no access to the arcade version of the game so had to wait patiently for the console release.

I have to say…. I am impressed.

The game is still recognisable as Street Fighter, the 3D models are far more fluid than I ever thought they would be and the temptation to drift into the 3D world was purely aesthetic. Of course, I have read a lot of reviewers abuse the word “nostalgia” when reviewing SF4 and personally I find it annoying to say the least. As a fighting game player one should think of the game as a clean slate. Sure, referring to past games is fine and dandy but don’t throw out idiotic comparisons like saying it’s like playing SF2 again. Times have changed and the game is vastly different to it’s grandaddy. Now, on to the game itself.

Graphics

Street Fighter 4’s most notable change has been the move to 3D graphics. This was quite a bold move for the franchise, considering its EX series was met with such mixed views. However, this time it looks to have paid off. The new graphics have newcomers interested who wouldn’t have cared for it had it still been 2D and the graphics flow smoothly, allowing for a similar gameplay experience as one would when playing a 2D fighter. The backgrounds are nice and the characters look good in 3D for the most part. The models may not be ground-breaking but they are still aesthetically pleasing.

abelvsryu

Characters

While I’m happy to see the return of some Street Fighter 2 characters the exclusion of Street Fighter 3 characters and  only introducing 4 new characters to the roster is somewhat controversial. There are plenty of people who will flock to the game simply because characters like Guile and E.Honda are back but SF3 had plenty of good characters and some of them, such as Dudley or Yang, probably would have fit the game’s mechanics nicely. As for the new characters, let’s have a run-down:-

C.Viper viper A female american spy who controls fire and electricity through special mechanisms in her enhanced “battle suit”. The best new character in SF4. She not only has an interesting character design but she also is an extremely unique character. She is the only character in SF4 with a super jump, has a huge number of mixup and crossup options and is capable of doing huge damage while looking hot.

Abelabel

A french mercenary with no memory of his past. Uses mixed martial arts and has a number of throw moves. He has the most potential to be a main character canonically, as he has some sort of tie-in with shadaloo and M.Bison in particular. Plus, everyone loves a mystery man.

Rufusrufus

A … round american biker who uses a strange form of Kung Fu. He enters the tournament to challenge Ken  Masters to become the no.1 fighter in the USA. He has an interesting fighting style. He’s very aggresive, has a lot of interesting combos and proves pretty quick for a tubby.

El Fuerte fuerte

“SUPER DYNAMIC COOKING TIME!” , Fuerte is a Mexican luchador who enters the tournament to defeat fighters and fight out what they eat so he can make the greatest dishes. He is a very quick character who relies a lot on hit-and-run tactics when fighting. Probably the worst of the new additions in terms of fighting style and character design.

The old characters such as Ryu, Ken and Chun Li all make a comeback, with every original SF2 character being included in SF4. This is both good and bad. In terms of bringing back old players and playing the nostalgia card, this tirck is paying off big for Capcom but in terms of giving remaining players a new set of character to choose from it’s not so good. Still, after a 10-year wait I’m sure people are just glad it’s finally been made.

Gameplay

The most important part, gameplay is a major factor in determining whether or not a fighting game will be successful. Games like Street Fighter 3 and Street Fighter 2 are still popular and still hold their own as fighting games despite their age. This is because the mechanics are solid enough that people can still play them at a high level and they will be competitive. Games like Capcom Fighting Jam do NOT have solid mechanics and as such fail as a competitive game.

Street Fighter 4 is solid. Thank God. The game is quite combo-orientated and there are some crazy things you can pull off but it doesn’t drift into the territory of stupid, thanks to the game’s damage buffering system. The longer the combo, the less each hit will do.  This is something which is present in any competitive fighting game but SF4 is quite strict with it. The timing and inputs for SF4 are also relatively strict, links and cancels aren’t quite as easy as one would expect from watching japanese play. A good number of combos require timing to do, so you can’t just rap off the buttons mindlessly and expect results.

The new elements to gameplay they’ve added are very good. They have Ultra, which is like a more powerful version of a character’s super but with an extra animation too. The meter for this (revenge meter) builds as your character is hit, making it easier to turn the tide of battle when you are being soundly beat. The other new element is Focus Attack. FAs can be performed by pressing mid-punch and mid-kick at the same time and holding the buttons in. As you hold them in, it will charge the focus attack. You can release the buttons to perform the attack or let it charge until you reach lvl3, when it will automatically attack for you. Lvl 3 FA is unblockable so you’ll be aiming for that. FAs can absorb one enemy hit, somewhat similar to 3S parrying on a balanced scale. You will take the damage still, but your health bar will go back to where it was providing you are not hit. FAs at level 2 or 3 “crumple” your opponent, leaving them in a state where they fall slowly to the ground allowing you to dash in and follow up with something before they hit the ground. The most common use is charging FA when they are grounded, so when they wake up they are hit by a lvl3 FA (unblockable and crumples), dash-in > ultra.

Tiers

In terms of character balancing, the game is still too fresh to really come out with a definitive tier list but at the moment the tiers look like this:-

S +

Sagat, Viper, Akuma, Zangief

S

Ryu, Balrog, Rufus, Blanka

A

Chun li, M. Bison, Ken, Dhalsim, Abel, Honda, El Fuerte

B

Vega, Guile

This list is arcade-only, as there hasn’t been enough time to fully establish how console characters fare in matchups with other characters. The list was taken from Tougeki Damashii.

Console

The console version of SF4 includes some additional characters, some from SF2 and some from the SF Alpha series. They are:-

Cammy –  Made her debut in Super SF2: The New Challengers. She is a very quick character and plays a lot like her Capcom vs SNK 2 version but sadly she doesn’thave any of the things that made her good in that game. She has poor range, poor damage, all of her moves leave her wide open when blocked.

Fei Long – Appeared in SSF2:TNW with Cammy. A fast, aggresive character who was initially thought to be right up there in the tiers but after the game’s release and some playtime, he’s not that good. Most, if not all his attacks leave him wide open for major punishment and he has to be on the attack as he has very few defensive options.

Sakura – Appeared in SF Alpha. Probably the most popular non-SF2 character in the franchise, she’s a Japanese schoolgirl who seeks to become just like her idol, Ryu. She’s another strongly aggresive character. She’s a very good character, her EX hurricane kick is to die for and can be easily followed up by her ultra, she has combos coming out the wazoo and she’s just generally a decent character.

Dan – Comic relief, the man with the super taunt, Dan made his debut in SF Alpha2 and quickly became a fan favourite as the “bad” character. He trained with the same master as Ryu and Ken but was eventually kicked out for planning to use his powers for revenge against his father’s killer, Sagat. Overall he’s a poor character but he’s not the worst by a good way. He’s got very little but his Shoryuken is better than expected and his hurricane kick is okay.

Gen – Gen made his first appearance in SF1 and is quite possibly the most difficult character in any fighting game to master, as he uses 2 fighting styles (mantis and crane) which the player can switch between using all 3 punches or all 3 kicks and each style has its own move list and its own fighting style. I have very little experience with the man but he seems to be a bag of tricks and has decent speed, priority and strength. About average.

Rose – Another SF Alpha character, Rose is a fortune teller from Genoa who fights using psychic power. She is what became of M.Bison’s “good” powers, as he chose only to use the most evil and discard his weak powers. She has the basics – fireball and anti-air and she seems to be a rather decent character. Her Ultra has an amazing range and because it grabs the opponent, it’s good to use on someone jumping in from far away.

Overall

Overall, the gameplay is a lot better than I ever thought it was going to be. Itis shaping up to be a highly-competitive game and it looks like it’s revitalised the fighting game scene, bringing new and old players alike together to marvel over its wonderful glory.

Score:

Graphics – 8/10

Gameplay – 10/10

Story – 7/10

Playability – 10/10

Characters – 9/10

Overall – 9/10

———————————————————————————————

For Me It Was Tuesday,

Internal Resonance.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Nocturnal Melody permalink
    March 8, 2009 10:44 PM

    Its reviews like this that makes me want to buy an Xbox 360. =(

    Anyway, great stuff, I’m looking forward to more reviews from you.

  2. Divine Nova permalink*
    March 8, 2009 10:57 PM

    Very nice and detailed review. I like the pics too ;). Hope to see more quality reviews from you.

    And I second buying an Xbox 360 (even though I’m poor and have no $$$) <_<

  3. March 13, 2009 2:10 AM

    Cool blog 🙂

  4. Ark the Pie King permalink
    April 29, 2009 8:49 AM

    Good review, but the only thing I have to say is Dan made his first appearance in Alpha 1, not 2. Other than that this is solid.

  5. mehnoob permalink
    July 11, 2009 4:14 AM

    To the reviewer>> Did anyone ever tell you this was at least the THIRD 3D Street Fighter, the other two being “Street Fighter EX+ Alpha” and it’s sequel. The thing is; I don’t mind if every newbie idiot on the internet has an opinion, what pisses me off is they insist on sharing even the most misinformed ones with the rest of the planet.

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