Street Fighter IV (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, March 06, 2009
Nostalgia is a killer. Typically memories are so rose colored and soft focused as to become Everest-like, looming over modern interpretations (which almost always disappoint). While “pros” have been dissecting arcade versions of Street Fighter IV for months now, the newest chapter in the SF legacy has recently come out for the consoles and boy does it pack a wallop.
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert in the fighting genre. Spending days upon end learning and memorizing complicated combos taxes my A.D.H.D riddled brain but even I could not resist the black hole pull of Street Fighter II when it came out for the Super Nintendo in the early ‘90s. I even picked up a heavy duty $99.00 arcade stick to complete the experience and learned most of the primary moves for most of the characters. I would never though, call myself anything more than an exuberantly casual player.
A Street Fighter for Casual Gamers?
Um, no. Some recent reviews have touted SF IV’s playability for the casual player. That is true ONLY if they are playing other casual gamers. Anyone playing this game casually will get their hinnies kicked if playing against others online which is the way the true warrior will want to experience SF: IV. The game is deep. So deep in fact there are approximately seven full pages in the instruction manual dedicated to the different aspects of the fighting system (not including each characters own special moves!) I was so put off by the manual that I initially regretted my purchase and had to take solace in the fact that I could still get a modestly reasonable price for trading in this pugilistic pitfall but, thankfully, I soldiered on. I decided to start with the basics and re-learn a few of Ryu’s key moves and play against the computer. That’s where the Capcom’s “rock” consequence comes in. Once you take a hit off of the crack pipe that is Street Fighter: IV you’ll want to dive deeper into the game, you’ll want to master the moves; you’ll want to prepare yourself for online onslaughts. To say that I’m currently obsessed with the game and that to get it away from me you’d have to pry it from my cold, dead hands would be an accurate statement.
An Early Contender for Game of the Year
There is something about the quality of Street Fighter’s II’s gameplay and soul that has long made it a great gaming experience whether or not you like fighting games. Street Fighter IV has elevated the SF experience to dizzying heights making this the most realized and complete SF iteration yet. In Street Fighter: IV the HD graphics are jaw droppingly gorgeous. Stunningly rendered 3D characters that appear hand drawn stay true to SF’s 2D origins and bring a highly artistic quality to the experience. So much care has gone into the visual, aural and gameplay experience that it transcends its learning curve and genre to become an essential gaming experience to anyone with a genuine interest in video games.
Oh Noooo! Mr. 360 D-pad Kills the Party!
Here’s where things get dicey. To really get anywhere in the game you’re going to have to chuck the 360’s controller. There is no way that the 360’s infamously awful directional pad and SF: IV are going to play nice with each other. So forget the sixty dollar price tag for the game; figure on spending at least that much more on a decent fight stick and twice that much if you want the top of the line arcade stick experience. Mad Catz has the official license for SF: IV sticks and a controller-like fight pad (the least expensive alternative) will set you back forty bucks; an arcade stick will set you back at least eighty dollars. Here’s another kicker, you’ll be hard pressed to find any of the licensed controllers ANYWHERE! Everybody’s sold out of ‘em. Mad Catz has promised to get more in the stores in April so I would have to recommend that you consider waiting a month if you don’t have an addict’s need for instant gratification like I do.
Certain moves will be brain crushingly vain attempts without an upgraded controller.
Quick Match Not So Quick
There’s a lot of word going around on the internet about the inability to play SF: IV’s quick match mode quickly. I haven’t been able to accomplish a match with quick match yet BUT if you allow for online matches during arcade mode you’ll find plenty of real life opponents in no time. You can also host your own matches which seem to work better than quick match.
In this day and age it’s absurd that quick-match is anything but, and considering that Xbox Live Arcade’s Street Fighter II HD has a better matching system it’s fairly inexcusable.
Hopefully this will be remedied in a future update.
Challenge Mode = Training Day
If you’re serious about getting good at SF: IV you’ll definitely want to spend time in the training challenge which can be found in challenge mode. The training challenge will teach you all of the combos. It will also make you want to pull your hair out and hit yourself with it. Here you will find the true futility of the D-Pad. After watching videos online it appears that it’s only a little bit easier with the Mad Catz stick. I also enjoyed the time challenges in which you have to defeat a pre-determined number of opponents in a limited amount of time. This mode teaches you to think fast which you’ll need to do when going online against real opponents or on the harder levels of the arcade mode.
I found the instructions to be woefully lacking in doing a thorough job at explaining the details of the fighting system. The explanation of “canceling”, for instance, is only adequate at best. The general public and casual player would have benefited greatly from more fine tuned explanations and examples. I recommend checking out IGN’s Street Fighter 4 Online Guide which provides and excellent explanation of how the cancel system (and many other aspects of the fighting system) works. Find it here.
Personally, I don’t think any SF: IV review is complete without giving note to the theme song “Indestructible” which is one of the most enjoyably absurd songs since Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”. Cheese whiz 80s blend with late ‘90s boy band brilliance to deliver a video game musical classic.
SF: IV loses points for providing an extremely daunting learning curve, a minimal manual, a sub-par online matchmaking system and the considerable expense of a controller upgrade (for the serious minded player). Despite these setbacks Street Fighter: IV is a stupendous achievement. Spectacularly retro stylings combined with satisfying and highly addictive gameplay provide a refreshingly old school experience in a totally new millennium package. This is the Street Fighter to rule them all. SF: IV is a must have for video game enthusiasts of all kinds.
Mania Grade: A
Game: Street Fighter IV
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Reviewed Platform: Xbox 360