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Ultra Street Fighter IV Preview: A $15 Evolution, Not a $60 Revolution

So here we are again, playing the fourth major iteration of the Street Fighter IV series. Is there still value to be found here?

Preview by Mike Williams, .

In its hey day, Capcom was rather notorious for squeezing every drop of money out of its most popular properties. It wasn't just sequels, it was the expansions that built upon a tried-and-true formula. More characters, another adjective, perhaps a new gameplay mode. Capcom would paint over the old house, turn around, and sell it as a new one. They got rather good at it and players got used to it.

Street Fighter II originated the practice, giving way to Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II, and Super Street Fighter II Turbo. The Street Fighter III series ended with Third Strike. Arika's Street Fighter EX ran its course with Street Fighter EX 3. The last original Darkstalkers was Darkstalkers 3, until Capcom oddly released Vampire Hunter 2: Darkstalkers' Revenge and Vampire Savior 2: The Lord of Vampire in Japan. Capcom's CPS II Marvel games technically ran from the first title, X-Men: Children of the Atom, until the magic of Marvel vs. Capcom 2. The Street Fighter Alpha series culminated in Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max for the PlayStation Portable.

Here's your new roster. Looks pretty much the same.

The roster Capcom is planning to release with Ultra Street Fighter IV leans close to that last example. Alpha 3 Max included three existing characters from Capcom vs. SNK 2 and one character from Capcom Fighting Evolution. Capcom had already drawn the characters and created their movesets for those previous titles, all that remained was adapting them to the Alpha series.

With Ultra Street Fighter IV, Capcom adds five new fighters to the roster: Rolento, Elena, Hugo, Poison, and Decapre. The first four come care of Street Fighter x Tekken, Capcom's entry in its crossover with Bandai Namco. The last one, Decapre, is an export from the Street Fighter comic series and is a digital clone of Cammy's Alpha iteration.

Rolento is completely in line with his Alpha incarnation, dedicated to hit-and-run tactics and misdirections. He retains his Escape Roll and Wall Bounce which move him out of the line-of-fire, while his Forward Roll and Patriot Circle moves add to his offensive capabilities. The EX versions of those moves add distance, making Rolento a wily opponent with some meter under his belt.

I love that crazy bastard.

Elena is a kick-based offensive character, just like she was in Third Strike. She has a few mid-range moves with her long legs, two low-hitting specials, and a solid anti-air move to boot. Her old Healing art from Third Strike re-appears here as her second Ultra.

Hugo is an odd character. He's cut from the same cloth as Zangief and Hakan, being a throw-based brawler, but he's easily the biggest Street Fighter IV character period. He's pretty slow and provides a rather large target, but he can take the hits thanks to his high health. Hugo has a few moves to help close the distance and EX specials improve his ability to grapple with opponents. His anti-air Backbreaker and standing Splash throw mean major damage if they connect.

Poison remains like her SF x Tekken incarnation and her closest existing analog is probably SFIV entry Crimson Viper. Her projectile, Aeolus Edge, has a different ranges depending on the strength used and her straight vertical dragon punch-style move, Kissed by a Goddess, is there to punish jumpers. Poison also has a leap attack that can be turned into a throw and triplicate whip attack for pushing opponents back. She's probably the most standard of the new cast and should be picked up by Ryu/Ken fans pretty quickly.

Decapre is the lone original character, but even that's in contention. She uses most of Cammy's animations in different configurations, outside of a few moves, and her costume is directly pulled from Cammy's Alpha outfit. In fact, if you choose Decapre and Cammy and let the characters just stand there, you'll be treated to the same idle animation on either side. Like Rolento, Decapre's a misdirection character; she has dash and teleport moves to give her the chance to attack from multiple angles and a standing uppercut for her wake-up defense. Decapre also retains a slow, rolling fireball as one of her two Ultra moves, which is fun for playing around with opponents.

Whoa, what's going on here?

They're solid additions to the cast, but honestly they feel like Capcom is phoning it in. All five characters have existed in some form elsewhere, with Capcom just bringing them along for the ride. Ultra features the same options and menus as its predecessor and even that breaks down in certain modes: in the preview build I played, Trial Mode only exists for the pre-Ultra characters. Ultra Street Fighter IV's platforms of choice increase the feeling that Capcom is just trying to wring that last bit of money from your dry wallet; despite the recent release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the publisher only gave the Street Fighter team enough money to launch on platforms that already hosted previous SFIVs.

That would be a big problem, if Capcom only offered Ultra Street Fighter IV as a standalone title, like it did in the generations before ubiquitous online. But now, it can offer revisions like Ultra as an digital update to the previous title, so that's what the publisher did. The upgrade for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Super Street Fighter IV or Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition can be purchased for $14.99 in June, with the PC update coming in August. PlayStation 3 owners can get the full Ultra game digitally for $39.99, and retail versions for PS3 and 360 will be available at the same price in August. Finally, the full version of Ultra Street Fighter IV will be available on PC alongside the upgrade's release in August. Buying the full release nets you all the costume downloadable content from previous releases, so it may be worth it for some players.

Positioning Ultra Street Fighter IV primarily as an upgrade - while the full version stands as a Game of the Year version of the title - takes some of the sting out of yet another SF IV revision. It's probably the best way for Capcom to handle it. In fact, taken that way, the addition of new gameplay mechanics and modes push Ultra Street Fighter IV over the top for existing Street Fighter fans.

For the first time ever, Akuma felt fear.

The new mechanics include the Ultra Combo W (Double), the Red Focus Attack, and Delayed Standing. The Ultra Combo W lets players take both of their characters' Ultra moves into battle, but each operates at a lower level of damage. Red Focus extends the current Focus Attack system by allowing players to absorb multiple hits instead of just one. Finally, Delayed Standing is what it says on the tin: when you're knocked down you can hold a button combination to prevent your character from getting up immediately. Together, these new mechanics give the competitive fighting scene more options in facing opponents.

Capcom also added YouTube uploading capability, a feature first used in Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition. Players can record their online and offline matches and upload them directly to YouTube in 480p quality. Sorry, folks, Capcom found 720p was burning up too much bandwidth.

Finally, alongside the extensive character balance changes in Ultra Street Fighter IV, there's also a new option for local matches. Players can choose which version of each character they want to play: SFIV (Street Fighter IV), SSFIV (Super Street Fighter IV), SSFIV AE (Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition), SSFIV AE R (Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition: Version 2012) and USFIV (Ultra Street Fighter IV). Each character is tuned differently, with SFIV Sagat being a completely different beast compared to his current incarnation. (Still a beast, just a different one.) That gives players the chance to host in-home dream matches and finish arguments about which version of each character is more over-powered.

All hail the Cammy clone.

Once you add in all those extra mechanics and modes, Ultra Street Fighter IV looks like a pretty damn good deal for only $14.99. Even the full bundle for $39.99 is a great price if you sold or lost your Super SFIV or Arcade Edition discs, or never bought any of the costume DLC. When it comes to the character department, Capcom didn't give the SF team the resources to create some real new challengers like vanilla SFIV's Abel, El Fuerte, or Juli, but as the long culmination of the Street Fighter IV saga, it's a pretty great coda to the series. Street Fighter IV still plays great, Ultra adds more options for competitive play, and even casual players may find some fun and value in picking up the standalone game.

But don't test me, Capcom. You pulled this off so far, but I need to see Street Fighter V in 1080p, 60 fps glory on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Get on it.

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Comments 5

  • Avatar for alexacosta80 #1 alexacosta80 3 years ago
    It's 2014 and we still get these kinds of previews for fighting games, and reviews will likely be similar. I don't really blame the author because this is usually just because most reviewers don't play fighting games, so SOMEbody has to get stuck with it.

    But what the heck is up with this?

    "Positioning Ultra Street Fighter IV primarily as an upgrade - while the full version stands as a Game of the Year version of the title - takes some of the sting out of yet another SF IV revision."

    I never read stuff like this in reference to FPS map packs or RPG DLC. Actually, forget the DLC - there are franchises that release full games every year that never get treated with such disdain. (Note: I am not one of those nerds who is like 'bawwwwww madden is just a roster update' or some nerd crap)

    Anyway I guess the point of this ramble is this: If you're going to concede that something "a pretty damn good deal" and say it's at "a great price", why does so much of the preview concern "the feeling that Capcom is just trying to wring that last bit of money from your dry wallet"? There's a lot of
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #2 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @alexacosta80 I have yet to preview map packs or RPG DLC. The one DLC I did review was standalone story for the same price as the Ultra upgrade here. Like here, I ultimately decided it was worth the price (assuming what I played of Ultra mirrors the final version)

    As someone who brought SF4 at launch, then bought Super SF4 at its original $40 price point and Arcade Edition at $15, I think questioning the value of another paid update isn't far out of the question.

    I'm sorry that you disliked my exploration of the value the Ultra DLC, but I hope our continuing coverage of Ultra and other games is more to your liking.Edited May 2014 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for Mooglepies #3 Mooglepies 3 years ago
    An article like this is always going to be a problem. How do you add enough detail to satisfy the hardcore SF4 player, while at the same time remain accessible enough that the less knowledgable reader's eyes don't just glaze over? This article tended towards the latter, which is okay - most people that really know about this stuff have already made their minds up on whether they're interested or not.

    I think it's similar to the issue Capcom themselves face when trying to market these updates - to the casual observer they can look like cheap cash-ins which have very little value, while the people that play it day in day out rejoice (or cry) at the myriad change in balance it brings to the table.

    As a character specialist I don't really care about the added characters, but the mechanics changes are very promising indeed, particularly delayed wakeup and red focus. Not mentioned in this preview is the fact that EX Red Focus, which can be combo'd from a huge amount of attacks, will always cause a crumple regardless of whether it gets charged. That opens up a lot of damage options for characters that struggled to land Ultra in previous versions of the game.Edited May 2014 by Mooglepies
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #4 Funny_Colour_Blue 3 years ago
    Honestly, as much as everyone hates it, I'd rather just get a psychical copy.

    I originally rented Street Fighter IV and then bought Super Street Fighter IV really cheap and it really pisses me off.

    But with the way companies continue to treat their online resources. I would not trust anything to be online forever, especially downloadable content! Like are you kidding me?

    This is such a huge problem, I don't even know how to begin to describe it.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #5 kidgorilla 3 years ago
    @MHWilliams I know I'm commenting on this a little late, but as an old timey Street Fighter guy, I'm actually ok with continued updates, even if they come off as cheap cash-ins on the surface. From a longevity perspective, an update every few years keeps that game vital for the hardcore and fresh for guys like you that started with vanilla SF4 and may be tired of its mechanics. A little shake up of that is fine. It also makes perfect sense from Capcom's side of things, too. Since they're not generating any brand new assets (other than tweaks to Cammy), not only did it give the team more time to adjust the balance and add new wrinkles to the systems but it was probably the easiest update they've ever done.

    Maybe I'm an optimist, but I call that a win/ win; the player receives an update that's a genuine, well-built evolution of the game that the developer could produce inexpensively.

    Do I want this to continue for the next ten years? No. Eventually, they have to leave well enough alone and let the game stand as it is. But I'm hoping that this (probably last) update will make them enough money to get a Street Fighter V finally in development.

    ...and hopefully it will be more like Third Strike.
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