I remember when Capcom first announced Street Fighter IV. Back in 2007, the company released that first teaser trailer featuring Ken and Ryu fighting in that stylized, sketchy style and I remember wondering if they could pull it off. Did Capcom still have the magic to deliver a great Street Fighter eight years out from the release of Street Fighter III: Third Strike? In 2009, producer Yoshinori Ono and team proved that Capcom did indeed still have it.
Capcom's preference is for wringing everything out of every property they own, so here we stand in 2014 with the release of Ultra Street Fighter IV, the fourth major revision of Street Fighter IV. It may not be everything I hoped for out of a major revision, but it's clear that Ono and his team did the best with what they had.
Right from the beginning, the major visual additions come in the form of five new characters. Well, "new" is a bit of misnomer, being that these characters are merely new to Street Fighter IV. The first four - Elena, Poison, Rolento, and Hugo - are transplants from Street Fighter x Tekken, Capcom's crossover with Bandai Namco's Tekken series. Capcom had to massage them to make them fit within their new home, but it's not that far off from the publisher bringing Capcom Fighting Jam's Ingrid over to Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max.
The last character is Decapre, a Shadowloo Doll character that comes from the comics. Visually, Decapre is a clone of Street Fighter series mainstay Cammy, though she has a completely different playstyle.
I described these characters in my preview of Ultra Street Fighter IV last month and the descriptions still hold up in the review build, so I'll just reprint them here:
- 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.
- 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 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. 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.
The new additions all fit in rather well with the existing cast from Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition 2012, but the returning cast has also seen some extensive balance changes. These changes include being able to cancel Ryu's EX Shoryuken into almost anything, toning down Cammy's stun ability and the damage on her primary Ultra, increases in Yang's walk speed, and adding a bit more punish-ability to Akuma's moves. If you're interested in learning more about what changed about your favorite character, Capcom has outlined the changes in a great YouTube playlist.
Capcom has been big on supporting the competitive fighting scene and most of these tweaks are meant to flatten the tiers, which are determined by how a character matches up against the rest of the cast if two equally-skilled players were involved. Like MMOs, Capcom is eternally trying to make every character equally good in a competitive sense, but they just end up shuffling the deck over and over. Sagat was a top tier character in vanilla Street Fighter IV, characters like Honda and Chun-Li held top spots in Super SFIV, and Cammy and Akuma are the hot business in Arcade 2012.
Capcom seems to have realized how much people care about the tiers, because another new feature in Ultra Street Fighter IV is the Edition Select system for local battles. You can't take this magic online, but with your friends you can choose which version of each character you'd like 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). Wondering if top tier Arcade 2012 Cammy can defeat vanilla Sagat? Well now you can find out. This is probably my favorite new feature and it's a shame it can't be taken into non-ranked online matches.
Ultra Street Fighter IV also creates a few more options for the competitive scene. They expanded the Focus system with Red Focus, allowing players to drop even more Super Meter to absorb multiple hits, which you can cancel into for nearly anything. There's Delayed Wake Up, allowing you to change the timing of getting up from a knockdown; you could previously get up quicker than normal, but now you have the option to slow it down as well. Finally, Ultra Combo W (Double) allows you to take both of a character's Ultra moves into battle, albeit at a weaker level than choosing a single Ultra.
All those changes are for competitive Street Fighter players. Since its release, Street Fighter IV has had a comfortable hold on the EVO spotlight, and everything I've previously mentioned is a wonderful love letter to the scene. For those players who probably already have Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition 2012 loaded up, Ultra Street Fighter IV is available today for only $14.99 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as a digital upgrade, with the PC version coming in August.
What about the rest of us? The casuals, the sometimes enthusiasts, and the lapsed hardcore? Capcom hasn't forgotten you; they want you to come back. Ultra Street Fighter IV will also be available as a standalone release on August 5 for $39.99 ($29.99 on PC when that releases three days later) which includes everything released up until now, including all of the additional DLC costumes and color packs. If you've dipped out of the scene and want to get back into the swing of things, Ultra Street Fighter IV a great package to pick up.
One new feature for the casual crowd is native YouTube uploading. You can record offline and online matches and upload them to YouTube without ever turning off your console. The upload videos are capped 480p, so professionals will still want to rely on their own equipment. It's a nice addition, like Mario Kart 8's Mario Kart TV, but 720p upload capability would've pushed it over the top.
Another great addition for new players is the Online Training mode, allowing you to duke it out online forever. With this new mode, you can teach a friend or just mess around for hours. Just like offline training, you can set options for Ultra and Super bars that fill up forever, letting you practice your best and most inventive combos on each other.
Ultra Street Fighter IV is a rather hefty package, feeling like a Game of the Year version of the entire Street Fighter series. Some things are missing, like the fact that the five new characters don't have any Trial Mode challenge entries, but Capcom told CVG that they are on the horizon.
I feel that Ono and team probably wanted to do more - less transplants, more new characters, and perhaps even Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions - but Capcom only gave them a small budget to work with. So, they set out to do the best they could for the fans. As I said before, the new characters are great additions, but they don't necessarily have the excitement of brand-new vanilla SFIV challengers like Hakan, C. Viper, and Abel, or the long-held nostalgia of classics like Dee Jay, Adon, Ibuki, and Dudley. If anything, Capcom's absolutely excellent handling of Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter IV factor into my muted reception of Ultra.
If you're a Street Fighter IV fan, a purchase of Ultra Street Fighter IV is a foregone conclusion and you'll get another solid release that will keep you up-to-date in the competitive scene for the next few years. If you haven't played the series since the first release, the standalone Ultra Street Fighter IV at $40 might draw you back into the fold. If you haven't played since Super Street Fighter or later, a purchase of the $14.99 digital upgrade is a complete no-brainer. All in all, Ultra Street Fighter IV is a great package for fighting game fans, even if it doesn't match up to the launch day heights of SFIV or Super SFIV.
The Final Fight
- Visuals: The visual haven't improved since Street Fighter IV released in 2009, as this is an continuing expansion of the series.
- Music: Classic Street Fighter songs still stand strong in Ultra Street Fighter.
- Interface: It does its job and like everything else, hasn't changed much since the previous release.
- Lasting Appeal: You're buying this for the multiplayer magic and if you're into Street Fighter, you'll be playing it for a long time..