The Final Round: Ultra Street Fighter IV

The Final Round: Ultra Street Fighter IV

Capcom readies Street Fighter IV for its final battle. We chat to the pros about what the new version's changes bring to the competitive scene.

What began as a gamble by Capcom producer Yoshinori Ono has battled its way up the charts, becoming the most popular competitive fighting game of the generation.

In many ways, Street Fighter IV was single-handedly responsible for reinvigorating interest in the notoriously newbie-unfriendly fighting genre. The game was so popular, in fact, that even after three massive revisions, countless tournaments, and the end of a console generation, many fans made their opinions known to Capcom: they wanted more Street Fighter.

Capcom’s answer to these requests is coming this summer in the form of a brand new entry in the Street Fighter saga: Ultra Street Fighter IV. This new game is more than just an incremental update to Street Fighter IV, however; it’s a true love letter to fans of the series.

Prior to beginning development on the game, Capcom went back to the drawing board, requesting feedback from fans all over the world on what they would change about Street Fighter IV. The feedback obtained was wide-ranging and diverse, including over 20,000 comments on official Capcom forums, 12,000 surveys from players in Japan, and specific input from professional gamers located all over the world.

Ultra Street Fighter IV is packing a robust new feature set for online and offline gameplay, along with enhancements to all the landmark modes and characters the competitive fighter is known for. It’s clear that this game is shaping up to be one of the finest entries in Capcom’s premier fighting franchise.

The first and most obvious addition to Ultra Street Fighter IV is the introduction of five new fighters to the playable roster, bringing the total character count to 44. While four of these additions -- Hugo, Poison, Elena, and Rolento -- are transitioning over from 2012 crossover title Street Fighter X Tekken, the fifth fighter, Decapre, is playable for the first time in Ultra Street Fighter IV.

Those familiar with the series may notice Decapre’s similarities to Cammy. While Decapre’s character model may indeed look like an alternate “evil” costume for the British battler, this brand new fighter has an entirely new set of special moves and controls nothing like the original. Before her initial reveal, Ono hinted that the final addition to the roster would be “speedy”. She certainly lives up to Ono’s description in this gameplay exhibition between Capcom Special Combat Advisor and former competitive gamer Peter “Combofiend” Rosas and Final Round Street Fighter champion Ryan Hart.

As for the veteran fighters coming from Street Fighter X Tekken, each one of them has been rebalanced, tweaked, and provided with brand new moves and combos worthy of the gameplay styles associated with the Street Fighter IV series. The original cast has undergone many changes as well, with quite a few character-specific modifications coming directly from the feedback gathered from fans all over the world, according to Rosas. For those new to the Street Fighter saga, it means is that there will be an even larger group of fighters to choose from, with an equally large pool of character-specific tricks, tactics, and techniques to keep combat interesting.

Capcom is also packing Ultra Street Fighter IV with a wide variety of gameplay adjustments and new modes for both series veterans and newbies alike. Characters can now access both of their Ultra Combos during a single match via the new “W Ultra” select, paid for with an overall damage reduction. Players will also have more defensive options in the form of a new crimson-colored multi-hit-absorbing focus attack and additional control over when they recover after being knocked to the ground. While appearing to be minor changes, these new options can keep new and experienced players alike from falling into cheap, unavoidable, repetitive tactics centered around knowledge of the exact timing a character can be hit during a knockdown recovery.

Online hasn’t been neglected, either. For the first time, players will be able to upload replay data directly to YouTube. While this is certainly no replacement for the native streaming capabilities provided by the new consoles, it does provide a quick and easy way for players to share their most exciting matchups with the world at large. Online Training, previously only available in Street Fighter X Tekken, will also be making its way over to Ultra Street Fighter IV, allowing both beginners and advanced players to practice together before taking the battle online.

Finally, in a nod to series veterans, Capcom has included the balance changes made in each version of Street Fighter IV courtesy of a special “Edition Select” feature, allowing players to pick their favorite character builds from earlier entries in the series and pit them against one another.

So what do the pros think about Ultra Street Fighter IV? Who better to ask than Justin Wong and Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez-Frangie of Team Evil Geniuses? With countless tournament titles between them, these two professional gamers know a thing or two about Street Fighter IV. So what are these two world warriors looking forward to the most in Ultra’s new feature set?

Wong says that he’s looking forward to the delayed wake-up mechanic the most, stating that it "will help strengthen a player’s defensive options and provide more opportunities for solid play on both sides." Perez-Frangie agrees, stating that the effect of both the red focus attack and delayed wake-up mechanics on the Street Fighter tournament scene will be "extremely strong."

According to the pros, more defensive opportunities for players will make tournament matches a lot more interesting -- and potentially a lot more fun to watch, too. As for the rest of us, well, these mechanics will make defending against “cheap” online tactics a lot more straightforward, at least.

Wong and Perez-Frangie's opinions on the new cast members are fairly aligned, with both players stating a desire to learn Elena. In Wong's case, Elena will provide him an opportunity to "compensate for a lot of [Rufus'] bad matchups for my particular playstyle." Perez-Frangie is intrigued by Elena as well, though he did cite a desire to play around with Decapre following her impressive reveal trailer at last weekend’s Final Round tournament in Atlanta.

Finally, we asked the pros a theoretical question. Before moving over to development at Capcom, Rosas used to play against both Perez-Frangie and Wong in tournaments throughout the world. We asked them what they would change, add, or balance differently in Ultra Street Fighter IV if they were charged with designing the game.

Wong had high praise for the existing build, saying that Capcom has "done its best to give everyone what they want in terms of new features." He did, however, lament the absence of a particular feature that’s been missing in action for a long time: Street Fighter Alpha’s Custom Combos. According to Wong, "it's never a complete Street Fighter game without Custom Combos, right?"

Perez-Frangie, meanwhile, also had high praise for the existing features, though he did mention if he had any opportunity to improve any feature present in the game, he would focus on the game’s netcode.

Why get involved in Street Fighter now? While many of these changes and enhancements are centered around those already familiar with Street Fighter IV, many also provide brand new ways to enjoy the series. Ultra Street Fighter IV is clearly the most complex and feature-packed entry in the series, yet also the most beginner-friendly courtesy of additions like Online Training, additional defensive options, and more. Fighting games can certainly be intimidating to new players, but Ultra Street Fighter IV is taking steps in the right direction to introduce the fighting genre to the next generation of world warriors.

Ultra Street Fighter IV will touch down in June as a digital upgrade to Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition on PS3 and Xbox 360, followed by a full retail and PC release in August. Whether you’re a battle-hardened tournament veteran or a newbie entering the virtual dojo for the first time, there’s never been a better time to get out there and FIGHT!

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