When I was a kid, most of my post-school hours were spent in this shady little ice-cream parlour called ‘Ice-Cream Express’, since it was one of the few places in town with a Street Fighter 2 arcade machine. I’d spend hours there getting my ass whupped by SF veterans, and then I’d go back home to have my ass kicked all over again by my folks for wasting too much time there. Which is to say that I’ve been a Street Fighter fan since my early days and I’ve seen the series in all its glory (the Alpha series) and all its shame (the game based on the movie and Street Fighter EX were terrible). So, when I first heard that SF4 was going the “3D” way, horrid images of Street Fighter EX — the last “3D” attempt of Street Fighter — flashed before my eyes.
Just the right pace
I finally faced my fears when I went to try out a build of the game, and I’ve got to admit, Street Fighter 4 is the best thing that’s happened to the franchise in a long time. The game isn’t as fast as the Alpha series, but not as slow as EX either. It finds a sweet spot f om where it promotes the bare minimum amount of button mashing and the maximum amount of tactically-timed special moves and guard-breaking manoeuvres.
While the game is presented in a 3D environment, all the combat takes place on a 2D plane. This is where the EX series failed big time — it let you dodge special attacks using sidesteps, totally nullifying the value of blocking and countering, which are the cornerstones of the series. SF4 on the other hand restricts you to the 2D plane, which constrains your mobility and encourages you to block and parry incoming blows. Thanks to the relaxed pace, you don’t need godly reflexes to counter attacks like you did in the Alpha series.
The game features a six button scheme like the previous titles, and a fully-functional Super system that allows you to execute devastating super attacks once your bar is full, and use bits of the energy collected to activate damaging special abilities. Console gamers have it easy, since the shoulder buttons are assigned to 3xPunch and 3xKick, meaning you don’t have to press the three buttons manually to execute Super combos.
In addition to all of this, SF fans will get a whole new ‘Focus Attack’ and ‘Ultra’ system. The Focus attacks are a counter stance, that allow you to parry blows with a returned attack, adding a whole new layer of tact. The Ultra or Revenge systems allow you to collect revenge energy (depending on how many blows you have taken or cushioned) and use them to unleash some really cinematic blows!
A clear winner
The special attack effects look really amazing. The only gripe I have is that the super combos don’t last long enough. I like special attacks to be lengthy and epic, rather than than short and not too devastating. Even the special effects when you defeat an enemy using a super combo are underwhelming.
Other than that, the game’s presentation seemed top notch with tight character models (although there are some funny looking parts such as Chun Li’s thighs and Crimson Viper’s breasts), and an overhauled version of the iconic Street Fighter backdrops. All in all, the game seems like its going to beat the crap out of every fighter out there. Watch out for a detailed review of the game which should be up next month.