With a lineage like Street Fighter IV’s, the thick cloud of anticipation that’s been looming over the game since its announcement is only to be expected. But given the numerous successful sub-series and cross-overs the franchise has spawned, the arrival of a new game that deviates from the norm to venture into 3D territory has evoked a fair share of scepticism as well.
Street Fighter IV moves away from the traditional sprite-based 2D art style and uses 3D cel-shaded character designs with full 3D backdrops. Not something everyone is looking forward to, given that the last 3D transition of the series — Street Fighter EX — failed miserably.
Then there’s the other question: Will SF-IV have the pace of the Alpha series or will it be the sloth fest that the Ex was? We’ve got the answers.
The EX’s biggest flaws were that it was painfully slow, and that you could sidestep nearly all the special attacks (since the game was on a 3D plane), making it tactically weak.
Sticking with the known
However, Capcom hasn’t done the same thing with SF-IV. So, while the game is 3D, all the combat takes place on a 2D plane. By doing so, the game manages to stick to what’s worked best for the franchise in the past. But if you’re looking for the blazing pace of the Alpha series, you’ll be a little disappointed.
A dash of new
The new levels of tact in SF-IV are the Revenge/Ultra system and the Focus System. The Revenge system adds more panache to the Super system that was introduced way back in the series. Unlike ‘super’ energy that you build up by executing special attacks, you fill up your Revenge meter by getting hit. Once your Revenge bar fills up, you can execute a devastating Ultra combo, and the camera breaks away from its standard position, giving you a cinematic view.
Last minute reversals
The fact that the revenge meter builds up only when you take a beating, means that the losing side always has a fighting chance. In fact, if you manage to use an Ultra combo along with a Super combo, you can drain almost half your foe’s health.
This means you’ll see a lot of sudden turnarounds, with the losing side ending up victorious against all odds. On the flipside, it’ll also keep you on your toes perpetually, even when you’re close to winning. The promise of a nail-biting finish that’s been the mark of the Street Fighter series has gone up a notch in SF-IV, so veterans are likely to have a blast with this game.
Wait, there’s more
Another new feature is the Focus Attack, which is SF-IV’s counter system. By holding down the Middle Punch and Middle Kick buttons, you can move into a new stance that allows you to absorb your enemy’s blow and follow through with a counter attack. If the buttons are held down long enough, it results in an unblockable attack that renders the opponent immobile for a very short while.
The tactical significance of this is immense since it means you can take on an offensive role too. You’re no longer restricted to blocking attacks, and can counter, dodge and evade blows, changing the gameplay radically. The new variables can be overwhelming for a novice and even intermediate players and, sadly, there’s no tutorial to help them.
Slowing things down
SF-IV has shed the insane pace that the Alpha series popularised, and sticks to the pace of Street Fighter II. This change works well for SF-IV since the game introduces so many new layers of tact that it would be near impossible to play if the pace was faster.
The arcade mode allows you to pick players from the old roster plus four new ones — Abel, El Fuerte, Crimson Viper and Rufus. Each character has a short introduction video that plays when you start the single player mode.
What follows is a string of bouts after which you face a rival and then, a boss character — Gouken. The battles start out easy but the difficulty level climbs quickly, to the point that it can become really frustrating for novice players. This game is most fun when played with other frinds as opposed to the game’s AI (Artificial Intelligence).
Online or multiplayer?
The game’s online functionality is limited to the Arcade mode. If you log on and keep the matchmaking feature on, you can be challenged by other players looking for a game.
Camcom intends to release an expansion pack in the near future that will include a brand new Challenge mode, meant exclusively for online play. This will add a new point system and a complete Tournament matchmaking system. While we’ll only know how good it is after trying it out, the pack sounds like a promising addition.
Street Fighter IV is undoubtedly at the zenith of the franchise where depth and balance are concerned. For those who’re looking for multiplayer bouts, there’s a deep combat system in place. However, it’s appeal is limited since it can get repetitive if you don’t enjoy the intricacies of two player games. But if you do, there’s no better game for you than this new edition of the Street Fighter franchise.