This is also on my blog at Blogger, G Unit Ver1's World with match videos.
Note: This review is for the Arcade version of Street Fighter IV. When the console versions come out, the review then will be slightly altered if any changes or additions happen. Also, this is the first time I post match videos in the review instead of screenshots.
Street Fighter IV felt like a dream that became a reality when it was announced last fall. After years of waiting and waiting, it is finally out over at Japanese arcades and certain locations of the United States. The last significant Street Fighter game, 3rd Strike, was a success among the tournament crowd of fans, but it failed to reach the mainstream audience the way the Street Fighter II games did back in the 1990s. This fourth game Capcom is putting out hopes to recapture that magic SF II while keeping the depth 3rd Strike had, and I truly believe they succeeded. It feels like Street Fighter II for the 21st century in terms of fun gameplay, gorgeous graphics under a new engine, and amazing depth with its new saving attack system. There are a handful of games I can't stop playing and looking at because it is still amazing. That is how I feel with Street Fighter IV and it is an early contender of mine for game of the year even though it is the arcade version.
Capcom wanted players that skipped the Street Fighter III series of games to come back to this fourth game by bringing back the simplicity and the familiarity from Street Fighter II and it worked. In terms of familiarity, all twelve characters from Street Fighter II are back in this game since the storyline takes place between II and III. Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Guile, Zangief, E. Honda, Blanka, Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison are all in SF IV with the same signature moves with some new tricks. Other than those twelve fighters, four new ones are introduced in Street Fighter IV. Crimson Viper is the new female in the game with electric moves, flying flame kicks, and a ground pound attack. Abel is a mixed martial arts expert that plays like a combination of Fei Long and Zangief in terms of grappling skills. El Fuerte is the luchadore wrestler with high flying acrobatics and speed moves. Lastly, Rufus is a fat American who can really dish out the pain arguably being the best character in the game (A demonstration of that is in the video below). The final boss in Street Fighter IV is Seth, who reminds me of Urien's appearance wise that has most of the characters' special moves and some of Urien's attacks from 3rd Strike. There are also secret bosses such as fighting Akuma (also playable now) in the end if you performed well in the single player game. As of now, there are eighteen characters in Street Fighter IV (two of them not being playable). The lack of female characters (Chun-Li and Viper are the only ones) is a little disappointing, but there are plans for more characters in the console versions like Cammy, Dan, and Fei Long.
In the arcade version, there are three playable modes. The arcade mode is the standard eight stage run through of fighting various characters and then culminating against Seth. Before fighting Seth, there is a rival battle pending on which character you use such as Sagat fighting Ryu and Guile facing Abel. With my time on the arcade mode, the difficulty is not that bad as the computer A.I. can give you a fight at times especially when you're in the later stages. Of course, the difficulty can change pending on the machine. There are endings for each character after you beat the game, but they will be in anime for the console versions. Beginner mode is an easier version of arcade mode designed for newcomers to the game who want an easy start towards getting good. Trial mode is basically a practice mode in which you have a time limit against characters to try out some combos and learning some of the supers. Every Street Fighter IV arcade setup so far has two machines for two players that link up for versus matches as long as arcade mode is picked. This is at least a better experience other than being stuck with one machine causing players to be too close to each other.
The fighting mechanics for Street Fighter IV is divided as it is 60% Street Fighter II and 40% 3rd Strike. As long as players have Street Fighter II skills, they can still pump out wins using specials, supers, and simple three or four-hit combos of a jump kick, low punch, to a special move. The 40% being 3rd Strike resorts to the spacing, pro tactics, and mastering the saving attack system. Throws are done the same way as 3rd Strike by pressing both jab and short kick. The saving attack system is the most important addition to Street Fighter IV being both simple and deep with multiple uses. The focus attack is an ink strike that if fully charged and hits your opponent, they get stunned allowing for a free hit or two(demonstrations of it are in these videos I put up). It also a parry of avoiding attacks like 3rd Strike when timed right against projectiles and other moves. Parrying moves does your health meter to heal slowly if you're already damaged, but you will lose that ability if you get hit and try it again. It is also used to cancel special moves which could lead to devastating combos. The focus attack is a great example of being easy to learn, but difficult to master and if mastered, you can truly own the competition.
There are two meters on the bottom of the game screen during fights. First is the EX meter in blue and when maxed out, you can do a normal super move like Ken's Shoryu Reppa and Bison's Knee Press Nightmare. The EX meter is also used for EX specials, which return from 3rd Strike. These EX specials are better versions of special moves for multiple hits such as fireballs hitting twice. The green meter is called the revenge meter. This thing works like K-Groove from Capcom vs. SNK 2 in which the more you get hit, the meter glows up in red or orange in which you can do Ultra Combos. The Ultras are basically more devastating versions of the normal supers that add some dramatic effects and also deal tons of damage. Once you're caught by them, you're pretty much screwed especially when they're used in a Focus Attack combo seen in these match videos I posted. Each character has one normal super and one ultra combo which is good enough since most of the Ultras are pretty cool to look at and used with good priorities. Add those two meters and the saving attack system and you got a surprisingly deep fighting game with Street Fighter IV even though you can still get away with Street Fighter II tactics.
For the arcade version, there is a card system like other recent fighting games of using a certain character to track wins and losses. As long you keep winning, you gain more money towards buying new outfits, which is the customizable element for Street Fighter IV. As of now, no U.S. arcades that have the arcade use the card system yet, so it is only for Japan. Usually these new outfits are basically alternate colors for their signature outfits that don't detract from the overall performance (This ain't no Tekken 6 or Soul Calibur IV-like customization). Capcom keeps it nice and simple since these characters are very iconic to gamers' eyes. However, each character has one alternate outfit that slightly alters their appearance, but keeps it faithful to the character. Examples are shirtless Ryu, Guile wearing Charlie's clothes (or Nash from the Street Fighter Alpha games), battle damaged M. Bison, and my personal favorite Zangief as Haggar from Final Fight (At least there's a Final Fight reference in this game like previous Street Fighter games with Guy, Cody, and Hugo). These customizable elements are also likely making it to the console versions, so U.S. players don't need to worry about missing that feature.
On the graphics side, Street Fighter IV looks amazing. The new engine is excellent especially for the animations. Speaking of the animations, all the special moves are what you know and love from previous game with fireballs looking like fireballs, and son. What is specifically amazing about the animations are the facial expressions. If you have been looking at screenshots and videos for the game, most of the characters truly feel the pain when they get hit and most of them are pretty funny too especially when a character starts an ultra and the opponent has an "Oh Crap" look on their face. The stages themselves look amazing too from jungles, temples, airports, and seaports. It is kind of unfortunate that there are not enough stages thinking that Capcom might bring it back the number of stages to each character having one. While the fights are going on at these locales, stuff also happens on the backgrounds with low riders going up and down, to people shopping at the China shop level. The characters themselves look great despite the art style being criticized by fans when the game was first shown. The art style truly works in the game fitting to the theme along with the whole notion of ink when doing focus attacks. Graphically, Street Fighter IV is one of the better looking fighting games now with 2D gameplay and 3D backgrounds despite the full 3D fighting games looking better, but on an artistic end, Street Fighter IV beats them on that end.
On the sound department, Street Fighter IV delivers as well. The Japanese voices sound great compared to the English voices heard on some trailers because it just fits their personality more and most fans are used to their voices by now in previous games. On the music side, the soundtrack is another good one with themes that fit to each stage. For the rival battles, your opponent's signature music gets played such as Ryu's when fighting him as Sagat, which is a nice touch. These signature tunes are remixed versions of the original game's versions especially Akuma's new theme when you fight him. The other sound effects are also great with hits sounding like they truly hurt, specifically the Ultra Combos. Then again, the announcer can be annoying at times, which reminds me of previous Street Fighter games especially Alpha 3. Other than that, Street Fighter IV has great sounds to satisfy even the hardcore crowd.
Is Street Fighter IV truly the second coming of the fighting genre and a stepping stone for the arcade scene to return? I truly believe so for being a second coming for the genre and the series going back to its SF II roots. As for bringing back arcades, it is for now at Japan and the certain spots of the United States have sparking up crowds of 20 to even 40 people waiting to play the game or just watching something crazy happen. Sure, the game's popularity at the arcade will die down once the console versions are closer to release, but if you really want the true competition against the best and not any scrubs that would spam moves, the arcades are there for that to happen. Even though it plays more like Street Fighter II, there is enough depth for 3rd Strike players to jump in and enjoy. The saving attack system is a great concept for a fighting game like this with tons of uses from parrying to canceling. Using that system to your advantage can lead to devastating and amazing looking combos that look like they can't be done, but they can especially leading towards Ultra combos. The new graphics engine is amazing on both a technical and artistic aspect with funny facial expressions and great animations for the moves. All of this was a dream a couple years ago, but it is now a reality and Street Fighter IV is truly the second coming of Street Fighter II for the modern era of gaming.
Score = 9.5/10
Gameplay feels more like Street Fighter II, but still has some 3rd Strike in it that appeals to both the casual and hardcore crowd.
The saving attack system is an amazing addition with tons of depth.
Amazing graphics both technically and artistically.
Great soundtrack with signature tunes at certain moments
Has that addiction of being amazing every time you play it and watch it in action.
Lack of female characters (only two in the arcade version), but more characters will be added in console versions.
Lack of stages (More could be added in revisions or console versions).
This post is from my other blog: G Unit Ver1's World.
Yesterday, Street Fighter IV is finally out in the United States courtesy of Super Arcade at Walnut, CA (Tekken 6 is also there). After reading about it, I was hella excited to go today to mess with the game and indeed I did for four hours. Good thing I came early (it got crowded around lunch time) because this game is still amazing and fun even after four hours of winning, losing, and watching others. Unforuntately, the owner of Super didn't get the official cabinet Capcom used at the L.A. event last month, San Diego Comic-Con, and Evo 2k8 as he at least got the boards necessary to play the game. It is in one of those Japanese-like cabinets you see at Japanese arcades (Astro City to be specific) as like Capcom's setup, two machines have the play for link matches to between with two separate players instead of being cluttered to one screen (The same thing is for MvC2, SFIII: 3rd Strike, and Tekken 5 DR over at Super). Being those cabinets means the game is not in HD compared to Capcom's official cabinets, but it still looks and plays beautifully. Like Tekken 6 there, Street Fighter IV costs 50 cents to play, which is not bad and it could be more expensive.
Three modes are selectable from the gate: Arcade, Beginner, and Trial. Arcade mode is the standard run-through of stages and then facing off against the final boss, Seth. Beginner and trial modes seem straightforward, so likely they won't be played. For the first couple of weeks, the single player game run won't likely happen as versus matches are bound to happen against great competition throughout the day. All 16 characters that have seen to death are playable with the original 12 for Street Fighter II to the four newcomers: Crimson Viper, Abel, El Fuerte, and Rufus. As expected the hardcore crowd, high-tiers and shotos run the show as Zangief and Rufus can be unstoppable to beat pending on how good the guy is with them (Easy double-digit win streaks win those characters). Ryu and Ken are obviously played a lot, so I decided to use characters that the others won't likely use, which are Sagat, Blanka, and Guile. For now, Sagat is my best character when the switch is on for me doing Tiger Uppercuts, Tiger Knees, and doing his Ultra on time. Blanka and Guile are good enough #2 and #3 characters for me even though I won't use their Ultras as I would stick with their EX specials. Since the game is out for two days at Super, no one has mastered the Focus Attack and all of its uses, but likely in a week or two, I expect the good players to learn to parry well like 3rd Strike. The Focus Attack is what it is as advertised in the videos so far as a stun strike when fully charged, a cancel, and a parry. Learning how to capitalize with the full blown Save Strike is the tricky part as I couldn't nail the combo I wanted to with Guile and Sagat (For example: Sagat would use his save strike and usually follow with an EX Tiger Uppercut). Along with the Focus Attack, not a lot of players have mastered the cancels yet either, but expect that to change in a week as normal players to go to Super are still learning the game. Also absent besides the HDness is the card system that Japanese machines have for character customization (pretty much different colors of their standard outfit and their crazy alternate costume) and tracking wins and losses.
Even you are new to Street Fighter IV, if you have veteran skills from Street Fighter II, you'll be fine here and pull off wins that way. In addition, hardcore 3rd Strike players feel right as home too with throws staying the same from that game (Both jab and short), EX specials the same (Both punches or kicks when doing special moves), and Focus Attacks (Both strong and forward). Capcom delivered on the promise that SF IV is a return to the SFII scene for many players that never play SFIII as it is still fun for even the casual player, but also deep for the hardcore player that will master Focus Attacks and cancels. From my time there, at least all the characters got played at least once especially guys like Dhalsim and Balrog, which rarely get used over at Japan and other events the game was shown off. The sticks and buttons feel fine for now over at Super, but be prepared to deal with them maybe being broken after a while, but for a game as big as this, expect it to be fixed as soon as possible. Good thing if I have to wait a long time to play SF IV, there's still Tekken 6 even though that game's popularity over at Super has worn off (MvC2 and the racing games like Initial D Vol. 4 and Maximum Tune 3 still get heavy play time.
Likely I will go again on Friday, we'll see what happens. There are certain games that you can't stop playing or watching because it is so awesome which how I feel now with Street Fighter IV. Expect a review of the arcade version by the end of the month as I still need to play single player and mess with more characters like the new ones.